Sydney will be at the top of every visitor to Australia’s bucket list and there’s no doubt that it’s a brilliant city to visit. With so much to do, there will literally be something for everyone and here I’ve set out the best things to do in Sydney. Personally, I prefer Melbourne over Sydney mainly due to how big Sydney is and how the public transport isn’t the best. However, don’t let that put you off!
Obviously, visiting Sydney Harbour will be one of the first things you will do after arriving in Sydney but there’s plenty of other things that you cannot afford to miss. I’ve finally sat down to pull together all of top places to see as well as some great places to eat and drink. Hopefully this will really help you plan your trip to Sydney or provide some much needed inspiration. I’m sure you’ll agree these really are the best things to do in Sydney.
Sydney Tower Eye
The only way to get your bearings in this huge city is to get up high. There’s nowhere higher in Sydney than the huge tower that dominates the skyline. Make sure you take the lift up to the observation deck, 250 metres above the bustling streets below, and you’ll grab epic 360-degree views of Sydney.
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
You’d be a fool to miss out on this one. It’s very famous but for good reason, this really is one of the best walks in all of Australia. For more details and photos of the walk, click here to check out my post dedicated to the walk.
Queen Victoria Building
In Sydney’s CBD, lies the QVB, a heritage listed shopping centre full of independent stores perfect for a few hours shopping. Not only that, the building itself both the exterior and interior is a fine example of Victorian architecture. The Great Australian Clock hangs high from the ceiling and includes 33 scenes from Australian history.
Sydney Opera House + Opera Bar
Circular Quay is the epicentre, the beating heart of Sydney. This is where the most famous of Sydney’s icons lie; both the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are a stone’s throw from each other.
The Opera House is one of those few icons that does not disappoint in real life. From every angle, the Opera House a UNESCO world heritage site is more than impressive. Head into the foyer for free or head over to the Park Hyatt Hotel for one of the best views.
Don’t miss the Opera Bar; the best place for outdoor drinks in the world, maybe.
Grounds of Alexandria
For all you Instagram lovers out there, you have to visit this cafe a few kilometres south of the CBD. There are a range of different places to eat, quirky shops and even a florist. The cafe often has different themes running through the entire site (we visited around Easter time). It’s basically designed to look photogenic from any and every angle. We visited for breakfast and I really enjoyed the Pulled Pork Breaky Roll; slow cooked pork, avocado, smoky BBQ sauce and a fried egg. Heaven. Don’t worry though there’s plenty of options for all those with dietary requirements.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Ah, the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You’ll be amazed at just how many times the bridge pops into view when you wander around the city. The scale of this bridge is unbelievable. Back home in England, just a half an hour drive away, lies the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle which was a trial run before construction began in Sydney. The Tyne Bridge is impressive enough before you consider that the Sydney Harbour Bridge is three times the size!
We didn’t have time on our trips to Sydney but I’d have loved to walk across the bridge (rather than only drive) and wander down to Luna Park and the North Sydney Olympic Pool. If you have a more extravagant budget, why not consider the bridge climb?
Thanks to an influx of Chinese during the Gold Rush, all of Australia’s cities have an area dedicated to Chinese food and drink. Throughout our Australian adventure, I noticed Chinese restaurants in even towns in the middle of nowhere. Sydney’s China Town is full of excellent restaurants and bars, many worthy of your time. Try Yum Cha for lunch and you’ll never be hungry again!
Bondi Beach gets all of the plaudits but, in all honesty, Manly Beach has to be my favourite of Sydney’s beaches. It’s an absolutely beautiful curving stretch of sand lined with pine trees. Couple that with an iconic ferry journey across Sydney Harbour, you’ll never want to leave. I wish we’d spent longer in this area as there’s plenty of cafes, bars and coastal walks to keep you occupied.
Not the harbour that gets all the attention but Darling Harbour is a great area of Sydney for drinks (King Street Wharf 3), a bit of shopping and the ultra touristy Madame Tussauds and Sealife Centre.
Royal Botanic Gardens
These gardens are certainly worth a visit either for a peaceful stroll or a relaxing afternoon with a picnic. The best views are from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair back towards the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
Drinks in Newtown
Like Fitzroy is to Melbourne, Newtown is the coolest of Sydney’s suburbs and there’s probably nowhere better to spend an afternoon having a few drinks. My favourites were the home of craft brewer Young Henry’s and the Newtown Hotel. Check out more pubs and bars in my post here.
Palm Beach + North Curl Curl and Mona Vale Rockpools
Palm Beach is about an hour’s drive from Sydney but is more than worth a day trip. Firstly, for any Home and Away fans, this is Summer Bay and well worth a look just for that connection! The best thing to do however is hike up to the top of Barrenjoey Head and take in the views by the lighthouse. It’s not the easiest of walks in the soaring heat but you can grab lunch or a milkshake at the Boathouse to refresh.
If you’re into drone photography, the rockpools are both North Curl Curl and Mona Vale are worth a visit for those classic shots. If not, the beaches look lovely and you could have a quick swim in the rockpools on your way to or from Palm Beach.
Cho Cho San, Potts Point
Cho Cho San is a great, five-star Japanese restaurant that I would highly recommend to anyone. I’d never really eaten much Japanese food but we received a voucher for this restaurant whilst travelling and I am so glad that we went. The food was absolute perfection. We went for the feast to share between the two of us which included (amongst other dishes) pork katsu steamed buns, prawns in kombu butter, wagyu steak and even matcha ice cream for dessert. If you do head here, make sure you book ahead and be prepared for potentially a shared table situation.
Vaucluse and Watsons Bay
Part of Sydney’s Eastern suburbs, Vaucluse and Watsons Bay are both worth setting a day aside to visit. Something we didn’t have time to do unfortunately even with it being so high up on my list of things to do. Visit the Hornby Lighthouse on the tip of the South Head peninsula and Diamond Bay Reserve (be careful!) or just chill at the many beaches with views back towards the CBD.
Well yes you could visit the observatory itself at night but, during the day, the view from the top of hill over Sydney’s northern suburbs and the Harbour Bridge is suburb. We spent all day here waiting on New Year’s Eve for the fireworks!
Last but by no means least, you must visit The Rocks. This little area of Sydney is just under the Harbour Bridge and with it’s lovely cobblestone laneways, cafes, shops and bars, it’s popular with the tourists. Once you’ve had a little wander round, don’t miss the beers and rooftop views from the top of the Glenmore Hotel.
A Little More Time?
If you have a little more time in Sydney, you’ll definitely want to get out the city and up to the Blue Mountains. This is something that you cannot miss whether it’s by coach on a day trip or in your own time in a little campervan. Check out my guide to a weekend in the Blue Mountains below.
Now that I’ve actually sat down and written about Sydney properly for the first time, I’m longing to get back and explore more of the city. I feel like, even with spending just over 2 weeks in the city, I haven’t even scratched the surface.
If you need any more tips or feel there’s something better to do in Sydney that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments below.