When you’re dealing with an iconic city like Sydney, it comes as no surprise that there’s plenty to do and see. From the sprawl of the CBD, to sandy beaches, to the stunning nature spots located on its doorstep, Sydney is a city of diversity and has something for everyone. Read on to uncover 20 of the must-see attractions that Sydney has to offer!
Sydney Opera House
Your trip to Sydney isn’t complete without a visit to the Opera House! A visit to this Aussie icon is a must for all, whether you choose to catch a show or simply admire it from the outside. For those wanting a more in-depth experience, tours are available allowing visitors to explore the backstage areas and gain an understanding of what goes on behind-the-scenes. There’s also plenty of cafes and restaurants in the area surrounding the Opera House too, so be sure to enjoy a great meal following your visit.
Darling Harbour is one of Sydney’s nightlife precincts, so there’s plenty here to keep you entertained. Along the waterfront at King Street Wharf, Cockle Bay Wharf, and Harbourside, you can enjoy harbourside fine dining at award winning restaurants, shopping, and vibrant bars and nightclubs that will keep you partying into the early hours. A fireworks display also kicks off every Saturday at 9pm, so be sure to secure a spot along the boardwalk or admire the view as you enjoy a meal or beverage from one of the nearby bars and restaurants.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Whether you’re a garden enthusiast or not, a visit to the Botanic Gardens is a must. These stunning gardens are wrapped around the harbour and are only a stone’s throw from the Opera House. Established in 1816, the gardens are home to vibrant flower beds, themed displays, and a vast collection of native and exotic plant species. Enjoy a stroll along the garden paths and admire the beauty surrounding you, or enjoy a picnic on the open green spaces. Aboriginal Heritage tours and free guided tours are also conducted each week for those wanting a more immersive experience of the gardens.
Chinese Garden of Friendship
Located in Darling Harbour, the Chinese Garden of Friendship is a slice of tranquillity within the hustle and bustle of the city. Designed in 1988 by landscape architects from Sydney’s sister city, Guangzhou, the garden boasts a spectacular display of exotic flowers, sweeping willows, waterfalls, and a lake teeming with vibrant koi fish. Take in the ambience as you meander along the garden paths or enjoy a delicious Chinese cuisine at The Gardens by Lotus, which is housed within a stunning heritage teahouse.
Another item to check off your Sydney bucket list is a visit to the Pylon Lookout at the Harbour Bridge. After ascending a flight of 200 stairs, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views of Sydney harbour, the Opera House, and the bridge itself. There’s also 3 exhibits located throughout the Pylon, explaining the history of the bridge and how it was built. If you’re looking for a budget friendly option of experiencing the bridge, or you’re not comfortable tackling a bridge climb, then the Pylon Lookout is for you.
Blue Mountains Day Trip
Escape the city and get back to nature with a trip to the Blue Mountains. This World Heritage listed area is home to eucalyptus forests, breathtaking scenic lookouts, Aboriginal culture, waterfalls, and unique wildlife. Be sure to bring a water bottle and sturdy walking shoes, as you’ll be doing a lot of exploring! There’s plenty of activities to mark off your list, including bushwalking tracks, rock climbing, abseiling, camping, and exploring the cute little villages that are dotted throughout the region. As the Blue Mountains are located 2 hours west of Sydney, the best way to explore is by car, however you can also reach it by train or through a guided bus tour.
During your visit to the Blue Mountains, be sure to visit the Echo Point lookout in Katoomba. Here stands the Three Sisters rock formations, towering 900 metres above the stunning Jamison Valley. The best times to visit are during sunrise and sunset, as these formations are bathed in soft pink and orange light cast by the sun’s glow. Visitors can also enjoy activities including abseiling and rock climbing around the Three Sisters, as well as bush walking and caving.
Another highlight of the Blue Mountains region is the renowned Jenolan Caves. As the largest, and arguably most spectacular, cave system in Australia, a visit to this site is a must! The cave system is made up over 300 caves, with 9 open to the public. Have your cameras ready, as the stalactite lined chasms and brilliant blue of the underground rivers make for some beautiful photo ops. Be sure to check out the Lucas Cave and Temple of Baal Cave, as they are known for their stunning stalactite formations and towering chambers. Several tours are offered, including explorations of individual caves, a Legends, Mysteries and Ghosts tour, and an Off The Track tour if you’re feeling adventurous.
Established in the 19th century, Hyde Park is Australia’s oldest park and takes its name from Hyde Park in London. Stop by for a picnic and soak up the sun on the lush lawn spaces, or take a leisurely stroll through the tree lined pathways. Several monuments are dotted throughout the park, the most notable being the ANZAC War Memorial and the Greek mythos-inspired Archibald Fountain. The park also plays host to several cultural events throughout the year including the Sydney Food and Wine Fair and Sydney Festival.
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
For some of the best views over Sydney, you can’t go passed Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. The chair was carved from a sandstone slab by convicts in 1810 and was commissioned by Governor Macquarie for his wife Elizabeth. This spot was Elizabeth’s favourite place to sit and contemplate and it’s no surprise why. Located on the Eastern edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens, the chair sits atop a peninsula jutting out into the harbour, granting visitors a picturesque view of Sydney harbour, the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and beyond. For a truly spectacular view be sure to visit during either sunrise or sunset.
To gain unrivalled views over the city, the harbour, and mountains in the distance, be sure to venture to the top of Sydney Tower. Standing 250 metres above Sydney’s streets, the tower features an indoor Observation Deck with panoramic views, a 4-D cinema, and a revolving restaurant offering up delicious meals for lunch and dinner. For a more exhilarating experience, step out in the open air and embark on a 90 minute Skywalk tour of Sydney’s tallest building.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
The Bondi to Coogee walk is a scenic cliff top trail spanning 6 kms from Coogee Beach to iconic Bondi Beach. The walk is an easy paced trail and showcases ocean views, cliffs, rock pools, bays, and some fancy seaside houses to admire. You’ll come across several smaller beaches along the way, such as Clovelly, Tamarama, and Bronte, as well as the Insta-worthy Bondi Icebergs Swim Club. When it comes to activities, the obvious options are swimming, surfing, and snorkelling. Should you get peckish there are several cafes and restaurants located along the trail for you to stop and recharge your batteries. For some retail therapy, head to Campbell Parade opposite Bondi Beach for an assortment of boutiques selling fashion, jewellery, gifts, and more.
Wendy’s Secret Garden
Wendy’s Secret Garden is a hidden hem located within the Lavender Bay Parklands. This piece of paradise was planted by Wendy Whiteley in 1992, and features native and exotic plants, sprawling ferns, fig trees, and artworks and sculptures scattered throughout. From the gardens you can get a great view of the harbour and harbour bridge, and there are seating areas throughout the gardens for you to sit and enjoy a picnic.
Pitt Street Mall
Located smack bang in the middle of the city lies Pitt Street Mall. This pedestrian mall is the perfect stop for those seeking some retail therapy or a bite to eat. Pitt Street Mall is Sydney’s fashion centre and boasts over 600 retailers including familiar chain brands, department stores, and luxury high end names. The street is also home to Sydney Arcade, the Glasshouse, Strand Arcade, and Westfield Sydney. With so many specialty stores to choose from there’s something here for all styles and budgets.
Museum of Sydney
If you’re searching for a history lesson, look no further than the Museum of Sydney. It’s located near Circular Quay, so after visiting the Opera House be sure to stop by. The museum is built around the remains of Governor Arthur Phillips’ residence and Australia’s first Government House, which can be seen in the museum’s foyer and forecourt. Today the museum is home to fascinating displays and exhibitions that celebrate Sydney’s history and the stories of its people.
Hop on board the express ferry from Circular Quay and cruise across the harbour to reach Manly! The beach here is a popular spot with locals and is a great alternative to Bondi if you’re not a fan of large crowds. Manly beach offers up 2 kilometres of pristine sand and waves and is the perfect spot for swimming, water spots, and diving. There’s also plenty of cafes in the area to stop for a bite, and a pine tree lined promenade that makes for a picturesque picnic spot. Manly also has 2 coastal walks to choose from, the 10 kilometre Manly to Spit Bridge walk and the 9 kilometre Manly to North Head walk. Both take you past dramatic cliffs, coves, inlets, rugged bushland, and scenic ocean views.
This one’s for the history buffs! Located 23 kilometres from the CBD, Elizabeth Farm is a charming homestead that dates back to the late 1700s. The 3 bedroom house is an interactive museum, which enables you to really get a grasp on what life was like during colonial times. Should you need refreshments, the homestead has a Tearoom which has an assortment of teas, scones, and sweets on their menu.
Nestled at the foot of the Harbour Bridge is The Rocks district. The neighbourhood has a rich history dating back to colonial times and was once teeming with convicts, soldiers, and sailors. Today the area is a modern precinct that has plenty to offer, including over 50 contemporary restaurants, hip bars, galleries, cute boutiques showcasing local and international designs, and a vibrant market that operates every Friday to Sunday. You can spend an entire afternoon wandering the cobbled streets and lanes at your own pace, or you can book in with a walking tour or Aboriginal heritage tour if you want to learn the history and stories of the area.
A short ferry ride from the CBD, Cockatoo Island is a World Heritage wonder located in the heart of the harbour. The island was once a convict penal establishment and ship dockyard, so there’s plenty of historical landmarks to explore, as well as tours that further uncover the island’s fascinating history. When the hunger pangs kick in the island has 2 waterfront cafes for you to choose from, in addition to plenty of picnic and BBQ areas that provide sweeping views of Sydney harbour. If you want to make your visit a little longer, the island also has heritage accommodation on site and a waterfront campsite.
With so many attractions located within the city and its surrounds, this list barely scratches the surface of what Sydney has to offer. For more great sites to see and visit, be sure to check out the Sydney Trip Planner with its extensive list and more great options to add to your next Sydney trip. Happy travelling!
About the writer: Christian Horniman is a freelance content writer with a great zeal for work who likes to play with words to bring out the quality in write-ups and delivers within a stipulated period of time.
Loved these top tourist attractions in Sydney? Also Read: