Sydney may not technically be the capital of Australia, but it could certainly fool us. There are so many internationally recognizable key buildings including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and Sydney Tower. Not to mention cultural centers, wildlife parks and more.
The iconic Rocks hosts, among other things, the Sydney Opera House. More than just a stunning building, the Sydney Opera House is a major cultural hub – and that’s for more than just opera, by the way: the Sydney Opera House has music, theater, comedy, events, and yes, opera.
To really see the city in all its glory, cruise down Sydney Harbour on a dinner cruise, speedy jet boat, romantic sailing tour or vintage tall ship. From the water you get a unique vantage point that you just don’t get when you’re walking in the city surrounded by buildings.
Or to take your vantage point to the next level, you could always climb right up the side and over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Although this may sound like a crazy daredevil stunt, this tourist attraction is actually suitable for almost all ages, as long as participants are reasonably fit.
For some of the best views in the city, you’ve got to check out Sydney Tower. Shoot up in a lift to the highest point in Sydney and get 360-degree views from the Sydney Tower viewing platform. From the top you can see all the way to the distant Blue Mountains. Kids love the 4D cinema experience offered here, which includes wind, bubbles and fire.
Bondi Beach is a key hotspot in Sydney that attracts both locals and tourists. It’s featured in countless movies and travel guides and is considered by many to be a must-see when in Sydney. But don’t expect a paradisiac deserted beach, this is a city beach and is jam packed with people – but that’s part of its appeal: there’s so much going on! You’ll see a real cosmopolitan mix of people all loving the sun, sand and surf. Refuel at one of the fine dining restaurants near the beach or entertain yourself at the adjacent shops, market stalls and nightlife scene.
Taronga Zoo is the city zoo located on the northern shores of Sydney Harbour – 12 minutes from the city by ferry. The zoo is home to thousands of species, both Australian and international. In terms of Aussie creatures, there are koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, wombats, wallabies, emus and more. And international animals include snow leopards, giraffes, zebras and Thai Asian elephants. When you get off the ferry, you can hop on the Sky Safari cable car, which takes you from the ferry terminal right to the main entrance of the zoo.
SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium is not only known as one of the top attractions in Sydney, but also in the whole of Australia. And that’s because of the marine life diversity exhibited clubbed with its child-friendly approach. But it’s not all for the kids – the Marine Biologist for a Day program is for people 18+ to experience what it’s like to be a marine expert here.
For a dose of art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is where it’s at. Located at The Rocks, the iconic harbour front spot that houses the Sydney Opera House, Australia’s leading gallery houses contemporary art from all over the country as well as international works. Not far from the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia you’ll also find the Museum of Sydney, which contains archaeological remains, sculptures, books, souvenirs and more.
You can’t beat the Tribal Warrior Cruise on Sydney Harbour for a fun, scenic and educational introduction to Aboriginal culture. The cruise takes you on a 45-minute journey down the harbour, during which you’re told key Aboriginal stories.
And there’s also The Rocks Dreaming Aboriginal Heritage Tour, which as the name suggests is located at The Rocks. This tour is 100% Aboriginal owned and run.
The Botanical Gardens also runs an Aboriginal heritage tour, which explains how native plants were used by Sydney’s original inhabitants for bush, food and medicine.
People come from all over the world to see Australia’s famously beautiful, untouched nature, which spans white sandy beaches to thick tropical wildernesses. Just because Sydney is a busy city, doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer that too. There are numerous national parks that are in easy reach of the CBD, such as Royal National Park and the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Or you can catch a ferry from the centrally located Circular Quay to one of the Sydney Harbour Islands – Fort Denison, Shark, Clark, Rodd, Goat and Cockatoo. Cockatoo Island even offers guided tours, activities and overnight camping.
Food & Wine
In such a beautiful harbour city such as Sydney when you’re surrounded by water so much, dining at one of the stunning waterside restaurants is a must. Take a wonder along the Darling Harbour promenade and you’ll pass numerous great restaurants where you can get a good view of the water. Or for a beach view as opposed to a harbour view, there’s The Bucket List that sits right on Bondi Beach.
And then there are the hatted restaurants, which are the pinnacle of Australian fine dining. In that category you’ve got Momofuku Seiobo, Quay, Rockpool, Sepia, Tetsuya’s, Marque and Aria.
If you like to shop, you’ll be pleased with Sydney’s retail offerings. There’s everything from high-end label shopping to eclectic boutiques. The main city-based shopping malls are Pitt Street Mall, Westfield Sydney and World Square. Or for smaller, local brands, check out the historic Queen Victoria Building and Strand Arcade. And for boutiques and high-street fashion, take a stroll down Oxford Street in Paddington.
Take a Tour
See Sydney from above during a 20-minute scenic helicopter flight run by Heli Experiences. Or perhaps do one of the many food and wine tours run by AAT Kings Tours, which include trips up to the wine regions of Hunter Valley, Blue Mountains and of course dining experiences in central Sydney itself.
Next on the Water offers a selection of experiences that take place on, in and around the water. There are boat cruises and tall ship sailing experiences where you learn about the country’s colonial past, as well as sea kayaking, scuba diving, whale watching and more.