For many, a trip to Sydney, Australia is a once in a lifetime event. If you're planning to embark on a journey there and it's your very first time, there are some hidden treasures in and around the city that you need to know in advance. Before you plan out your itinerary, check out our list of the 20 best things to do in Sydney for first-timers. It's loaded with traditional tourist locations as well as a few little known places to see and things to do. Our mini-guide gives you a few tips to make this a trip you'll remember for years to come.
20. Tour the Sydney Opera House
No trip to Sydney would be complete without at least visiting the Sydney Opera House. The architecture is amazing and if you opt for a guided tour of the 1973 building, you'll hear the complete story of this iconic building. If you check the schedule in advance of your trip you could even reserve tickets to catch a show while you're there. After the show, you can enjoy a relaxing drink at the Opera Bar which is located outside near the water.
19. Visit the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is another popular tourist attraction that you won't want to miss. It was completed in 1932 and stands as a landmark in Sydney, made of steel. You're welcome to walk across the bridge or even climb it if you're extremely brave, but a word of warning...It's at a very high elevation. If heights bother you, view it by ferry or watercraft tours.
18. See the Royal Botanic Garden
The Royal Botanic Garden is located in Sydney, and it offers a place of repose and relaxation. The park that is adjacent takes up almost 75 acres of land. This is the ideal attraction if you're a fan of art, trees, flowers, and plants because it's filled with them all. It's also one of the best places to have a picnic in the city.
17. Go to the Taronga Zoo
The Taronga Zoo is a necessity for all first-time visitors to Sydney. You can get to the attraction via ferry. Here you will find species that are indigenous to Australia as well as imports from other nations. You'll be thrilled by the unique creatures that you find at the Taronga Zoo, and you can even book an overnight stay on the grounds and stay in a tent. You'll feel like you're on an African safari.
16. Spend the day at Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach is one of the most popular beaches in all of Sydney. The waters are the most beautiful hue of turquoise and the sand polishes your feet like fine gritty powder. While you're there you can catch some of the best sunshine on the planet. You can watch the surfers do their thing, or if you're into the sport, bring your board and join in the fun. If you're feeling particularly adventurous you can head south of Bondi Beach to Glamarama where it's acceptable to go topless.
15. Sign up for the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
If you enjoy walking or hiking, then you'll love the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk. This takes you through just under three and a quarter miles of some of the most picturesque views of Sydney over a clifftop path. You'll see great views of the bays, the beaches, tide pools, and beautifully rugged rocky terrain.
14. Have a pint at Clovelly Lawn Bowls Club
While you're taking your Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, plan on stopping off at the Clovelly Lawn Bowls Club. It's located just before Coogee Pavilion. This locale offers one of the area's most popular rooftop pubs and restaurants and it's found at the end of the walking tour. This will make the perfect end to your excursion. You can even watch the Aussies play a game while you're enjoying a meal or a drink.
13. Tour Darling Harbour at night
Darling Harbour offers one of the most breathtaking views of the lights over the water during the evening hours. This is an attraction you can plan to spend an afternoon and an evening seeing and experiencing. While you're there, visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship and you have to see the Dockside Pavilion at night when the lights come on. This is one of the most romantic places in all of Sydney if you're there as a couple. There are plenty of places to eat and if you're there at the right time, you can even catch a fireworks display offered most nights.
12. Spend a day at Manly Beach
Manly Beach is one of the most popular attractions for first-time visitors to Sydney. This beach offers one of the best views of the coastline because it never seems to end. You can also catch some of the best waves that the ocean has to offer in parts of the beach. While you're there, plan on catching some sun, some waves, and then catching an amazing meal at one of the dozens of eateries that you'll find nearby.
11. Take a Blue Mountain Hike
The Blue Mountains offer some of the most beautiful views in Sydney. You can schedule a hike with knowledgeable guides who point out some of the most significant landmarks. You'll find rugged cliffs overlooking amazing viewpoints. Make sure to book a tour that includes a walk by of the Three Sisters. These are massive rock formations that stand beside one another. Hear about the Aboriginal legend that discusses the significance of the rocks and find out how the sisters are said to have turned into stone.
10. Shop at Paddy's Markets
You're going to need to pick up some souvenirs of your trip to Sydney and there is no better place than Paddy's Markets. Here you'll find more than 1,000 stalls of merchants offering just about anything that your heart can desire. You'll find some great mementos of your trip to the Land Down Under, along with some great gifts for your loved ones back home. There is everything from gadgets, clothing, jewelry, art, and more to choose from. You should plan on spending several hours here, and if you're short on time, you'll need to make a few trips just to see everything that they have to offer.
9. Picnic at Hyde Park
Another popular attraction for tourists in Sydney is Hyde Park. This is the ideal getaway if you crave tall trees and tons of green spaces. This is a favorite for picnicking. It's the oldest park in the city and it not only offers a tranquil escape, but there are also a lot of things to see while you're there. As you venture around the park you'll find a visiting center, the pool of reflection, the ANZAC Memorial Building, and tons of statues and monuments. If you're there at the right time, you may even be able to get in on the Food and Wine Fair, the Sydney Festival, or one of the other many events that are held at the park.
8. Visit Jervis Bay
If you're a fan of white sand then you have to spend an afternoon at Jervis Bay. The waters are sparkling clear and there is always some type of fun beach activity held here. These are not only the most beautiful beaches in Sydney, but they are also filled with opportunities to participate in fun seaside events. Choose from dolphin and whale watching, scuba diving, and more. You can also camp on the beaches in certain areas.
7. Go to the Strand Arcade
There are a few different reasons we recommend the Strand Arcade. First, is the classic Victorian style architecture. It was built in 1891 and is dripping with charm. It is the embodiment of elegance and culture and a trip through the arcade is much like taking a step backward in time. While inside, plan on visiting the multiple shops that are housed inside. You can find a variety of snacks and treats along with homewares, crafts, jewelry, and more.
6. Walk through the Royal National Park
The Royal National Park is one of the most beautiful locales in the city of Sydney. The park itself is situated on more than 15,000 hectares of bushland. This is the best place on earth to experience the fullness of nature. There are also plenty of guided nature activities offered within the boundaries of the park. There is so much to do at the Royal National Park that you might want to break it up into a few visits. It's a great place to whale watch, swim, take a day hike, go on a cycling tour, and more. If you're there between May and November, you stand the best chance of seeing the migration of whales.
5. Tour the Queen Victoria Building
No trip to Sydney is complete without a tour of the Queen Victoria Building. This is one of the most amazing tourist attractions in the city. Both the interior and the exterior are dripping with historical design elements. The architecture is simply breathtaking, but you get a double bonus with this attraction. It's also a really cool shopping mall.
4. Take a hot air balloon ride
If you want to get the best views of the Sydney city skyline we recommend taking a hot air balloon ride. This is the most panoramic view possible. You'll be comfortable in the padded baskets that are set up for tourist comfort. You'll see everything that there is to see in the valley below but from a unique perspective. Some tours offer a champagne breakfast complements of Otis Bar and Grill. It's a three-hour excursion that starts around 4 am so you have to be an early riser to take this trip.
3. Have a pint at Young Henry's Brewery
Young Henry's Brewery is the ultimate pitstop for those who appreciate fine local craft beer. The brewery has a bohemian vibe and it caters to people from all walks of life. It's a great place to sample the local craft beers and to people watch because you'll see folks from all walks of life here. This is a brewery chain so there are plenty of them throughout the Land Down Under. If you're going to make a pub crawl, then it's recommended that you start here first.
2. Go on a Dharawal National Park Indigenous Walking Tour
The ultimate Australian experience is to go on an indigenous walking tour. This will give you the total experience through the Dharawal National Park. you'll wee bushland that was previously restricted to visitors and behold the wild scenery under the safety of a guided tour. an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger will share their expertise about the Dreamtime stories of indigenous Australians as well as describing the flora and fauna. You'll also get to visit a sacred pool where only women and children are allowed in. The Minerva Pool is a great place to have a picnic while you're on the tour. The location is situated approximately 60 minutes out of Sydney.
1. Tour Carriageworks
Carriageworks is the most recent expression of the Eveleigh Rail Yards which was established in the 1880s. This is a historical tour that involves walking through massive interiors that lead to an experimental theater. Some of the most progressive art, dance, and drama companies in all of Sydney offer performances at Carriageworks. If you're a fan of the performing arts then this is an experience that you won't want to miss out on. You'll also find installations of contemporary art as well as a myriad of cultural festivals at Carriageworks.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn