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Things to do in Sydney

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Welcome to Sydney - a dazzling blend of sun-drenched coastlines, innovative architecture, and vibrant culture.

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House

This bustling metropolis, known as Australia's Harbour City, effortlessly combines the casual charm of beach life with the glamour of a cosmopolitan city. There's no shortage of things to do in Sydney, a destination that is as varied in its offerings as it is vast in its size and allure.

Sydney truly is a city for everyone, embracing its rich history, diverse heritage, and the natural beauty of its surrounding landscapes. From the thrill of climbing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge to the serenity of the Royal Botanic Garden, and from exploring the bustling lanes of historic The Rocks to surfing at the world-renowned Bondi Beach, Sydney offers an abundance of experiences.

No matter what brings you here - be it the love for adventure, a passion for culture and history, a foodie’s insatiable curiosity, or the simple desire for a laid-back beach holiday - Sydney will not disappoint. With its variety of activities, sights, and experiences, Sydney beckons to be explored, promising adventures and memories that will last a lifetime. Let's dive into the many things you can do in this exciting city, and you might just discover why so many people leave a piece of their heart in Sydney.

Exploring Sydney’s Iconic Landmarks

Sydney is renowned for its stunning landmarks, each offering a unique slice of the city's vibrant life and culture. These iconic sites are must-visits for any traveller eager to immerse themselves in the heart of Sydney.

Sydney Opera House

No visit to Sydney is complete without experiencing the majesty of the Sydney Opera House. This UNESCO World Heritage site, with its distinctive sail-like design, is a marvel of modern architecture:

  • Tours: Guided tours offer an in-depth look into the history, architecture, and behind-the-scenes action of this iconic structure. You might even get to glimpse a rehearsal in progress.

  • Performances: Choose from a myriad of shows, ranging from opera and ballet to symphony and theatre. Witness the spectacular performances that have put Sydney on the global cultural map.

  • Photo Opportunities: The steps of the Opera House provide a perfect backdrop for memorable photos, with the stunning Sydney Harbour and the Harbour Bridge in view.

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House

Sydney Harbour Bridge

A symbol of Sydney's daring spirit, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is another iconic landmark:

  • BridgeClimb: Take the once-in-a-lifetime BridgeClimb adventure for breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Day or night, the climb provides an exhilarating experience and a unique perspective of Sydney.

Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach is an iconic Sydney destination renowned for its golden sands, sparkling blue waters, and vibrant beach culture:

  • Beach Activities: Enjoy swimming, surfing or just relaxing on the sand. The waves here are perfect for both beginner and seasoned surfers, and the Bondi Icebergs Pool is a must-visit.

  • Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk: Embark on this picturesque 6km coastal trail for stunning views of cliffs, bays, and beaches. Don't forget to bring your camera!

Bondi Beach in Sydney
Bondi Beach in Sydney

The Royal Botanic Garden

A green oasis amidst the city buzz, the Royal Botanic Garden is a place of natural beauty and tranquillity:

  • Flora and Fauna: Explore the garden's rich collection of plants from Australia and around the world. Keep an eye out for the colourful birds and critters that call the garden home.

  • Events: The garden hosts various events throughout the year. One of the favourites is the open-air sunset cinema, where you can enjoy a movie under the stars amidst lush greenery.

The Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney
The Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney

These landmarks serve as perfect starting points to immerse yourself in the rhythm of Sydney and begin your journey in this vibrant city.

Cultural and Historical Highlights

Sydney's cultural and historical tapestry provides a deep dive into Australia's vibrant past and its contemporary artistic scene. Here are some of the must-visit sites where you can immerse yourself in Sydney's cultural richness.

The Rocks

The Rocks, located on the edge of Sydney Harbour, is a historic area known for its sandstone buildings, cobbled streets, and rich past:

  • Historic Area: Explore the laneways and preserved buildings that hark back to Sydney's early settlement days. Discover Sydney's colonial history through heritage walks.

  • Weekend Markets: The Rocks Markets feature over 200 stalls selling artisan crafts, gourmet street food, and unique souvenirs. It's a perfect place for a weekend stroll.

  • Pub Scene: The Rocks hosts some of Sydney's oldest pubs. Enjoy a cold pint while soaking up the area's vibrant atmosphere and historic charm.

The Rocks in Sydney
The Rocks in Sydney

Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art

Sydney is home to some of Australia's most important art institutions, which feature an extensive collection of national and international works:

  • Art Gallery of New South Wales: This major public gallery features works from Australian, European, Asian, and contemporary art. The gallery hosts regular exhibitions and public art events.

  • Museum of Contemporary Art: Known for its cutting-edge exhibitions, the MCA showcases contemporary art from Australia and around the world, with a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney
Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney

Australian Museum

Established in 1827, the Australian Museum is the nation's first museum:

  • Importance: The museum houses extensive collections of natural history and cultural artefacts. From dinosaur fossils to exhibits showcasing Indigenous Australian culture, the museum provides a window into Australia's past.

Australian Museum in Sydney
Australian Museum in Sydney

Sydney Theatre Company

Sydney has a dynamic theatre scene, with the Sydney Theatre Company at its heart that offers a wide range of productions, including classic plays, contemporary works, and international hits. Enjoy a night of theatre in their harbourside home, the iconic Walsh Bay.

Sydney's cultural and historical highlights not only provide enriching experiences but also an understanding of Australia's past, its creative spirit, and its thriving contemporary arts scene.

Outdoor Activities in Sydney

Sydney's stunning landscapes and diverse natural environments make it a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. From cruising on the sparkling harbour to trekking in national parks, here are some outdoor activities you won't want to miss.

Sydney Harbour Cruises

A Sydney Harbour cruise is a great way to see the city from a different perspective:

  • Types of Cruises: Whether you choose a sightseeing cruise, a dinner cruise under the stars, a high-speed jet boat adventure, or a ferry ride to Manly or Taronga Zoo, each offers unique ways to experience Sydney's world-famous harbour.

Taronga Zoo

Perched on a hillside with magnificent harbour views, Taronga Zoo is a must-visit for animal lovers:

  • Animals: The zoo is home to over 4,000 animals from 350 species, from native Australian wildlife to exotic species from around the world.

  • Zoo Experiences: Take part in unique experiences like animal encounters, keeper talks, and night tours.

  • Cable Car Ride: Don't miss the Sky Safari cable car, offering panoramic views of the zoo, Sydney Harbour, and the city skyline.

Taronga Zoo
Taronga Zoo

Sydney's National Parks

Sydney's national parks offer a wealth of outdoor activities, from hiking and picnicking to birdwatching and photography:

  • Royal National Park: As the second oldest national park in the world, Royal National Park offers stunning coastal cliffs, secluded beaches, bushwalking trails, and picnic areas.

  • Sydney Harbour National Park: This park encompasses several islands and foreshore areas around Sydney Harbour. Explore historic sites, hike scenic trails, or simply enjoy a picnic with stunning harbour views.

  • Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park: This park is known for its Aboriginal heritage, rainforest walks, and panoramic lookouts over the waterways of Broken Bay.

Royal National Park near Sydney
Royal National Park near Sydney

Manly to Spit Bridge Walk

This 10km walk showcases the breathtaking coastal scenery of Sydney's northern beaches:

  • Scenic Coastal Walk: The trail takes you through beautiful beaches, bushland, and scenic lookouts, offering fantastic photo opportunities along the way.

Sydney's outdoor activities cater to every taste and fitness level, from leisurely harbour cruises and zoo visits to challenging hikes in its national parks. They offer the perfect opportunity to embrace the city's natural beauty and make lasting memories of your Sydney adventure.

Shopping and Dining Experiences in Sydney

Sydney is renowned for its eclectic shopping districts and diverse food scene. From designer boutiques and historic arcades, to a myriad of dining experiences that tickle every palate, the city has something for everyone.

Pitt Street Mall and Westfield Sydney

Located in the heart of Sydney's CBD, Pitt Street Mall and Westfield Sydney form a bustling shopping precinct:

  • Shopping Options: With hundreds of stores spanning across several city blocks, these shopping destinations offer everything from high street fashion to high-end luxury brands.

  • International Brands: This is the place to find leading global brands such as Chanel, Gucci, Zara, and H&M, to name just a few.

Westfield Sydney
Westfield Sydney

Queen Victoria Building and The Strand Arcade

These historic shopping centres combine old-world charm with a curated selection of boutiques and eateries:

  • Queen Victoria Building (QVB): This grand Victorian building houses over 180 shops spread over four levels. Its beautiful stained-glass windows, intricate tile work, and central dome make it a shopping experience like no other.

  • The Strand Arcade: Established in 1891, this historic arcade is home to Australian designers, jewellers, and specialty shops. Its stunning Victorian architecture and commitment to local craftsmanship make it a must-visit.

Queen Victoria Building in Sydney
Queen Victoria Building in Sydney

Dining in Sydney

Sydney's dining scene reflects the city's cultural diversity and proximity to fresh local produce:

  • Upscale Restaurants: Sydney hosts a range of award-winning restaurants, such as Quay, Aria, and Bennelong, where you can indulge in exquisite fine dining with spectacular harbour views.

  • Food Markets: For a more casual dining experience, explore Sydney's vibrant food markets. Check out The Rocks Foodie Market, Carriageworks Farmers Market, or Chinatown's Friday Night Markets for a taste of Sydney's street food scene.

  • Cultural Diversity: Sydney's multicultural culinary scene means you can find everything from Thai, Chinese, and Italian to Middle Eastern, Greek, and Indigenous Australian cuisine.

Whether you're a shopaholic looking for the latest fashion trends or a foodie in search of a new culinary adventure, Sydney's shopping and dining experiences are sure to leave you delighted.

Nightlife in Sydney

Sydney is known for its vibrant nightlife, filled with lively bars, sophisticated clubs, and unique evening events. From the electric atmosphere of Darling Harbour to the transformed streets of Kings Cross, there's always something exciting happening after sundown.

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour comes alive at night, offering a plethora of entertainment options:

  • Bars and Clubs: Enjoy a night out at one of the many stylish bars and clubs lining the harbour. Venues such as Home The Venue, Cohibar, and Helm Bar & Bistro offer great drinks, food, and stunning views of the city.

  • Evening Entertainment: For more entertainment, visit the Star Casino or catch a show at the ICC Sydney. You might also enjoy the regular firework displays over the harbour.

Darling Harbour in Sydney
Darling Harbour in Sydney

Kings Cross

Once known for its notorious nightlife, Kings Cross has undergone a significant transformation:

  • Current Nightlife Scene: Today, the area has reinvented itself as a trendy locale filled with gourmet eateries, cool bars, and boutique shops. Places like The Roosevelt and Dulcie's offer a great mix of delicious cocktails and enticing atmosphere.

  • The Potts Point Area: Don't miss out on the neighbouring Potts Point, renowned for its art deco architecture and a vibrant mix of cafes, restaurants, and bars.

Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney is an annual festival that lights up the city with creativity and inspiration:

  • Annual Event: This event transforms Sydney into a city of light, music, and ideas for nearly three weeks each year.

  • Light, Music and Ideas: See the city in a new light with large-scale illuminations and 3D projections, listen to inspiring talks and music performances, and explore innovative ideas and creative industry forums.

Opera House on Vivid Sydney 2017
Opera House on Vivid Sydney 2017

Sydney's nightlife is as diverse as it is vibrant, offering a variety of experiences to suit every preference. So whether you're looking for a relaxed evening or a night out on the town, Sydney has something to offer.

Day Trips from Sydney

While there's an abundance of activities to do within Sydney, the surrounding regions also offer spectacular experiences that are perfect for day trips.

Blue Mountains

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains offer a refreshing escape from city life:

  • Hiking: Explore well-marked trails through eucalyptus forests, over cliffs, and around waterfalls. Tracks range from easy walks like the Three Sisters walk to more challenging hikes like the Grand Canyon track.

  • Three Sisters: This iconic rock formation is a must-see. Take in the panoramic views from Echo Point lookout.

  • Scenic World: Experience the mountains from a unique perspective on the Scenic Skyway, Cableway, or Railway. The glass-floored Skyway offers breathtaking views of the Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters, and Jamison Valley.

Blue Mountains in Sydney
Blue Mountains near Sydney

Hunter Valley

Just a few hours north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley is one of Australia's premier wine regions:

  • Wine Tasting Tours: Spend the day visiting vineyards and sampling some of Australia's best wines. Many tours offer guided tastings and behind-the-scenes access to wineries.

  • Gourmet Cuisine: The valley is also known for its farm-to-table restaurants and artisanal local produce. A culinary adventure here complements the wine tasting experience.

Port Stephens

A little further north, Port Stephens offers a unique coastal experience:

  • Dolphin and Whale Watching: Take a cruise to see bottlenose dolphins and migrating whales. The region is known as the 'dolphin capital' of Australia, with over 150 resident dolphins.

  • Natural Beauty: Explore stunning beaches, sand dunes, and national parks. Activities include sandboarding, snorkelling, and hiking.

Each of these destinations provides a unique and refreshing contrast to Sydney's urban landscape. So whether you're a nature enthusiast, a wine lover, or a fan of marine life, these day trips from Sydney promise unforgettable experiences.


Specialist Orthodontist Input by Dr Martin Fine BDS, MSc, MSc

Dr Martin Fine

Dr Martin Fine

Specialist Orthodontist Dr Martin Fine, BDS, MSc (Orthodontics), is based in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. With over 30 years' experience in private practice, Dr Fine has expertise working with a wide variety of orthodontic appliances, including braces and Invisalign. He has presented at orthodontic conferences globally, and has taught postgraduate orthodontic students at the University of Sydney. Dr Fine is a member of both the AAO (American Association of Orthodontists) and the ASO (Australian Society of Orthodontists), and is a former president of the Alpha-Omega Dental Society's Sydney Chapter.  In the past, Dr Fine's research has been featured in the Angle Orthodontist journal. Dr Fine is committed to providing outstanding patient care using the latest and most effective techniques. Most recently, Dr Fine has developed and introduced the innovative FineLine clear aligner system, which has been specifically developed to meet the needs of patients at Fine Orthodontics.

Written by Danielle Long, writer

Danielle Long

Danielle Long.png

Danielle Long is a writer at Fine Orthodontics. She holds graduate qualifications in English and Education and is an integral part of the team at Fine Orthodontics. Danielle Long has been assisting in the orthodontic care process at Fine Orthodontics for over fifteen years, working closely with the team to provide exceptional patient support, communication and coordination of treatment plans. As a writer and an orthodontic treatment coordinator, Danielle Long's primary responsibilities include facilitating exceptional patient education and communication, ensuring seamless coordination of treatment plans, and providing support to the clinical orthodontic team at Fine Orthodontics.

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