A Guide to Sydney – Australia’s most vibrant city.
Sydney Harbour is a stunning travel destination – the largest, oldest and most vibrant city in Australia. With so much to see in this city, we’ve put together a guide to get the most out of your trip to Sydney.
Enjoy miles of pristine ocean coastline, sunshine and sandy surf beaches. See our unique Australian wildlife and learn about our cultural heritage. Visit world-class museums and art galleries and enjoy the theatre.
Enjoy this amazing city with a little help from our guide to Sydney.
A Guide to Sydney
First settled as a penal colony in 1788, Sydney has grown into a sophisticated city.
There are plenty of things to do in Sydney so to help get you started we’ve put together a short guide to this fabulous city. Enjoy some of our tips and suggestions to help you get the most out of your visit to Sydney.
- Visit the theatre, see world-class museums and art galleries and indulge in gourmet delights.
- Take a ferry from Circular Quay to get the best view of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge on your way to Taronga Zoo, or
- Book yourself in to do a Bridgeclimb and climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
- Go backstage for a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the Sydney Opera House.
- Hop on a ferry at Circular Quay, visit Taronga Zoo, Manly or Watsons Bay, or
- Learn about culture on an Aboriginal cultural heritage cruise,
- and that’s just the start!
You’ll find a number of walks with spectacular views across the beautiful Sydney Harbour.
Take yourself on the Barangaroo Foreshore Walk which now spans 11 Kilometres from Woolloomooloo to the Anzac Bridge. Follow an amphitheatre-style boardwalk at Waterman’s Cove along the Wulugul Walk and enjoy waterfront dining at Barangaroo.
The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Trail is one of Sydney’s most popular walking trails. The six kilometre walk begins at Bondi Icebergs pool and features stunning views along the path. You’ll see beautiful beaches, sheer cliffs, Aboriginal rock carvings at Marks Park and can take a swim in the rock pools along the way.
It will take about two hours to complete the Bondi to Coogee Beach section of the walk, and a further hour and a half if you continue to Maroubra. Express buses operate from Bondi and Coogee back to the city centre if you can’t face walking the return.
Take a Swim
Sydney is surrounded by beautiful beaches and surprisingly, most are easy to get to from the city centre.
Visit famous Bondi Beach or take a Sydney ferry over to Manly Beach. Catch a bus across the harbour and laze the day away at (often) less busy Coogee, Tamarama, Bronte and Maroubra Beaches. Relax and work on your Aussie tan or take surfing lessons.
Don’t forget to keep the sunscreen up!
Visit Sydney Harbour National Park
National Parks and botanical gardens within the city reaches are brimming with native flora, birds and wildlife.
Visit Sydney Harbour National Park for some of the best wildlife experiences. Colourful birds such as Rainbow Lorikeets and Crimson Parrots are just some of the wildlife you will likely see. Find out more.
See Australian wildlife at Taronga Zoo
Taronga Zoo is not just for kids! Just a 12 minute ferry ride north from Circular Quay will take you to see Australian koalas, kangaroos, wombats and other native animals right in the city.
Taronga Zoo is also home to gorillas, tigers, leopards, chimpanzees, giraffes and other exotic creatures from around the world.
Want something different to do at the zoo?
- Tackle the Treetop Wild Ropes course with more than 60 high rope challenges which include ziplines, rope climbs and suspended bridges.
- Book the Roar & Snore experience and take the night safari and stay overnight at the zoo sleeping in luxury safari-style tents.
A Guide to Darling Harbour, in Sydney
Darling Harbour is a fantastic family-friendly destination right in the heart of Sydney.
An easy walk from the city centre, Darling Harbour is the perfect place to hang out and relax. Right on the waterfront, Darling Harbour’s fascinating museums, wildlife zoos and oceanariums, pubs, cafe’s and restaurants are great for everyone.
- Hop aboard a Sydney Harbour cruise, or
- Discover one of the tall ships at the Australian National Maritime Museum, or
- visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship.
- Visit Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, or
- Spend time exploring SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, or
- Cuddle a koala at WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, or
- Simply head to the Darling Quarter Kids Playground to burn up energy.
Darling Harbour also holds a variety of food and cultural festivals throughout the year so check out the events calendar to see what’s on.
A Guide to The Rocks in Sydney
‘Old Sydney Town’, The Rocks is the original location of the first Sydney township.
Buildings of hand-carved sandstone bricks and cobblestone laneways tell of the hardship experienced by the first settlers. Sydney has transformed from a British colony of convicts, soldiers and sailors into a thriving 21st century entertainment precinct right on Sydney Harbour.
Today, the Rocks is a trendy place to visit. If you’re looking for unique souvenirs, art or creative jewellery, head to the weekend markets at The Rocks. Wander along the laneways, enjoy a drink in Australia’s oldest pubs, and marvel at iconic attractions such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
For breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour, take a bridge climb with BridgeClimb Sydney or go to the Pylon Lookout.
Go on an Aussie Pub Crawl
One of the walking tours I’ve loved was been Sydney’s ‘The Rocks Pub Walk‘.
Full of history of the early convict days, this walking tour traces the footsteps of the convicts, larrikin gangs & locals of the past. Visit and have a beer in some of Sydney’s oldest pubs as you walk through the narrow alleys and cobbled streets of The Rocks.
This guided tour included colourful tales of Australia’s first European settlement and shady tales of infamous personalities in Old Sydney Town.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Affectionately nicknamed ‘The Coat Hanger’, the Sydney Harbour bridge is one of Australia’s greatest engineering feats.
You can walk or cycle across the bridge, but for unbeatable panoramic views you should definitely do the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb!
Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge has been one of my all-time favourite adventures! It was exhilarating!
There are a number of bridge climbs available for every level of fitness. Choose one to suit – an afternoon climb, a morning climb, a climb at dusk or an easier climb if that’s what you’re looking for.
Trev and I did the afternoon Bridgeclimb in December last year and were totally impressed with our tour-guide, Maddy. She knew so much about the city, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and nearby sights, sharing legendary stories behind some of Sydney-town infamous characters.
The views were absolutely spectacular!
Sydney Opera House
On our last trip to Sydney we decided to do an backstage tour of the Sydney Opera House. It was fantastic and, (I think) should be on everyone’s ‘must do’ list!
Apart from being one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, the Sydney Opera House offers breathtaking views over Sydney Harbour.
As the guides take you though the Opera House, you’ll learn the ‘behind the scenes’ stories, fascinating history and insider secrets of what goes on behind the curtain. It’s a fascinating story of Australian history and you won’t want to miss it!
The Sydney Opera House is known for it’s unique design and hosts over 40 performances a week. Take the opportunity to book tickets to the latest show or book a Backstage tour to see what really happens off-stage.
Cockatoo Island a UNESCO Heritage Site
One of the most popular places to visit whilst in Sydney is Cockatoo Island. This UNESCO World Heritage listed Australian convict site is in the middle of Sydney Harbour and is a little different from the usual sightseeing spots.
Take the ferry from Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island. Enjoy the stunning views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
Make time to do the self-guided walking tour throughout all the old buildings on Cockatoo Island. Stay for the day or stay overnight in the campground.
The ferries will also take you to Fort Denison’s sandstone Martello Tower, the only one of its kind in Australia and, Garden Island home to the Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre. All are worth visiting to learn the history of early Sydney.
Barangaroo on the edge of Sydney Harbour has something for everyone! Named after a powerful 18th century Aboriginal woman who liaised with Governor Arthur Phillip, the captain of the First Fleet which arrived in 1788.
Learn more about her with Barangaroo Aboriginal Cultural Tours, which shares the rich Aboriginal history in the harbour and beyond.
The tours begin in Barangaroo Reserve, a park with 75,000 native trees and shrubs and thousands of sandstone blocks. Most of the sandstone blocks were extracted on-site to create the Cutaway, a cavernous arts, performance and festival space that’s located underneath the headlands near Nawi Cove.
Check out the Barangaroo events calendar for exhibitions and shows at the reserve. Don’t miss the Blak Markets which includes indigenous arts and craft stalls and traditional Aboriginal dance performances.
Discover delicious restaurants, explore the beautiful parkland, shopping, innovative architecture and fascinating indigenous tours. Walk or cycle from Walsh Bay through Barangaroo Reserve and along Wulugul Walk to Darling Harbour.
How to get to Sydney
- Often the first destination airport when arriving in Australia from Europe or the USA. Most international flights fly directly into Sydney Airport.
- Sydney is also well connected to all other Australian airports, so it’s a good destination to on-travel domestically.
- The city centre is an easy 20 minute taxi, Uber or train ride.
Where to eat and drink in Sydney
Sydneysiders take their food seriously!
Discover the many delicious restaurants, cosy pubs and cool bars along the waterfront where the views are sensational. You will often find the more budget friendly restaurants set back a little from the edge of the harbour.
Sydney’s award-winning restaurants include The Bridge Room and Sepia in the city centre. A visit to Circular Quay will take you to Aria and Bennelong located inside the Sydney Opera House. The Opera Bar has prime position underneath the Sydney Opera House and Peter Gilmore’s Quay Restaurant continues to win awards for it’s excellence.
Darling Harbour is a fantastic waterfront dining precinct. Food and drink experiences include a number of waterfront restaurants, alfresco cafes and trendy bars along Cockle Bay, King Street Wharf and Harbourside.
Try some of our favourite seafood restaurants Nick’s Seafood Restaurant along Darling Harbour waterfront, the Malaya nearby or take a ferry to Doyle’s at Watsons Bay.
The Rocks may be Sydney’s oldest neighborhood, but it’s full of energy. Packed with restaurants, trendy bars and live-music venues serving delicious food and wine experiences.
The Rocks is also where you’ll find the oldest pubs in town – The Fortune of War opened in 1828. Put this on your ‘must-visit’ list just to say you’ve been there! Take one of The Rocks Pub Tours of the Rock’s colonial pubs and learn about the history from Sydney’s rum rebellion to the six o’clock swill.
Barangaroo is where you will find one of Sydney’s hottest dining precincts. Along Wulugul Walk you’ll find a restaurant strip along the waterfront. There’s something here for all tastes.
Try some of our favourites – Anason is a Turkish mezze bar, Muum Maam for Thai cuisine, Lotus, famous for Chinese dumplings, Ume Burger for a Japanese style burgers and Cirrus for amazing seafood dishes.
Where to stay in Sydney
- Rendezvous Hotel – the Rocks
- Sydney Harbour YHA – the Rocks
- Adina Apartment Hotel – Darling Harbour
- The Oaks Goldsborough – Darling Harbour, or if you want to splurge,
- Consider the Sofitel Darling Harbour
There are endless accommodation options to suit all budgets. Find other options here.
Getting around Sydney
Travelling in Sydney and regional NSW is is easy on public transport.
The Sydney public transport system, consists of trains, buses, ferries and light rail. Use the trip planner at transportnsw.info to plan your travel. Ferries and harbour cruises are a memorable way to experience Sydney Harbour.
Using the Opal Card
The Opal card is an easy, convenient way of paying for your travel on public transport in Sydney. It can be used on all public transport, including trains, ferries, buses and light rail.
There are daily and weekly caps on the Opal network, which means you can travel as much as you like within the Opal network and you never pay more than the capped daily fare.
The Sydney Airport station access fee isn’t included in the travel caps. For more information, visit opal.com.au
Day trips to do while in Sydney
Visit the Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains are a beautiful National Park situated about 50 kilometres west of Sydney city.
Famous for its rock formation known as the Three Sisters, the Blue Mountains National Park is just 2 hours drive from Sydney, or a short train journey.
Take a trip up to the Mountains on the Katoomba Scenic Railway. Visit the Jenolan Caves and Katoomba Scenic World and experience a walkway over the rainforest canopy and a glass bottom skyway deep into the mountains.
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Sydney is a beautiful place to live and an exciting city to visit. There really is something for everyone so be sure to get out there and explore!
Read more about Sydney
- Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge
- Best Places to Visit in Australia
- Melbourne to Sydney – a 7 day roadtrip
- 30 of our Best Australian Adventures