Sydney tourist attractions

Top 10 Sydney Tourist Attractions

Sydney is a beautiful city that has been attracting tourists for decades. With so many to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start when visiting. However, if you’re looking for the best Sydney tourist attractions in one place, this blog post will help! We’ll explore some of the most popular attractions and provide helpful tips on how to make your time there even more memorable.

Glide along the glittering harbour on a ferry, see the white sails of the Opera House gleaming in the sunshine, admire the graceful arch of the Harbour Bridge, and it’s hard to imagine this vibrant state capital of New South Wales was once a convict colony. In 1788, at Sydney Cove, Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet, established the first British colony in Australia.

What sets Sydney apart from other cities is the beautiful and world-famous Harbour, the unique landmarks such as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, a great climate, and a stunning coastline with countless beaches.

Discover all the great Sydney attractions, from the sublime Sydney Opera House and the iconic Bondi Beach to the marvellous Taronga Zoo, magnificent national parks, extraordinary heritage, and more. You’ll find many memorable things to do and fascinating places to visit in Sydney, Australia.

Sydney is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations, and if you’re visiting, you’ll want to take advantage of all the great attractions that are there. This blog post lists some of Sydney’s top tourist attractions, so you have an idea where to start!

If you’ve never been to Sydney before, you might get overwhelmed by the large number of tourist attractions this fantastic city has to offer. This guide will help you select the most popular attractions and the best places to visit in Sydney!

Sydney Opera House

1. Sydney Opera House

One of the world’s great icons, the Sydney Opera House is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the star attraction on the glittering harbour.

Opened in 1973, the Sydney Opera House is not only one of Sydney’s top tourist attractions; it’s also considered one of the most famous and distinctive buildings from the 20th century. 

This graceful building, shaped like shells or billowing sails, perches on a finger of land surrounded by water. Snap a photo while gliding by on a harbour cruise, relax at one of the restaurants, stroll around its exterior, or take an organised tour of this magnificent structure, which encompasses theatres, studios, exhibition rooms, a concert hall, and a cinema.

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, a first-timer or a fan, the Sydney Opera House has something for you.

The Opera House is now a multi-venue performing arts centre with several theatres, rehearsal studios, two main halls, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.

The Sydney Opera House is an architectural masterpiece and vibrant performance space of one of the most iconic buildings globally. It’s a place where the past shapes the future, where conventions are challenged, and cultures are celebrated. Step inside and discover the stories that make the Opera House so inspiring.

Where the Opera House sits, Bennelong Point has been a place for feasting and celebrating for millennia. 

So it’s only natural that here at the Opera House, the entertainment jumps from the stage and onto the plate. So whether you’re after a show-stopper meal at Bennelong, pre-theatre dining at Portside, a long lunch with a view at Opera Bar, drinks with mates or grabbing a bite on the go at Opera Kitchen, we’ve got Sydney’s most refined foods, drinks plus the best views in town. 

When you first lay your eyes on this magnificent piece of engineering, you will be in awe. The beautiful location of the Opera House adds to the experience, with Circular Quay and the Harbour Bridge just around the corner.

Book, a Sydney Opera House, Guided Walking Tour to learn about the history and get a behind-the-scenes look at this famous building. This flexible ticket allows you to join any one of the tours throughout the day, departing every half hour from 9 am to 5 pm. Avid photographers head to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair for one of the best photo opportunities. 

2. Sydney Harbour Bridge

Opened in 1932, the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge not only has the best looks but it’s also an incredible piece of superb engineering. Also known as the Coathanger because of its arch-based design, the 134m high Sydney Harbour Bridge connects the Sydney CBD with the city’s North Shore.

Spanning the city centre to the North Shore, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a comprehensive steel arch bridge known for its beauty and function, providing a crossing for cars, trains, bikes and pedestrians. 

While the more daring can do the BridgeClimb to the top of the structure, opened to traffic in 1932, anyone can enjoy a walk for free.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge or “Coathanger,” as locals call it, was the city’s best-known landmark before constructing the Sydney Opera House. 

Supported by massive double piers at each end, it was built in 1932 and remained the world’s largest steel arch bridge, connecting the harbour’s north and south shores in a single curve rising 134 meters above the water. 

Along its length run two railway lines and eight lanes for road traffic, which can be varied according to traffic flow. Increasing bridge traffic encouraged the construction of a harbour tunnel in 1992 to ease congestion, but motorists can still drive over the bridge for blue-water views. 

Pedestrians can stroll across walkways or join a guided ascent through BridgeClimb for a breathtaking panorama of the city and harbour. To learn about the fascinating history of the bridge’s construction, visit the museum on the southeastern pier.

One of the most popular free things to do in Sydney is walking across the Harbour Bridge. That’s right; it’s entirely free to make your way from The Rocks to the other side of the Harbour by foot. The views of the Opera House and Circular Quay from the bridge are lovely.

Daring souls who want to climb to the 135-meter-high summit can book the Sydney BridgeClimb. 

This is a spectacular opportunity that takes groups of up to 13 people on an approximately 3.5-hour climb to the top of the outer arch. Tours run throughout the day, beginning with a dawn climb and ending with a night climb. In addition, 1.5-hour Sampler Climbs and 2.25-hour Express Climbs are also available.

Sydney Cockatoo Island

3. Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour

Visiting one of the many Sydney Harbour islands is a great way to learn more about the history and evolution of Sydney. Cockatoo Island is one of those islands that is definitely worth a visit and makes for a great day out.

Known in the Dharug language as Wareamah, meaning ‘women’s land’, Cockatoo Island is a former convict penal establishment and naval shipyard in the heart of Sydney Harbour. It is easy to get to by ferry.

Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO World-Heritage and National Heritage Listed island, situated right in the middle of beautiful Sydney Harbour. Over the years, the island has served as a shipbuilding yard and Commonwealth naval base and a convict island.

Located at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove Rivers, the heritage destination intersects the homelands of the Wallumedegal, Wangal, Cammeraygal and Gadigal Peoples, who have inhabited the area for thousands of years.

Located in the heart of Sydney Harbour, a short ferry ride from the CBD, Cockatoo Island is a historically important place where visitors can explore historic landmarks and stay overnight. 

Known as ‘Wareahmah’ by the region’s Aboriginal People, the island – a former convict penal establishment and ship dockyard – has emerged as a popular arts and entertainment venue, having hosted everything from Australia’s largest visual arts event, the Biennale of Sydney, through to live performances by musicians Lorde and Justin Bieber. 

Cockatoo Island’s year-round offerings include heritage accommodation, a waterfront campground, tours for all ages, tranquil picnic spots with panoramic harbour views, and two licensed cafes: Societe Overboard and the Marina Cafe and Bar

Additionally, the island’s heritage buildings and distinctive terrain give visitors insights into this fascinating destination’s complex and layered history.

Today, it is a source of intrigue and inspiration for visitors owing to its historical buildings, distinctive terrain and panoramic views. Popular attractions include heritage and campground accommodation, waterfront cafés and picnic spots, guided history and paranormal tours, and seasonal events such as New Year’s Eve and music concerts.

If you have more time to spend, you can also stay overnight on Cockatoo Island. Book a luxury tent on the waterfront camping site, or otherwise, book a night in one of their heritage holiday houses or harbour view apartments.

Sydney Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

4. Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is a central botanical garden located in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Opened in 1816, the park is the oldest scientific institution in Australia and one of the most important historic botanical institutions globally.

A tranquil oasis amid the hustle and bustle of the city, the Royal Botanic Garden at Farm Cove lies a short and scenic stroll along the waterfront from the Sydney Opera House.

Welcome to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, an oasis of 30 hectares in the heart of the city. Wrapped around Sydney Harbour, the Gardens occupy one of Sydney’s most spectacular positions.

Established in 1816, it is the oldest scientific institution in the country and is home to an outstanding collection of plants from Australia and overseas.

From the provocative rare and threatened plants of the world to the romantic rose garden, the themed garden areas show the diverse beauty of nature.

Special features include: Cadi Jam Ora – First Encounters is a garden display that remembers and acknowledges the Cadigal – the original inhabitants of Sydney’s city centre – and their relationship with this land.

Popular with both tourists and local office workers, the Botanic Garden is a quiet place where people can visit to learn more about science, gardens, plants and horticulture.

The gardens were established in 1816 and encompass 30 hectares of themed gardens with towering trees, palm groves, orchids, ferns, and flocks of fruit bats. Visiting the parks is one of the many beautiful things to do in Sydney for free. 

Among the highlights are the Palace Rose Garden, which includes some 1,800 roses, and the Glasshouse Latitude 23 and Fernery, brimming with tropical foliage, begonias, and orchids. For the less energetic, a hop-on, hop-off train tours the grounds. After exploring the gardens, you can relax at the café or restaurants or enjoy a hillside picnic with beautiful harbour views.

Surrounding the gardens is the Domain, a popular event venue with open green space and sports areas. While you’re visiting the parks, you can enjoy views of Government House, the official residence of the governor of New South Wales.

The Royal Botanic Garden offers several tour experiences, including the Aboriginal Heritage Tour, a free guided walk and bespoke heritage tours. 

The best way to access the Royal Botanic Garden is via Circular Quay and the Opera House, or otherwise via Hyde Park and The Domain just south of the garden.

Bookings are essential online.

Free Wifi is available throughout the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Download the free app for self-guided audio walking tours, a Garden map, and the latest events.

5. Darling Harbour

This waterside pocket of Sydney has got it all; fantastic entertainment, fascinating museums, incredible wildlife and delicious dining options right on the water, plus a brand-new food precinct. Darling Harbour is a great family-friendly destination right in the heart of Sydney that has something for everyone.

Sydney’s most prominent recreational and pedestrian precinct, Darling Harbour, is home to a great variety of attractions for the whole family. Darling Harbour has something for everyone, from waterfront dining and regular fireworks displays to exciting museums and huge playgrounds.

The Sydney Aquarium, the Australian National Maritime Museum, Madame Tussauds, the Wild Life Sydney Zoo, the Chinese Garden of Friendship and the Darling Quarter Kids Playground.

Please make the most of its harbour position and hop aboard a Sydney Harbour cruise or discover one of the tall ships at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Then, head to the Chinese Garden of Friendship, a tranquil haven if you’re looking for something less active and more zen.

You can see world-class shows at ICC Sydney, a convention, exhibition and theatre complex that hosts everything from theatre to concerts. Darling Harbour also holds various food and cultural festivals throughout the year at Tumbalong Park; check out the exciting events calendar to see what’s on.

Nearby Darling Quarter and the Barangaroo Foreshore are within walking distance and also very much worth a visit. These locations have undergone significant upgrades and are now popular lunch and dinner hot spots for tourists, local office workers, and residents.

Darling Harbour is conveniently located only a few moments away from Town Hall train station and Chinatown. A great way to get to Darling Harbour from Central Station is via The Goods Line, an urban walkway where an old train line used to be.

Darling Square is a new food precinct; follow Tumbalong Boulevard for two minutes to get from the park to the thick of it all. There’s an array of food vendors, from burgers at 8Bit to gyros at Gyradiko, Asian at Spicy Sichuan and the Japanese/Scandi café Edition Coffee Roasters.

Other foods and drink experiences include waterfront restaurants, alfresco cafes and trendy bars along Cockle Bay, King Street Wharf and Harbourside, where you’ll also find souvenir shops and fashion boutiques. And you can dance the night away at funky nightclubs, too.

The lively precinct is only 10 minutes walk from Town Hall Station in the city centre and a stroll from Chinatown, Barangaroo and Pyrmont. You can also travel by light rail or catch a ferry from Circular Quay and alight at Barangaroo Wharf or Pyrmont Bay Wharf. There are lots of comfortable accommodation options. 

Taronga Zoo Sydney

6. Taronga Zoo Sydney

One of Sydney’s most famous attractions, the award-winning Taronga Zoo is home to over 4,000 animals, including Australian native wildlife, as well as rare and endangered exotic animals.

At Taronga Zoo, you can enjoy close-up encounters with iconic Aussie wildlife and other animals worldwide, plus superb views of the Sydney skyline. 

Overlooking the magnificent Sydney Harbour, Taronga Zoo is just 12 minutes from the city by ferry. Open 365 days a year; admission includes daily keeper talks and shows and access to the Sky Safari, Sydney’s only cable car.

Against the Sydney CBD skyline backdrop, Taronga Zoo in Mosman is a fantastic day out for the young and old. There are various ways to get to Taronga Zoo, but the ferry trip from Circular Quay is best.

Quietly tucked away on the north side of Sydney Harbour with superb views of the city, Taronga Zoo is Australia’s largest zoo with great shows and close encounters with a wide range of different types of animals.

Nestled on a point along the north side of the harbour, the zoo inhabits prime Sydney real estate in the posh suburb of Mosman. Highlights include the Lemur Walk-Through, Koala Encounter, and Seal Show. From the city, buses to the zoo depart from Wynyard

Better still, hop aboard a ferry at Circular Quay. The zoo’s lively events calendar includes “Roar and Snore” overnight zoo stays and a summer concert series. In addition, you can purchase a Sydney Taronga Zoo Entry Ticket in advance, including a ride on the Sky Safari gondola.

Enjoy the QBE Free-Flight Bird Show overlooking Sydney Harbour, featuring some of the world’s most spectacular birds and be delighted by the Daily Seal Show, where Australian and Californian Sea-lions and the New Zealand Fur-seals will impress you with their grace and skill.

If visiting the zoo isn’t exciting enough, it’s also the starting point of one of the most enjoyable Sydney Harbour walking tracks. The Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk is a 6.5km trail that swirls past secluded beaches, picturesque bays, impressive lookouts and historical sights.

Challenge yourself on Taronga’s exciting new sky high adventure, Wild Ropes. Tackle obstacles, cross suspension bridges and soar through the trees while enjoying breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour.

7. Queen Victoria Building

Built-in the 1890s, the heritage-listed Queen Victoria Building (better known as the QVB) is one of Sydney’s most iconic landmark buildings in George Street in the middle of the CBD.

Sydney shopping is a high point is the Romanesque-style Queen Victoria Building (“QVB”), linked by underground arcades with Town Hall Station

Originally built as a market hall between 1893 and 1898, this elegant building is crowned by a high central dome surrounded by 20 smaller domes.

Rich in history and architecturally splendid, the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) occupies an entire block on Sydney’s George Street and has over 180 of Sydney’s finest fashion boutiques, jewellery shops and homewares, accompanied by delightful cafes and restaurants.

After having undergone several major renovations, the QVB is now one of Sydney’s most popular shopping destinations, offering a great variety of fashion boutiques, jewellery shops, cafes, restaurants, and so much more.

The grand building, built in the 1890s, was erected as a Municipal Market on the scale of a Cathedral. The QVB was beautifully restored and re-opened in 1986 and quickly became Sydney’s most popular and prestigious shopping centre.

The dominant feature is the mighty centre dome, which is occupied by a giant Christmas tree during the Christmas period, a must-see for any visitor. 

Glorious stained glass windows and splendid architecture endure throughout the building, and an original 19th-century staircase sits alongside the dome.

After decades of neglect and even plans for demolition, this grand sandstone building was restored to its original state in the early 1980s. Today, more than 200 high-end shops line their light-filled galleries. 

It’s worth a visit, even for those who shun the shops, to admire its successful restoration, as well as its beautiful stained glass windows and mosaic floors. In addition, the Tea Room QVB hosts a High Tea under crystal chandeliers here that is popular with locals and visitors.

Barangaroo Reserve Sydney

8. Barangaroo Reserve

Situated on the western side of the Sydney CBD, Barangaroo Reserve is a modern Sydney Harbour foreshore park developed as part of a large urban redevelopment project. 

This project has turned a once ugly industrial site into a thriving business, entertainment and leisure precinct.

Barangaroo Reserve is an excellent example of a successful urban renewal project and a lovely spot walking along the harbour. 

Transformed from an unsightly container terminal, this 22-hectare waterfront precinct opened to the public in 2015 and is now home to more than 75,000 native trees and shrubs, walking and cycling tracks, shops, restaurants, and event and exhibition space. 

Barangaroo Reserve is a waterfront park with a large man-made hill right in the middle. It consists of several beautifully designed terraced gardens connected by various walking paths. The abundant use of sandstone fits perfectly in the design of the park.

It is named after the influential female indigenous leader at the time of European colonisation.

One of the most popular things to do here is the Wulugul Walk, a scenic waterfront promenade that skirts the six-hectare re-created Sydney Harbour headland at the reserve’s northern end and will eventually extend for two kilometres between Walsh Bay and Darling Harbour. 

Along the way, you can admire an evocative series of public art installations. Keep an eye out for the shell wall, a 22-meter-tall vertical panel on the side of a building at the reserve’s southern gateway, created by two of Australia’s leading indigenous artists. 

You can learn about the area’s rich indigenous heritage on an Aboriginal cultural tour. The reserve is a four-minute walk from Wynyard station, and you can also catch a ferry direct to the new Barangaroo Wharf.

The park is home to more than 75,000 planted trees, palms, ferns, shrubs and other plants. The different species have all been native to the Sydney region for the last 200 years. 

Interestingly, Barangaroo Reserve has introduced 18 official new place and road names, with 40% of these names referencing Aboriginal culture or people.

The best way to get to Barangaroo Reserve is via Circular Quay and The Rocks or King Street Wharf just south of the park. Wynyard is the closest train station, which has an exit that is quite close to the reserve.

9. Palm Beach

Situated 40km north of the Sydney CBD, Palm Beach is Sydney’s northernmost beach town with a unique atmosphere that somehow resembles a little subtropical paradise.

There’s a reason that Palm Beach doubles up as the setting for Summer Bay, the fictional beach in the TV show Home & Away; the golden sand and sparkling blue sea make it look too good to be true. 

But there’s more than just sea and sand here; explore Barrenjoey Head, Sydney’s northernmost seaside point and lots more.

If you’re planning on spending the day at Palmy, as the locals call it, bring your board because you’ll enjoy excellent surf at the northern end of the beach.

Palm Beach is a popular day-trip destination for Sydney-siders and a niche holiday retreat for tourists, backpackers, and Australian and international celebrities alike. 

The southern end is more lo-fi, offering less active beachgoers a protected area for swimming in the ocean pool and pretty picnic spots under the pine trees.

What makes Palm Beach, a narrow peninsula, so spectacular is its unbeatable location. It won nature’s lottery and is surrounded by water on three sides: Pittwater to the west, the Pacific Ocean to the east, and Broken Bay to the north at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River, which meanders inland to historic Windsor.

There are lots of things to see and do in Palm Beach, including a hike up to the iconic Barrenjoey Lighthouse, surfing and swimming, and of course, some great cafes and restaurants to choose from.

Palm Beach curves 2.3km, from Little Head to Barrenjoey Head. Follow the trail to heritage-listed Barrenjoey Lighthouse, which boasts splendid views of the coast, Pittwater and Ku-ring-Gai Chase National Park

You can get there via the Palm Beach ferry, which lands at the Basin campground or head to Ettalong on the Central Coast via Broken Bay.

Other activities include kayaking with Pittwater Kayak Tours, sailing with Taylor Made Escapes and a nature tour with EcoTreasures

Visit the locations where Home & Away is filmed with Flamin’ Galah Sydney Tours or Sydney’s Northern Beaches Tours. Play a nine-hole game at Palm Beach Golf Course or shop at the monthly Palm Beach Market.

When this much water surrounds you, it makes sense to savour seafood. The fish ‘n chips at the original Boathouse Palm Beach is legendary; Barrenjoey House is a slightly more upmarket affair, and if you want to go on full-on fine dining, head up to nearby Whale Beach to eat at the acclaimed Jonah’s.

Whilst it’s not the easiest of suburbs to get to, Palm Beach is worth a visit if you’re staying in Sydney for more than just a couple of days. The best way to get there is by bus from Wynyard in the city.

Coastal Walk Sydney

10. Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

Of course, a visit to Sydney is not complete without spending a morning or afternoon in Bondi Beach, Australia’s most popular and most well-known beach town.

If you have the time and you love a bit of hiking, the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is an absolute must. It’s Sydney’s most popular walking trail, and for a good reason. The views from start to finish are excellent, with lots of cafes and parks along the way to have a rest.

Offering visitors to Sydney an opportunity to join in and do what the locals do – the Bondi to Coogee Walk is a popular coastal walk offering beautiful coastline vistas, cosy beaches and cafe strips for refuelling.

It is six kilometres long and takes about two hours to complete at a good pace, but why not break it up with a freshly squeezed juice or a relaxed coffee, then finish with a swim at Coogee Beach.

The walk passes one of the world’s more scenic operational cemeteries, the Waverley Cemetery, where graves of famous Australians such as Henry Lawson can be found.

The track can be divided into two sections, with Bronte Beach located at the halfway mark. Depending on stops, the walk can quickly be completed within three hours. You can then walk back the same way or catch a bus to return to your starting point.

The Bondi to Tamarama Beach section of the walk is transformed each spring with the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition.

The walk is easy to medium with a steep section and quite a few steps. Don’t forget your hat, sunscreen, and some water.

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