Are you looking for things to do in Sydney? If so, you're in luck! Sydney is full of top tourist attractions that are perfect for any traveller. So whether you're interested in history, art, or simply want to enjoy the city's beautiful scenery, there's something for everyone in Sydney. In this blog post, we'll take a look at some of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. So read on and start planning your trip to Sydney today!
Sydney is a beautiful city with so much to offer visitors. From world-famous landmarks to scenic nature spots, there's something for everyone to enjoy. To help you plan your trip, we've put together a list of the top tourist attractions in Sydney. So whether you're looking for history, culture, or just some great photo ops, you'll find it all here.
Best Tourist Attractions In Sydney
Sydney is the largest and also most popular city in Australia, visited by millions of tourists each year.
What sets Sydney apart from other cities are 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.
If you’ve never been to Sydney before, you might get overwhelmed by the large number of tourist attractions this amazing 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
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.
The Opera House is now a multi-venue performing arts centre with several theatres, rehearsal studios, two main halls, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.
When you first lay your eyes on this majestic piece of engineering, you will be in awe. The beautiful location of the Opera House just adds to the experience, with Circular Quay and the Harbour Bridge just around the corner.
Book a tour!
If you’d like to see the Opera House from the inside and learn more about it, a guided tour is a great idea. For example, this hour-long guided tour takes you underneath the world-famous sails and along the 300 corridors of the Opera House.
Watch a show!
Sydney Harbour Cruise
Whilst the regular ferry services are a great way to experience the beauty of Sydney Harbour, a day or night cruise over the Harbour is a wonderful experience that often includes drinks and a meal.
On a cruise, you typically have a lot more space to wander around, and there are fewer people on the boat than on a regular ferry. A cruise is also much slower, giving you the opportunity to really soak in the beauty surrounding you.
Have a look at our list of best Sydney Harbour cruises for a selection of different types of cruise experiences catering for different budgets.
Top Sydney Harbour cruises:
- Harbour cruise with 3-course premium dinner
- Captain Cook Harbour cruise with live music
- Tall ship afternoon Harbour cruise
Taronga Zoo Sydney
Against the Sydney CBD skyline backdrop, Taronga Zoo in Mosman is a fantastic day out for young and old. There are various ways to get to Taronga Zoo, but the ferry trip from Circular Quay is by far the best way.
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.
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 its way past secluded beaches, picturesque bays, impressive lookouts and historical sights.
It’s easiest to purchase your tickets in advance online, which also includes a ride on the spectacular Sky Safari gondola with great aerial views of the zoo.
Even better, you can also purchase this cruise and Taronga Zoo combo ticket, which includes a rocket ferry trip, entrance to the zoo, and a ride on the Sky Safari.
If you’ve already been to Taronga Zoo, you might want to check out Sydney Zoo in Western Sydney instead. This brand new and modern zoo near Blacktown is home to a great variety of different animals and is the perfect family day out.
Sydney Tower Eye
If you want to see Sydney, the Harbour, the coastline, and its surrounding suburbs from high above, a visit to the Sydney Tower Eye should be on top of your list of favourite attractions.
The Sydney Tower Eye is where you get to enjoy the best views from the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere, which also includes an exciting 4D cinema experience.
Visitors to Sydney Tower can choose from a range of unique experiences, such as dining or drinking at the rotating restaurant and walking on the observation deck at 820 feet above street level.
Top attractions at Sydney Tower Eye:
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Opened in 1932, the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge has the best looks and is 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.
One of the most popular free things to do in Sydney is actually 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 wonderful.
Nicknamed the "Coathanger," the Sydney Harbour Bridge is another Sydney icon. Supported by massive double piers at each end, it was built in 1932 and remains the world's largest steel arch bridge. You can drive over it, cruise below it, chug over it on a train, or photograph it from afar. But one of the best ways to appreciate this marvel of engineering, and soak up the spectacular views of Sydney Harbour, is on a climb to its 135-meter-high summit.
Scaling the bridge is one of Australia's top outdoor adventures, and you can choose from a range of different tours. Sydney BridgeClimb takes groups 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. You can also choose from different types of climbs, including an Indigenous storytelling experience and a climb right across the arch to the other side – the bridge connects the harbor's north and south shores.
Guided ascents of the bridge include a pre-climb prep talk, safety gear, and a photo on the summit. Along the way, you'll learn all kinds of entertaining stories about the history of the bridge. Before he became famous, one of its most famous workers was non-other than Paul Hogan, aka Crocodile Dundee.
An even better option is to visit the Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. You can head to the top of one of the four pylons for a small fee, where you can enjoy great views and visit a small but educational museum.
Feeling adventurous? Enjoy unforgettable panoramic views of the Sydney CBD skyline and the Sydney Harbour by climbing the bridge. It’s a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will never forget.
Stroll around The Rocks
Want to soak up a bit of Sydney history? Take a stroll around The Rocks. The Rocks historic area was once home to the Gadigal aboriginal people on a tongue of land protruding into Sydney Harbour. Later, it became the country's first site of European settlement.
The Rocks was named for the rocky coast on the west side of Sydney Cove, where the convicts pitched their tents. Today, more than 100 heritage sites and buildings jostle along the narrow streets, including Sydney's oldest surviving house, Cadman's cottage, built-in 1816.
The first stop should be a visit to The Rocks Discovery Museum. Here, you can learn about the area's fascinating transformation from traditional Aboriginal lands to convict slums to tourist hot spots. You can also join a 30-minute free guided tour daily at 1 pm and 1:30 pm.
Afterwards, wander around the narrow, cobbled streets. Pick up some souvenirs at the gift shops, buy handcrafted goodies at the market stalls (Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays), and admire Aboriginal and contemporary art in the galleries. You'll also find plenty of atmospheric little restaurants and cafés here.
Guided tours run the gamut, from Aboriginal heritage walks to photographic excursions, and if you're looking for unusual things to do in Sydney, you can book a nighttime ghost tour.
Spend a Day at Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour has something for everyone. Packed with tourist attractions, this waterfront precinct on the western side of Sydney's CBD is a hub for tourists and locals alike. You'll find everything here, from shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues to museums, a zoo, an aquarium, and an IMAX theatre.
Families will love Madame Tussaud's; the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo; and the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, which contains the world's largest collection of Australian marine creatures. The SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium Entrance Ticket is a great way to get ahead of the crowds.
The Powerhouse Museum offers interactive exhibits on science, technology, design, and history, and nautical-minded history buffs can board a replica of Captain Cook's ship, the HMB Endeavour, at the Australian National Maritime Museum. And while you're wandering around, keep an eye out for colourful artwork along the Darling Harbour Street Art Trail.
Younger children will love the carousel, playgrounds, Darling Harbour Ferris Wheel, and water park. An IMAX and 9D theatre, harbour jet boat rides, simulated flights and racing car adventures round out the exciting attractions.
Seeking a tranquil patch of green? Slip into the Chinese Garden of Friendship, and sip tea among the willows and koi ponds.
As well as offering a one-stop-shop of Sydney attractions for families, Darling Harbour also hosts an exciting line-up of events, from art exhibitions and film festivals to music concerts at the Aware Super Theatre.
Smell the Roses at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city? Chill out at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney in Farm Cove. A visit to this tranquil oasis is one of the many relaxing things to do in the city for free – especially if you're in need of a nature fix – and it's only a short stroll from the Sydney Opera House.
Established in 1816, the gardens are Australia's oldest botanic garden. They encompass 30 hectares of themed gardens with towering trees, palm groves, orchids, ferns, succulents, tropical gardens, rainforest plants, herbs, and Oriental gardens.
Garden lovers will be in heaven. The Palace Rose Garden blushes with around 1,800 roses. The Glasshouse Latitude 23 and Fernery brims with tropical foliage, begonias, and orchids; and the Cadi Jam Ora – First Encounters Garden tells the story of the Gadigal people, the land's traditional custodians, and explores the relationship between people and plants.
Aboriginal cultural tours and guided walks, and events such as bush tucker morning teas and picnics are offered. Check the website for details.
Wondering what's nearby? Surrounding the gardens is the Domain, a popular event venue with open green space and sports areas. And while you're visiting the gardens, you can enjoy views of Government House, the official residence of the governor of New South Wales.
St. Mary's Cathedral
One of Sydney’s standout symbols and sights, St. Mary’s Cathedral, can be found in between Hyde Park and The Domain. Set just a short stroll from the centre, it exhibits some exquisite architecture with two twin spires rising up above a fetching neo-Gothic facade.
Built between 1866 and 1928, it is modelled on Lincoln Cathedral in the UK and Notre-Dame in Paris, with gorgeous rose windows alongside elegant arches, transepts, and flying buttresses. Its enormous interior is just as striking. The light shining through its stained glass windows paints the beautiful sanctuary, chapels and sculptures in a mesmerising array of pretty colours.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
Connecting the two idyllic beaches together, the Bondi to Coogee Walk is one of the most popular and picturesque paths to stroll along in the city. Stretching just under 4 miles in length, it takes you past lots of stunning coastal scenery with fabulous views over the ocean to be enjoyed the whole way along.
Meandering along the top of craggy coastal cliffs, the path passes lovely picnic areas, parks and viewpoints with the scenic yet sombre, Waverley Cemetery being one of its main attractions. In addition to snapping photos of superb scenery, you can also stop off at any one of the cozy cafes that line the route or enjoy sunbathing, swimming and surfing at its beaches.
Chinese Garden of Friendship
Set at the southern end of Darling Harbour, the scenic and serene Chinese Garden of Friendship is a treat to stroll around. An oasis of calm in the city, its lovingly landscaped water features, rock gardens and pavilions shine a light on Chinese heritage and culture with the gardens having been designed in Guangzhou; Sydney’s sister city.
Symbolising the bond between the two countries, the gorgeous garden was first opened in 1988 to celebrate Australia’s bicentennial. A firm favourite with locals and tourists alike, it has pretty paths and ponds with exotic flowers, plants, and trees set next to a traditional tea house and glazed
A fascinating place to visit, Cockatoo Island lies at the heart of Sydney Harbour, easily reachable by ferry. Only opened to the public in 2007, it has waterfront cafes and campsites for guests to make use of. Guided history and paranormal tours take you around to see all the large island’s unique features.
Over the course of its history, the isle has been used as a prison, naval base and a shipyard, with its rusting industrial relics and old cells, making for some fantastic photos. Besides learning about its interesting past, you can bask in breathtaking views of the harbour or attend one of its regular concerts and cultural events.
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.
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.
There is a direct ferry service from Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island. Once on the island, grab a free map from the visitor centre and simply wander around to fully absorb the rich history and the highlights on the island.
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.
After iconic Bondi, Manly Beach is undoubtedly the city’s most popular and famous stretch of sand, having hosted the world’s first surfing contest back in 1964. Aside from surfing, visitors can lounge lazily on golden sands, stroll along its scenic boardwalk or enjoy swimming in the sea.
Stretching one mile in length, it curves its way gently alongside the Pacific Ocean, lying thirty minutes from Sydney’s main terminal, Circular Quay, by ferry. As picture-perfect as they come, the beach boasts striking coastal scenery and views with nearby cafes and restaurants. Volleyball and paddleboarding are also on offer, and splendid snorkelling and scuba diving can be had offshore.
Australian National Maritime Museum
The premier attraction in Sydney’s recently redeveloped Darling Harbour, the Australian National Maritime Museum is best known for its historic seafaring vessels, which include the 19th-century tall ship James Craig and a full-scale replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavor.
The museum’s seven main galleries cover the nation’s maritime history, from the discovery of the Land Down Under to the country’s naval defense in World War II and beyond. Tickets are available that include entrance to the museum as well as tours of several of the vessels moored outside.
Located 7 km (4 miles) away from Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD), Bondi Beach is a mile-long sweep of golden sand lined with red-tile-roofed homes, apartments and green spaces. A promenade adjacent to the sand runs the length of the crescent-shaped beach.
Popular Bondi Beach attracts swimmers, surfers, sunbathers and bodybuilders. However, because the roughest waves and strongest rip tides are at the south end of the beach, that area is generally reserved for surfers.
Swimmers and sunbathers tend to favour the north end next to a stretch of grass with coin-operated “barbies.” The well-patrolled beach is equipped with changing rooms, and the nearby neighbourhoods are packed with cafés, bars and shops.
Manly Ferry Trip
The best way to truly enjoy the beauty of Sydney Harbour is by catching a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. This hugely popular ferry trip is indeed one of Sydney’s top attractions, not just for tourists but for locals as well.
This unique ferry ride takes in all the sights that make Sydney Harbour so pretty, such as the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Bradleys Head, South Head, Dobroyd Head, and Manly Cove.
Depending on the weather on the day, try to get a seat outside at the front of the vessel for the best views. Otherwise, pick one side of the vessel on the way to Manly, and grab a seat on the other side when returning back to the city.
Note that travelling by ferry in Sydney isn’t expensive at all, but on Satrudays and Sundays, all public transport with the Opal Card is capped at $8.05 for the whole day.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sydney
- See the Sydney Opera House.
- Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
- Stroll around The Rocks.
- Hop aboard a Harbor Cruise at Circular Quay.
- Spend a Day at Darling Harbour.
- Smell the Roses at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.
- Shop 'til You Drop at the Queen Victoria Building.
The nickname stems from a 1987 play of the same name by Australia's most successful playwright, David Williamson; a satirical portrait of Sydney that's been described as “part love letter, part hate mail” to the Harbour City.