Your ultimate guide to

Sydney

Heritage sights, idyllic beaches, a spectacular harbour, intriguing history and charming culture. This is Sydney. Summer, winter, spring or autumn, this city delights everyone, rain, hail or shine, boasting a wow factor very few other cities have.

Top Things to do in Sydney

From the roaring sea to the gardens surrounding the iconic Opera House, there are sure to be sights for every member of the family.

Royal Botanic Gardens

An oasis in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, the Royal Botanic Gardens wraps itself around Farm Cove at the edge of Sydney Harbour. The gardens boast one of the most spectacular positions in Sydney, with the Sydney Opera House as its neighbour. Home to an outstanding collection of Australian and international plants, the Gardens were established in 1816 and are classified as the oldest scientific institution in the country.

 

Stroll through the romantic rose garden, take a walk through the rare and threatened plants of the world and experience the Cadi Jam Ora, a garden display that remembers and acknowledges the original inhabitants of Sydney’s centre, the Cadigal people. If you don’t feel like walking, the Choo Choo Express circles the gardens with a guide on board to enlighten passengers on the history of the garden and the plants.

Sydney Tower Eye

The Sydney Tower Eye is usually referred to as a whole bunch of different names by Sydneysiders, most commonly Centrepoint Tower, despite it never officially carrying that name. Regardless of what it’s called, the tower has been an integral part of the skyline for more than 30 years. Fun fact: it’s ranked as one of the safest towers in the world, which makes experiencing the Tower Eye even more attractive, because it involves being pretty high up.

 

The Sydney Tower Eye provides the best views; it is, after all, the highest point in the city. Whether it’s the Observation Deck you’re heading to, or whether you’re partaking in the SKYWALK experience, the ability to see 360 degree views of this spectacular city sure is worth it.

Whale Watching

Sydney offers many great vantage points to see the whales migrating. This generally occurs twice a year. From May-August, the whales are migrating north to warmer waters to mate and give birth. In the summer months, the humpbacks return south with their calves, to spend the following few months in the Antarctic waters. Winter, however, is the best time to spot them from the shore. More than 20,000 whales are known to migrate along the NSW coastline, close enough to see from land.

 

If you’re lucky, you may even spot some orcas or minka whales. One of the best whale watching spots is South Head, in Watsons Bay, specifically, the Gap which is an ocean cliff on the peninsula. There’s also North Head if you’re staying out Manly way or Kamay Botany Bay National Park if you’re staying in the southern suburbs. If you’d rather get up close and personal, there are a plethora of whale watching cruises you can jump on.

Visit Luna Park

If you’re after a day out in one of Sydney’s oldest and most iconic spots, you can’t beat a day out at Luna Park. Situated just beyond the Harbour Bridge, you’ll take in stunning views of the Opera House and Barangaroo from inside – plus you’ll get to experience the famous Coney Island fun house, as well as the well-known Rotor and enjoy a carnival-style atmosphere in one of the world’s most beautiful spots. Entry is free, all you need to pay for is your ride pass and any food, drinks or games.

 

Keep an eye out for their event, ‘Ferris Wheel Dining’, which runs through summer and invites guests to dine in the park’s Ferris Wheel for a three-course meal. Soaring high up over Sydney, you can clink your champagne glass as you peer over the Harbour. Your waiter will refresh your glass and serve your next course as your cart reaches the floor with each spin. The meal is put on by Luna Park’s signature restaurant, The Deck.

Harbour Bridge Climb

No visit to Sydney is complete without at least once climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Ticked off by almost celebrity that has ever touched down in Sydney, it’s certainly an iconic way to spend your time, especially if you like taking in incredible views. Prices start at $168pp.

Best Places to Visit in Sydney

Many Sydneysiders live their lives close to water. Whether it’s the river, the ocean or the harbour, the coastal city lives and breathes sand, surf and sea.

Bondi Beach

Is there a more iconic Sydney beach than Bondi? The beach experiences the most breathtaking sunrise in the morning, and in the quieter hours, the surfers come out in force. There are also people streaming along the promenade, swimmers jumping into the Iceberg’s pool or straight into the cool waves, and sunbakers enjoying the sandy shores. What’s fascinating is that even in winter, Bondi Beach is a vibrant hub of activity. You can wine and dine in the many restaurants or cafes on the surrounding streets, enjoy Sculptures by the Sea in Spring or the Winter Festival in the colder months and shop up a storm. Be sure to visit Bondi Icebergs for a drink, a meal or a swim; it’s one of Australia’s oldest swimming clubs and the pools are open to the public.

Manly

The jewel in the northern beaches crown, Manly has it all. The Manly Ferry is a must-do for visitors, providing iconic harbour and ocean views on the traditional Sydney yellow and green ferry.

 

The wonderful thing about Manly is that it has the ocean beach on one side, and a sandy harbour cove on the other. Manly Beach is lovely to sit on, and the long stretch of road that borders the beach is home to dozens of delicious restaurants, cafes and bars. The Manly Corso, linking the harbour to the beach, is a part-pedestrian mall lined with shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. The surrounds of Manly are just as picturesque, with Shelly Beach just a short walk away and Manly Lagoon Reserve in the northern direction.

Sydney Harbour

The Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, The Rocks, Barangaroo and everything else in between make up the iconic Sydney Harbour. The area also includes Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. The Harbour is one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world, especially considering the iconic surrounds, delightful hidden beaches, charming islands and fascinating heritage.

 

There are walking tours, water tours and even Segway tours you can do, but depending on what attraction you’re visiting, sometimes, exploring the area on foot, meandering around aimlessly is the best way to see it all. There are numerous walks you can do around the harbour to enjoy the beautiful scenery, and it’s most definitely recommended to take a stroll around the historic Rocks.

 

Take a ferry to Cockatoo Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Australia’s convict sites, or take a ferry over to Taronga Zoo to visit the animals. For a bird’s eye view of the harbour, head on up; the Sydney BridgeClimb is a spectacular way to see the city. During winter, the city lights up, literally, with the Vivid Festival illuminating harbour and city icons. The Harbour area also includes museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Customs House, the Sydney Museum, the Art Gallery of NSW and the Australian Museum; all have fantastic exhibitions for the whole family.

Tours and Packages

Whether you’re touring Sydney city or heading to the surrounds, there are ways to see the city like no other.
Individual areas, of course, have specific tours. For example, there are several walking tours in The Rocks, and even some nightly ghost tours of the area. You can also do bus or coach tours around Sydney that take in everything from national parks and beaches in the south to the Northern Beaches.

 

One of the best ways to see Sydney, especially the harbour, is by boat. There are numerous cruises you can do, whether it’s tall-ship cruising, small-ship cruising or even thrill-rides around the area. Some of them even include lunch or dinner on board.
If you’re keen to see a bit more of the surrounds, there are some tour packages that will take you to the Blue Mountains for the day so you can experience everything the NSW bushland has to offer, or the Hunter Valley to wine and dine among the vines.

Best Places to Eat in Sydney

Whether it’s fish and chips on the beach, or hatted food by the harbour, there’s something for every taste bud in this multicultural city.

Top Bites

Situated in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, Catalina is an iconic fine dining establishment with waterfront views. It has been part of Sydney’s culinary scene for more than 20 years and it’s a lovely place to enjoy a long lunch, overlooking the water. You’ll even get to see the Sydney Seaplanes taking off and landing.

 

To take in a fabulous view of the Opera House, you can’t go past The Dining Room, which is part of the incredible Park Hyatt hotel in The Rocks. The hotel is frequented by many a celebrity – and it’s no wonder, the 6-course chef’s menu is just one of many reasons the likes of Prince Harry and Meghan, Elton John and Tom Cruise choose to lay their head on the Hyatt’s supreme pillows. The pumpkin gnocchi and they’re freshly shucked oysters are a must.

 

Hubert, a basement brasserie that most struggle to get a table at. The restaurant prioritises food, ambience, conversation and laughter so the space is warm and inviting. Taking its cues from the French, the menu is absolutely scrumptious. Go with a party of four or more and you can enjoy the banquet menu so you don’t have to choose between the beef and the chicken.

 

You can’t get a better view than Quay. Led by Peter Gilmore, Quay Restaurant sits at the end of the Overseas Passenger Terminal with views over Luna Park, Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay and the Harbour Bridge. And the menu most definitely lives up to the views.

 

For the meat eaters out there, Porteno is a must. The Argentinian BBQ emphasises sharing and the mural painted on the outside wall of the original site, proclaiming ‘full belly happy heart’ has become an icon of Sydney. The food is all about authenticity with the best meat in town prepared on a traditional Argentinian barbeque and asado (pit of fire).

 

Spice I Am has been hailed the best Thai food outside of Thailand, there are often queues of people waiting to get inside and enjoy the food. The wait staff recommend seasonal specials and often the menu will change slightly depending on what the chef has found at the markets that day.

Best Bars

On the bar scene, PS40 is well worth a visit, embracing cocktail experimentation that can include anything from banana bread dropped into Negroni through to a combination of honeycomb, poppy seeds, grapefruit and whey.

 

For the whiskey lovers, head to The Baxter Inn. The bar is situated in an old loading dock in the city and the whiskey is abundant. There are so many options, that some of the bottles are only accessible via a scrolling library ladder.

 

‘Very Bondi’ is the term used to describe Bondi Beach Public Bar, situated a stone’s throw from the sand. It’s in quite a touristy section of the stretch of beach, but you’re just as likely to find locals perched at the tables, sipping on a glass of wine and enjoying a pizza as you are to find tourists coming in from the water.

 

On the Western side of the city, there’s The Little Guy, a tiny bar wedged between two other stores in Glebe. It’s vibrant without being too noisy, and relaxing without being too quiet. Never underestimate the little guy!

Festivals and Events

There is always something going on in Sydney, from New Year’s Eve through to Christmas, it’s worthwhile knowing what’s going on around the city.

Christmas and New Year

The year kicks off, of course, with the New Year celebrations. The city is renowned for its fireworks display and party atmosphere, especially around the city and harbour.
January is capped off with the Sydney Festival where the whole city is turned into a summer wonderland. The Festival is enjoyed by around one million people each year and this number is rising as the program grows and develops.

Winter events

Heading to Sydney in winter? It’s a lovely time to be in the city as it’s pretty a dry season weather wise. Also during winter is Vivid, turning the city into a lights and music spectacular. It’s still in its infancy but it’s most definitely a permanent and enjoyable fixture on the Sydney calendar. Winter also sees a lot of winter festivals cropping up around the city, including an ice rink in the Domain and Parramatta, and a carnival-like atmosphere at Bondi. It’s all part of the city’s plan to revitalise Sydney during the colder months. And we can assure you, it’s working.

Spring events

Come Spring, the crowds rush to Bondi for Sculpture by the Sea. It’s truly a spectacle, staged on the famed Bondi to Tamarama coastal walk. There are around 500,000 visitors who come to see more than 100 sculptures dotting the coastline, some buried in the sand and others on the cliff face. It’s the largest annual sculpture exhibition in the world and is immensely popular with tourists and locals alike so be prepared for the crowds.

 

Of course, there are also several suburban festivals that happen throughout the year, including the Surry Hills Festival and the Norton St Festa.

 

Sydney is truly a magical city, every single day of the year. From the harbour to the sea, there are attractions, festivals, sights and delicious food to please every traveller.