Sydney’s a beautiful place to live and a glorious city to visit. We’ve picked out 20 things to do in Sydney at least once, from kayaking on the harbour and cocktails with a view to our favourite weekly markets, the best underground restaurant in the city and where to get your culture fix. Take a read and get cracking on that ultimate to do list. Want more? See the best rooftop bars and waterfront dining spots.
Things to do in Sydney at least once in your life
During the day you can see Sydney Harbour in all its majesty, but by night it takes on a whole new magnitude. It’s an experience that is difficult to describe, and incredible to witness. We recommend the express climb, which is a little shorter and takes you up the inside arc so that you are surrounded by hand-riveted steel and feel a little like you’re inside the ribs of a metal skeleton. Adult tickets are upwards of $200, and it’s totally worth the money.
Carriageworks Farmers Market is the busiest Saturday market in the city. It’s well worth the trip for its range of seasonal produce, including organic and biodynamic foods from farmers and producers from across New South Wales. The markets are curated by Aussie chef Mike McEnearney, and you’ll find fellow superstar chef Kylie Kwong there every week behind the steamers at the Billy Kwong stand.
What other path sees you wind past millionaires' mansions, Indigenous rock art and at least four secret beaches, all of it punctuated by cliff top views and the ocean beyond? It's magic, and if you start at the Spit Bridge trailhead and do the walk backward, you can reward yourself with a cocktail from Papi Chulo's at the end of the trek. After ten kilometers and around four hours of walking (including inclines), you'll need one.
This fancy fish diner in Paddo sees young gun chef Josh Niland personally introduce you to the treasures of the high seas. The menu here changes from day to day, depending on what prized items Niland’s suppliers have wrested from the fishing nets that morning. Perhaps it is a pile of beautiful terracotta striped flame cockles that are buried in charcoal until they pop open, so that the meaty molluscs can be dressed in a pungent red vinegar and shellfish oil combination. Or maybe you’ll eat a Spencer Gulf rock crab, claws ready for cracking and the body picked free and served in the shell with a coral sauce.
Longstanding Camden-based company Balloon Aloft were the first people to offer commercial balloon flights in Australia, around 35 years ago. Their pick-up point is the Rydges Hotel in Campbelltown and you might want to book a room at the hotel for the night before you fly as departures can be as early as 4am. In the padded basket everyone gets a spectacular view of the sun rising in the east and the pink tones and long shadows hitting the countryside below, including the steep hills of the Razorback Ranges to the pretty church steeples of Camden.
Prop up the bar with a frosty Newtowner beer at the brewery that made it. Young Henrys is a local beer that you’ll find on tap at all the best pubs and bars around Sydney. Get a flavour for the bohemian suburb Newtown with a wander down King Street before joining the inclusive and diverse crowd at the craft beer cellar door. Young Henrys is all about afternoon sessions and on a weekend you’ll want to shake a leg in order to secure one of the prized high tables at the brewery cellar door.
Just an hour away from Sydney’s CBD, Dharawal National Park provides stunning scenery and an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Until recently, public access to the bushland was restricted, now you can enjoy guided tours of the park every second Saturday of the month. Guiding the way will be an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger who will share local knowledge about flora and fauna along the way, as well as Dreamtime stories that connect Indigenous Australians to the area.
The harbourside MCA is the go-to venue for cutting-edge art on a local and international level. After extensive renovations this expansive space reopened in 2012, boasting three spanking new galleries and a rooftop café and sculpture terrace with superb views. There are extended hours on Wednesdays.
Time Out gave Ester the award for Restaurant of the Year for 2017. Chef Mat Lindsay is a master of light and shade. He slings big, punchy flavours into the woodfired oven so that the blistering heat can work its magic, softening the fat under the skin of a tender half duck, blackening the leaves of a half head of cauliflower and drawing the deep seabed flavours out of the shells of their famous king prawns which have not left the menu since opening night (praise be).
It’s the most photographed ocean pool in Australia – at Sydney’s most famous beach. The 50-metre saltwater pool a popular spot for sunbathers and a bottleneck spot on the Bondi to Coogee walk. The baths have been a landmark of Bondi for 100 years, and if you want to become a member of the oldest winter swimming club in Australia you must swim three Sundays a month for a period of five years. Luckily, for those who just want a slice of the active lifestyle, it’s only $7 for casual entry – giving you access to the pool, the sauna and the gym.