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People climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Photograph: Supplied

Sydney sightseeing

Experience tried-and-tested Sydney adventures with our guide to the sights that should be at the top of your to-do list

By Olivia Gee

Sydney packs a punch when it comes to spectacular views and thrilling activities. She’s a rather pretty city too, with architecturally beautiful buildings and sparkling harbours interrupted only by island sanctuaries. But if you want to see every angle of this diverse city, you’ll need a plan of action. We’ve listed the best ways to experience the best of Sydney, from scaling famous landmarks to meeting friendly echidnas.

Once you’ve had your fill of Sydney’s famed sights, seek out some of the best restaurants in town to fuel even more action on Sydney’s best walks or a day-trip beyond the city limits.

Sydney sights you need to see

1. Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Museums The Rocks

What is it? An eye-popping walk over Sydney’s famous bridge.

Why go? It’d be pure madness to visit Sydney and not get to know the old Coathanger. Climbing the bridge is the best way to learn about its history while you take in spectacular views of Sydney Harbour, the Opera House, Luna Park and beyond.

Big Bus drives in front of the Opera House.
Photograph: Supplied

2. Big Bus Sydney Tour

What is it? A hop-on-and-off tour around Sydney.

Why go? With 34 stops across two main routes – one around the CBD and one to Bondi – this bus tour lets you adapt you day trip without worrying about public transport or parking. You can jump off and explore sights at your leisure and hop back on as many times as you like.

Sydney Opera House Tour
Photograph: Jamie Williams

3. Sydney Opera House Backstage Tour

Things to do Walks and tours Sydney

What is it? A behind-the-scenes tour of our famous stages.

Why go? You'll get to see big white sails of course, but then also investigate areas normally off-limits to non-thespians. The one-hour walking tour will provide all the goss on the history of the house, its performers and revered architecture.

Women with their hands in the air, looking at Sydney Harbour Bridge
Photograph: Supplied

4. Harbour Beaches Cruise

What is it? A beach-hopping tour of the harbour.

Why go? For the beaches, of course. If you’re otherwise sticking to the city, this is a great way to see some sand and sun without worrying about bus timetables. On the six-hour cruise you’ll visit harbour beaches and islands and enjoy a proper Aussie barbecue for lunch.

Roar and Snore Experience at Taronga Zoo
Photograph: Supplied

5. Taronga Zoo

Museums Mosman

What is it? A zoo with a view.

Why go? An encounter with Australia’s famed wildlife is an unlikely event in the CBD (except for those pesky seabirds) so head to Taronga Zoo for koala cuddles and platypus sightings. The ten-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay provides more winning views on the way.

6. Shelby’s Sidecar Tours

Things to do Walks and tours

What is it? A tour of Sydney on a vintage-style motorbike.

Why Go? You get to ride shotgun in a sidecar, cruising around the CBD, out to Bondi and up to Manly on their varied tours. You can ride solo, with a mate perched behind the driver or with a gang of bikers, taking in the sights and making pitstops at a leisurely pace.

Gardens looking at the city.
Photograph: Brian Yap

7. Royal Botanic Gardens

Things to do Sydney

What is it? Australia’s oldest botanic garden.

Why go? Everyone needs a break from the hustle bustle of the city. This sprawling garden is a great spot to hide out among the greenery or go on a free tour and learn about native Australian plants and the garden’s history.

Bonza Bike Tour Sydney
Photograph: Supplied

8. Bonza Bike Tours

Things to do Walks and tours The Rocks

What is it? A bicycle tour around the city.

Why go? You’ll ride over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, up to the Sydney Observatory, through the Royal Botanic Gardens, along Darling Harbour, into Hyde Park and past the Sydney Opera House. It’s your chance to tick off all those bucket-list items while you get a bit of huffy puffy.


9. Queen Victoria Building (QVB)

Things to do Sydney

What is it? An architecturally spectacular shopping destination.

Why go? Just wandering inside the QVB is a treat, with her ornately carved halls and intricate stained glass windows. But the 19th century building also houses many of the city’s designer stores and fashion labels. She’s also smack bang in the city centre so you can venture on easily after your spree.

Lady with children at Sydney Observatory
Photograph: Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences

10. Sydney Observatory

Museums Millers Point

What is it? The city’s centre for stargazing.

Why go? The Observatory’s telescopes let you explore the constellations day and night – yes, you can look at the sun through their special solar scope. Then if you’re after views closer to Earth, you can chill on the lawn at Observatory Hill.


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