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Kayakers on Sydney Harbour at dawn
Photograph: Supplied/Sydney by Kayak

50 things to do in Sydney at least once in your life

Quintessential Sydney experiences and under-the-radar local secrets – this is the only Harbour City bucket list you'll ever need

By Time Out editors and Maxim Boon
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We might be a little biased, but in our humble opinion, Sydney's got it all. Few cities in the world can rival its natural beauty; its rich heritage and history date back thousands of years; and its creative, culinary and cultural offerings simply can't be beat. In fact, there's so much to see, do, sip and chew here, you could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. But worry not, dear reader – we're here to help.

We've sifted through every good time the Big Smoke has to offer to put together a Sydney bucket list for the ages: Time Out's DO List. Whether you're a new arrival or a born-and-bred local, this round-up of the city's must-do activities will let you experience Sydney from every angle.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere.

You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.

50 fun things to do in Sydney

Sydney Opera House Tour
Photograph: Jamie Williams

1. Explore the inner workings of the Sydney Opera House

Things to do Walks and tours Sydney

What is it? It's a chance to see behind the scenes of Australia's most iconic building, granting you access to areas of this architectural wonder that are usually off-limits to the public. 

Why go? Meet at the stage door to tread the boards of the Opera House's illustrious stages and sneak into the dressing rooms of the Concert Hall, Opera and Drama Theatres, Playhouse and the Studio. You’ll be regaled with the secrets and stories that go on behind the curtain, from pulleys to props, sequins to soundchecks. There's even a VR experience that lets you see what it's like to be on stage with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Don't miss: If you dare to be scared, you can take the Opera House's new House After Dark tour, which puts a spooky spin on its daytime counterpart.

View of sydney harbour at Quay
Photograph: Anna Kucera

2. Splurge on a decadent degustation at Quay

Restaurants Australian The Rocks

What is it? Peter Gilmore’s inventive Australian dining institution, and Time Out's currently reigning pick for the city's very best restaurant. 

Why go? Whether you opt for six or ten courses, you’ll be looked after by a superlative service team that doesn’t miss a beat, taste native ingredients at their peak along the way and soak in peerless dress-circle harbour views that really put the ‘special’ in special occasion.

Don't miss: Gilmore’s also the executive chef at Bennelong, the bar and restaurant under the sails of the Opera House across the water. It’s the perfect pre-or-post-show feed.

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3. Swim at the oh-so-grammable Bondi Icebergs Pool

Sport and fitness Pools Bondi Beach

What is is? 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.

Why go? The baths have been a landmark of Bondi for 100 years, and it’s only $9 for casual entry – giving you access to the pool and sauna.

Don't miss: Every Friday from 5.30pm and Sunday from 4pm, your swim gets a soundtrack, courtesy of the local bands showcased at Icebergs' Clubhouse Sessions.

Entrance at Cantina OK
Photograph: Anna Kucera

4. Sample the best Marg in town at Cantina OK

Bars Cocktail bars Sydney

What is it? Sydney's ittiest-bittiest tequila bar, somehow squeezed into a repurposed carport down a CBD laneway, and Time Out's current pick for the best place to drink in the city.

Why go? Its Margarita is, without doubt, the best available in Sydney, and dare we say, the whole of Australia. The secret? A shaken 50/50 blend of Mexico-made tequila and mezcal, poured over shaved ice and finished with orange oil. 

Don't miss: If your experience of tequila (and its cousin mezcal) is slamming a nasty, eye-watering shot in the pub, allow the smooth-as-silk varieties here to change your mind about this all-too-often underrated spirit.

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Young boy looking over Sydney harbour
Photo: Murray Fredericks

5. Ride the iconic Manly Ferry

Things to do Walks and tours

What is it? Locals use it every day on their commute to work, but the Manly Ferry voyage is an impossibly beautiful treat.

Why go? While the motors chug soothingly, enjoy the scenery of Sydney Harbour as it glides by, taking you past the bridge, Sydney Opera House, Taronga Zoo and harbourside beaches such as Shark Beach and Camp Cove out to one of the city’s most popular beachside suburbs, great for bars, restaurants, shopping and snorkelling.

Don't miss: We suggest you hop off and explore part or all the Many to Spit walk for spectacular views of the north and south headlands.

Two people walk across a suspension bridge over water.
Photograph: Supplied

6. Attempt to master the mighty Bondi to Manly walk

Sport and fitness Walks Balgowlah Heights

What is it? A mammoth 80km mega-hike connecting several of the city's most popular coastal and inner-city walking tracks.

Why go? This hefty trek is the greatest hits mixtape of Sydney walks, traversing six Sydney councils and eight bracing coastal paths, passing through some of the city's exxiest suburbs, and taking in stellar views on both sides of the harbour as well as an amble across the Harbour Bridge. 

Don't miss: If you can't quite face tackling the entire stretch, the Spit to Manly leg of the walk is well worth a stroll. Be sure to look out for the Grotto Point Aboriginal engravings; you'll find the outlines of a giant kangaroo, boomerangs, a whale and several small fish carved into the Sydney sandstone. 

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Bar 83
Photograph: Supplied/Robert Walsh

7. Drink in panoramic views at Bar 83, Sydney's highest bar

Bars Sydney

What is it? Perched 83 storeys above the streets of the CBD, this quirky, retro-futurist cocktail lounge is the highest place to drink in Sydney, located on the second-to-highest floor of Sydney Tower.

Why go? The views of Greater Sydney from the Golden Bucket are simply jaw-dropping, stretching all the way to the Pacific horizon in the east, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park in the north, the Blue Mountains in the west, and Cronulla in the south. You won't find vistas as impressive as these anywhere else in the city.

Don't miss: Because you're sure to work up an appetite gazing at all those delicious views, why not book a table at Sydney Tower's recently refurbed revolving restaurant, Infinity, one floor above Bar 83?

BridgeClimb 02
Photograph: Supplied

8. Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge

Things to do The Rocks

What is it? A chance to scale the world-famous 'Coathanger'.

Why go? Yes it's pretty spenno, and yes it's very touristy (you know, back when we had tourists), but it really is a breathtaking sight, beholding the Sydney Harbour in all its majesty. If you're short on time, the express climb is a little shorter and takes you up the inside structure so that you are surrounded by hand-riveted steel and feel a little like you’re inside the ribs of a metal skeleton. However, if you can we recommend you go all-in with the latest addition to the BridgeClimb's offering: scaling the full arch of the Harbour Bridge from end to end.

Don't miss: This is an incredible experience at dawn or dusk, as the day's first rays and final embers light up the horizon.

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White Rabbit Gallery 2010 interior view (c) Time Out Sydney photographer credit Daniel Boud
Photograph: Daniel Boud

9. Marvel at contemporary Chinese art at White Rabbit

Art Chippendale

What is it? The state-of-the-art, four-floor gallery brings together 21st century Chinese art, with a rotation of four key exhibitions throughout the year. Founder Judith Neilson created the self-funded non-profit gallery to house her epic collection of post-millennial Chinese art. And entry is always free. 

Why go? White Rabbit is known for putting on bold and sometimes confronting exhibitions. 

Don't miss: Refuel with a plate of dumplings and toothsome tisanes at the in-house tea room. 

Fresh produce at Carriageworks Farmers Markets
Photograph: Daniel Boud

10. Get fresh AF local produce at Carriageworks' Farmers Market

Shopping Markets Carriageworks, Eveleigh

What is it? Hosted by Erskinville's one-time tram depot turned multi-purpose culture hub, this Saturday market is the go-to shopping destination for those who demand their produce be fresh, local, ethical and eclectic.

Why go? You'll find plenty of fresh produce here, but it's the artisan-made products that really turn heads. From pungent kombucha to fresh goat's curd to hand-rolled pasta and all manner of other carefully crafted goods, these are the things that pantry dreams are made of.

Don't miss: Arrive hungry – you're going to want to have an empty stomach as you ponder which delicious food truck or stall is going to serve you brekkie.

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11. Drink local craft beers at Young Henrys brewery

Bars Newtown

What is it? You'll find Young Henrys at bars and pubs all over the country these days, but there's no better place to knock back a frosty Newtowner pale ale than right at the source.

Why go? You get a taste of Newtown's bohemian vibe thanks to an inclusive and diverse crowd, and it makes an ideal starting point for a brewery crawl around the rest of the Inner West.

Don't miss: Sydney food trucks park at the brewery every weekend, which makes it a busy time to visit, so shake a leg in order to secure one of the prized high tables.

Indigenous guide in Dharawal National Park
Photograph: Supplied

12. Take an Indigenous walking tour of Dharawal National Park

Things to do Walks and tours

What is it? Sixty minutes from Sydney’s CBD, Dharawal National Park has stunning scenery and until recently public access to the bushland was restricted. Now you can enjoy guided tours of the park every second Saturday of the month.

Why go? Guiding the way will be an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger, who will share local knowledge about flora and fauna, as well as Dreamtime stories that connect Indigenous Australians to the area.

Don't miss: Enjoy a short bushwalk and then picnic at Minerva Pool – a sacred women’s place for the Dharawal People (only women and children may enter the pool). 

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Show at the Imperial Hotel Erksinville
Photograph: Supplied

13. Celebrate Sydney's LGBTQ+ history at the Imperial Hotel

Bars Erskineville

What is it? This proudly queer venue has been a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community since the '80s. Immortalised in the opening scene of movie classic The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, it's no surprise that drag is at the forefront of the Impy's identity.

Why go? The front bar has a fabulously daggy disco after-hours with Diana, Cher, Madonna, and Whitney on heavy rotation. The basement also hosts regular parties from some of Sydney’s best queer collectives: Honcho Disko, Heaps Gay and Girlthing.

Don't miss: Drag ‘n’ Dine, every night of the week. Your zucchini noodles will be accompanied by a cast of Sydney’s star drag kings and queens. 

Pastry treats at Lorraine's Patisserie
Photograph: Anna Kucera

14. Drool over the legendary cheesecake at Lorraine's Patisserie

Restaurants Bakeries Sydney

What is it? The life's work of one of Australia's most revered pastry chefs, Lorraine Godsmark, can be savoured in a single dish: her sublime cheesecake, found exclusively at her CBD patisserie.

Why go? If you think you know what a good cheesecake tastes like, think again – you know diddly until you've tried Lorraine's. It’s a sparkling confection, light as a cloud, with the faintest hint of lemon and a crisp, cinnamon-toned crust.

Don't miss: Her brownies are almost as famous for their chocolatey depth, and it was her mascarpone cake that inspired Black Star Pastry’s celebrated strawberry watermelon cake (patron-chef Chris Thé trained under Godsmark before he set off on his own).

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The red and white stripped Hornby Lighthouse looking at South Head at sunset.
Photograph: David Finnegan/NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

15. Watch the sunset from the Hornby Lighthouse

Sport and fitness Walks Watsons Bay

What is it? On the leading edge of the South Head, you'll find one of Sydney's cutest lighthouses overlooking the calm waters of Camp Cove.

Why go? With the vast expanse of the mighty Pacific Ocean to the east and stunning city views to the west, a visit to this beautiful corner of the city is bound to leave you awestruck. You can make a day of it too, by taking the South Head trail from Watsons Bay. It's an easy amble, and you can reward yourself for that lill' bit of cardio with a drink or two at the Watsons Bay Hotel afterward.

Don't miss: If you're travelling in from the city, catching the ferry from circular quay to the Watsons Bay terminus is a must. Not only will it get you to your destination swiftly, but it'll also treat you to a whistlestop stickybeak tour of the bougie harbourview residences that line the foreshore.

Hand picked crab at Saint Peter
Photograph: Anna Kucera

16. Experience game-changing seafood at Saint Peter

Restaurants Seafood Paddington

What is it? A neighbourhood shrine to seafood that's become an international dining destination for fish fanatics.

Why go? Young gun chef Josh Niland is doing revolutionary things with the ocean's finest: dry-aging, using eyeballs to make chips and making pure magic out of offal. 

Don't miss: Head in for lunch if you want to catch the almighty sea urchin crumpets.

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A wide shot of at Wendy's Secret Garden overlooking all of the p
Photograph: Daniel Boud

17. Seek out the hidden oasis that is Wendy's Secret Garden

Things to do Lavender Bay

What is it? This secret garden, with full views of Sydney Harbour Bridge, is part public, part private land at the foot of artist Brett Whiteley’s home in Lavender Bay.

Why go? For years, the land was tangled, overgrown and strewn with rubbish, but when Whiteley died in 1992, his widow, Wendy, channelled her grief into creating a place of enchantment. Sydneysiders come to escape the busier parks and enjoy a picnic in the hidden oasis.

Don't miss: The chance to snap a pic of Sydney Harbour surrounded by towering fig trees and native plants. 

18. Catch an STC show at the Wharf Theatres

Theatre Dawes Point

What is it? Home to the Sydney Theatre Company, the Wharf Theatres occupy Pier 4/5 on Hickson Road in Walsh Bay. Many of the STC's productions are staged here but it's also where its offices and rehearsal studios are housed. The entire facility has just reopened after two years of upgrades, making it one of the most cutting-edge theatre spaces in Australia.

Why go? The city's flagship theatre company, currently under the artistic direction of visionary theatremaker Kip Williams, is without question one of the most important theatre companies in the world. You cannot call yourself a cultured Sydneysider until you've seen one of this company's incredible productions.

Don't miss: The venue also houses an excellent restaurant with harbour views and the Bar at the End of the Wharf, which just reopened after an extensive refurbishment, including the expansion of its outdoor terraces over the harbour waters.

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Three people kayaking toward harbour bridge for Sydney by Kayak
Photograph: Peishan Tan

19. Paddle under the Coathanger with Sydney by Kayak

Things to do Walks and tours North Shore

What is it? A sunrise kayak and coffee tour with glorious photo opportunities that’ll make your hungover friends incredibly jealous. 

Why go? Instructor Laura Stone and husband Ben run weekly dawn tours that make the most of Sydney Harbour before most people turn and hit snooze. The harbour water is velvety smooth, and the kayaks are very stable so you don’t need to work hard to paddle around Luna Park and into position as the sunlight hits Sydney Opera House. 

Don't miss: Flat whites never tasted more satisfying than when you're bobbing under the bridge, paddle under arm and wrangling a camera for that perfect Instagram shot. 

Gelato at Cow and Moon Enmore
Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan

20. Cool down with scoop of gelato at Cow and the Moon

Restaurants Enmore

What is it? A humble Enmore gelateria that defeated competitors from 22 other countries (yes, including Italy) and took out the title for world’s best gelato back in 2014.

Why go? In case you didn’t quite process the words written above: World’s. Best. Gelato. You’ve got 26 flavours to choose from every day, including sorbets.

Don't miss: The mandorla affogato is the one that wowed the judges, but the strawberry balsamic panna cotta is a dazzler, too.

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Golden Age Cinema
Photograph: Anna Kucera

21. Watch a cult indie flick at Golden Age Cinema

Film Surry Hills

What is it? A boutique, 60-seat cinema in Surry Hills where you can catch the latest indie releases as well as cult film screenings, attend weekly movie trivia nights and hang out in the golden age-inspired basement bar. 

Why go? The building was constructed in 1940 as the offices of Paramount Pictures. Two vintage projectors remain on the premises, although the new cinema uses a digital projector.

Don't miss: High-quality cinema snacks are offered in the adjoining bar – expect the finest choc-tops in Sydney. 

People watching live music in a Sydney bar
Photograph: Jamie Williams/City of Sydney

22. Rock out to a gig at Frankie's

Bars Sydney

What is it? The heart of the business district is not where you’d expect to find an underground heavy metal after-hours pizza parlour, but Frankie’s doesn’t much go in for the expected. Chow down on a slice, knock back a beer and catch a live gig at this dive bar-cum-gig venue.

Why go? The front room feels like a pizza parlour from a movie set, but it’s more Ninja Turtles than Sopranos. There are postcards and old photos tacked to the walls; red and white tablecloths and candles in bottles; and they sure can bake the heck out of a pepperoni pizza. They’re open until 3.30am, seven nights a week.

Don't miss: Tucked away in the band room's back corner is Frankie's legendary collection of pinball machines. Drop a few coins and see if you can beat the high score.

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Man swimming with view of city at Bronte Pools Baths
Photograph: Daniel Boud

23. Take a sunrise swim at Bronte Baths

Sport and fitness Bronte

What is it? Built into the rocky cliffside, this ocean pool is popular with early risers for salty laps and Instagram pics of the sunrise. 

Why go? The waves at Bronte Beach can get a little hairy for less experienced swimmers, but here you can enjoy the best of both worlds with a protected saltwater pool that has waves crashing at the walls. 

Don't miss: Try to get here before 7am – watching the sun breach over the ocean’s horizon from this vantage point is pretty special.

Golden Century food overview
Photograph: Anna Kucera

24. Hit up Golden Century for a late-night feast

Restaurants Haymarket

What is it? This Sussex Street stalwart has been dishing up some of Sydney’s best Cantonese food since 1990, and it’s open till 4am every single night of the week.

Why go? There’s no way to wrap up a night on the tiles than a giant table here, with a gang of your nearest in dearest, bathed in the way-too-bright fluorescent lights in plain view of the live seafood tanks.  

Don't miss: The pippies in XO sauce is the magnum opus dish – even celebrity chef and Momofuku empire founder David Chang calls it the “best dish in the world”.

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Cocktails at PS40
Photograph: Anna Kucera

25. Sample a next-level cocktail at PS40

Bars Cocktail bars Sydney

What is it? Part bar, part laboratory, this sleek watering hole in the CBD boasts one of the most extraordinary cocktail menus in the city. Each creation defies conventional explanation, fusing flavour and theatre in perfect sync. 

Why go? PS40 co-owners Michael Chiem and Thor Bergquist have applied a jaw-dropping level of forethought and ingenuity to their craft. No bar commits to reinvention with more conviction than PS40 and that any idea or theme is just an excuse to let these gifted imaginations run totally free.

Don't miss: If you're not in the mood for booze, PS40 also manufactures its own bespoke line of sodas.

Royal National Park
Photograph: Klara Kalocsay

26. Go whale watching or hiking in the Royal National Park

Things to do

What is it? It's 26 kilometres of national park with stunning coastline walks, secluded beaches, natural rock pools and rock formations that are Insta-worthy.

Why go? Whether you want to swim, trek, picnic, swim, bike ride, swim or just GTFO of Sydney for the day, the Royal National Park will provide an outdoors, adventure-filled day away. Tread with caution at hot spots like Wedding Cake Rock and the Figure Eight rock pools.

Don't miss: Whale watching season runs from May to November and the Royal National Park is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures on their migration. 

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Outside at Museum of Contemporary Art
Photograph: VirtualWolf

27. Expand your mind at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)

Museums The Rocks

What is it? The harbourside MCA is the go-to venue for cutting-edge art on a local and international level.

Why go? The Museum of Contemporary Art often hosts exhibitions by huge international artists, including heavyweights like Anish Kapoor, Yoko Ono and Grayson Perry. 

Don't miss: The MCA has a rooftop café and sculpture terrace with superb views of Circular Quay, including the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. 

Coffee at Single O cafe
Photograph: Katje Ford

28. Get the best caffeine fix in town at Single O

Restaurants Cafés Surry Hills

What is it? These coffee pioneers were the first in Sydney to extol the virtues of bean provenance and production. In the 18 years since they first opened, they've firmly cemented a reputation as Sydney's ultimate utopia for coffee enthusiasts.

Why go? Come for the coffee, but stay for the impressive range of gourmet brunch options, many featuring a laundry list of native ingredients like saltbush, strawberry gum, macadamia, kangaroo and Davidson’s plum.

Don't miss: When in Rome, drink coffee like the Romans do. Don't mess around with a flat white – it's Single O's espresso game that really stands it apart, so make sure you order the strong stuff.

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Let's Go Surfing
Photograph: Supplied

29. Hang ten at Bondi Beach with Let's Go Surfing

Sport and fitness Bondi North

What is it? Surfing a wave at Bondi should be on everyone’s bucket list. If you’re rusty with a surfboard, book in for a class at Let’s Go Surfing.

Why go? The school prides itself on the popular two-hour beginners’ course, which goes through the essentials of water safety (including Bondi’s dangerous rips), paddling and how to catch a wave. Each lesson starts on the sand, so you can ask embarrassing questions without fear. 

Don't miss: After your lesson, head to one of North Bondi's excellent cafés like Porch and Parlour or Harry's Bondi. 

Cockatoo Island Aerial view
Photograph: Supplied

30. Take a ferry to Cockatoo Island

Things to do Sydney

What is it? It's the largest island in Sydney's harbour and set at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove rivers. It's been a film set, a jail, a shipping yard and home to arts and culture festivals. 

Why go? Because it has so much history. Before 1839, when a prison was built to house convicts from Norfolk Island, it was covered with red gums and was almost certainly an Aboriginal fishing spot. The island had a brief stint hosting an industrial school for girls and a naval training ship for boys. However, the island was mostly used for shipbuilding and repairs. Today, the island is run by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, which runs different types of tours.

Don't miss: There are campsites, glamping packages, apartments or heritage holiday houses to choose from if you want to extend your trip to the storied island. 

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Nielsen Park/Shark Beach
Photograph: Creative Commons

31. Stroll past hidden beaches on the Hermitage Foreshore Walk

Sport and fitness Walks Rose Bay

What is it? This easy, breezy 1.8km walk rewards visitors with stunning views of the harbour for not a lot of effort.

Why go? Along the way you’ll catch views of the Harbour Bridge and Shark Island, as well as historic Strickland House, a heritage-listed Victorian Italianate mansion built in the 1850s.

Don't miss: You’d also be wise to pack swimmers and sunscreen, as you’ll pass by a number of idyllic harbour beaches.

32. Encounter the wildest locals at Taronga Zoo

Museums Mosman

What is it? A not-for-profit zoo with harbourside views featuring 4,000 animals from koalas and echidnas to giraffes and elephants.

Why go? You're guaranteed sightings of many Australian animals, plus threatened species. The zoo runs talks and animal encounters daily – and even glamping sleepovers. 

Don't miss: Taronga Zoo boasts some of the best harbour views in the city, and as you walk along its wide, snaking paths you’ll spot the Bridge and Sydney Opera House as often as you spot the wildlife.

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Art Gallery of New South Wales 2017 exterior daylight August feat Archibald Prize banners (C) AGNSW photographer credit Felicity Jenkins
Photograph: Felicity Jenkins

33. Visit cultural institution the Art Gallery of NSW

Art Sydney

What is it? One of Australia’s foremost cultural institutions holding significant collections of Australian, European and Asian art. 

Why go? The gallery presents nearly 40 exhibitions annually, and there are workshops, talks and film screenings each week – most of which are free to access.  

Don't miss: Here on a Wednesday? The galley is open till 10pm for workshops, talks, film screenings in a weekly program called Art After Hours.

Red fish at the Sydney Fish Markets
Photograph: Anna Kucera

34. Eat oysters at Sydney Fish Market

Things to do Pyrmont

What is it? The largest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere is a working port and a popular lunchtime spot. 

Why go? Dine in or buy fresh seafood, or book into an early morning Behind the Scenes tours to weave your way around 55 tonnes of fish on the auction floor, learning key facts about how to buy seafood at its freshest. 

Don't miss: Get up early and catch the noisy wholesale fish auctions; they start at 5.30am, with tours for public starting at 6.40am.

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Sign at Beneath Driver Lane
Photograph: Graham Denholm

35. Browse Australian boutiques at Strand Arcade

Shopping Sydney

What is it? When it opened in 1892, the Strand Arcade was regarded as the very latest in shopping-centre architecture. It's still one of the most beautiful thoroughfares to visit today. 

Why go? The narrow, multi-level shopping arcade houses premium Australian fashion designers, including Jac+ Jack, Lover, Sass & Bide and Dion Lee. Plus, you can find vibrant and distinctive jewellery from local brand Dinosaur Designs and natural beauty products at Aesop. 

Don't miss: The very dapper hat collection at Strand Hatters. If you came to Australia without sufficient head protection, staff will sort you out with a stylish Akubra, Brixton or Panama. 

Bartenders serving at Baxter Inn
Photograph: Anna Kucera

36. Discover Sydney's coolest speakeasy, the Baxter Inn

Bars Cocktail bars Sydney

What is it? The watering hole that kick-started our ongoing love affair with hidden cocktail bars and forever raised the (figurative) bar in Sydney’s bar scene.

Why go? Even now, after all these years, making your way through the dark tunnel and down the stairs at the back of the laneway is still a little bit of a thrill. And the service remains nothing less than impeccable.   

Don't miss: The jaw-dropping collection of whiskies now stretches to more than 1,000 labels, and the bar is now open 4pm-3am every single night, so let the good times roll.

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Bills Surry Hills
Photograph: Anna Kucera

37. Taste Sydney's best scrambled eggs at Bills

Restaurants Surry Hills

What is it? It takes a chef of rare skill to perfect a complex dish, but a true genius in the kitchen to elevate a dish to legendary status that essentially has just one main ingredient. People queue down the street every weekend to get a taste of these light-as-a-feather, pillowy eggs, and for good reason.

Why go? Surry Hills, and Sydney in general for that matter, is far from short on brunch options but Bills is widely considered to be the OG venue for brekkie in the city. And it's not just the scrambled that they nail here – the corn fritters are another tried and true crowd-pleaser.

Don't miss: If you can manage your timing just so, try and snag a seat at one of the outdoor tables. Not only will you get some grade-A people watching along Crown St, but you can also enjoy being the envy of everyone still waiting in line.

38. Walk the Bondi to Coogee coastal path

Sport and fitness Walks Bondi Beach

What is it? It’s a six-kilometre stretch of coastline; you’ll walk by Waverley Cemetery, where it can get windy through the suspended walkway, past Clovelly Bowls Club, the secluded nook that is Gordon’s Bay, and on to Coogee where you can reward your efforts with a cold drink from Coogee Pavilion’s rooftop bar.

Why go? When Time Out has visitors in town this is one of the first things we recommend they do. It’s an easy-to-moderate stroll with stunning beaches and people every stretch of the way. 

Don't miss: The chance to live in your activewear all day long. No one will bat an eyelid. 

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The Gravedigger's Cottage kitchen
Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan/Time Out

39. Go on a spooky ghost tour at the very haunted Q Station

Travel Manly

What is it? Situated on the North Head just south of Manly, Sydney's former quarantine station is now a hotel and corporate retreat. But try telling that to the many ghosts that supposedly roam its grounds. Q Station's ghost tours are hugely popular and pepper your scares with some fascinating local history.

Why go? If ever there were a time to learn more about the quarantines of yore, it's now. Q Station was on the frontline of the last global health emergency in 1918, and the rich history of this heritage-listed site offers a fascinating lens on the experiences of the past year.

Don't miss: Of all the ghoulish stops on the Q Station ghost tour, one is feared above all others: the gravedigger's cottage. Some seriously scary experiences have been reported within its walls, and this creepy dwelling is said to have Sydney's most haunted bathroom

Chicken schnitzel at The Unicorn
Photograph: Anna Kucera

40. Go to true-blue Aussie pub the Unicorn Hotel

Bars Paddington

What is it? It’s the most resolutely Aussie joint in town. There’s no room for cultural cringe, because at the Unicorn they have a deep and enduring love for Australiana.

Why go? Get amongst the Jatz crackers and French onion dip, or a proper free-range, hormone-free schnitzel. They cook it right – a very hot pan to get that crisp, caramelised shell, and a liberal hand with the seasoning.

Don't miss: There’s also darts, pool and a piano man for Friday night sing-a-longs.

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Aboriginal Heritage Tour Botanic Gardens Sydney
Photograph: Supplied

41. Go on a bush foods tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens

Things to do Walks and tours Sydney

What is it? A 1.5-hour guided tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens where you'll learn about the Indigenous history of the land. You’ll learn about how the Gadigal people lived and worked with the seasons before the area was colonised.

Why go? Stingless bee colonies, climbing Moreton Bay fig trees and juicy Davidson plums are just a few of the natural wonders you’ll see (and taste) on this tour of Sydney’s harbourside horticultural oasis. You’ll walk by some of Sydney’s most famous landmarks as you trail around the fringe of the city looking back out to the Opera House, Mrs Macquarie's Chair and the Harbour Bridge.

Don't miss: You’ll also learn about the deep connection to seasonality – when wattles are in bloom you’ll know that whales are migrating, while stingless bee colonies act as natural barometer. 

Opera House at Opera Bar
Photograph: Anna Kucera

42. Enjoy a drink with a world-class view at the Opera Bar

Bars Sydney

What is it? Of any bar in the city, few can boast a view as iconic as the Opera Bar. But that's not the only reason to go here. There are multiple venues to sample, live music and DJs most nights and unbeatable people-watching opportunities. 

Why go? Beauty and convenience don’t always go hand in hand, but Opera Bar is a glam exception to the rule. It manages to be both one of the most enviably located bars in the city as well as its most advantageous spot for a pre-show drink.

Don't miss: The neighbouring venue, Opera Kitchen, is soon becoming a market food hall including a pasta bar, single O coffee and an Italian bakery.

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Shark Dive Xtreme at Sydney Sealife Aquarium
Photograph: Supplied

43. Swim with sharks at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

Attractions Wildlife centres Darling Harbour

What is it? The only cageless shark diving experience in Sydney. You can join a colony of grey nurse sharks on a 30-minute diving experience in Darling Harbour.

Why go? Though the grey nurse sharks range from one to three metres long in the tank, they’re placid creatures and do very little other than give you a curious side eye as they swim by. The biggest benefit of diving with them at the aquarium, rather than in the open ocean, is the guarantee of seeing so many sharks in one spot.

Don't miss: The colony of king and gentoo penguins who also call the aquarium home. 

Obelisk Beach
Photograph: Creative Commons

44. Dare to bare all at Obelisk Beach

Things to do Mosman

What is it? One of Sydney's few legal nude beaches, so if you're feeling the au naturale vibe, then shed some layers here. You'll need to park up the hill and walk a fair way to get here – it's at the bottom of a long series of steps, and as far as beaches go, she's a small one. But it's worth it for the gorgeous views of Camp Cove and Parsley, Watsons and Vaucluse Bays in the distance.

Why go? While going Full Monty in public isn't for everyone, there's something undeniably liberating about taking to the harbour waters in just your birthday suit. The stunning Sydney views are just the cherry on top.

Don't miss: If stripping off at Obelisk piques your interest, why not pay a visit to one of Sydney's other nude beaches? There are five near the city where getting your kit off is permitted.

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The Cipher Room Espionage escape room
Photograph: Supplied

45. Beat the clock at the Cipher Room

Things to do Games and hobbies Erskineville

What is it? One of the best escape rooms in Sydney; there are three rooms to choose from, and in each room you have to solve a series of puzzles in the allotted time in order to escape.

Why go? The Cipher Room is a labour of love for its co-creators, Newtown locals Marise Watson and David Vella. Game designer Marise spent a year researching escape rooms around Australia and in New York before creating Espionage. Husband David is the builder who put together the room’s ingenious bits and pieces by hand.

Don't miss: The Cipher Room’s second game room, the Cabin, which has a serial killer theme and is decidedly scarier.

Palm Beach NSW Sydney
Photograph: Herry Lawford

46. Take a day trip to TV famous Palm Beach

Things to do Palm Beach

What is it? Palm Beach is the ideal Australian package. Located one hour away from Sydney’s CBD on the Northern Beaches, this hot spot is perfect for a relaxing day trip away from the commotion of the city. 

Why go? Fans of Home & Away may recognise the location as Summer Bay, but Palm Beach is so much more than Alf Stewart's favourite fishing spot – there is calm water on one side for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, and big waves on the other for surfing. Plus, you can walk to the lighthouse on the hill, which is a great spot for whale watching. 

Don't miss: The cheapest way to get there is by the L90 bus from Wynyard Station for $4.61 with an Opal card.

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Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden
Photograph: Supplied, Ku-ring-gai Council

47. Stop and smell the flowers in Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden

Things to do St Ives

What is it? In a city that’s far from shy about showing off its natural beauty, it’s a surprise that one of its prettiest corners may well be one of its best-kept secrets. Adjacent to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney’s north, there’s a whopping 123 hectares of wildflower gardens surrounded by Sydney sandstone bushland. Every plant found here is native, although not necessarily local – these colourful blooms have been sourced from across Australia, including 18 threatened species of flora.

Why go? The gardens were first planted in 1968 as a sanctuary for Indigenous plants and animals. Today, in addition to their array of floral delights, the gardens also feature running paths, fitness areas, picnic spots, and the charming, heritage-listed Caley’s Pavillion and patio. There’s also a wildflower nursery where you can pick up some beautiful Australian plants to take home.

Don't miss: While you're in this part of Sydney, make time to enjoy the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Some of the most stunning trails close to the city can be found here, but the rocky falls at America Bay has to rank as its most breathtaking corner.

Sydney harbour at Luna Park sydney
Photograph: Jeff Turner

48. Ride the Ferris wheel at Luna Park

Museums Milsons Point

What is it? Aside from the toothy grin of its distinctive front gates, this multicoloured Ferris wheel is the most recognisable feature of Sydney's oldest theme park.

Why go? For more than eight decades, Luna Park has surprised and delighted the fun-seekers of Sydney. But it's not resting on its laurels. Sure, you'll still find some old-timey rides and vaudevillian aesthetics, but the park is also undergoing a major upgrade currently, to bring it into the 21st century, including the construction of several new attractions.

Don't miss: While it's easy enough to catch the train over the Harbour Bridge to Milsons Point, we recommend taking the ferry. It's almost as quick and you'll be rewarded with some choice photo ops as you approach Luna Park's wharf.

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Staff making banh mi sandwiches at Marrickville Pork Roll
Photograph: Pauline Morrissey

49. Queue for a banh mi at Marrickville Pork Roll

Restaurants Marrickville

What is it? The phrase ‘hole-in-the-wall’ is thrown around all the time, but this teensy Inner West sandwich shop specialising in Vietnam’s greatest edible export really, truly is.

Why go? Sydney’s best banh mi is a topic of fierce debate, but Marrickville Pork Roll is always a part of that conversation. Waiting in the never-ending queue is like a rite of passage, but thankfully they pack the fluffy rolls with cold-cut pork, pâté and pickled veg so fast you won’t be waiting long.

Don't miss: Should you find yourself in the city, you can get your hands on one of these bad boys at their second location in the thriving Darling Square precinct, as well.

Queenscliff Tunnel
Photograph: Destination NSW

50. Seek out the secret seaside tunnel at Queenscliff Beach

Things to do Queenscliff

What is it? Affectionately known as the ‘Manly wormhole’, it was in fact industrious fishermen – and not natural erosion – that chiseled this 40-metre channel through the rock of Queenscliff Head more than a century ago. Connecting Queenscliff and Freshwater beaches, the tunnel is still the most direct route between the two seafronts without cutting through the suburban streets.

Why go? While it may be a bit of a challenge scrambling over the rocks of the headland north of Manly Beach to find it, your efforts are soon rewarded with a close encounter with Sydney’s rich history and a view of Freshwater Beach that’s hard to beat, especially if you time your visit to coincide with sunset.

Don't miss: While you're in the neighbourhood, why not make a day of it? After all, Queenscliff Beach is Time Out's official pick for the best beach in Sydney.

Eat at the best restaurants in Sydney

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Uluru’s ‘Field of Light’
Photograph: Mark Pickthall, courtesy Field of Light, Uluru, Bruce Munro 2016

The 40 best things to do in the world right now

Things to do

Going out and doing things satisfies our need to explore, to learn and to grow (and then to brag about it on social media). Our hope is that the DO List becomes not just your bucket list, but your inspiration to experience and appreciate the corners of magic in the world.

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