Stunning natural beauty, a thriving cultural scene and citywide love of the good life – Sydney has style and substance. The area has been home for 30,000 years to indigenous peoples who are now known locally as the Eora, which means ‘from this place‘. Today, the Sydney region is made up of 658 suburbs bordered by National Parks, the Blue Mountains, Sydney Harbour and at least 100 beaches – so there are plenty of great places to stay and a lot to do.
We looked at some of the best things to do in Sydney before in Part 1, but there were just so many we’ve put together a second edition!
See a show at the Sydney Opera House
This building needs no introduction – designed by Danish architect Joern Utzon, its one of the most recognisable structures in the world. Home to theatres, concert halls and bars, there’s always something do at the Sydney Opera House. Highlights include the Vivid Festival of Light, Music and Ideas in May, and regular performances by the Australian Ballet and Bell Shakespeare Company.
View Sydney from its highest point, the Sydney Tower.
It’s the tallest structure in Sydney and the highest observation deck in Australia. Walk out onto the skydeck, or watch the 4D Cinema documentary about Sydney inside. Finish off with a meal at one of the three restaurants, each with an incredible view over the city to the ocean.
Stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens
Located just behind the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Botanic Gardens are an important environmental institution. Try to find the Wollemi Pine, a 200-million-year-old tree species that was only recently discovered just outside Sydney, and look up into the giant fig trees for the hundreds of fruit bats who sleep here during the day.
Learn about Australia’s indigenous heritage.
Learn about Australia’s indigenous heritage and creation stories at a performance by the lauded Bangarra Dance Theatre at the Sydney Opera House. In the south of Sydney at Jibbon Point and Bundeena in the Royal National Park discover beautiful rock carvings and shell middens, some of the only physical traces of the people who lived here before the First Fleet arrived.
Explore an Underwater World
Sydney’s beaches aren’t just for surfers – there are plenty of beautiful spots to explore underwater. One of the loveliest and safest is Cabbage Tree Bay near Manly Beach. This protected area is home to over 160 species of marine fish, as well as diverse reefs and seagrass beds. A good way to make the most of it is by joining a tour.
Our Tip: EcoTreasures run a great snorkelling tour of Cabbage Tree Bay, led by cheerful and informative Northern Beaches locals. Their ‘Manly Snorkelling, Walk and Talk Tour’ includes all equipment, a headland tour, and the Snorkel tour of the bay. It’s really worthwhile for giving you an understanding of the unique features of the Bay. You may even spot some of it’s most elusive creatures, such as the Blue Groper and Elegant Wrasse. Tours run daily, and they also organise tours of the stunning Hawkesbury River if you’d like to explore more.
Shop til you drop
Just outside the Central Business District you’ll find Oxford Street, Sydney’s cool but slightly seedy nightlife hub. Further along Oxford Street in Paddington, the strip transforms into chic haven of Australian and international fashion labels. More boutiques and galleries can be f ound at nearby Crown Street and Bondi Junction.
King Street – in the inner west’s Newtown – offers more alternative and edgy fare. Located close to Sydney University, the area is popular with students and young families. Expect to find vintage clothing stores, vegan cafes and independent designers. On the weekend, check out the street markets around Sydney for a bargain. Rozelle Markets is well-known for antiques and vintage designer clothing, while Glebe Markets is a hippie wonderland.
Take a Day Trip
Sydney not only has hundreds of beaches along the eastern coast, but is surrounded by lush national parks, rivers and mountains. For a great day trip the whole family will love, head an hour north of Sydney to the Australian Reptile Park. It’s home to all kinds of native animals (not just reptiles!) and is loved for it’s natural bush setting and hands-on approach. Highlights include getting to hand-feed the kangaroos, watching the crocodiles at feeding time and seeing a local spider called the Sydney Funnel Web, also known as the most deadly spider in the world to humans.
See the Stars
The Sydney Observatory is perched up on a hill near the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It has a rich history – it was first the site of the colony windmill, then a fort, then Australia’s first astronomical observatory. You can do a telescope viewing day or night, and every session includes entry to the exhibits and a 3D Space movie experience. The building is surrounded by pretty parkland, from which there are excellent views of Sydney Harbour.