Imagine yourself relaxing with a cold beer after a full day of surfing on the beach! If this sounds perfect to you, then you need to visit Sydney, Australia. Sydney is the perfect mixture of a laid-back beach town and a cosmopolitan city. You can spend time enjoying the beautiful weather out in nature or soaking in the multicultural influences at delicious restaurants and fantastic museums. Read to find out 20 unique experiences in Sydney that you won’t find elsewhere!
Sydney is the largest city in the country with a population of over 5 million people. There is so much to do that you could get overwhelmed planning a trip! I want to help you find the best things to do.
When I was a Junior in college, I lived in Sydney, Australia for six months. The six months I spent there were a highlight of my life. I constantly think about moving back to Sydney or finding a way to travel there. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to go back yet, but I’m looking forward to getting that opportunity one day. Until then, I’ll have to live vicariously through you all!
Table of Contents
Amazing Experiences in Sydney
1. Hit the Beach
When most people think about visiting Australia, they think about spending time by the beach. Sydney is home to more than 100 beaches, including some of the most famous in the world. You can choose to spend your days at some of the most popular spots or go to a more secluded area where you can have the beach to yourself.
Best Sydney Beaches:
#2 Climb the Sydney Bridge
The Sydney Harbor Bridge is an architectural wonder. Every day trains, pedestrians, cars, and trains travel across the steel bridge over the harbor below. You can’t visit the city without also going to this iconic sight!
You can book a tour to climb 200 steps over the bridge’s arch to get to a crazy view over the city. The tour costs $318 a person, so it’s definitely a splurge. For those who have a fear of heights or are sticking to a tighter budget, you can stick to the pedestrian walkway that runs along the length of the bridge. Either way, the views are remarkable!
#3 Ride the Ferry to Manly Beach
Head to the Circular Quay in the central area of downtown Sydney to hop on the scenic 30 minute ferry ride across the harbor to Manly Beach. The trip costs anywhere from $4-8 depending on the time of day, but you can buy tickets at the Quay. The ferry allows stunning views of the city, the harbor bridge, and the world famous Opera House.
Once you get to Manly, you can explore the plentiful shops that line the pedestrian walkway or head straight to the beach. This beach is famous for its amazing surf, so you’ll definitely get a good show. Manly was my favorite beach in Sydney and I went back plenty of times to enjoy the chill atmosphere.
#4 Hike Along the Coast
You’ll find plenty of active locals walking their dogs, running, or biking along the coastal pathways! Is there a better or more peaceful running view than the ocean waves? You can find numerous coastal walks that you can explore in Sydney, which are simply picturesque!
The most famous walk and a must do on your trip is the Bondi to Coogee or Bronte walk. As you walk along the 6 km path you’ll encounter stunning ocean views, sharp cliffs, calm bays, and shallow rock pools. I did this path so many times and each time I was amazed at the beauty that surrounded me. If you have time you can enjoy some other paths including the Manly to Spit or Rose Bay to Watsons Bay.
#5 Drink with Iconic Views
Head up into the sky for great views over the Sydney Harbor! If you go to the Circular Quay, you’ll find many hotels and bars that provide great panoramas of the harbor. Even better head to one of them right after work and you may get a happy hour deal!
Great Bars with Views:
- Blu Bar on 36 in the Shangri-La hotel for panoramic views
- Opera Bar right next to the Opera House
- Bar 83 Sydney Tower
- Cruise Bar
#6 Walk through Darling Harbour
One of my favorite activities to do on a day off was to head to Darling Harbour and roam around. This harbor has a grand promenade with views of both the city behind and the lively harbor beyond.
While the restaurants and cafes can be more expensive here, there is plenty to do without spending any money. This area is incredibly family friendly with numerous pedestrian paths, water fountains, and playgrounds. If you stay through the night the buildings light up with dazzling colors that reflect along the water.
#7 Learn to Surf
As you hangout at any of the beaches in Sydney, you will be shocked by the number of surfers bobbing in the water, waiting to catch a wave. There are numerous beaches in Sydney listed as some of the very best waters to surf in the world. So while you’re there, you might as well learn the local sport.
#8 Brunch at a Cafe
Grab a smashed avo toast, an egg sando, and a flat white for a big brekky. Dine like a Sydney-sider and make sure that you spend a morning dining on the delicious fare. You will find adorable cafes to stop in for a quick bite or nicer restaurants with large brunch menus.
Best Brunch Spots:
#9 Awaken your Inner Child at Luna Park
Luna Park is Sydney’s oldest amusement park and it has an old-time feel. The famous smiling face entrance sits right along the harbor, so it’s the perfect spot to spend time. Indulge your inner child as you ride the rollercoasters, play the carnival games, and enjoy some fairy floss (or what us Americans call cotton candy).
If you want to just walk around the park, then it’s free to enter! However, if you want to go on the rides you will have to pay for tickets. On Friday nights, they have Friday Night Lunacy where unlimited rides are discounted!
#10 Explore the Hipster Neighborhoods
Home to University of Sydney, Newtown has a fun college vibe with a bohemian spin. As an abroad student at the University, I lived in Newtown and loved exploring the area.
There you will find great thrift stores, fun bars with live music, and plenty of delicious Thai restaurants to fill you up. One spot you won’t want to miss is the Newtown Art Walk to see all the latest murals. Make sure to explore the gorgeous University, which resembles Hogwarts during your time there!
#11 Visit the Taronga Zoo
Catch a ferry and ride 12 minutes across the harbor to visit the largest zoo in Australia. This zoo has amazing exhibits and great conservation efforts, including working to save the Tasmanian Devil from extinction. The ferry ticket is $8 per person and a ticket into the zoo is about $50 per adult.
Get up close with giraffes, watch the apes play around, and learn about the various local animals at the zoo. While you’re there you can get great views of the city and the harbor from the other side of the water.
#12 Cool Down with Gelato Messina
Need to cool off from the heat? Head to Surry Hills to hit up the original Gelato Messina for gelato that will remind you of Italy. Famous for their Salted Caramel flavor, this Gelato spot has blown up with six locations throughout the city. There are plenty of daily specials that will make you want to come back and try all of the different flavors.
#13 Wander through the Rocks
The Rocks neighborhood is one of the oldest in Sydney that is situated below the gorgeous Sydney Harbor Bridge. One of the hottest tourist locales in the city, you can spend time here walking along the old cobblestone lanes, shopping at the weekend street market, learning about the colonial history, or dining at one of the great restaurants in the area.
Things to See in The Rocks:
- Drink at the Glenmore
- Shop at the Rocks Market
- Eat at Pancakes on the Rocks
#14 Party in King’s Cross
Sydney has an active nightlife with some bars staying open until the early morning hours. King’s Cross is famous for its cheap drinks and lively bar scene. This area is especially popular with the backpacker scene with large crowds and great dancing all night long!
Best Bars in King’s Cross:
- Old Fitzroy Hotel
- Crane Bar
- Wonderland Bar
#15 Boat to Cockatoo Island
Serving as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cockatoo Island has a lot of history to explore. It was a former dockyard and penal establishment, so there are many historical landmarks on the island. You can spend time learning about the history, camping on the island, picnic with harbor views, or spend time at the Marina Café and Bar. It’s a great way to go somewhere new and leave the crowds behind.
#16 Meander through the Botanical Gardens
Sitting along the harbor you’ll find these stunning gardens. They are free to enter and are open every day of the year. There are thousands of varieties of plants and flowers to admire along the garden paths. You can get a wonderful view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Opera House and the Harbor.
#17 Watch a Game at Olympic Park
Sydney was truly placed on the world map after it hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics. The city built huge arenas and stadiums to host the events. Now you can head to the Olympic Park for sporting events and concerts. There are events that run all year long, so you can always find something!
I watched the Sydney rugby team play in the stadium and I was awed by Beyonce at the closed arena. Look up the event schedules to see what’s happening in the area!
#18 Seek out a Festival
There are always events happening throughout Sydney that draw large crowds and offer unique ways to spend your time in the city. You can look at the various Sydney event pages to get updated on the festivals and fairs that fill the streets.
One of the most popular festivals is the annual Vivid Sydney Festival where there are colorful and detailed light displays throughout the Circular Quay. My favorite event was the Night Noodle Markets, where Hyde Park is crowded with Asian food stalls. There’s plenty to explore from food to music and more!
#19 Take a Day Trip to the Blue Mountains
Drive 90 minutes out of Sydney to get to Blue Mountains National Park. Famous for the gorgeous scenery and the abundant natural attractions, there is plenty to see. Echo Point and the Three Sisters are the most famous sights in the park, but there are tons of hiking trails to explore. I spent three wonderful days hiking and camping in the Blue Mountains and there was still much more to see.
#20 Swim in a Coastal Pool
One of the most unique experiences in Sydney is to swim in a coastal pool. These pools are fed by the ocean, but are contained into a swimming pool. At high tide, the ocean swells crash over the concrete walls and feed the water. It’s an exciting way to get to know Sydney better!
Best Coastal Pools:
- Bronte Baths
- Fairy Bower Pool
- MacCallum Pool
- Bondi Icebergs Pool
Even after six months in Sydney, I felt like there was so much more to see and explore. I truly think that Sydney is one of the best cities in the world with the nice weather, the gorgeous beaches, and the lively city life. I can’t wait to go back!
Let me know in the comments if you found this guide to Sydney experiences helpful!
📌 Pin this list of 20 Unique Experiences in Sydney to Pinterest.