My Top 10 activities in Sydney (and 3 I’d skip)

I realised recently that I’ve blathered on about Sydney a fair bit but never written about what it is I like to do there. So I’m going to address that today. Without further ado, here are the top 10 activities in Sydney that I’d recommend to a friend.

Sidenote: I apologise that a lot of these photos look like they were taken on a potato. That’s because they were. A lot of these photos were taken on my early trip(s) to Sydney, back when we all did touristy activities together and I had an awful camera. Nowadays when I visit I just hang out in my sister’s house and play with my niece and nephew 🙂

Visit Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo is one of Sydney’s top attractions, and it’s easy to see why. The zoo is well laid out, with stunning views of the water, Harbour Bridge and Opera House, and crucially has a strong emphasis on conservation. It’s a great day out with loads on throughout the day, a play area for children, and a wide variety of animals to see.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

Getting there is pretty easy; you can catch a dedicated ferry from Circular Quay, or there are buses if you’re already on the North Shore. I’m not going to pretend this is a cheap activity; tickets to the zoo go for $46 per adult on the gate (slightly less if you book online) so it’s not something to do if you’re not that fussed about animals. To minimise your expenditure, and particularly if you have dietary requirements (they’re not hugely well catered for), I’d recommend bringing your own picnic. There’s a great covered picnic area that you can use, just be prepared to fend off the overly keen birds.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

I’d recommend catching the cable car which is included in the price of your ticket and heaps of fun, and if there’s one thing you take away from this, go and see the bird show. Just trust me.

Max Brenner

Chocolate by the Bald Man aka Max Brenner is a chocolate shop. That’s all you need to know.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

My personal favourite is the chocolate lick; maximum chocolate hit for minimum cost, plus it’s gluten free. If you can splurge, do. It’s worth it!

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

Me and my chocolate lick at Manly ferry wharf. What can I say, chocolate makes me happy.

Walk past the Opera House and through the Botanic Gardens

I’m counting this as one activity because I always do them together. If you make your way to Circular Quay (most things start from there, so it seems) you can walk around to the Opera House, taking in the sights as you go.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

Circular quay is in the foreground, I’m guessing you can spot the Opera House, and the Botanic Gardens are at the back to the right.

Once you’ve snapped as many selfies as you can stomach, off you go around to the Botanic Gardens which are just next door. I have a particular soft spot for the Botanic Gardens having got engaged there, but everyone else I know loves them too.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

You can do a short walk or a long walk, take one of the free guided walks that are offered throughout the day, or just sit and have a picnic whilst enjoying uninterrupted views over the water to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It’s just a gorgeous place.

Take the ferry to Manly

The Manly Ferry is the cheat’s boat tour of Sydney. You’ll see all the sights for a fraction of the cost of a guided tour. The trip takes about half an hour on the old school boats, or you can go on the speedy catamarans (but I don’t think the trip is as enjoyable).

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

Once you get to Manly you can enjoy both harbour and ocean beaches, visit the small aquarium or the markets, and enjoy all the great food and drink options they have along the esplanade. You can also visit the Max Brenner located in the ferry wharf and tick two items off at the same time 🙂

Visit the Blue Mountains

A visit to the Blue Mountains can be done in a day, especially if you’ve hired a car. It’s about a 2 hour drive, or if you opt for public transport it’s upwards of 2h 15 by train from Central Station.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

There are a few towns in the Blue Mountains worth visiting; most people head to Katoomba to see the iconic Three Sisters rock formation from the lookout there. At the lookout there’s also a vertical train which is quite fun, and some boardwalks around the bush.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

Two of my sisters may well kill me for posting this (to be fair, it’s not like I look smashing myself). The other one will have a good laugh. Here are three sisters, posing in front of the three sisters. Chortle, chortle.

I’d also recommend the Everglades Historic House and Gardens, which are beautiful even in the winter with gorgeous vistas out over the mountains and cute fountains to enjoy.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

I hear the Jenolan caves are great, too. I have also heard that the little mountain towns make for a fantastic romantic break destination, with all sorts of beautiful hotels with stunning views available. That’s not something I’ve done so I can’t comment, but to be honest it sounds fabulous.

Take a trip to Palm Beach

I have always loved Palm Beach, ever since I went there as an awkward 10 year old and an ever so slightly less awkward teen. It started off because of Home and Away, let’s be real, but soon became a love in its own right because it’s just such a beautiful beach.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

If you can, take a short drive up to the Bible Gardens. There you’ll find the most breathtaking view out over Palm Beach, and a beautiful garden space in which to sit and contemplate.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

I’d also recommend walking up to Barrenjoey lighthouse, which you can see perched up on the top of Barrenjoey head in both photos above.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

It’s not the easiest walk so you’ll need sturdy shoes, but the views at the top are definitely worth it.

Go to the Art Gallery of New South Wales

The Museum of Sydney is good too, but quite a bit smaller. I also enjoyed the Justice & Police Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and the Sydney Jewish Museum which I think is a particular hidden gem. I’m keen to visit the Australian Museum post refurbishment, too. As you can tell, I like museums.

Top activities to do in Sydney Australia 22

However, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is my favourite. It’s located in The Domain, which is right next to the Botanic Gardens so you could move seamlessly from one to the other. It’s got a good collection of works ranging from those done by early settlers to traditional Aboriginal art. If you’re expecting the Tate you’ll be disappointed, but to me this gallery is all about the stories behind the works. To find out about these stories I’d recommend the free guided tours; check their website for details. They’re extremely informative and you can go on as many as you like, which I may or may not have done.

Tour the Hunter Valley

If you like wine, you’ll love this. A bus will pick you up at some ungodly hour from your hotel and drive you to a selection of vineyards in the Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s famous wine producing regions. You can mix in a stop at a chocolate shop or some gardens if that’s more your thing, before being bussed back to your hotel. It’s a great way to sample a variety of wines and get to see some of the countryside outside the city. Also you don’t have to worry about driving.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

Top tip – if breakfast doesn’t go well for you at stupid o’clock in the morning, make sure you pack snacks. Drinking on an empty stomach and then sitting in a minibus for a few hours will probably go as badly as you’d think it would.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

I think you can tell what kind of a state we’re all in here. Including the photographer. Again, sorry family…

Alternatively, I hear there are some great B&Bs in the area if you wanted to make a mini-break out of it…

Have a cocktail on top of Centrepoint Westfield Tower

Being up high is cool. I don’t know why, it just is. The renamed Westfield Tower has a revolving bar and restaurant at the top that gives you a fabulous view of the skyline at any time of day, although personally I think getting your party frock on and sipping a drink of your choice whilst the twinkly lights gradually go past is a pretty great way to do it.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

If you want to splash out on dinner, go for it, but I think the best views are actually from the bar area.

Bondi to Coogee walk

Ok so I have to admit to only having done half of this walk myself. However, I very much enjoyed the half that I did do. The walk is so famous it even has its own website, so for more details head here. Essentially, it’s a beautiful 6km coastal walk which you can do in sections if that suits you better. I’ve just spotted that some sections have suffered storm damage and are closed at the moment, so check on that before you set off. You’ll need good shoes, plenty of sunscreen and water, no matter what time of year you go.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

So those are my top 10 activities in Sydney . Have you been before? Do you live there? What would you add?

And because this seems to be something I do now, I’m going to share three things I’d skip. This may be controversial. Hold on to your hats and feel free to disagree with me in the comments…

Skip It: The Rocks

The Rocks is usually found on most visitors itineraries, as it’s the oldest part of Sydney. However, if you come from anywhere with history that goes back further than 200 years, I think you’ll be disappointed by the ‘historic district’. It’s all actually fairly new.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

The Rocks from above – it’s the area in between the Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay. It’s pretty enough for a wander around, but unfortunately you’ll mostly find expensive souvenir shops and tourist friendly restaurants. If that’s for you then great, but it’s not really for me.

Skip It: Bondi Beach

There are better beaches in Sydney, I’m just putting it out there. Unless you’re doing the Bondi to Coogee walk, this is one place I’d skip.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

It’s quite far and relatively difficult to get to from the centre of Sydney, and the suburb of Bondi isn’t actually that nice. If you’re looking for a great beach, I’d recommend a day trip to Manly instead.

Skip It: Sydney Aquarium SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

I love animals. I’m a big fan of conservation, having studied it at university. What I do not love is animals of any kind being used to make a profit. SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium is owned by Merlin Entertainments, a for-profit company. Whereas Taronga Zoo will use all its profit to fund its conservation efforts,  the aquarium uses only some of its profits for conservation efforts. The rest is just corporate profit. I don’t mean to get all Blackfish on you, but something about that makes me uncomfortable. I have to admit I did visit way back in the day, and it was quite cool to walk through the underwater tunnel and see sharks having a rest directly above you, but unless a place spends its profit on conservation and focuses on indigenous wildlife, I’m not interested in spending my money there. That’s just me.

Here are my top 10 activities in Sydney Australia. Do you agree?

Let me know what you think – which would you do, which would you skip?

Looking for things to do in Sydney? Check out my 10 favourites, plus 3 things I'd skip. Click To Tweet

-Rachel

I’m away traversing North America at the moment, so apologies if I’m slow to respond to comments!

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24 Comments

  1. 29th August 2016 / 17:02

    Great list, there were a few on here I haven’t done. I always take visitors on the Coogee to Bondi walk, it’s my favourite.

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:24

      In that case you’ve done the one thing on the list that I haven’t really! Next time I’m out there I WILL do the whole walk, I’m very keen to see the rest of it. And, you know, get off my backside. I’m glad you liked the list!

  2. 29th August 2016 / 19:20

    it will always be centrepoint to me!
    oh no i’m sad you don’t like the rocks – i love it! or i did, you know, years ago. it wasn’t very touristy that i ever saw, it was where you went to get away from the awful touristyness of darling harbour and all that jazz. i am with you on bondi though. ew.
    the only time i went to palm beach was when i was an extra on home and away hahahaha.
    mmmm max brenner. i always make time for him!

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:26

      Haha me too! Sorry about my controversial Rocks opinion. I’m sure it’s great really, I just seem to go at the wrong time and/or to the wrong place and it’s mega touristy and not fun. Perhaps I should have put Darling Harbour on the list instead… Although I like the Chinese Gardens there. Glad you agree about Bondi, that one I felt particularly controversial about as it’s the one place I hear a lot of first time visitors want to go to the most. I don’t get it.

      And excuse me you will need to tell me the story about being an extra on Home & Away. I’m so jealous! That was my favourite tv programme growing up. When we visited when I was a teenager (and, er, early twenties as well…) I always secretly hoped I’d end up on the show somehow.

  3. 29th August 2016 / 22:40

    Sydney looks like so much fun, and there’s so much to do and see! I don’t think that it would have been a blog post by you if you didn’t reference chocolate in some way, and Max Brenner’s looks too delicious to pass up! I’d also love to walk around and see all the beautiful beaches and the opera house!

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:28

      Ahh glad you’ve got the measure of me and my chocolate loving ways! Max Brenner is amazing. I recently saw one in New York and nearly fell over my own feet in surprise, so if you’re ever over that way I highly recommend checking it out. The beaches are just gorgeous, and so cool that they’re relatively near the city as well. I could do with an after work beach trip most days…

  4. Jen
    29th August 2016 / 23:28

    The Blue Mountains look absolutely amazing! Wow I want to see those in person.

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:29

      They are absolutely gorgeous! I’d love to go properly walking in them one day but they’re fairly dangerous and tourists are forever getting lost in them and having to be rescued. I don’t want to be That Girl so I think I’ll stick to the scenic lookouts for a while. That’s ok though because they are extremely scenic!

  5. 30th August 2016 / 04:57

    I actually really liked the Rocks! Although I tend to time my visits there when the markets are on so that may have something to do with it. It’s a dream to eat at the revolving restaurant, but it was closed for renovations last time I was in Sydney. One day the stars will align and I’ll get to eat there! 🙂

    There’s a good few hings on this list I haven’t done and would love to – the blue mountains I really need to visit one day. When the boys are bigger I guess.

    Away From The Blue Blog

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:31

      Ah, maybe that’s my issue. I do like a good market so maybe I’ll try that next time.

      I hope you do get to eat in the revolving restaurant one day! Maybe I’ll see you there for a cocktail 🙂

      And the Blue Mountains never fail to amaze. Hopefully your family will love it, there’s a train that goes vertically down a cliff that’s a good laugh (/absolutely terrifying) and it’s got friendly parrots at the top of it. If that’s not a winner then I don’t know what is!

  6. 30th August 2016 / 07:43

    WELL, I opened this to see your opinion on this adoptive city that I love, AND I learned something. I had no idea about the Sydney Aquarium being owned by Merlin.

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:32

      Well there you go! They hide it well, don’t they? I hope I represented your adopted city well, I am very fond of it personally!

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:32

      I hope you get to visit one day too, Tanja! If you manage to fit all these things in I’ll be impressed 🙂

  7. 30th August 2016 / 13:22

    holy what a review! i need to see those blue mountains and def the opera house because, well, iconic. and that chocolate – gimme!

    xoxo cheshire kat

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:20

      Haha yep it’s a bit epic isn’t it?! The Blue Mountains are so beautiful, every time I go I can’t actually believe the scenery is real. As for the chocolate, I’m right behind you!

  8. 30th August 2016 / 17:21

    100% there with you on places that profit from caging animals and claiming to be concerned about conservation. not cool and not something i want to spend my money on either. I’m totally digging this post and pinning it for when i make it to Sydney! ps- hope you’re enjoying North America!

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:19

      Yes! I like visiting zoos, nature parks, aquaria etc but only if I know they’re not for profit and seriously focused on conservation. Otherwise I’d rather just donate the entrance fee to charity. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      North America was beyond fantastic, thank you! I really didn’t want to come home!

  9. 31st August 2016 / 01:33

    So great to read about all of these exciting activities, as I always hear such great things about Sydney! 🙂 The photos are still as beautiful as ever 😉

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:17

      Ahh thanks Marcella! Sydney’s a really special place. It’s a bit tricky to get to from Santiago I guess (I think you have to go via NZ?!) so I’m glad I could give you this virtual visit!

  10. 2nd September 2016 / 14:02

    Seems fabulous! I would love to make it down under one day – I have a good friend in Melbourne I want to visit and Sydney would obviously be on the list too 🙂

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:16

      Having someone to visit is the perfect excuse to go! I hope you do manage to get out there. I’ve never been to Melbourne as it happens, but I’ve heard great things. Next time!

  11. 4th September 2016 / 02:57

    What a fun guide! I would love to visit Sydney 🙂

    • 14th September 2016 / 21:16

      It’s really such a great place. I hope you do make it one day! The chocolate is worth the trip alone 🙂

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