17 Exciting Things to Do in Sydney for First-Timers

17 Exciting Things to Do in Sydney for First-Timers

Make sure to include these in your Sydney itinerary!

Ranked the third most liveable city in the world, New South Wales’ capital city is a popular destination found on most bucket lists. With so many exciting things to do in Sydney, one visit surely won’t be enough. Home to pristine natural wonders, cosmopolitan delights, and both modern and classic Victorian-style architecture, Sydney’s got a whole lot to offer!

You can always count on this bustling metropolitan to provide an unforgettable experience for all kinds of travellers. Here are just a few things to do in Sydney that will surely leave any first-time visitor enamoured with this Australian city!

Also read: How to Make Your Sydney Vacation a Trip to Remember

1. Be mesmerised by the famous Circular Quay

Nestled right in the heart of Sydney Cove, Circular Quay serves as the main ferry terminus of the city. Think of it as the portal to almost all of Sydney’s most frequented attractions — Sydney Harbour, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and The Rocks to name a few. If you’re planning to visit all the beautiful sights Sydney has to offer, you can expect to return back to Circular Quay fairly often.

Even without the intention of reaching any destination, it’s also a great experience to simply stand back and mindlessly watch the vessels pass to and from; idly gazing as the ships bring both locals and tourists around the city.

2. Catch a live show at the magnificent Sydney Opera House

Built by one of the most renowned architects in the world, the iconic Opera House is one hotspot you shouldn’t dare miss out on. Rightfully considered one of the marvels of the modern world, this tourist attraction entertains a multitude of musical concertos — lively music shows, angelic choir performances, and stirring symphony concerts. It’s one of the things you have to do in Sydney if you have the chance!

Also read: Where to Take Photos of the Sydney Opera House

3. Dare to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Dubbed the “Coat Hanger” by the locals, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a marvellous structure flocked daily by tourists. Looking to get a complete view of the vast harbour? Great news — for all the courageous climb enthusiasts out there, you can reach the summit by booking a Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. Prepare to hold your breath — you’ll certainly be in awe of the fantastic view!

4. Feel a tinge of nostalgia as you tour around The Rocks

Fittingly coined “Sydney’s outdoors museum”, The Rocks is the city’s oldest area, and boasts of preserved buildings and old-fashioned charm. Take a slow, leisurely walk through history and embrace the colonial quaintness The Rocks has to offer.

5. Pay a visit to Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo isn’t just your average zoo. What makes it stand apart is its stunning backdrop — the dazzling Sydney Opera House. Plus, you won’t be able to stand leaving without capturing a few moments with the zoo’s adorable critters. For a minimal fee, you can step into the enclosures and get your most coveted photos taken!

A word of caution: Make sure you’re assisted by the rangers before you get too acquainted with the animals. We wouldn’t want any unfortunate mishaps happening for the sake of the ‘gram!

6. Take a stroll around the lovely Royal Botanic Gardens

As simple as it sounds, taking some time to explore the city’s botanic wonders is one of the top things to do in Sydney. Boasting of a wide diversity of plant species from all across the world, the garden is a beautiful attraction for all nature lovers. It’s also very conveniently located, being only a short walk away from Sydney’s CBD and the Opera House! 

7. Wander around Darling Harbour

things to do in sydney: sydney harbour

An impressive variety of mouth-watering treats, smashing river views, and a nightly display of resplendent fireworks — what more could we ask for from Darling Harbour? To add to this, there are tons of sights to see around this spot, such as the picturesque Chinese Garden of Friendship and the breathtaking Dockside Pavilion — make sure to catch this mesmerising sight when it’s illuminated at night!

8. Get your fill of cheap thrills at Paddy’s Markets

Looking for clothing pieces, jewellery, or gadgets to bring home as souvenirs? With over 1,000 stalls to choose from, we’re sure the shopaholic in you will go nuts! Imagine yourself eagerly darting from one fascinating stall to another — get ready, you’re in for a true market experience!

9. Get your surf on at Bondi Beach

things to do in syndey: bondi beach

Is any list of things to do in Sydney complete without a stop at this world-famous attraction? Arguably the most famous beach in Sydney, Bondi Beach is every surfer’s paradise. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that Bondi wasn’t given its name just because it has a catchy ring to it. Apparently, Bondi originated from the Aboriginal word ‘boondi’, which roughly translates to “the noise made my sea waves” in English. So if you’ve come to Sydney to catch a wave, you know just where to go!

10. Walk the stretch of Bondi to Coogee

things to do in sydney: bondi to coogee walk

If you have friends who’ve been persistently convincing you to visit Sydney, then you might have already heard this well-known fact: Sydney is home to some of the loveliest, most beautiful coastal walks imaginable. The Bondi to Coogee Walk is one of the most raved-about, and it goes on for about three and a half miles (note: one way). 

things to do in sydney: the rocks

Don’t be intimidated, though! The walk is so incredibly scenic that you’ll hardly feel the pain in your legs (until the next morning, that is!). Nature trekkers are in for a real treat: The walk offers exquisite views of the deep aquamarine seas, the jagged coastline, and the majestically high cliffs framing the background. If that isn’t enough to convince you to get up and about, then we don’t know what will!

11. Lay on the infinite coastline of Manly Beach

things to do in sydney: manly beach

Picture this: glimmering sand so soft to the touch, it silkily slips in between your fingers. The coastline stretches as far as the eye can see — on and on it goes, an endless desert of golden sand. Manly Beach is known to many for its vast coastline and its crashing waves. In the mood for some snacks? Don’t worry; lined up around Manly are tons of restaurants, tempting tourists to try out their freshly cooked dishes.

From the get-go, the journey to Manly is a picturesque one. As with most of the tourist spots in Sydney, getting to Manly requires booking a ferry from Circular Quay. If you think you’ll be wasting valuable time sitting idly in a cramped vessel, think again! The ferry ride going to Manly gives you the most incredible views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. You’re guaranteed to be entertained the entire trip!

12. Hike up the Blue Mountains and see the Three Sisters

Just a convenient train ride away from the city, the Blue Mountains are a breathtaking natural structure full of rugged cliffs overlooking the most awe-inspiring scenery.

things to do in sydney: blue mountains and the three sisters

The Three Sisters — three massive rocks standing side-by-side — make up the most famous structure in the rocky region. According to an Aboriginal legend, these rocks honour the memory of three sisters that were turned into stone many generations ago.

13. Have a quaint picnic at Hyde Park

Teeming with lush, green spaces and towering trees, the oldest park within the city of Sydney is nothing short of tranquil. It’s the ideal place for a peaceful afternoon picnic!

Make sure to stretch your legs and take a relaxing stroll around the park! You’re sure to spot some interesting structures like the ANZAC Memorial Building and visiting centre, the pool of reflection, and other monuments and statues. In addition, there are some exciting events held in Hyde Park, such as the Sydney Festival and the Food and Wine Fair. You might want to catch one of them while you’re there!

14. Enjoy the white sandy beaches of Jervis Bay

things to do in sydney: jervis bay

Obviously, there’s no lack of gorgeous beaches in Sydney! Beach bums, prepare yourselves: Jervis Bay’s powdery white sand and crystal clear waters make it worthy of its world-class recognition. As if the spectacular beach wasn’t already enough, Jervis Bay also offers a multitude of fun seaside activities to partake in. These include scuba diving, whale and dolphin watching, and beachfront camping — definitely some of the most exciting things to do in Sydney!

Tip: If you’re planning to go on a summer escapade in Sydney, make sure to book your trip around Christmas time. Australians work backwards, meaning they experience the hottest parts of the year in December — the optimal time to hit the beach!

15. Get wine-drunk in Hunter Valley

things to do in sydney: hunter valley

Don’t you just live for the sweet sound of wine glasses clinking melodically against one another? It’s so suggestive of everything light and joyful in this world — lasting friendships, celebrations, and mirth. 

Wouldn’t you love to spend the entire afternoon indulging in glass after glass of age-old wine, leaving behind all your worries and cares? Make sure to book a wine-tasting trip at the acclaimed Hunter Valley, which is a two-hour drive north of Sydney. Trust us — each sip of quality wine makes the drive well worth it!

16. Indulge in a savoury brunch at Surry Hills

Ah, the European-inspired bistro all coffee-loving Sydney-siders have come to know intimately. Who can resist dawdling in for a cup or two of Surry Hills’s delicious trademark coffee? The cafés are ideal for tourists who would like to spend lazy mornings indulging in classic all-day breakfast meals.

Imagine casually flipping through a typical café menu, only to be enticed by these appetising selections: poached eggs on avocado toast, crepes oozing with honey ricotta cream cheese, and freshly toasted bagels served with an assortment of homemade jams… Excuse the drool, just the sound of these meals is making our mouths water!

Also read: Cafe Hopping in Sydney: A List of the Locals’ Best Kept Cafes

17. Visit some of the famous attractions in Sydney’s Central Business District

Pitt Street Mall

things to do in sydney: pitt street mall

Is it high time for some much-needed retail therapy? Or perhaps you’re in the mood for some leisurely window shopping? Whichever of the two your heart desires, it’s well worth paying a visit to the heart of Sydney’s CBD, Pitt Street Mall. It’s every cosmopolitan traveller’s haven!

The Strand Arcade

things to do in sydney: the strand arcade

Who would have thought that a retail arcade could stand as the epitome of culture and elegance? Built way back in 1891, the exquisite Strand Arcade has a classic Victorian-style look to it, taking you back in time.

Despite its old-fashioned façade, the Strand offers a plethora of shops, some of them selling trinkets exclusive to Australia — perfect to bring home as souvenirs! You can find all kinds of nifty knick-knacks, such as crafts and homeware, unique-looking jewellery, and good ol’ chocolates!

Queen Victoria Building

Exceedingly beautiful and rich with historical design, the Queen Victoria Building is no ordinary mall. Both its exterior and interior architecture will leave anyone gaping in awe, which begs the question — could this really be just a shopping mall? 

If you’re in for a day of shopping, but you’re hoping to get a cultural treat as well, there’s no doubt about it — the QVB is the place for you to be.

Royal National Park

It isn’t named the Royal National Park for nothing! One of Sydney’s most precious gems, this scenic attraction is sure to impress even the most dignified kings and queens. Outdoor enthusiasts will be delighted to partake in the plethora of nature activities offered within the 15,091 hectares of lush bushland. Commune with nature as you spend the day hiking, swimming, cycling, and even whale watching!

Tip: For a truly magical experience, make sure to spot the majestic sea creatures on their yearly migration, which runs from May to November. But don’t worry — you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time, whether or not you manage to see any whales!

Also read: Sydney 7D5N Itinerary: How to Discover The Best of Sydney & Beyond

So, what are you waiting for? The city’s ready for you, mate! Equipped with this list of things to do in Sydney, you’ll know just where to go and what to do. Don’t forget to say bye to Nemo on your way out!

About Author

Raya Esteban
Raya Esteban

Raya Esteban is a lifetime education advocate who currently works as a Montessori primary school teacher. With every chance she gets, Raya loves stringing words together to create compelling travel pieces for everyone to enjoy. A nature-lover and a curious wanderer, she enjoys hiking, diving, and exploring the phenomenal world around her. If she isn’t in the classroom, you’ll probably spot her at a beach or on top of a mountain soaking up the sun.

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