As Australia’s oldest, largest and most urbane city, beautiful Sydney has something special to offer every visitor. Broad sandy beaches and scenic cruises make the Harbour City the perfect holiday destination for travelers looking for fun on the sand and sea. First-class dining, shopping and cultural institutions like the iconic Sydney Opera House beckon those searching for an enriching travel experience.
A compact city surrounded by national parks, Sydney serves as a convenient base for adventures in Australia’s diverse natural environments too. Whether scaling the heights of the Harbour Bridge or delving into the natural tourist attractions in Sydney, as a travel destination, the capital of New South Wales never disappoints.
17. St. Mary’s Cathedral
One of Sydney’s standout symbols and sights, St. Mary’s Cathedral can be found in between Hyde Park and The Domain. Set just a short stroll from the center, it exhibits some exquisite architecture with two twin spires rising up above a fetching neo-Gothic facade.
Built between 1866 and 1928, it is modeled on both Lincoln Cathedral in the UK and Notre-Dame in Paris with gorgeous rose windows lying alongside elegant arches, transepts and flying buttresses. Its enormous interior is just as striking. The light shining through its stained glass windows paints the beautiful sanctuary, chapels and sculptures in a mesmerizing array of pretty colors.
16. Bondi to Coogee Walk
Connecting the two idyllic beaches together, the Bondi to Coogee Walk is one of the most popular and picturesque paths to stroll along in the city. Stretching just under 4 miles in length, it takes you past lots of stunning coastal scenery with fabulous views over the ocean to be enjoyed the whole way along.
Meandering along the top of craggy coastal cliffs, the path passes lovely picnic areas, parks and viewpoints with the scenic, yet sombre, Waverley Cemetery being one of its main attractions. In addition to snapping photos of superb scenery, you can also stop off at any one of the cozy cafes that line the route or enjoy sunbathing, swimming and surfing at its beaches.
15. Art Gallery of New South Wales
Located not far from St Mary’s Cathedral in The Domain you can find the outstanding Art Gallery of New South Wales. One of the biggest and best museums in the nation, it boasts a huge collection that now encompasses more than 40,000 paintings and photos, drawings and sculptures.
Founded in 1872, the massive museum occupies the grand, neo-classical Vernon Building with lush parkland lying all around it. In its large light-filled galleries you can see incredible European, Asian, and Australian artworks with sizeable sections also dedicated to amazing Indigenous artists from across the country.
14. Chinese Garden of Friendship
Set at the southern end of Darling Harbour, the scenic and serene Chinese Garden of Friendship is a treat to stroll around. An oasis of calm in the city, its lovingly landscaped water features, rock gardens and pavilions shine a light on Chinese heritage and culture with the gardens having been designed in Guangzhou; Sydney’s sister city.
Symbolizing the bond between the two countries, the gorgeous garden was first opened in 1988 to celebrate Australia’s bicentennial. A firm favorite with locals and tourists alike, it has pretty paths and ponds with exotic flowers, plants, and trees set next to a traditional tea house and glazed terracotta Dragon Wall.
13. Sydney Harbour
Home to some of the most famous and photographed landmarks in the city, it is well worth taking a sightseeing cruise around Sydney Harbour. Besides the iconic bridge and opera house, it is lined by sparkling skyscrapers and stunning nature spots with enticing attractions, photos and views wherever you look.
Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world, it impressively has 150 miles of scenic shoreline to explore with beaches, coves, gardens and parks. Aside from strolling along the shore or taking an unforgettable cruise, you can also enjoy fabulous watersports—kayaking and paddleboarding about Sydney Harbour are both popular.
12. Cockatoo Island
A fascinating place to visit, Cockatoo Island lies at the heart of Sydney Harbour, easily reachable by ferry. Only opened to the public in 2007, it has waterfront cafes and campsites for guests to make use of. Guided history and paranormal tours take you around to see all the large island’s unique features.
Over the course of its history, the isle has been used as a prison, naval base and a shipyard with its rusting industrial relics and old cells making for some fantastic photos. Besides learning about its interesting past, you can bask in breathtaking views of the harbor or attend one of its regular concerts and cultural events.
11. Manly Beach
After iconic Bondi, Manly Beach is undoubtedly the city’s most popular and famous stretch of sand, having hosted the world’s first surfing contest back in 1964. Aside from surfing, visitors can lounge lazily on golden sands, stroll along its scenic boardwalk or enjoy swimming in the sea.
Stretching one mile in length, it curves its way gently alongside the Pacific Ocean, lying thirty minutes from Sydney’s main terminal, Circular Quay, by ferry. As picture-perfect as they come, the beach boasts striking coastal scenery and views with cafes and restaurants found nearby. Volleyball and paddleboarding are also on offer and splendid snorkeling and scuba diving can be had offshore.
10. Taronga Zoo
Located in Sydney’s Mosman neighborhood on the harbor’s hillsides, the world-class Taronga Zoo gives visitors a close-up view of Australia’s indigenous creatures as well as animals from all over the world. Highlights include the zoo’s Roar and Snore experience, which lets visitors stay overnight to observe nocturnal fauna, and the Nura Diya tour, which features guides who share stories about Aboriginal life.
Although the zoo can be reached by car or bus, most visitors opt for a short ferry ride to the nearest wharf. From there, the entrance to the zoo is accessed by short gondola ride. Zoo tickets are available that cover ferry and gondola fares.
9. Australian National Maritime Museum
The premier attraction in Sydney’s recently redeveloped Darling Harbour, the Australian National Maritime Museum is best known for its historic seafaring vessels, which include the 19th-century tall ship James Craig and a full-scale replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavor.
The museum’s seven main galleries cover the nation’s maritime history, from the discovery of the Land Down Under to the country’s naval defense in World War II and beyond. Tickets are available that include entrance to the museum as well as tours of several of the vessels moored outside.
8. The Rocks
Situated between the Harbour Bridge and the northern edge of Sydney’s Central Business District, The Rocks is the city’s oldest neighborhood. Named after its rocky shore, The Rocks was Australia’s first permanent European settlement and the place where the country’s convict history began.
By the late 1800s, the area had degenerated into a slum filled with taverns and brothels where crime ran rampant through the narrow streets. In the 1970s, the city began a huge restoration project to save the district’s historic homes and warehouses. Today, the redeveloped neighborhood is a popular tourist destination packed with art galleries, chic boutiques, trendy restaurants and souvenir shops.
7. Royal Botanic Gardens
Founded in 1816, the Royal Botanic Gardens is wedged between the Sydney Opera House and The Domain public green space. Overlooking the harbor, the urban park contains more than 7,500 species of plants, many of which are native to Australia.
Standout collections include the Tropical Centre, which features plants housed in pyramid-shaped greenhouses, and the Rare and Threatened Species Garden, which includes an ancient Wollemi Pine, a genus of tree that dates back 200 million years. There is no entrance fee to the park, and free guided tours are available as well.
6. Darling Harbour
Once home to Sydney’s industrial docks and wharves, Darling Harbour was redeveloped during the 1980s with culture and tourism in mind. Situated immediately adjacent to the Central Business District, the neighborhood is now home to some of the most popular tourist attractions in Sydney, including the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Sydney Aquarium, the Aboriginal Centre and an IMAX theater with the world’s largest screen.
The kid-friendly Harbourside Shopping Centre boasts a bowling alley, laser tag facility and a jet flight simulator. The east side of the waterfront features upscale shops, bars and restaurants.
5. Sydney Harbour Bridge
The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge is both the main method of crossing the harbor and a travel destination for adventurous visitors. Completed in 1932, the bridge features an arch that stands 134 meters (440 feet) above sea level and spans 503 meters (1,654 feet).
In 1998, the city opened a Bridge Climb attraction that allows hardy visitors to ascend to the top of the arch. Participants are equipped with protective clothing and secured to a wire lifeline during the three-and-a-half hour climb and descent.
For those who want a less-adventurous view from the bridge, the Pylon Lookout Museum is a popular attraction. The museum is accessed from the footpath that runs along the eastern side of the bridge.
4. Sydney Tower
Soaring 1,073 feet above sea level, the Sydney Tower is the city’s tallest structure, offering 360-degree views of the compact metropolis, harbor and surrounding countryside. Designed by architect Donald Crone, the building opened to the public in 1981.
Standing 260 meters (850 feet) above ground level, the building’s Sydney Tower Eye features an enclosed viewing platform that fully encircles the structure. The tower has three dining facilities, including the revolving restaurant 360 Bar and Dining. The latest addition to the Tower is a “4D” cinema, which enhances the theatrical experience with special effects like wind and bubbles.
3. Queen Victoria Building
More commonly referred to as the QVB, the Queen Victoria Building is a five-story shopping center that fills an entire city block and houses nearly 200 retailers. Built by architect George McRae in 1898, the building was designed as a marketplace and concert hall.
Later tenants used the building for office space, and the structure began to fall into decay during the Great Depression. QVB has now been restored to its original glory and purpose. A beautiful example of the Romanesque Revival style popularized during Queen Victoria’s reign, the QVB features a large glass dome sheathed in copper, ornamental cast-iron railings and numerous stained glass windows.
2. Bondi Beach
Located just minutes away from Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD), Bondi Beach is a mile-long sweep of golden sand lined with red-tile-roofed homes, apartments and green spaces. A promenade adjacent to the sand runs the length of the crescent-shaped beach.
Popular Bondi Beach attracts swimmers, surfers, sunbathers and body builders. Because the roughest waves and strongest rip tides are at the south end of the beach, that area is generally reserved for surfers.
Swimmers and sunbathers tend to favor the north end next to a stretch of grass with coin-operated “barbies.” The well-patrolled beach is equipped with changing rooms, and the nearby neighborhoods are packed with cafés, bars and shops.
1. Sydney Opera House
One of Australia’s famous landmarks, the Sydney Opera House is one of the world’s most prestigious performing arts centers. Perched on the waterfront of Bennelong Point, it is located in Sydney’s Central Business District and surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Sydney Harbour and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Visited by several million people annually, this stunning structure houses multiple venues that together host more than 1,500 performances each year. What’s more, Sydney Opera House is home to four prominent companies including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company and The Australian Ballet.
Regarded as a 20th century architectural masterpiece, the Sydney Opera House was designed and built by architect, Jørn Utzon, to reflect the image of a huge sailing ship. The structure is 600 feet long and 394 feet wide (183 by 120 meters) at its widest point, featuring distinctive roof shells that resemble billowing sails. Of the many venues housed within the structure, some of the most significant are the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Drama Theatre, the multi-purpose Utzon Room and the Concert Hall, which houses the largest mechanical tracker-action organ in the world.
Also part of the Sydney Opera House is the Forecourt, an open-air venue presenting many outdoor performances. In addition to the performance venues, there is also a recording studio, bars, cafes, restaurants and retail shops.
Attending a performance is not required to experience the full splendor of the Sydney Opera House. Daily tours are available in several languages where visitors can explore the halls, venues, backstage, dressing rooms and more.