While I tend to blog about the joys and struggles of living abroad and how great it is to feel like a local, Sydney’s tourist attractions are one for the books. I usually look at tourists hovering around one spot in front of a landmark with their big iPads taking pictures and think, “Man this is such a tourist trap.” But in Sydney, it may be “touristy”, but it’s definitely not a trap. With the most stunning backdrops and gorgeous weather, being surrounded by a bus load of tourists doesn’t even bother me. I’ll even admit, I’ve been to and done all of the following – and enjoyed it!
Even if you’re the biggest tourist snob in the world, you’ll be tempted to give each of these iconic attractions a go.
1.) Walk into the City Over The Harbour Bridge from Milson’s Point
No matter how many times you may drive over the bridge, there’s nothing quite like walking the length of it on a gorgeous day or night. You see the Harbour from all angles as you walk from Milson’s Point into the city. It’s a great way to get into the city without the hassle of a car or a taxi, and you get a view the whole way in. I’ve walked this many times, and it still doesn’t get old. From start to finish, it can take around 30-45 minutes, and is well worth your time.
Fun Fact: There’s a security guard on each end of the Bridge 24/7. No funny business!
2.) Take a Selfie with the Opera House
You can’t deny it – The Opera House is the crown jewel of the harbour. Since we were young, we’ve associated Sydney with the Opera House. Between movies like Our Lips are Sealed and Finding Nemo, I’ve known about the Opera House before I even realised where Australia was on the map. It’s just one of those things that you have to go see in person.
On a good day, you may be able to get a picture free of other people and their selfie sticks. On a bad day, you may be fighting with your selfie sticks like swords to get the best shot. Either way, it’s worth it to see one of the most beautiful buildings up close and personal. You also get a great view of the city and the Harbour Bridge from there. If you need a drink after battling the crowds, head down to The Opera Bar for an insanely overpriced yet totally justifiable cocktail.
Insider’s Tip: If it’s a colder day outside, go to the very end of the Opera House near the water, sometimes there are seals catching some rays on the steps!
3.) Take the Ferry to Manly
Although Sydney looks good from every possible angle, the best way to the see it all is on the ferry. If you take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, you’ll not only get a nice, juicy view of the City, Opera House, and Harbour Bridge, but you also get to see all of the coves and bays that make Sydney so great.
You’ll pass by Kirribilli and see the Prime Minister’s New South Wales mansion. You pass through all of the coves that go back through North Sydney, all of the little beaches that are Sydney’s best kept secrets, all of the little sailboats out on a perfect day cluttering the Harbour.
It’s a really unique way to view the little bits and bobs that make up Sydney. At the end, you dock at Manly’s Wharf, and then you get to spend the rest of the day cruising around Manly, which is just as touristy as taking the ferry over there, but just as much worth it.
Insider’s Tip: There’s two ferries – the fast ferry (15 minutes/$15) and the regular ferry (30 minutes/$2.50-7). I would take the slow ferry over to Manly for the views, and the fast ferry back if you’re tired and sunburnt.
4.) Spending the day at Taronga Zoo
There’s a reason why it’s dubbed one of the most popular attractions in Australia, and why it’s one of the best zoos in the world. With panoramic view of the entire city as the backdrop to the exotic animals roaming about their areas, you’re sure to get a jaw-dropping view at any point in the zoo. The best has to be the Giraffe’s habitat. It’s an uninterrupted view of the city with a few long-necked creatures peeping out in between. Even if you’re not an animal lover, you’ll find yourself in awe and wonder the whole way through.
Imsider’s Tip: For just $20, you can meet an adorable Koala in its enclosure for 10 minutes. You also get a free picture right next to the Koala as well. It’s as close as you’re allowed to get in the state of New South Wales!
5.) Climb the Harbour Bridge
Ever since I saw Mary Kate and Ashley climb the Harbour Bridge at the end of the mega hit “Our Lips Are Sealed”, I’ve had a desire to not only go to Australia, but also climb that very bridge. Lame I know, but I’m not kidding. Leading up to the weeks before my family had arrived, we bought tickets to climb the bridge as a family. With my Mom being petrified of heights, we were all a little unsure if she was going to make it. I must say, the first bit of climbing straight up for 5 flights of steep stairs as cars and trains and busses flew right past you was a little unnerving. But once you get pass the first hour or so, and you’re on the main frame of the bridge, you lose all sense of worry.
From that high up, you can see bits of the city you’d never see before. You feel apart of a small community that’s been up that high before, and it’s such a fun, exhilarating and awesome experience!
It’s about $200 per person, which is a bit pricey, but well worth every cent. Our Bridge Climb Guide was very knowledgable, and I actually learned so much about Sydney’s history that I wasn’t expecting!
Fun Fact: Tons of celebrities have also climbed the Harbour Bridge – Robert De Niro, Will Ferrell, Spice Girls, LeBron James…
6.) Bondi to Bronte Headlands Walk
I have a love-hate relationship with Bondi. While it’s deemed one of the most famous beaches in Sydney, I don’t find it all the great when you’re down on the sand. With that said, looking down at the overcrowded beach from up above, is quite the spectacle! You can walk from Bondi to Bronte on a very well-constructed pathway that is situated right next to the sheer headlands and cliff drops.
It takes you around from Bondi to Tamarama; Then from Tamarama to Bronte. You can keep walking on, as we usually do all the way to Clovelley and back, which is about 10 kilometers of hiking. Most tourists stick to the Bondi to Bronte Headlands walk, which is about 3 kms and just as beautiful. It’s really one of those things that you brave the crowds to do. Coming from Florida, we don’t have anything even remotely close to these kinds of headlands and rocky beach cliffs – it’s stunning. And you get a workout in!
Insider’s Tip: If you walk just a little bit farther past Bronte, you can see a massive 19th century cemetery perched right on the cliffs. A bit spooky, but worth the extra walk!
7.) Walk around The Rocks
The Rocks is one of the oldest areas in Sydney, and is situated right next to Circular Quay and opposite the Opera House. You can spend a few hours or even the whole day, window shopping, bar hopping and taking pictures. One of the best rooftop bars in the Rocks is the Glenmore Hotel. High up in the sky, overlooking Circulary Quay and the Opera House, The Glenmore is a great spot for lunch and drinks. If you’re looking for good music on a sunny day, head to The Argyle’s Beer Garden. You can also take a walk down the waterfront until you get underneath the Bridge. I like to watch the boats and ferries pass by and take pictures of the Opera House from that angle.
Fun Fact: The oldest pub in Sydney is located in The Rocks – The Fortune of War.
8.) Grab a drink for Happy Hour at Darling Harbour
When I first got to Sydney, I worked in Pyrmont, which meant I got to cross the Darling Harbour footbridge every single day. This started my love affair with Darling Harbour. On one side, you see the towering buildings of the city, and on the other, you see boardwalk with waterfront restaurants and bars. Darling Harbour is a lovely area to walk around after work and grab a drink for Happy Hour. It’s beautiful to watch the sunset cast over the city, and even more beautiful to watch the city gradually light up at night. The Watershed Hotel has great drink specials for happy hour, and always has a DJ and good vibes!
Fun Fact: There’s usually a fireworks show every Friday in the summer!
9.) Take a walk around South Head and grab a drink at Doyle’s in Watson’s Bay.
While it’s a tad out of the way to get to, South Head is a stunning point opposite North Head of Manly. From the very top, you can see the entire city and over across the harbour watching the Cruise Ships head out of port. After you’re done walking around South Head, make your way down to Watson’s Bay to enjoy a drink at Doyle’s. Doyle’s is a nautical, yacht themed bar with a great outdoor area near the water.
Insider’s Tip: There’s a big rock on top of South Head that has the best 360 view in the city! If you’re feeling adventurous, climb your way to the top!
So there you have it! Whether you’d admit it or not, Sydney’s tourist attractions are a must-do. Even if you’re surrounded by iPads and selfie sticks, you have to suck it up and go for it! You won’t be disappointed!
Have you been to Sydney? What was your favourite tourist attraction?