If you’re heading to Sydney, for the first time, there’s a strong chance you’ll want to explore the best of the city and squeeze the most out of your trip whilst you’re there, however, with so much to see and do, and often so little time, knowing what to check out can be a challenge… as when travelling, we never want to miss out on the best a city has to offer, yet it’s all too easy to follow the typical tourist trail and not scrape the surface of the best the city has to offer.
In that vein, this list proposes ten cool things to do in Sydney, as it can be helpful to plan your trip in advance – with at least some idea of the key activities, sights and things you would like to experience whilst there.
The other consideration is that accomodation fills up pretty quickly in Sydney, especially in the centre, though if you want a hotel that’s still reasonably central and within stumbling distance of some great local Sydney bars you can find good deals even on luxury apartments; but it’s best to book in advance rather than turn up and hope for the best – as whilst this way of travel is well suited to other parts of the world, in a big city like Sydney, it tends to be a lot more expensive and can be quite stressful, particularly if there’s a large event taking place at the time.
With regard to accommodation, you might find renting an apartment to be cheaper and more rewarding if you’re travelling as a group, as hotels tend to feel a little more impersonal and clinical. Whereas, an apartment offers a more relaxed and authentic vibe that allows you to kickback and enjoy your surroundings as one of the locals, rather than a tourist, contained in their fancy hotel.
In any event, wherever you stay, you’re going to want to get out and about – so let’s take a look at some cool things to do in Sydney.
SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE
This impressive and iconic structure known as the “coathanger” is one of the centrepieces of the Sydney skyline, but did you know you can actually climb the bridge? This way you can get the best view of Sydney Harbour whilst providing a more interesting story to this typical photo. The express climb will take you up the inside arc where it will feel as if you’re within the metal ribs of a skeleton.
This is a fantastic dawn experience (unless you’re not a morning person) as the sun lights up the city as it prepares for the day ahead. There’s a certainty serenity and calm to be had, whereas at sunset, it’s a little busier.
DHARAWAL NATIONAL PARK
This national park, about an hour’s drive from Sydney provides a welcome opportunity to step away from the hustle and bustle to enjoy a more natural experience. You can enjoy a guided tour of bushland with an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger; where you’ll receive local insight into the flora and fauna along with authentic stories that connect the indigenous population with modern day Australia.
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
If you’re after some culture, the harbourside Museum of Contemporary Art is a fantastic place to experience interesting art exhibitions; with three new galleries (opened in 2012) and a rooftop cafe with a sculpture terrace that boasts superb views. It’s a chance to take a breath, get out the sun, and indulge in a more peaceful pace of life before getting on with the energetic demands associated with the traditional tourist trail.
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
Of course, the Sydney Opera House features high on the list of most travellers, yet if you want to experience this venue in a more insightful way you could take a Backstage Tour that allows you access to the area that are usually reserved for the stars of the show. Here, you can tread the boards of its famous stage and get a glimpse into the dressing rooms of this famous institution. Tours include a healthy breakfast, and tend to take place quite early in the morning, for obvious reasons.
SURF AT BONDI BEACH
Perhaps, one of the most famous surf beaches in the world, Bondi Beach is on many an adventure traveller’s wishlist. If this is your first time, then you could start off with a bodyboard, or book in for a beginners class. Whilst, in the space of two hours, you’re unlikely to become a pro – this should give you an opportunity to stand up on the board, learn some basic sea safety skills, and have you catch a wave or two!
VISIT CHINA TOWN
Dixon St is the heart of Chinatown, though this is Sydney’s third Chinatown after being moved a few times in the past 150 years. Today, you will be greeted by fake bamboo awnings with dragons, lions and dogs guarding the entrance – here, is the heart of Chinatown, though outside the gates you will find a fabulous array of eating venues that offer traditional Chinese cuisine… which eventually sprawls out, as you walk a few blocks away from the gates, into Koreatown and Thaitown where you can find equally good cuisine from these two nations.
If you’re looking for something cheap yet tasty to eat, head to the area around Thomas and Quay Streets, or Ultimo Road.
In summary, there are plenty of things to do in Sydney and you can have whatever experience you want – in fact, sometimes too much choice can be overwhelming, particularly when you consider what there is to do outside of Sydney in nearby areas that offer incredible hiking cycling and climbing, for instance.
Of course, other than Chinese food, this article hasn’t been touched on the incredibly broad range of cuisine on offer here, the fantastically friendly bar scene, or where to go for a great night out. For this, you might want to pick up a TimeOut guide or just head to wherever seems busy with locals.