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The 20 Best Highlights to See in Sydney

You can’t think of Australia without thinking of Sydney! The city that’s often mistaken for the nation’s capital is one that defines Australia. Gorgeous natural landscapes, immense colonial history and fascinating cultural heritage all play a part in creating the perfect travel destination!

In and around this great city there are plenty of spots and attractions worth exploring. So in that case, here are all the best spots to see during your time in Sydney!

This article may contain affiliate links which I may be compensated for at no extra cost to you dear readers!

The Sydney Opera House

Sydney see opera house
A national icon. Photo by Bernard Spragg, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Egypt has the pyramids, France has the Eiffel Tower, and Australia has the iconic Opera House. Renowned for its white-shelled roof breaching out of the bay, it’s an impressive feat of engineering.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site stands on the edge of a glittering harbour that’s surrounded on all sides by equally fascinating attractions (some of which are included on this list!)

Whilst you’re here, why not go all out and catch a live performance? Prices vary from 50 AUD for popular performances while others are as low as 10 AUD. If you’re lucky, some will be completely free!

Bondi Beach

Sydney see bondi beach
The beaches of all beaches.

Another of Australia’s most renowned landmarks, though this one was produced by Mother Nature herself. In a country of many jaw-dropping beaches, Sydney’s Bondi Beach is considered one of the world’s most iconic!

It has been a popular hangout amongst bikini-clad beauties and international celebrities for decades. Along with a bustling social scene and world-class restaurants along its shorelines, it’s a great place to spend the day.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney see bridge
The iconic Coathanger

Across the water from the Opera House is yet another iconic Sydney symbol and one that’s beloved by locals and adrenaline junkies alike.

Affectionately known as the Coathanger, the Sydney Harbour Bridge at one point in time was the world’s largest steel arch bridge!

There’s no better way of appreciating this marvellous piece of structural engineering than by climbing right on top of it! Regular tour groups take thrill-seeking climbers to the top to marvel at the panoramic views of the bay.

Coastal Walks

Sydney see bondi
A photogenic walk

The entire city functions around its coastline. While part of the region is lined with a megalithic cityscape, other areas have been left to the devices of nature. As such, there are several trails that lead their way along the coastline, allowing you to fully appreciate the region’s beauty.

The trail linking Bondi Beach and Coogee Beach receives the most fanfare, and with good reason! The stunning views of the yellow-tinted cliffs beside the deep blue of the ocean are some of the most picturesque sights you’ll hope to find.

As it’s the most popular, it tends to get pretty busy! But don’t fret, there are plenty of other trails to discover, including Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay and the Jibbon Beach Loop Track.

The Rocks

A European twist. Photo by Dietmar Rabich, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In the long history of Australia’s colonisation, The Rocks was the first site of European settlement, and thus the oldest part of Sydney. As such, the cobblestoned walkways are oozing with cultural significance and some fascinating history!

Where it once stood as a convict slum, it was soon transformed into a working-class district blossoming with pubs and markets, many of which are still standing today! The streets also hold an immense amount of galleries, boutique eateries and Aboriginal cultures galore.

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Take a Ferry Around the Harbour

Sydney see ferry
All aboard! Photo by Bernard Spragg on Flickr

Sydney’s iconic waterfront setting is worth enjoying both from its shorelines as well as on the water!

There are various sightseeing cruises available, many of which are catered to take you along the must-see spots along the coasts. For a more frugal alternative, you can get equally stunning views by taking one of the many ferries that travel from point to point, such as from Circular Quay (the main ferry terminal) to Darling Harbour.

Go Museum-Hopping

Let’s get cultural. Photo by Nick-D, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the cultural melting pot that is Sydney, there’s little surprise there are many eye-opening museums to see! You could spend days marvelling at exhibits that cover everything from history to science and everything in between!

The Australian Museum is the centrepiece of the lot, displaying a vast collection of natural history exhibits and detailing the history of this complex nation. Hyde Park Barracks Museum is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site that was once a convict barracks before becoming an asylum for women.

Other worthwhile spots include the Art Gallery and the Powerhouse Museum, which focuses on science and technology.

Listen To The Buskers At Circular Quay

The man with the didgeridoo. Photo by Aaron Jacobs on Flickr

It’s not just the stunning landmarks and dramatic coastlines that make Sydney, it’s the people! Lively locals and vibrant buskers line the edge of Circular Quay which often becomes more entertaining that anything else in the area.

Some of the buskers have been there for so many years that they’ve become landmarks themselves! This included the digeridoo aborigine who commands the same spot while rocking out some traditional beats. Another is notorious Danny Lim, an old Asian man who walks around with a homemade sandwich board preaching peace and love to all.

Stroll Darling Harbour

Entertainment central. Photo by Adam.J.W.C., CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Darling Harbour, Sydney’s largest recreational precinct, lives up to its name by providing ample attractions and activities for all the family. Worthwhile treats include the Chinese Garden of Friendship and its teahouse, the National Maritime Museum, and the gorgeous Dockside Pavilion.

Along with having a bustling nightlife, there are other world-renowned attractions to see, including Sydney Zoo, SEA LIFE Aquarium and Madame Tussaud’s.

Visit Manly

Sydney see manly
A day at the beach. Photo by Hardlinerr, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Just a short ferry ride away from the city centre, this laid-back beachside suburb attracts 8 million visitors a year. That’s as much as the Opera House!!

Being the beachside resort that it is, it’s the perfect spot for kayaking, scuba diving and surfing. There’s even a chance to go shark diving!!

After all that is done, Manly has plenty of quaint little dining options to end the day with the sun setting over the landscape.

Sydney Tower

Sydney see tower
Overlooking the city

There are few better places to see Sydney in all its glory than from its highest point. The Sydney Tower Eye stands 309 meters above the city where you’ll see a sweeping view across the entire area.

For an added level of adventure, you could always step out onto the SKYWALK to tour the outer perimeter, if you dare!

Blue Mountains

Nature at its finest! Photo by Sinead Friel, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Australia boasts some of the most jaw-dropping natural beauty anywhere in the world. Just a stone’s throw away from the city proper and you’ll find yourself in the magnificent Blue Mountains.

This national treasure boasts some stunning natural landscapes and rock formations formed in the sandstone cliffs. The biggest highlight is a unique rock formation made up of three sandstone peaks known as the Three Sisters.

You can go on a classic Aussie walkabout or fully immerse yourself in a nature tour of the area. Either way, you won’t regret it!

Cockatoo Island

A lot of history for a little island! Photo by Spud Murphy, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As happy-go-lucky as the city may seem, it sadly originates from quite a tragic past. Australia was once a penal colony for the British Empire. Thousands of Britain’s most horrific criminals and undesirables were transported across Australia’s East Coast and forced to endure squalid conditions.

Cockatoo Island is one of those convict sites, used primarily in the transportation and forced labour of convicts that would eventually establish this city as the first European colony. Sanding in the middle of Sydney Harbour, it formed a natural barrier for any would-be escapee.

As well as being a shipbuilding yard and Commonwealth naval base, this tiny patch of land comes with one hell of a history!

Royal Botanic Gardens

Sydney see garden
A peaceful retreat. Photo by Wpcpey, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cities in Australia know a thing or two about luscious gardens. This particular one was established in 1816, making it the oldest in the country!

You’ll find Australia’s first vegetable garden and a treasure trove of trees, ferns and flowers throughout the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens’ unique open design opens into the bay, providing a natural foreground to the gorgeous cityscape behind it.

George Street

At the heart of the city. Photo by MDRX, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Once a convict hotspot, George Street has since evolved with its unique blend of architectural styles and cultural influences. The mixture of high-rise modern monstrosities beside traditional history makes for a wonderful duality.

Structures such as Queen Victoria Building, Sydney Town Hall and St. Andrew’s Cathedral have stood here for over a century! Hopefully, it will be many more years to come too!

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Sydney’s Nightlife

Party time! Photo by Bruce Baker, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Australians love a good drink, and there are fewer better places to grab yourself a schooner or two than along the streets of Sydney. Areas such as Oxford Street and King’s Cross light up with vibrant life and a party atmosphere throughout.

If nightclubs aren’t your thing, then you could always check out Sydney’s iconic pub scene. You could spend your evening with a European pub crawl as you make your way through the city’s oldest drinking holes. You might even learn about the sketchy history of the area’s gangs and rampant prostitution!

If you haven’t got the cash for it, you could always grab yourself a goon bag (boxed wine that’s ridiculously cheap!) It’s almost become an Aussie rite of passage!

Hyde Park

A peaceful oasis. Photo by Adam.J.W.C., CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Not to be mistaken for London’s pinnacle greenery, Hyde Park is Sydney’s adaptation. Though it’s not just the landscape that’s on offer.

All the way around its perimeter are some worthwhile treats, including the Archibald Fountain and St Mary’s Cathedral. Speaking of which…

St Mary’s Cathedral

A flash of faith. Photo by Dxwkx, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

St Mary’s Cathedral is the oldest church in Australia! Naturally born out of the European settlers, it was first built when Captain Arthur Phillip settled in Australia back in 1788.

Today it stands as a fabulous representation of the more beautiful side of colonial influence with its Gothic design and stained glass panels. It’s one of the most fascinating religious houses you’ll see in Sydney and beyond!

Sydney Fish Market

Something’s a little fishy. Photo by Alpha on Flickr

As an island nation with some of the most vibrant oceans anywhere in the world, Australia is one of the prime locations to get your hands on some top-quality seafood.

Sydney Fish Market is among the best places to sample the freshest catch and see the finest harvests. With several cafes and restaurants, including a sushi bar and a Chinese restaurant, this is the only place to come to get your fishy fix.

Thank You for Reading! Check Out These Other Helpful Links!

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2 Comments

  • Ronda

    We will be visiting Sydney early June around the 10-15. We will have 2 18 year old boys with grandparents. We’d like to do things that will not cost a lot as they are spending their graduation gift of money. The bridge is way out of our cost range. Also hotel & Resturaunt that are interesting.

    • TravellingWelshman

      Sydney has plenty of low cost / free activities to keep you entertained! Sydney Harbour itself has plenty of sites to enjoy and enjoy everything that makes the city so special. Head to the coast and spend your time around the beaches of Bondi and Coogee will also be worth a day or two of exploration! There should be plenty of budget hotels on offer too, make sure you click the link to Agoda to find the best price!

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