Sydney has everything that makes it a preferred Australian destination for tourists. But it is more exciting to “live” the Sydney experience as against a short hop and done trip. Lengthy summers, mild winters and sunny days make the weather here spectacular all through the year. Magnificent panoramic views, beautiful beaches, and mouth-watering seafood are the top most reasons why people come to this city and leave their hearts here. Sydney is also called the land of opportunities for youngsters because it is the state capital of New South Wales. Located on Australia’s east coast, the metropolis surrounds the world’s largest natural harbor and sprawls towards the blue mountain to the west. When I first came to this city, I could not sleep because of the excitement of being in one of the best cities in the world just never ceased! The city is a perfect combination of a contemporary city with a rich aboriginal history. It has a busy CBD (Central Business District) which is jam-packed with the multinational companies. Just move towards outskirts and you will find striking beaches, mountains, and natural beauty in every suburb with a flavor of countryside living.
It has mainly four main stations Town Hall, Wynyard, Circular Quay and Central. If you are a tourist, then the best place to stay is in CBD because all the major attractions are nearby. Sydney is well connected by public transports like buses, trains and trams. Let me now give you a lowdown on best attractions in Sydney!
Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera house is one the world’s most artistic and busiest Art centres, featuring world leading performances and events. A perfect location is what makes Opera House all the more stunning- the very beautiful Sydney Harbour! Opera house welcomes millions of visitors from all over the world every year. You can experience iconic venue by attending one of the many world class performances, including Opera, ballet, live music, symphonies, comedies, contemporary dance, music theatre and other offerings.
Vivid Sydney at Opera House: If you are holidaying between May and June then you will have a wonderful opportunity to enjoy splendor and breathtaking Vivid Sydney festival. This is an annual outdoor lighting festival with immersive light installations and projections in Sydney. It also includes performances from local and international musicians and an idea exchange forum for public and debates.
The Botanical Gardens
How can I not mention Botanical garden while discussing Opera House! The Sydney Opera house is situated next to the beautiful Royal botanic Gardens. Try to reach there a bit early so that you can enjoy and explore the Royal Botanic Gardens trails. The Garden is home to an extraordinary collection of plants around the world and offer spectacular view of Sydney Harbor Bridge.
How to reach: The best way to reach Opera House is by train. You can easily get train from any station to circular quay station. Try to avoid going by car because parking is very expensive in CBD
Place to eat: Sydney city is flooded with restaurants that serve insane variety of foods. If you are looking for Indian cuisine then Maya Da Dhaba is best place. You have to go Surry Hills near central station to get there.
Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest (though not the longest) steel arch bridge. connects the Sydney CBD to North shore. The stunning view of the bridge, the harbor and the nearby Sydney opera house create that iconic image of Sydney and Australia that everyone has seen at least once in their life! The bridge is nicknamed “The Coathanger” because of its arch based design. Let me tell you about some of the best ways to explore and experience Harbour Bridge.
A Helicopter tour will gives you an amazing aerial view of the Harbour. Sydney Harbour from the air gives you a spectacular view of the opera house, the CBD, Circular quay, Parramatta river, North Sydney and Kirrbilli in the foreground.
You can also enjoy a great view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from a Ferry. Catch a ferry from circular quay to manly, Mosman or Taronga Zoo to see the bridge from the Ferry. Catching a ferry from a Luna park or Macmohan point will take you directly beneath the bridge which gives an exceptional view of the whole bridge. You can take a longer ferry tour by boarding ferry from the city to manly and Watson bay or quite coves around Double bay and from there you can travel to Balmain and Cocktoo island. This is also a great way to see some of Sydney best beaches and explore the small island around Sydney.
But the most popular and interesting way to explore the bridge is “bridge climbing” which has been allowed since 1998. Learn about the fascinating history of the bridge and its place in the city as you make that extra ordinary effort to reach the top. The Open vista provides an unforgettable experience. Imagine that pic on the top will get everybody you know on a roll!!!
How to reach Harbour bridge: Take a train from Central Station to Milsons Point then walk towards Bridge. It is around 3km walk from North Sydney to Sydney CBD if you walk over Harbour Bridge.
Best way to Get around this area: Make the most of your money by purchasing an opal Card with Unlimited travel by ferry, bus, and train at just $2 50 per person on Sundays.
A short walk from the city centre, Darling Harbour is a popular destination in Sydney. Situated on the western outskirts of the Sydney CBD, Darling harbour is a perfect place to spend the evening with your loved ones. Darling harbour always has a pulsating environment with people thronging the venue day and night! Entire place is lined with the most amazing restaurants of Sydney and there are so many places to see here that it could get super crazy. There is 9D Cinema, cruises, maritime museum, Chinese garden and of course the eats. The coming section will give you some more of Darling harbour attractions!
How to reach: From any station you can take a train for Town Hall station and walk towards Darling Harbour.
Wild Life Sydney Zoo
The Australian animal adventure is in the heart of the city. Wild Life Sydney zoo located in the centre of the city at Aquarium wharf Darling Harbour. It gives you an opportunity to step into the animal adventure of Australia and see the most iconic Australian animals. Get face to face with the world’s most dangerous birds, explore the Rain forest and watch the Kangaroos and Koalas closely.
Madame Tussauds Sydney
Get ready to experience the glittering world of fame and Aussie legends for a day at Madame Tussauds Sydney. You can take a call in the oval office desk next to Barack Obama or give pose with Royal English family. Take stage with a Rock band or grab a cricket bat and step on to the pitch with Mc Grath. Feeling nerdy? Join Einstein and help him with his research. My son loved Iron man and Spider man!
Sea Life Sydney Aquarium
Situated in the centre of Darling Harbour It is one of the world’s largest aquariums with over 700 different species and 1300 animals. Here you can see the numerous varieties of shark, Sting rays and Australia’s most famous marine animals including dugongs and tropical fishes. This is really an ultimate underwater journey of sea life. Just immerse yourself in the underwater sea adventure world through exciting ocean tunnel walk.
One of Sydney’s most famous attractions is the award winning Taronga Zoo that is really the eye candy of the city. It is home to 4000 animals including Australian native wild life animals. This is really a must go place for all age groups. I had never seen a tiger so closely! They have a glass cage where tigers and lions cannot see the visitors so they behave in their natural manner and some time they come so close to the glass that you can actually touch their face through the glass.
They also conduct a live seal show where the seals show great stunts. This is really highly interactive show and gives you lot information about marine life. This one is a great place for kids and my son loved it.
Last but not the least the bird show is quite incredible here. This is not your usual bird show. When I first watched this show I was really amazed to see all the spectacular birds that were flying freely (they were not in cage) and then flying back when their instructor asked them.
I highly recommend the Seal show and QBE bird show which is really the USP of this zoo. This zoo is spread on a large area so you might have to walk a lot. They also have hop on hop off toy train so that you can give some rest to your legs. If you are visiting with children then you should hire prams which you can easily get at the entrance gate.
How to reach: Taronga Zoo is just 12 minutes from the city by ferry. If your friend or relative works with ANZ Bank then you can ask them to get free passes for the zoo!
Place to eat: They do have big cafe and refreshment shop inside the zoo.
Museums of Sydney
If you have a passion for past then head to Sydney’s fascinating museums, that are among the city’s most popular attractions. They showcase everything from dinosaur skeletons to colonial history of ships and Don Bradman’s cricket bats! Australian museum is situated in Hyde Park and has 10 complete dinosaurs skeletons and interactive display to delight youngsters. Museum of Sydney is near circular quay which is built on the site of the first Government house. Barracks Museum located near the Hyde Park is one of the top museums of Australia and also enjoys the status of world heritage. The Rock Discovery Museum tells us the story of rocks from pre European days to today. Sydney Cricket Ground Museum situated in Moore Park is a must visit for cricket fans who visit Sydney.
Hyde Park and St Mary’s Cathedral
Hyde Park is Australia’s oldest park with just over 16 hectares of wide open space in the heart of central Sydney. Several Monuments stand Guard in Hyde Park, the most notable being Archibald Fountain or a Bronze Apollo surrounded by horse heads, Dolphins and tortoise. St Mary’s Cathedral is very close to Hyde Park. This Cathedral represents the spiritual origins of the Catholic Church in Australia. It is one of Sydney’s most treasured historic buildings and finest example of English style gothic church.
How to reach: Catch a train from Central Station to St. James Station
Sydney city is blessed with many striking beaches that have breathtaking views. There are well over 100 beaches around the city. Some of Sydney’s best beaches are within a 10 kilometer radius from the city centre. Most popular and internationally renowned Beaches are Bondi, Manly, Palm and Tamarama beach. My personal favourite and most soothing beach in Sydney is Brighton-Le Sands beach because it is very near to the Airport and you can see the takeoff and landing of all the flights from here. Just wriggle your toes in the white sand and relax in the sun after a heartening swim. You can watch waterboard riders and body surfers catching a wave in the sun. These beaches are the best places to have a family picnic. Don’t forget to visit sea life aquarium at Manly beach and dine at the Palm beach.
This is really a dream city for food lovers because they can get different variety of cuisines at one place. If you are craving for Chinese food then you must visit Ashfield, Strathfield, Chatswood or China town to enjoy plump dumpling and freshly cooked sea food. Granville, Auburn, Surry Hills are the ultimate places for mouth watering falafel and creamy garlic dip. For Indian food lovers Harris Park is the unique place where you can get many Indian restaurants. Billu and Delhi are by the way the best ones. At Gloria Jeans and Starbucks (Yep world’s favourite) you can get the best coffee. King Street wharf is well known place for Harry Cafe de wheels Potato Pies.
Sydney’s Casinos Pubs and Night life
Sydney’s nightlife canvas is as wide as it gets. Let us start with Oxford Street, the heart of the cafe, bars and clubs. Then comes a very unique 3 Wise Monkeys pub situated in a Victorian building with English style pub, cocktail lounge and disco. Pontoon Bar is also one perfect spot to eat, drink and relax. Here you can get Australian Cuisine. Establishment Bar located at George Street is also a good option. If you consider yourself lucky and want to milk some money on that luck then head to Star City Sydney Casino! Here you will also get a chance to see the fleet of most luxurious cars in the World. This is the largest casino in Australia after Melbourne Crown Casino. Overlooking Darling Harbour, the Star City Casino features two gaming floors, eight bars, seven restaurant, 351 hotel rooms and 130 service and privately owned apartments. On top of all the pubs and bars, if you are visiting Sydney during December then New Year Eve is the biggest party in Sydney. Sydney Harbour will show you one of the New year celebrations topped with extra ordinary fireworks show.
Shopping In Sydney
Sydney shopping streets can quench the thirst of shopaholics for sure. You can see designer labels to high street fashion around Sydney. Castlereagh in CBD, Oxford Street in Paddington Myers at Bondi junction, King Street in New town and Crown Street in Surry Hills are the famous shopping streets. If you are looking for beach fashion then head to Bondi hall street and Campbell Parage that are also known as beach wear street.
Market city is located directly above paddy’s market right in the heart of china town. It creates a wonderful Asian fusion and is a refreshing change from regular shopping. Paddy’s Market has held a central place in Sydney’s history for 150 years. This is the biggest market and has wide variety of stalls, food, fashion, gifts and gadget. Here you get the proper market atmosphere. If you want to buy some souvenirs, t shirts, footwear, crafts for yourself or for gifting then this is the best place to shop in Sydney.
Sydney is a scintillating city where fun and frolic comes together. This is an incredible city and I won’t be making a mistake if I say that Sydney truly represents the Australian spirit. So for the next holiday pack your bags and become a Sydneysider and you won’t be disappointed!
How to Reach Sydney
By Air: Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport is well connected with the major cities of the world. It is the busiest international airport of Australia. The airport is also very well linked with the other international as well as domestic airports in Australia. From the airport, you can hail a cab, board a suburban train, take a local bus, or hop on to a shuttle bus to get to your destination in Sydney.
Best Flight Deals
Sydney is well connected by rail to Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. There are railway links (Ghan and Indian-Pacific) between New South Wales and Perth, Alice Springs and Adelaide as well. Many trains and buses from the Central Station in Sydney are operated by government’s Countrylink.
Private as well as government run buses link Sydney, other parts of the country and most of these buses arrive at Sydney Coach Terminal.
However, government bus services are more economical than the private ones. Travelling by road also gives you a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the Pacific Highway.
Where to stay
Sydney has amazing options when it comes to accommodation. Here are our top picks across the budget spectrum, so whether you are on a tight budget or looking for luxurious indulgence we have it all here.Or you many simply type Sydney in the nice little hotel search box given here for a complete list of hotels.
Following are the best tours handpicked by us for your next visit to Sydney
For a complete list of all tours and activities in Sydney click here
About our Contributor
Our regular and loyal reader, Richa Pandey happens to be an avid traveler. Mother to a gorgeous boy, Richa has had her fair share of trips and adventures! Last time she shared New Zealand with us and this time it is Sydney. But there is no stopping her and so we will be sharing another adventure of hers very soon. So stay tuned!