Things To Do

50 Of The Best Things To Do In Sydney At Least Once

By Jessica Best
16th Aug 2021

twilight at sydney's harbour bridge

Here it is folks, your dedicated guide to exploring the vast ​​metropolis that is Sydney. While we might be in lockdown now, there's plenty to pop on your agenda when life in Sydney frees up once more. 

From its sprawling harbour and coastal national parks to famous brewery crawls and nostalgic drive-thru cinemas, there’s always something on in Sydney. Made for the out-of-towners, the actively dating, or even the longtime Sydneysider ready to get their adventure on, we’ve got you covered.

Read on for 50 of the best things to do in Sydney.

The Best Things To Do In North Sydney

ferris wheel at night

  • Head to Luna Park: Originally built in 1935, Luna Park is stacked with local history. It has opened and closed a few times across the years, once due to a tragic and mysterious fire, and another time due to noise complaints from neighbouring residents. There are a couple of urban legends associated with the park too, and it’s one of the only heritage-listed amusement parks in the world.
  • Visit Taronga Zoo: This zoo is at the forefront of conservation efforts, fighting for the growth of populations for species threatened in the wild. The crew here operate two wildlife hospitals that treat and rehabilitate injured native wildlife, as well as providing best practice health care for the animals.
  • Go for high tea at the Gunners Barracks: sink your teeth into freshly baked scones with clotted cream, preserves, finely cut sandwiches and savoury pastries at this cliffside venue.
  • Take a stroll through Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden: In this picture-perfect nook, you’ll find Bangalow palms, figs, and Lillies with glimpses of the harbour between ferns. This one is definitely one of Sydney’s most picturesque nature walks.

The Best Things To Do In Sydney's Northern Beaches 

  • Spend a day exploring Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park: Easily one of NSW’s most beautiful national parks, this place features stunners like the Great North walk, The Basin Campground, Akuna Bay (perfect for a picnic), and the West Head lookout.
  • Visit some of Sydney's prettiest—and arguably best—beaches: Far away from the crowds of Bondi, Sydney's Northern Beaches are, simply put, some of the best in the country. From picturesque cliffs and dunes to secret celebrity hangouts and some world-class surfing breaks, hit up Bilgola Beach, Palm Beach, Whale Beach, Narrabeen, and Freshwater.  
  • Go bar hopping in Manly and brewery hopping in Brookvale: Cool bars and trendy breweries used to be few and far between in the Northern Beaches—but a new scene is emerging. Head to Sydney's "little Brooklyn", AKA Brookvale, and work your way around breweries like Bucketty's, Dad & Dave's, and Nomad. Then, head over to Tropikana on Manly Beach for a dance, and The Cumberland for a nightcap. LABEL, also in Brookvale, has one of the best sound systems in the city. 

The Best Things To Do In Sydney’s Inner West

pink arcade

  • Don your sparkles for a drag show: The Imperial Erskineville is Sydney’s home of drag and rightfully so. It’s been an iconic LGBQTI+ venue since 1983 and you’ve probably spotted its facade in the opening scene of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert. Catch a show on the ground floor, hit the rooftop for some cocktails and then head into the basement for some late-night dancing.
  • Take the ultimate brewery crawl through Marrickville and surrounds: Made up of large areas of abandoned warehouses and tired industrial estates, it has long been a site for artists, visionaries, and strange goings-on. This all makes Marrickville the perfect place to start a revolution in beer. If you don’t know already—this suburb is the beating heart of the brewery scene for Sydney and probably NSW itself.
  • Check out White Rabbit Gallery: White Rabbit is home to one of the world's (and Australia’s) most significant collections of contemporary Chinese art. Founded by Kerr and Judith Nielson, the gallery focuses upon works created post-2000. The Tea House cafe is located street level within the gallery; aromatic teas, fresh juices, beer, wine and dumplings are all served too. Entry to the gallery is always free. 
  • Lap up local produce: The iconic Carriageworks Farmers Markets always sports a vendor and producer line-up created entirely by chef Mike McEnearney (who you might know from Kitchen By Mike). Hosted every Saturday, if you’re quick, you’ll be able to get your hands on the likes of Pepe Saya’s chantilly mascarpone and smoked butter and vegan coconut crumpets from Crumpets by Merna.
  • Walk down King Street: As one of Sydney’s most eclectic streets, you’ll have more than enough to explore here. You’ll find cinemas, laneway burger joints, vintage clothing and furniture stores, bars, dog-friendly pubs, live music—the road is really your oyster.
  • Cop some ethical bites: Melbourne's renowned pay-as-you-feel vegan restaurant has spread its roots to Sydney, with the opening of Lentil As Anything in Newtown a few years ago. The 'honesty policy' restaurant founded by former Sri Lankan refugee, Shanaka Fernando, offers an array of tasty vegan dishes, where diners are invited to pay what they feel the meal is worth.
  • Take in the arts and live music at Enmore Theatre, The Red Rattler, and Leadbelly: You won’t be short of any venues to get around in terms of live performances so pick your poison and get ready to soak up local artists in their element.
  • Stretch those legs and check out Sydney’s street murals: Newtown’s I Have A Dream mural, Enmore’s housing bubble mural by Sydney artist Fintan Magee, and Redfern’s 40,000 Years mural on Lawson Street (by Carol Ruff, Colin Nugent, Tracey Moffatt, Joe Geia, Avril Quill, Kristina Nehm, and Charlie Aarons) are all must-sees.
  • Go to Burwood Chinatown: Burwood Chinatown is a dining and retail precinct within Sydney’s Inner West sporting over 30 hawker-style eateries. You’ll also want to make sure you check out Million Life, Sydney’s first pink claw machine arcade.

The Best Things To Do In Western Sydney

aerial view of water park

  • Watch a movie at Sydney’s retro drive-thru cinema: Blacktown’s Skyline Drive-In is a flashback to the 50s. Sporting a Happy Days-style diner with all the snacks and mammoth outdoor screen to witness all the smash blockbusters, this spot is also one of the best places for a date night in Sydney.
  • Arm yourself with an aquatic jetpack: Located at the Sydney International Regatta, Jetpack Adventures is the one place in Sydney you can take a leap into the future and ping back and forth on hydro jets above the water.
  • Make the most of a sunny day at Raging Waters: It’s Sydney’s biggest water park housing 30 different slides and pools. Enough said.
  • Explore Western Sydney Parklands: Covering 5,280 hectares and stretching over 27km, Western Sydney Parklands is home to more than 60km of tracks and trails.
  • Crunch into larger-than-life sandwiches at Parramatta Square: Harvey’s Hot Sandwiches is a retro-style sando bar packing made-to-order subs served simple (with mustard and swiss cheese) or sloppy (with Russian dressing, coleslaw, and swiss cheese).

The Best Things To Do In South Sydney

  • Pack your sleeping bag: and take this overnight hike through the Royal National Park. This multi-day walk between Bundeena and Otford can be tackled in sections if you're time-poor, or prefer to do an overnight camp. While you’re at it, check out the park’s best swimming spots here.
  • Ease your way through the E.G. Waterhouse National Camelia Gardens: this botanic-style garden is a lush feast for your eyes with ponds, ducks, picnic areas and a teahouse.
  • Land a birdie at Putt Planet: Miranda’s indoor, 18-hole mini-golf course is a no-brainer for anyone looking for a fun time. Courses range in themes from bustling market places, homes and even the sewers of Old Mombasa.
  • Fill up on delicious food at Peakhurst Foodies And Farmers Market: If working your way through more than 40 different vendors sounds like your jam, this market is a must. Thursdays and Fridays focus on epic food stalls while the weekend takes look like fresh produce and organic deliciousness.
  • Go rock climbing: Climb Fit is one of Sydney’s most iconic rock climbing institutions and while it also stocks an outpost at St Leonards, its Kirrawee location spans a whopping 2500 square metres with state-of-the-art climbing and bouldering facilities.

The Best Things To Do In Sydney’s East

bridge going over harbour beach

  • Hit Belvoir St Theatre: This venue is one of Australia’s most distinguished and beloved theatre companies. Since 1984, when a group of 600 like-minded theatre-lovers came together to buy a theatre to save it from becoming an apartment block, Belvoir has been at the forefront of Australian storytelling for the stage.
  • Have a go at Sydney’s 80km walking track: This huge walk weaves through 80km worth of major historical points of both First Nations people and the First Fleet, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, joining a bunch of existing trails into one mammoth coastal hike. It was made possible through a collab between six local councils, the NSW government and a community group. 
  • Book a scenic seaplane flight: Some bucket list adventures in Sydney are made to be boujee so draw your attention to a full-package flight with a feast around some of Sydney’s most beautiful locations. This scenic flight will take you over Sydney’s Northern Beaches for 30-minutes before you stop off for a seafood feast at Empire Lounge packed with oysters, sashimi, Morton Bay bugs, cooked tiger prawns and champagne. 
  • Book an underwater scooter tour: Take a 90-minute scooter tour under the waters of one of Sydney’s most beautiful beach coves packed with all the seal life.
  • Down boozy bubble cups at an adults-only arcade bar: B. Lucky & Sons is an arcade bar slotted inside an old pawn shop at Moore Park’s Entertainment Quarter and is with vintage games, neon lights, sweet prizes, cocktails and pizza. Needless to say, you’ll want to spend an entire day here.
  • Grab a glass and try your hand at "Champainting": This paint and sip studio from the Cork & Canvas crew is where you can expect all kinds of boujee greatness, like rose-gold accents, shiny walls, and neon signs (the perfect backdrop to capture your work of art, obviously).

The Best Things To Do In Sydney’s CBD

chinese garden in the city

  • Hit up some of Sydney's best bars: The Sydney CBD is home to a neat list of award-winning watering holes—Maybe Sammy is a regular feature on the World's 50 Best list, and Cantina OK was recently added too. We also love Old Mate's Place, Little Felix, Bar 83, Dean and Nancy, and Apollonia
  • Race around Sydney Harbour: A big bucket list adventure to have out here is feeding your adrenaline gremlin with Sydney Harbour’s famed jet boat ride which races past Luna Park, the Opera House and under the Harbour Bridge at lightning speed (up to 75 km/h). 
  • Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge: It’s the pinnacle of every adventure you could have in Sydney ever and though maybe it's a bit cliche, you gotta do it one day. There’s a bunch of different climbs to suit you as well, from a “sampler” walk if you just want a little taste, all the way through to the “ultimate” walk which lets you conquer the entire bridge from south to north.
  • View Sydney from the highest point: The Sydney Tower Eye Skywalk is basically a rite of passage in Sydney. This mega tower, which reaches 268m above the ground has the most sought after vantage point in the city, unmatched anywhere else. You’ll basically get a 60-minute SKYWALK tour with access to the tower’s bucket list observation deck—a clear stretch of glass that lets you see the streets below so it feels like you’re floating above the city.
  • Dip your toes in Sydney’s best harbour beaches: Summer in Sydney means one thing—harbour beaches! If you’re keen to sidestep the hour-long search for a parking spot, the (sweaty) shoulder-to-shoulder sun baking and the little humans who run around kicking sand onto total strangers (AKA you)—this list is for you.
  • Go for bottomless yum cha in the Chinese Garden of Friendship: The Gardens by Lotus is a oozes teahouse-style dining and it’s one of the most stunning places to score a bottomless feed in the city. We’re talking endless crispy skin duck pancakes with chilli hoisin sauce or Sichuan-style pork and prawn wontons.
  • Head to a show at Sydney Opera House: not only is this architectural gem one of the most iconic landmarks in Sydney, but it’s also the pinnacle of Sydney’s arts and theatre scene. Catch a play, a musical, the opera, the ballet, a comedy show, or sit-in at a live panel.
  • Spend some time at Yiribana Gallery: Located inside the Art Gallery of NSW, Yiribana houses one of the world’s largest permanent collections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. 

The Best Things To Do All Around Sydney

harbour of sydney

  • Take on Sydney's best walks: Whether you’re looking for a dog-friendly foreshore walk, an inner-city stroll, Sydney’s most iconic coastal track or even an 18.5-metre high loop to get your sky-high steps in, this list has you covered.
  • Grab a paddle and go kayaking: Sydney is blessed with wide-open harbours and secluded waterways aplenty, which means there's no shortage of sweet spots to grab an oar and go for a paddle.
  • Try your hand at Sydney’s best escape rooms: There’s just something so bloody exciting (read: terrifying) about being locked in a room, forced to solve your way out. Whether you're looking to amp up date night, something fun to do on a rainy day or even the next group activity with all of your best code-cracking mates, Sydney's best escape rooms can do no wrong.
  • Pedal through Sydney’s most beautiful bike tracks: Maybe you’re keen to cruise around with a picnic in your backpack or want to pump those quads for a spurt of cardio, we found all the best bike rides to conquer, no matter what level you’re at.
  • Pack the picnic blanket: Sydney may take the cake for one of the most beautiful city skylines on the planet and the best beaches, (no bias there, whatsoever) but nestled in and around the big smoke and beyond our coastline is an epic line-up of next-level parks worthy of your weekends.
  • Go paddleboarding: As the saying goes—if you didn’t SUP, did you even do Sydney right? This water sport is a quintessential summer must-do in Sydney so scope your way through this list and get paddling
  • Knockback a cold one at Sydney's best pubs: Everyone knows that the best pubs in the world are in Australia—and though Melbourne will try to fight us on this—the best of the best are really in Sydney.
  • Hit a rooftop bar: We’re not a city short of an epic view, a sky-high feed or open-air drink. And these bars are stepping the elevated game up a massive notch with espresso martinis on tap, indoor cloud trees, apple cider slushies, sunsets for days and palm springs vibes.
  • Make a splash in Sydney’s iconic ocean pools: Sydney is no stranger to a saltwater playground, in fact, we’ve casually racked up over 30 ocean pools, some heritage-listed and untouched since the 1960s. Throughout this list, you’ll find a batch of natural rock pools, old-school baths and beautifully built landmarks, which will no doubt liven up your brave morning dips or sunset walks.
  • Finish your day at one of Sydney’s top spots to watch a sunset: Living in this beach-laden and leafy harbour city sure is tough but someone has to do it (and let’s be honest, we’d all volunteer as tribute for that every day). Your guide to the most stunning spots to watch a sunset in Sydney is right here.

Now, check out what's happening this week in Sydney here

Image credit: Destination NSW, Destination NSW, Burwood Chinatown, Destination NSW, Ayush Jain, Destination NSW, Destination NSW, Destination NSW

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