Things to Do in Sydney
The Sydney suburb of Rose Bay is one of the city's hottest outdoors and nature regions, with many opportunities for water-related activities. Though it's just four miles (seven kilometers) outside the central business district, Rose Bay can feel somewhat rural and wild with a population of under 10,000 people. That's, perhaps, why it's such a sought-after neighborhood. In fact, actor Russel Crowe is one of those 10,000 residents.
Of course, it's the nature that draws a host of people to Rose Bay every day. Most of those who head out to this eastern suburb do so in search of some sports activity; the area is host to two top-notch golf courses, plenty of tennis courts, a worthy beach and even sailing and jet-skiing. Moreover, Rose Bay is home to some great shopping, and there are a host of attractions as well. Within the district itself, places like Rose Bay Cottage, Fernleigh Castle and the Convent of Sacred Heart all draw in their fair share of tourists.
Almost on the edge of Sydney, and visible on a clear day from the city's observation towers, the beautiful World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains are the perfect destination for an idyllic day trip from the hustle-bustle of downtown Sydney. The Blue Mountains offer the stunning scenery of rugged sandstone outcrops, cavernous valleys and towering eucalyptus forests.
Take advantage of Scenic World's cable cars and tramways to see the best of the Blue Mountains, including the Three Sisters rock formation. Glide between cliff tops and over the rainforest on the Scenic Skyway tram; descend into the Jamison Valley on the Scenic Railway; explore the rainforest along the Scenic Walkway and climb back to the top with unbeatable views on the Scenic Cableway.
The area offers scenic drives, manicured gardens, shopping and pampering at spas and luxurious accommodations. Other attractions include the Zig Zag Railway, Norman Lindsay Gallery at Springwood and the Jenolan Caves.
Bondi. Coogee. Bronte. Manly—the list of famous Sydney beaches is as long as the coastline itself. The Balmoral beaches in Mosman, however, are often overlooked by Sydney visitors who instead head out to the coast. Unlike the larger, more popular beaches, Balmoral is located inside Sydney Harbor—only 15 minutes from downtown sights like the Opera House and The Rocks. Since the Balmoral beaches are protected from waves, surfers are swapped for picnickers and families all lounging out on the grass, and there are even swim zones with calm water surrounded by protective shark nets. The two beaches—Balmoral and Edwards—are separated by a wide, rocky point but linked by the shop-lined Esplanade, and kayaks, paddleboards, and even snorkel gear can be hired along the sand. Looking east out over the beach, visitors are met with sweeping views of the entrance to Sydney Harbor, where two opposing coastal headlands frame the rising sun.
This iconic park has been entertaining locals and travelers with a lively midway, carnival games, giant Ferris wheels and contemporary Big Top concerts since 1935. With more than 20 rides, including the dizzying Spider, hilarious Tumble Bug and the classic carousel, visitors to this Sydney standard are sure to have a fun-filled day at the harbour. Travelers agree the best time to visit is during hot summer nights, when city views from atop the Ferris wheel are most impressive and the glow of neon lights lends the park a true sense of nostalgia.
More Things to Do in Sydney
Not to be confused with the Sydney SEA LIFE Aquarium in Darling Harbour, the Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary on Sydney’s North Shore has recently undergone a name change (from Oceanworld Manly) and has gained a number of new attractions.
A new breeding habitat called Penguin Cove was opened in late June 2012 and now houses a small population of cute Little Penguins. As an endangered population that live and breed on Sydney’s busy natural coastline, the penguins in Penguin Cove are provided a safe place to raise their young and be observed by visitors. Another big attraction that sets Manly SEA LIFE apart from its Darling Harbour cousin is its ‘Shark Dive Xtreme.’ Thanks to a large colony of non-aggressive but fearsome looking Grey Nurse Sharks, this dive is an opportunity to swim amongst the marine life cage-free! If that doesn’t whet your appetite, Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary has an underwater viewing tunnel for close up but dry views of sharks, sting rays and other marine life.
Locals know this beautiful beach as the backdrop for the Aussie soap opera "Home and Away," but travelers love the quiet cove on the Pacific Ocean near the Tasman Sea for its white sandy shores, bright blue waters and relaxing vibe.
The scenic beach stretches some three kilometers. Its wavy rips are perfect for boarding, but locals also head to the calm waters of the unique 50-meter ocean swimming pool for early morning laps. Some of Australia’s most exclusive real estate, including homes of famous celebrities and top-notch entrepreneurs, dot the well-forested hillsides surrounding Palm Beach.
Often referred to as one of the world’s most scenic coastal walkways, the trail between Coogee and Bondi Beach is the best day hike in Sydney. Starting at famous Bondi Beach—the iconic hangout of lifesavers, surfers and international travelers—the trail begins by the oceanfront pool on the southern end of the beach. Only a few minutes into the walk, an ancient Aboriginal rock carving is visible on the left side of the trail. In ten more minutes the trail emerges onto Tamarama Beach, which is cheekily referred to as “Glamarama” for the exceptionally attractive crowds. More family-friendly is Bronte Beach, which is the next stop in the trail’s procession of world-class white sand beaches. In addition to the playgrounds, BBQ pits, and large grassy park area, Bronte has two different natural pools that are perfect for a dip in the ocean. Past Bronte Beach and the bathing locals and surfers bobbing offshore.
If you want to know more about Australia’s indigenous owners and wish to see or purchase genuine Aboriginal arts and craft, consider a visit to the Waradah Aboriginal Centre (sometimes referred to as Koomurri Aboriginal Centre) in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.
One of Australia’s best Aboriginal cultural centers, Waradah is the place to learn more about Australia’s unique heritage and first peoples, as well as witness traditional Aboriginal dance and didgeridoo performances. Various shows featuring Aboriginal dancers or musicians in traditional costume are scheduled throughout the day and include an introduction to the story and an explanation of the significance of each performance.
The recently refurbished fine art gallery contains genuine Australian Aboriginal paintings, while the center’s shop has a large collection of more affordable and varied Aboriginal art and crafts, such as totem statues, ceramics, glasswork and didgeridoos.
If you’re visiting Sydney and watching the sunset while standing out on the sand, then you must be standing on Shelly Beach—the only westward facing beach on Australia’s eastern coast. Located south of popular Manly, Shelly Beach is a smaller and quieter place to soak up some sun. The waters here in Cabbage Tree Bay are part of a protected reserve, where a small reef creates calm conditions for snorkeling, swimming, and diving. Over 150 species of marine life inhabit Cabbage Tree Bay—and the shallow waters of 30 feet or less means there’s actually a good chance of finding them. On Shelley’s western end, out towards the reef, watch as surfers rip apart waves at the surf spot known as “Bower’s,” and even when the waves are overhead, Shelley Beach is still protected when compared to east-facing Manly. On the short stroll from Manly to Shelly, stop to admire the Fairy Bower pool that juts out into the sea, or grab a bite at Le Kiosk restaurant across the street from the sand.
Located in the suburb of Vaucluse in eastern Sydney, Nielson Park is a popular attraction in the larger Sydney Harbour National Park. Its tree-lined shores are perfect for spending an afternoon soaking up sun and dipping toes into the surf or picnicking with friends. The netted swimming pool and food kiosk add to this beach’s appeal, but travelers should note that Nielson Park is popular among the family set, which means the sandy shores are rarely quiet and always filled with energetic kids.
Australia’s Royal National Park is one of the oldest in the world, second only to Yellowstone National Park in the United States. Established in 1879, it is heritage-listed and contains landscape ranging from rainforest to beach and is home to many unique species of plants, animals, and wildlife. Bats, birds, possums, sugar gliders and wallabies all call the park home. There are also various historic Aboriginal sites scattered throughout.
Known to locals as just “the Royal” or “the Nasho,” the park has a wide variety of terrain types. Sandstone cliffs cascade to blue waters, with rivers flowing and Eucalyptus forests, rainforests, grasslands, and wetlands providing varied greenery. Hiking, surfing, cycling, boating, and picnicking are just a few of the ways to enjoy the park. The most popular walk is the Coast Track, on the eastern side. Whales visit the waters off the coast from June to November.
Vaucluse has always been a neighborhood for the wealthy. Wonderful yet outrageously expensive villas, lovingly restored from the colonial era, stand together and increase in cost as the beauty of the view and location increases too. To gain insight into the life of Sydney's former high society, visit the Vaucluse House, a villa surrounded by a landscaped garden and wooded grounds. It was built in 1803 in the Gothic Revival style, with small turrets and battlements that make it look more like a castle than a house.
The Vaucluse House once belonged to ex-convict Sir Thomas Henry Browne Hayes, who got shipped off to Australia for abducting a banker’s daughter and built this estate. It also once served as the residence of writer, explorer and politician William Charles Wentworth, who is known as the first person to climb the Blue Mountains and who restored this former cottage to the mansion it is today.
Double Bay is the meeting point of Sydney’s prominence–an exclusive shopping district with a European flair full of designer boutiques, jewelers, waterfront properties and world-class restaurants surrounded by Sydney Harbour itself. Here, you will find open parks, stately mansions, tree-lined boulevards and plenty of spots to relax.
Within the beautiful surroundings of Guilfoyle Park, Double Bay also hosts Sydney’s most popular organic food market, which is open every Thursday. If you are in the mood for a little bit of glitzy dining, be sure to check out Bay Street with its plethora of fancy bars, including the ever famous Mrs. Sippy. Of course, you can’t leave Double Bay without spending a couple hours soaking in the sun at the idyllic Redleaf Beach and enjoying a swim in Redleaf Pool. Though people see Double Bay primarily as a shopping and café district, it is also home to the Double Bay Street Festival, which regularly draws well over 60,000 people.
A small bay that is part of the larger Darling Harbour, Cockle Bay is home to the Cockle Bay Wharf and its many waterfront restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, and cafes. It was one of the first parts of the now iconic Darling Harbour to be developed, and remains a favorite with many. Walking on the wooden path along the bay offers close views of the Sydney skyline, and many of the restaurants offer fine dining al fresco to further enjoy the views and fresh air. Cuisine options vary — from Asian inspired to European, to seafood and modern Australian food. The Cockle Bay area is a great place to enjoy some of what Sydney does best: an evening of entertainment or a simple stroll by the water. Don’t miss the whimsical seaside sculptures, or catch the renowned Sydney Aquarium only a few steps away.
Avalon Beach may have served as the backdrop for an episode of ‘Baywatch,’ but it’s the impressive waves, orange coral sands and 25-meter salt water rock pool that make this a hot spot among Sydney’s beach bums and surfers. Both longboarders and surfers share the gnarly waves, but there’s also plenty around here for land lovers as well. The Bangalley Headland Walk winds through a stretch of protected bushland known as the Careel Headland Reserve, and local rugby clubs host regular high-energy matches that are full of real Aussie spirit. There’s even a nearby nine-hole golf course for travelers looking to improve their line drive.
Crowned by the country’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko, for which the park is named, Mount Kosciuszko National Park spans nearly 2,700 square miles (6,900 square km) in the southeastern corner of New South Wales, 220 miles (354 km) southwest of Sydney.
The park contains Australia's most extensive alpine region, characterized by its Snow Gum forests, glacial lakes, meadows and rivers. This incredible natural beauty is a major draw for bushwalkers, kayakers and mountain-bike enthusiasts from around the region. Camping, fishing, rafting, caving and kayaking are also popular activities during the warmer months, while in winter it's all about the snow — a great time to visit the ski resorts of Thredbo, Selwyn snowfields, Perisher and Charlotte Pass.
Things to do near Sydney
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