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Sydney Travel Guide
Sydney Travel Guide
Sydney Travel Guide

Sydney travel guide — best 10 free things to see and do

Sydney is light, sparkle and glitter, culture on the rocks (literally), beaches at your fingertips, craft and gift markets galore, restaurants and cafes as well as theatre and museums. The harbour is a visitor magnet with its bays, coves and sheer size. The harbour is capped with the iconic harbour bridge, chugging green and cream painted ferries and water traffic of every size and description.

One of the original European areas of settlement Sydney has a rich history of occupation dating back thousands of years. Originally a penal colony, now a bustling multicultural city Sydney is an internationally recognised visitor and conference destination.

Sydney Opera House, the harbour and bridge, Australia

What is the best time to visit?

September to November or March to May. These months are spring and autumn and avoid the local school holidays. Sydney in summer can be stifling with temperatures in the high 30c. Sydney is not a cheap destination and avoiding peak school holidays when there is a premium on accommodation leaves more room in the budget for an indulgent harbour city cruise.

Weather

Sydney Forecast

Highlights:

  • The Rocks
  • Museums and galleries
  • The Harbour
  • Gardens
  • Sydney walks and trails
  • Beaches
  • Retail therapy, outdoor markets
  • Festivals

Awesome journeys and day trips from Sydney

Ten things to do in Sydney for free
1
Royal Botanic Gardens. Have a picnic and see native plants in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Instagram moment with the Australian brightly coloured parrots is likely.
2
Sydney Harbour Bridge. Walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and get a view of the harbour from above. Check this guide for details where to find the walking entrance to the Bridge.
3
Beaches. Check out the beaches such as Bondi, Manly, or Coogee, people watching is a sport at the Aussie beach. Great beach photo moments with lifeguards, the sunbaked Aussies and yourself.
4
Saunter through the street markets in the Rocks or Paddington.
5
Darling Harbour playground. Check out Darling Harbour playground for the children. Great way to combine shopping with amusement promises for small people.
6
Coastal walks such as Hermitage Foreshore Walk provide great views of the Harbour Bridge and city skyline. Check out Sydney Harbour National Park for walks.
7
Queen Victoria shopping arcade. Spend time exploring heritage buildings such as Queen Victoria shopping arcade, an elaborate Victorian confection taking up an entire city block
8
Rocks exhibits. Pop into the Contemporary Art (MCA) in the Rocks exhibits. Admission is free. The gift shop is very good, avoid the shop if you are on a budget.
9
Check with the visitor centre for up and coming street entertainment. The buzz and energy surrounding festival events is a great holiday boost.
10
Sydney Opera House. Find an Instagram moment for a selfie against the iconic Sydney Opera House, in the Botanic Gardens or against the Opera steps. Plus locate and find Mrs Macquaires chair and to relax. (Hint Royal Botanic Gardens)

Culture & Arts

Sydney has a plethora of museums. You could spend a week or more in Sydney and still not have completed the museum circuit. Here is a sample of what is on offer. Remember to check articles on Sydney districts for added tips for getting around Sydney.

Museum of Contemporary Art

140 George St, The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000

National Maritime Museum

2 Murray St, Sydney NSW 2000

Hyde Park Museum

Queens Square, Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000

Justice and Police Museum

Cnr Phillip St &, Albert St, Sydney NSW 2000

Suzanna Place Museum

58/64 Gloucester St, The Rocks NSW 2000

Meroogal

35 West St, Nowra NSW 2541

Brett Whiteley Studio

2 Raper St, Surry Hills NSW 2010

Our city guide has based the selection on, interacting with all ages, innovative in exhibitions and narratives, explanation of Sydney’s origins, exhibiting the city’s cultural legacy and lastly the importance of its location in one of the world’s greatest natural harbours.e story of Sydney’s origins as a penal colony.

Scenery & Landscapes: Sydney Harbour – what to see and do

A harbour cruise is a must do activity. Check out our article on Sydney Harbour activities.

Significant places on the harbour

Sydney’s relationship with the water embraces its harbour. Beach culture + Harbour Sydney ticks all the boxes. Here is a list of activities where you always have the water in your view. For instance the zoo is very special. Where else could you have a photo moment, with a giraffe framed against an iconic insta moment harbour.

Taronga Zoo

Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman NSW 2088

Sydney Harbour Bridge

3 Cumberland St, The Rocks NSW 2000

Sydney Harbour National Park

Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman NSW 2088

Sydney Harbour

Port Jackson Bay,NSW

Bradleys Head Amphitheatre

Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman NSW 2088

Fort Denison

Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney NSW 2000

Sydney Harbour Ferry Hop on Hop off

Circular Quay

Gardens and Parks: what to visit, exercise and walk around

The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney NSW 2000

Wendy’s Secret Garden

Lavender St, Lavender Bay NSW 2060

Centennial Parklands

New South Wales 2021

Darling Harbour, Chinese Friendship Garden

Pier Street, Cnr Harbour St, Darling Harbour NSW 2000

Family fun: what you can do with children

  • Sydney Opera House offers a range of programs for kids including an innovative Opera House junior tour.
  • Museums such as Contemporary Art offer entire rooms devoted to children to painting on walls, the floor and everything in between.
  • Darling Harbour and the Sea Acquarium is a great destination however it does have entrance fees
  • Check out the walks for Harbour views for great moments with children in the background
  • Follow the link to our Sydney beach guide

Wildlife encounters

Bargo Dingo Sanctuary

3105A Remembrance Driveway, Bargo NSW 2574

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

1-5 Wheat Rd, Sydney NSW 2000

Healesville Sanctuary guided or self-guided tours. Check out the Healesville article to decide whether it is what you want to do.

Heritage & History

Unesco convict sites Sydney: local gems to find out about stuff that happened a while ago.

Hyde Park Museum

Queens Square, Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000

Cockatoo Island

Mosman NSW 2088

Parramatta Park

Pitt St &, Macquarie St, Parramatta NSW 2150

Activities: walks

  • Check out my daily walks on Instagram and Facebook, there are numerous options for all age groups and fitness levels, enjoy the great outdoors and find your space to relax and refresh.
  • The Harbour, with its islands of Fort Denison, Shark, Clark, Rod, Goat and Cockatoo Islands, foreshores is a must to place to explore. You can explore the harbour and islands on the hop on, hop off ferry service or on a guided tour.

Shopping and retail therapy: outdoor Markets

Queen Victoria shopping arcade building encompasses an entire city block. Completed in 1898 it is an elaborate confection of a building with its Victorian twirls, curls and leaded glass panels. An architectural gem worth visiting in its own right. Check out our detailed guide to Sydney districts what is a great place for fashion, second hand clothing or simply to look around.

One of the must do experiences for all things shopping, is pondering and lingering around the pop up markets.  Check with Sydney tourist information website for up to date information around opening and closing hours.  And our city guide list is not definitive, check with your accommodation if a new market has emerged and left a brochure at reception.

  • CARRIAGEWORKS FARMERS MARKET has over 70 regular stallholdes. The vast space is transformed every Saturday into a foodies haven.
  • KIRRIBILLI ART, DESIGN AND FASHION MARKET is divided into two areas, Art and Design in the Burton Tunnel and the Fashion section in the adjoining Bradfield Park. Offering range from ceramics, homeware, up and coming clothing designers with food stalls to keep the shoppers going.
  • BONDI FARMERS MARKETS every Saturday hoards of people breakfast from the huge variety of food stalls on offer. Breakfast at Bondi is a popular visitor attraction.
  • THE ROCKS MARKETS. The Rocks’ cobbled laneways, with their characteristic canvas awnings are a visitor magnet for unique Australian gifts or souvenirs made by the individual marketing the goods. The Rocks markets operate all weekend.
  • GLEBE MARKETS is a perfect place to browse through numerous second hand or recycled wares or find a handmade object that reflects the passion of an up and coming artisan. The market is weekly.
  • For visitors located in the city centre KINGS CROSS MARKET is not to be missed local favourite. Kings Cross Market is a pop up Saturday market in Fitzoy Gardens. Food, organic produce for apartment dwellers, deli offering such as pies, cakes and heat and serve meals make for a quick meal for visitors and locals alike.
  • ROZELLE COLLECTORS MARKET is a second hand market that is popular with locals and worth a visit for those who trawl for bargains. Rozelle Public School grounds are the venue for this weekend bonanza.
  • MARRICKVILLE MARKET operates on Sunday and is well known for its health conscious food stalls where organic reins supreme. Seasonal produce, juices and pre-prepared salads of every colour are on offer.
  • Sydney Fish Market has an enormous array of fish and shellfish, with numerous eateries cooking all things seafood. If you manage to get up early the market is alive with wholesale traders from 5.30am. Visitor tours start at 6.40am. The market operates a seafood cooking school for cooking tours.
  • Blak Markets supports Aboriginal artisans and entertainers. There are performers as well as weaving and art demonstrations by the artisans who works are sold alongside their outdoor workshops.
  • Chinatown Night Market opens every Friday from 4.00pm on the main street of Chinatown, selling predominantly food. Locals, international students, visitors and workers heading home are regular attendees.

Beaches

Check out our detailed guide to beaches. You could simply visit Sydney to hang out at the beach. Remember your water safety guide when visiting the beach.

Day trips out of Sydney

Want to get out of town for the day? Here are a few popular day trips from Sydney.

  • Blue Mountains National Park exploration of the New South Wales highlands
  • Hawkesbury River postman cruise is great for families and trips where a group tour needs to be arranged. The Riverboat Postman – The Riverboat Postman. A historic waterway cruise with friends or work colleagues is a pleasant way to connect with all age groups.
  • Visit a sheep station, experience Aussi outback. Tobruk Sheep Station – is popular with bus tours and can be crowded. Tobruk Sheep Station is 60km from Sydney CBD. This type of tour is popular with our closest Asian neighbours as sheep are a novelty. New Zealanders will counter with an invitation to their own Sheep World encounters designed for visitors.
  • One of the closest National Parks, located in Sydney’s north and encompassing part of the Hawkesbury River, the park is 42km from Sydney. Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park | NSW National Parks is a popular visitor destination for walking tours. For the dedicated walker an ideal spot that is accessible by public transport. How to get there from Sydney, for public transport options, visit the NSW transport info website.
  • Royal National Park, 38km from Sydney is on the northern tip of Wollongong. Bald Hill lookout has been the spot for hang gliding and paragliding, as well as a good place to enjoy a picnic lunch. You can also hike the 6.5km walking track of Wodi Wodi. Getting to Royal National Park there are various public transport options: Train, Some attractions in Royal National Park can be accessed from train stations including Cronulla, Loftus, Heathcote, Waterfall, and Otford train station at the southern end of the national park. Visit the Transport NSW website for more information. By Ferry: From Cronulla, you can take the ferry to Bundeena. Royal National Park bus service: Park Connections operate a Royal National Park bus service between Sutherland Train Station and locations within the park including Audley, Garie Beach, Wattamolla, Bundeena Wharf, Otford Train Station, and the north and south ends of The Coast track.
  • Port Stephens, check out our weekend guide to Port Stephens.
  • Hunter Valley wine and vineyard is a must do activity for visitors interested in all things wine with alfresco cafes and restaurants. There are numerous guided day tours to ensure that drink and driving does not impact on your day out and about.

Getting around

Sydney has an excellent urban train system. The Central Railway Station has an information centre to assist with timetables and where to go for connections. While it does not sell tickets the automated ticketing system is not difficult to navigate.

 

Sydney Trains, Australia @Transport for NSWSydney Trains @Transport for NSW

Visitor bus hop on and hop off is a quick and easy way to get around Sydney to visit major attractions in one or two days. The hop on and hop off bus services are excellent with several options for visitors, from city focused routes, beach routes and harbour ferry routes. Check the visitor bus website for online ticket bargains.

Getting from the airport to the city centre

Sydney has an excellent, efficient airport link railway called City Circle that takes approximately 30 minutes to arrive at Central Railway Station or Circular Quay Railway Station. Additionally there are airport shuttle services and taxi ranks at the airport. The train to the city is directly connected to the train station simply follow the airport signs. The ticket kiosk attendants are used to a wide variety of questions and it is a good time to purchase an Opal ticket (electronic pass card preloaded with funds).

Cycling in Sydney could be daunting due to the number of motorways, hustle and bustle of a large city. “A network of integrated cycle paths connects parts of Sydney City. There is a cycleway across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and paths along the coast and in parklands, including Centennial Parklands, Sydney Olympic Park and Western Sydney Parklands.” tourism australia.

Sydney Harbour ferry hop on and hop off journey. Including Taronga Zoo and Fort Deniston. This is a favourite for many visitors as you are on the harbour with waterside views that are drop dead glorious.

The journey is worth it.

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