Top Ten Things to do in Sydney
Top Ten Things to do in Sydney

10 things to do in Sydney: must-visit list, what to see

Sydney for Kiwis is on everyone’s must do list.  It’s big, bold, bright and close.  In fact it’s not really an international flight, rather for kiwis it’s  a hop across the ditch.  A place we are familiar with as we all know family and friends that have worked there, lived in Sydney or enjoyed a weekend break in Sydney.

Sydney is New Zealand’s gateway city to Australia.  It is our link to an Australian holiday yet the place has so much to offer some of us find it hard to leave. We are Sydney’s biggest fans, let’s look at places that do not cost the earth.

Photo by Jamie Davies
Circular Quay vicinity

It’s not boring sitting on the Sydney Opera House steps, you watch the world go by.  The harbour is busy with ferries.  It is a great selfie moment as everyone can identify where you are, Sydney.  Remember to position yourself with the harbour bridge in the background.  

The best way to get to the Sydney Opera House is walking Circular Quay, it’s on the Sydney trains Circular Quay train stop, there are numerous cafes and hole in the wall eateries, the Harbour ferry system.  The ferry port terminals are located at Circular Quay.  People swirl around you looking as though they know where they are going (likely to the office) as it is a major transport and tourist hub.  You’ve arrived and taken the escalator to the ground floor and look up at the horizon.  By the way do not try to take a selfie from the escalator, even though it’s a temptation.  The bridge, the ferries and the Sydney Opera House are in your sights.  One of the world’s magnificent deep water harbours waiting for you to feel right at home.  Simply stroll along the Quay and there is the Sydney Opera House steps.

Sydney Opera House steps
Photo by @another_sydney_train_spotter

Another iconic structure in your sights is the  Sydney Harbour Bridge. Climb.  It’s there, knock it off.  Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb is intimating in its steel vastness and sheer height with visible open girders.  There are various bridge climbs ranging from scaling to its heights to a more gentle sample climb to test your nerves.  It costs nothing to walk across the bridge. Walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge with children is safe with secure fencing and a walking platform.  There are  two access points to get onto the pedestrian walkway. From The Rocks, Cumberland Street or near Milsons Point train station in the north.  If the younger members have an issue with heights then test out the walk and you can always turn around and go back to where you entered the Bridge.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
Photo by

The third activity found on Circular Quay is a harbour ferry hop on and hop off cruise.  While this is not free it is a great way to be on the water, to get the view of the Harbour the First Fleet saw, Captain Cook experienced and for the traditional owners the harbour is their backyard. Sydney Harbour ferry hop on and hop off journey includes stops at Taronga Zoo and Fort Deniston.  Island hopping made easy with numerous photo moments for your memories.

Sydney Harbour Bridge with Ferry
Photo by @petrakovacs

The beach, it’s Australia and Bondi Surf Rescue TV series has made the beach well known for its visitor hot spot activities.  However it’s not the only beach in Sydney and,  for New Zealanders with our own fabulous beaches and beach going credentials we should visit Coogee, Manly, Quarantine Station beaches.  Check out my article about Sydney beaches to decide where to explore and how to get there. Less crowds, locals hanging out at the beach.  You will be exploring where Sydney-siders go for a day at the beach.

Bondi beach iconic salt water baths, Australia
Photo by @make_it_snappy_wa

The Rocks, the site of the first landing for transported convicts is the historic heart of Sydney.  Lots of walking trails, plenty of visual treats from heritage warehouses converted into shops and cafes from narrow winding sandstone alleyways.  Pop into the Rocks Visitor Centre, only a 3 minute walk from your heart stopping Bridge climb to collect brochures, information about what is on and ask questions.  Visitor dollars are part and parcel are an important part of Sydney’s well-being.  For souvenirs the Rock market is a great place to window shop and saunder.  There are usually live concerts on the weekends with a donation hat for visitors to pop a gold coin into. Check out my article about The Rocks for detailed information about what to do and see.

Victorian architecture of George street in The Rocks
Photo by @henryliphoto

You are still in the vicinity of Circular Quay and take a free ferry to Cockatoo Island.  The best way to get there is by public ferry. The F3 and F8 ferry services operate to Cockatoo Island daily, departing from Circular Quay and Barangaroo as well as from wharves along Parramatta River. For further information, including timetables, visit the Transport NSW website. You can also visit Cockatoo Island by water taxi, private boat or kayak.  The Unesco heritage island is in the middle of the harbour.  Panoramic 360 degrees of the harbour makes a great place for a picnic with the goodies purchased from your travels around The Rocks.  The island has a penal colony history that can send shivers down your spine.  You can even camp there overnight.

Cockatoo Island
Photo by @raw.naturalphotography

Check out the neighbourhood, what to see and do, heritage to nightlife and everything in between.  Let’s find out where to shop, what to do in Sydney beyond the city centre and Circular Quay.  Check out article on Sydney neighbourhoods to find out what is unique about Darling Harbour or discover a beachside suburb to explore.  Paddington is a recommended destination for its funky Victorian elaborate buildings repurposed as design outlets.  There are  Victorian terraced buildings along Oxford Street and Five Ways settings for individual designers and local artisans to market their wares.  On Saturday Paddington market a shopping day.  Paddington market’s focus is trendy designer homeware and clothing,  with vintage clothing sold in the adjacent school hall.  A cluster of boutiques at the Intersection showcases Australian design.  The galleries of the contemporary art precinct form a local creative hub.  Paddington Reservoir Gardens are a short walk away from the main street for those who need a break from retail therapy. The original reservoir stored Sydney’s water, now the disused site has been restored using  the reservoir’s original framework where possible. This re-imagined space is a free public garden.  Original brick, timber and iron fixtures were salvaged forming part of a public space for people in the district to relax in.

Paddington Reservoir Gardens
Photo by @budi.hernowibowo

Darling Harbour is entertainment central. The place is a visitor magnet with a range of entertainment and visitor experiences.  Darling Harbour’s promenade is wall to wall cafes and restaurants.  Menus are displayed on the pavement to assist with choosing where to eat and drink.  Remember to check google for reviews.  And the area is not cheap.  You are charged for the privilege of dining at Darling. Many of the guided tour harbor cruises depart from the docks here and it is also home to the Sealife Aquarium.  A polished aquarium experience for younger members of your group will not disappoint.  It is sometimes crowded as it is part of the mass tour bus circuit. Admission fees apply.  The National Maritime Museum is part of the Darling Harbour.  The museum narrates stories of immigrants who spent months at sea through personal narratives drawing the viewer into the harrowing experience.  A favourite place is the welcome wall.

Darling Harbour never sleeps
Photo by @alinemelo0

Shopping, retail therapy and a visit to Queen Victoria 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.  The building is a glorious decorated cake of a building, situated in the heart of Sydney. It’s free to walk around and drool over the lovely stuff in the glass enclosed shop windows.  QV is a Sydney bus hop on and hop off, The Big Bus stop.

The Strand Arcade
Photo by @luiscarlostorres56

Day trip to Blue Mountains to wander in the Blue Mountains National Park is a contrast to urban Sydney.  Katoomba, with its village atmosphere is a hub to relax and shop. Scenic places include Three Sisters, Jenolan Caves, Wentworth Falls and Govetts Leap Lookout.  Scenic World, while undoubtedly a tourist attraction it is still a great way to fit into the day the major views of the Blue Mountains.   You have optional stops. The cablecar has a glass-bottomed carriage. Travelling 270 metres above ancient ravines, it’s Australia’s highest cable car. You can also choose to ride on Scenic Railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world with its 52-degree incline.  The Blue Mountains are easily accessible from the Central Railway Station.  Take the train and relax with a journey through the suburbs to a world heritage national park.

Katoomba Cascades is a popular hiking destination in the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
Photo by @love_yourself_to_life
Facts and tips to make the most of your journey.

Sydney airport to city centre transport options

Arrival at international airport for New Zealanders  — how to get from the airport to Sydney city centre.  It is recommended you use the convenient train system, located within the airport complex to connect to your accommodation.  There are several escalators (there are lifts nearby) to the underground train Sydney to City Circle route.  The ticket vendors are used to visitors who have not much idea about where to go, people who are scratchy or tired from flights and not familiar with the local currency.  Ask the ticket vendors all the questions you want, that is their job and a smile will help you get a long way.  Here is a link for your Sydney train network, you will either use the very easy metropolitan train system, Sydney trains information is just a click away on the link provided.  

Bus service from Sydney airport

Shuttle buses are easy to book online, you have a pre-paid ticket and you will be deposited at your accommodation however Sydney, similar to all large cities, has congested traffic.  Nothing is worse than an arrival, excitement and you are in a traffic jam.  The train journey, on the other hand, is only 35 minutes to Circular Quay.  And if you want to use the public bus system that is an option especially if you are visiting relatives in the suburbs.

TIP  Remember to purchase an electronic multiple use card for either the train or public bus system as cash is not always accepted.  These cards are best purchased at the airport when you arrive.

Using rental cars in Sydney is not recommended. Rental cars are useful if you are driving out of town, for use within Sydney you will be paying for exorbitant car parking space and, again you could be in car parking jam, no available space and you are twirling around a carpark searching for the elusive space.  Not recommended for a city visit.

Getting around Sydney uses public transport, especially the train system, if you want to spoil yourself on an indulgent romantic night out return by taxi or uber.

Weather information check out our Sydney guide.  The guide also includes major outdoor markets such as Paddington Market, second hand clothing and vintage hidden gems, Museums links including Hyde Park, Contemporary Art and Suzannah Place among others, Parks such as Royal Botanic Gardens.  In fact there is so much information you just might have to stay longer to check everything out. 

Accommodation choices range from stripped down budget to luxury.  

And for those who don’t know (perhaps from …)

The best time to visit?

Year round

Sydney Forecast


The journey is worth it.

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