Sydney is the largest city in Australia and by many accounts, the most spectacular. As it sprawls along the East Coast and as far as the foothills of the Blue Mountains, Sydney offers a diverse landscape and activities for all, whether you are travelling solo, as a couple or as a family. The Sydney lifestyle is very much open onto the outdoors and celebrates nature in every way. To ensure you don’t miss out on the essential sights, I have a list of the best things to see and do in Sydney. I’ve been living in Sydney since 2002 and most of the sights are familiar to me. However, I enjoy revisiting them from time to time, things change, renovations happen and there is always something new to discover.
Outdoor Things in Sydney: The Rocks
The Rocks is the original neighbourhood, where Captain Phillip established the Sydney Cove colony in 1788. Being to close to Circular Quay and the CBD, The Rocks is a lively area rich in history. The ideal way to discover it is by taking a self-guided tour. Check out my blog post here for the full tour. My fascination for The Rocks comes from the mix of contemporary and ancient neighbourhood. The parks, the houses, the businesses are all part of a wider and intriguing story.
The Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is probably the most iconic symbol of Sydney. The shape of its sails and its location on Bennelong Point make for fantastic photo opportunities. You can also take a tour, attend a show or dine at one of its cafes and restaurants. I have a soft spot for attending operas there, it’s always a special occasion. If you are new to opera, don’t hesitate to try at the Sydney Opera House. Whilst the acoustics of the opera hall are not perfect, it is a very approachable experience thanks to the use of subtitles.
The Opera Bar
Right at the foot of the Sydney Opera House, the Opera Bar is an ideal location to unwind over cocktails and finger food after a busy day exploring the many sights on offer. The views over the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are beautiful and Circular Quay is a bustling tourist and transport hub. I especially like to bring overseas guests to the Opera Bar, because all the best sights of Sydney are there and the food is really good.
The Royal Botanical Gardens
The Royal Botanical Gardens are a haven of greenery and calm in the middle of a bustling city. Take a walk around Farm Cove and reflect at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. There are beautiful curated gardens, free guided tours, a scenic train tour and several cafes and restaurants. Personally, I find the walk around Farm Cove quite a moving experience. The shape of the cove is as the First Fleet found it and it’s a peaceful walk up to Mrs Macquarie’s Point.
If you are interested in learning about plants, the Botanical Gardens offer various tours. The Sensory Tour is a showcase of strange and even deadly plants.
Most Australians firmly believe their country have the best beaches, and I have to agree with them. The most iconic one in Sydney is Bondi Beach, with its unique vibe. To me, Bondi Beach is where you can touch the pulse of the Australian beach culture. Whilst it does get busy with tourists, the colours of the surf are always a fantastic sight.
Bondi Beach is easily accessible from the city by regular bus services.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
A wonderful characteristic of Sydney is its rugged coast. It is well preserved and accessible for walks of different grades. I thoroughly recommend the Bondi to Coogee Walk, however there are many others available. On the Bondi to Coogee Walk, I am always reminded of how extraordinary the Sydney lifestyle can appear to overseas visitors. There are so many houses with ocean views, it is a great testimony of how the coast and the ocean are part of life here.
If you are looking for more coastal walks around the gorgeous Sydney Headlands, you can read about my visits to Middle Head, North Head and South Head.
Take a Ferry
To take in the grandeur of Sydney Harbour, the best thing to do is to take a boat. There are many cruising options, however a ferry ride is an authentic way to travel at a very reasonable price. Although I have been a Sydneysider for many years, I have never been on a tourist cruise. You see, there is no real need for it when you have this sort of commute available.
Take a Day Trip
There are many things to discover beyond Bondi and Sydney Harbour. Whether you are looking for a secluded camping spot for a night at The Basin or are looking to escape the city for a day trip from Sydney.
Visit a Market
Australians love food and shopping, and markets are both a shopping and social occasion. The sunny weather is also a blessing for this activity. I have a selection of food markets and handmade markets for your review. If you visit a market when in Sydney, you will get to enjoy a part of the outdoor lifestyle, complete with delicious coffee, which is a very important part of life here.
Take on the Harbour Bridge
Another unmissable visual icon of Sydney, the Harbour Bridge is a feat of engineering and offers fantastic views over Port Jackson. Whether you walk from one end to the other or take a BridgeClimb, taking on the Harbour Bridge is an unforgettable experience. If you are looking for fantastic views on a budget, don’t miss the Pylon Lookout. The Harbour Bridge has to be one of favourite sights in Sydney, I really love the fact that you can approach in different ways, depending on your ability, time and budget.
Taronga Zoo has spectacular views of Sydney Harbour and a rich collection of animals. There is an area dedicated to the Australian wildlife, which means you can familiarise yourself with some unique creatures. Coming from Europe, where I remember some zoos being sad places with forlorn animals, I have to say I feel a bit more comfortable visiting an Australian zoo. I still have a strong preference for seeing animals in the world, however, there is more space and the climate is more appropriate for the wildlife here.
Attend an Outdoor Festival
The Sydney lifestyle is very open onto the outdoors. People spend a lot of time living and socialising outside, enjoying picnics, lying on the beach, taking a walk or playing sports. Sydney has some unique and free outdoors celebrations, designed to enhance the existing nature or architecture. Australia is not so much a destination for museums, but you can enjoy rich cultural experiences outside.
Sculpture by the Sea is a contemporary art exhibition that takes place every October, on the Bondi to Coogee walk.
Vivid Sydney is a growing winter outdoor festival where various landmarks and decorated with light. Light installations are set up across the city and other places.
Finally, Sydney welcomes the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival every March.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks
Attending the New Year’s Eve fireworks is the experience of a lifetime. Sydney welcomes the new year in the most spectacular fashion. The Harbour Bridge and Sydney Harbour light up in the grandest fireworks light show. If you ever have the opportunity to attend this unique experience, don’t miss it. There are plenty of vantage points available for viewing.
I have been attending the New Year’s Eve fireworks for years now and it’s a great privilege. I especially love the fact that it’s a free event, and millions of people can really celebrate the event by just being there.
Beautiful Sydney Beaches
Sydney Harbour Walks
Best Sydney Hikes
Do you have suggestions for the best things to see and do in Sydney? Please let me know in the comments below.
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32 thoughts on “The Best Outdoor Things To Do in Sydney”
I’m going to Sydney in a couple of weeks so this is actually really helpful! Did you find Sydney to be really expensive? I’m quite worried because I come from Adelaide and I know that my city is one of the cheapest in Australia.
I’ve been living in Sydney for so long so I’m used to things being expensive. However, if you are touring, there are plenty of things to do for free. Even if it’s just taking in the sights. Restaurants used to be ridiculously priced but they’ve come around a bit, and lots of places have sharing plates so you don’t have to pay $40+ for a main course. Enjoy the trip to Sydney!
ahh posts like this always makes me go to tickets booking websites to looks for flights to Australia! I can not wait the day when I can finally visit this beautiful continent ! Sydney is definitely 1st on my list. It looks so wonderful on every photos and there is so much to do!
Ada, I’m so pleased my post is inspiring you to visit Australia! Sydney is a spectacular city with plenty of things to see and do. I hope you get a chance to visit and make the most of it!
Oh how I miss AUS! These are great tips for things to see in Sydney!
Hi Sarah, you need to come back to Sydney for a visit, there is so much to see and do, isn’t it?
Everything sounds, and looks so beautiful! I have never been to an Opera before, but the Sydney Opera House looks like an amazing place to go to the first one 🙂
Hi Kylie, thank you for dropping by! The Sydney Opera House is an iconic and very interesting building. The opera hall doesn’t have the best acoustics, although that’s improving, but I love the experience of going to the Opera. Having a glass of champagne at intermission, looking over Sydney Harbour, has got to be the best thing… The other good thing is that there are surtitles so you can follow the story in the Opera, which is helpful. In any case, I would strongly recommend attending an Opera, wherever you are, it’s a beautiful experience. My husband wasn’t keen on it initially and I had to drag him there but he loves it now!
Oooh the outdoor bar looks fantastic! I will definitely have to give that a try whenever I do visit. The botanical gardens look lovely as well. I always love visiting places like this when I travel. Thank you for the insider’s peek at the best things to do!
Hi Beth, the Opera Bar is really relaxed, the food is good and it’s a perfect place for a drink with gorgeous views. I love the walk around Farm Cove to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, the views from there are amazing!
It is a dream of mine to make it to the Opera House some day. So beautiful.
I hope you get a chance to attend a show at the Sydney Opera House, Bailey, it’s absolutely beautiful!
I consider myself lucky to live in Sydney, and love so many of these things you have suggested. Sculpture By The Sea is by far a favourite, but STILL haven’t seen Vivid! I’m very keen to go though, and your photo of it looks stunning! Thanks for showcasing the best our city has to offer! 🙂
Thank you for dropping by! Vivid is incredible, the colours are stunning in the dark and the artwork is really thought-provoking! Totally worth braving the cold for… I love living in Sydney too!
Giving me major wanderlust!!!! What a fun city to visit.
Thanks Chloe, Sydney is absolutely awesome!
I looooove Sydney and this post really made me want to go back soon! My favorite thing to do in the city is the Bondi to Coogee Walk 🙂
Charlotte, you should definitely visit Sydney soon. It has plenty of coastal walks, but I agree that Bondi to Coogee has got to be one of the best!
Oh this is such a good guide, thank you! 🙂 We are heading to Sydney in a few weeks and the zoo is at the top of our list, and we know our eldest will love the ferry ride there! Wasn’t sure what the rest of our days would look like so this was a helpful and perfectly timed post, thank you!
Hi Mica, Taronga Zoo is pretty cool and the views from there are very beautiful! Do take the ferry to the zoo, it’s all part of the experience! I’m sure you’ll have great fun on your visit to Sydney!
I was in Sydney 10 years ago as a child and I remember being transfixed by the zoo!
I can imagine Taronga Zoo would be an amazing experience for a child! It is still fascinating for me as an adult!
OMG I love that colorful night shot of the Sydney Opera house (during Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival)
Hello Natalie, thank you for dropping by. The lights have a fabulous way of dressing up the Opera sails, don’t they? It’s a mesmerising sight!
Love love the Quay and just walking around Darling Harbour! We really need to make a trip to Taronga Zoo at some point, too! These are great suggestions for visiting Sydney!
Sydney does offer some great harbourside views, that’s for sure! I do recommend a family visit to Taronga Zoo, there are so great animal enclosures and the views over the city are stunning!
Cool article about great City.
Thank you for dropping by Malith, Sydney is a great city indeed, lots to see and do, and the views are amazing!
I have never been to Australia yet but planning to visit sometime from August to October. Would you say it is the right time to go? I am so excited about this trip!
Hi Anya, you’re coming to Australia for a decent period of time, which is great! August is still winter so it’s cold but the light is amazing. I took some of my best photos of Sydney in winter, including the ones for this post. You can start your trip with Queensland, that will be lovely in winter. I wish you a very good trip in Australia and please let me know if you have any other questions!
Ah Sydney! We’ve just lived in Sydney for six months and a spectacular place it is! I was pretty impressed to see we had done almost everything on your list – including the New Years Fireworks which I don’t think I will ever forget! The only things we haven’t done is climb the Harbour Bridge – my other is a bit of chicken when it comes to heights and now I’m wishing I had done it solo and Taronga Zoo after being to Australia Zoo and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane we didn’t feel the need for another one but maybe when we come back one day we’ll visit the zoo! My favourite things to do in Sydney are read in the Botanical Gardens whilst watching the boats come in and out and hang out in Manly! Great Post and all things that I would also recommend in Sydney!
Hi Alicia, it looks like you’ve had a wonderful time in Sydney! I agree that it’s a spectacular city with something happening all the time. Watching the boats and ferry go by on the harbour is also my favourite! Taronga Zoo is good because it has great views but I think the Perth Zoo is the best I’ve seen in Australia…