Sydney offers experiences at every price point for every type of traveller; this city really does have something for everyone. I’ve rounded up the best experiences I took part in during my time visiting Sydney to help you plan a trip as incredible as mine was.
1. Have a drink at the Opera Bar
The Opera Bar in Sydney Harbour has it all; the location, the views, the ‘cool factor’, and a menu that will please everyone. I would describe the Opera Bar as casually cool; you can easily relax here during the day with a glass of wine, or watch the sunset with a cocktail and some appetisers before you head out on the town. The Opera Bar is popular with both locals and tourists alike so is always busy. Once you’ve managed to grab yourself a seat, make sure you watch out for the seagulls who are always circling hoping to steal something…
2. Spend an afternoon at Luna Park
Enter Luna Park beneath the huge grin, and leave with one on your face. This amusement park is a fantastic way to spend a nostalgic afternoon or evening as you are transported back to a simpler time. Unlimited ride tickers are ludicrously cheap and there are enough coasters, rides and amusements for visitors of every age to enjoy. There are plenty of ferries from Sydney Harbour that will take you to and from Luna Park, and you get to enjoy the breathtaking views as you go with the breeze in your hair, which is especially welcomed on the hot Sydney days.
3. Dive with sharks at Sydney Aquarium
Shark Dive Xtreme at the Sea Life Aquarium in Sydney is Sydney’s only cage-less shark diving experience and was, without a doubt, one of the best things I did on my trip. The five grey nurse sharks in the two million litre tank are (mostly) harmless, but look absolutely terrifying as they bear an uncanny resemblance to their great white cousins! Along with the sharks the aquarium also hosts wobblegongs, Port Jackson sharks, white tip reef sharks and two southern smooth stingrays, all of which swim around you during your hour in the tank. During the experience you’re not allowed to touch the animals (why would you?!) but they like to get up close and personal with you (as you can see from the video) as they’re understandably curious about the visitors to their home.
4. Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge
This is definitely one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sydney, but rightly so as who wouldn’t want to take in the best views of Sydney from the top of the Harbour Bridge? The 3.5 hour climb is not easy but is certainly not difficult, as the hardest part of climbing up to the bridge walk is over before you know it. You then slowly ascend to the summit of the bridge as your climb leader regales you with stories and facts about the bridge before you reach that million dollar view. In my group we were lucky enough to have one of the grandson’s of an original bridge engineer climbing with us, who was able to tell us information that even the climb leader didn’t know! A true once in a lifetime experience.
5. Get up close with koalas at Taronga Zoo
Get to the zoo early and book in for the highly popular koala experience. This special activity puts you in a koala enclosure with a keeper for around 15 minutes as you get to experience these incredible yet sadly endangered creatures up close and personal. You can’t touch them, but why would you as they’re wild animals and not there to be cuddled. Instead we got to watch a mum and her joey enjoy their afternoon lunch of eucalyptus whilst learning about how Taronga Zoo are attempting to protect the koalas and their habitat from extinction.
6. Swim at the Bondi Iceberg pools
These pools are a must have for swimmers and instagrammers alike. I headed there in the late afternoon when it was quieter (it can get incredibly busy during the day) and enjoyed the pool and the view before heading to the cafe above the Bondi icebergs for a cold drink and a cake. Apparently when the tide is high, the waves can crash over the side of the pool which makes for an exciting swim. I would have loved to see this but it just gives me an excuse to go back in the future!
7. Ride the Manly ferry
The Manly ferry has been running for over 150 years, and has firmly established itself as the classic Sydney adventure. Departing from Circular Quay, the ferry will take you the seven miles to Manly for an enjoyable day of lunching, shopping and beaching, away from the Sydney crowds.
8. Walk the Manly Scenic Walkway
Known as one of the most beautiful walking tracks, The Split Bridge to Manly Walk takes you via the coastline and offers incredible harbour, ocean and bush views. The walk isn’t too difficult, taking around 4 hours across 10km of coastland. As you walk you will get to take in some amazing archaeological sites including some of the original European settlements and 1,000 year old Aboriginal rock engravings,.
9. Take a day trip to Port Stephens
If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of Sydney for a day then Port Stephens is the perfect place to go. Known for its abundance of wild kangaroos, Port Stephens can offer you a new adventure away from the city, whether it be sandboarding along the dunes, hiking Mount Tomaree, or just relaxing on one of the many amazing beaches; there is something to make everyone happy.
10. Experience sunrise over Camden Valley in a hot air balloon
There is nothing quite like watching the sunrise whilst you’re drifting through the sky in a hot air balloon. Despite having to get up at 4am, this is a true once in a lifetime experience where you will fly over the Nepean river, see the Blue Mountains illuminate as the sun rises, and watch the Sydney city skyline gradually come into view. When you’ve landed you’ll be treated to a champagne a-la-carte breakfast before being returned to your hotel for a quick nap before you head out again.
11. Find Wendy’s Secret Garden
Not really a secret, Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden is located in Lavender Bay and was created by Wendy in 1992 after the death of her husband. The garden is inspired by paintings, with Wendy being driven by aesthetics, colour, form and beauty rather than horticulture when creating her garden. The garden is now looked after by a small team and several volunteers and offers a perfect tranquil retreat away from the city with spectacular views of the bay and Sydney Harbour.
12. Explore Sydney Harbour by Kayak
A kayaking tour is the perfect way to see the delights of Sydney from a completely different perspective. The fully guided tours will take you around the Sydney waterfront enjoying the harbour’s smooth water as you visit famous landmarks, golden beaches and pristine islands. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see some of the harbour’s local marine wildlife, although they do recommend you get their very early if you want to have the best chance of catching them!
13. Surf at Bondi Beach
You cannot visit Bondi beach without trying your hand at surfing. Interestingly, the day after we did this the water had to be cleared as there was a huge great white shark spotted, so surf at your own risk!
There are plenty of companies offering introductory surf lessons where you will spend around an hour on the shore learning all the basics before heading into the water and giving it a go. I managed to stand up only once after several attempts and was quite proud of myself. Just be ready to feel absolutely exhausted afterwards!
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