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Many people start and end their trips to the “land down under” in Sydney, but this Australian city is much more than just an airport hub. Sydney has some amazing beaches as well as arts and culture attractions, providing lots to see and do in an exciting urban environment. These are the top things to do when you visit Sydney, Australia for the first time!
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Hang Out at Coogee Beach
There are quite a few beaches worth checking out in Sydney, and one of the most highly recommended is Coogee Beach. This is a great place to go for snorkeling, swimming, and lounging in the sun. There are also lots of places to grab a bite to eat along the shore. People enjoy this beach because it tends to be a bit less crowded than other Sydney beaches. There are lifeguards on duty, and there is no fee to enter the beach area. It is also highly recommended to do the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, which is about 6 kilometers long and takes you along the coast and past interesting sites like the Clovelly Bowls Club and Gordon’s Bay. Of course, Bondi is a very famous and busy beach with some wonderful shopping and dining options nearby too.
Experience Sydney Harbour Bridge
There are a few iconic Sydney landmarks that all first-time travelers to town should try to check off their lists. One of these is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is next to the equally iconic Opera House. This bridge is the largest steel arch bridge in the world, and you can sign up for a bridge climb to see some amazing panoramic views of the city. The activity is a bit pricey, but it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially if you plan your climb around the gorgeous twilight hours. Climbs are led by a guide, who will tell you stories about the bridge. Bridge climb options for adults typically range from about $163 to $393 and last between 1.5 hours and 3.5 hours. Alternatively, you can walk across the bridge, take a ferry under it, or simply drive over it.
Explore the Local Markets
The city of Sydney has always loved its local markets, and Paddy’s is the largest market in town. Here between Flemington and Haymarket, you’ll find hundreds of stalls set up to sell food, souvenirs, and all sorts of unique items. You can also check out the Sydney Fish Market behind Darling Harbour, the Eveleigh Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, the Glebe Markets on Saturdays, the Bondi Farmers Markets, and the Sydney Morning Herald Growers Market on the first Saturday of the month.
Take a Ferry Ride
Ferries are a common way of life in Sydney, some locals use them to commute to work. But as a tourist, there’s something special about taking a ferry ride in Sydney to see the city from the water. This is a nice way to get a feeling for the city’s layout and photograph the landmarks from a different perspective. Cruises and ferry rides regularly depart from the marinas and circle around the Darling Harbour and Circular Quay. Recommended ferry rides travel from Circular Quay to Mosman Bay, Palm Beach to Ettalong, and Circular Quay to Parramatta.
Watch a Performance at the Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is a highly photographed landmark in the city and dates back to an international contest in the 1950s to design it. This opera house is known for its impressive acoustics and is home to multiple theaters and music venues inside. You can take a tour of the opera house or maybe catch a live performance while you’re in town. The Sydney Opera House Tour runs daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., lasts for about an hour, and costs $37 per person. Check the venue’s website events calendar to see what’s playing during your trip.
Panoramic Views at Sydney Tower Skywalk
Sydney Tower is the tallest structure in town, and the Skywalk offers excellent views where you can see up to 80 kilometers in every direction. A Skywalk experience includes a 45-minute guided tour, access to the internal observation deck, and a 4D cinema pre-show. The Sydney Tower Eye is typically open from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m., depending on the season.
Day Trip to Hunter Valley Wineries
If you have a little time to explore the area, head a bit outside of town to check out the Hunter Valley wineries. There are over 150 wineries in this region, which is within a couple hours north of Sydney and well worth a day trip. Top wineries here include Bimbadgen Winery, Brokenwood Wines, Audrey Wilkinson Winery, and Harkham Winery.
Visit the Rocks Neighborhood
Probably the most popular neighborhood to visit in Sydney is called the Rocks, which is charming, trendy, and convenient. This was Australia’s first European settlement and full of interesting history. You can browse craft markets and food markets, admire art at the galleries, and stop into the bars and restaurants for some refreshments. This also is a nice place to look for unique souvenirs and stay in for easy access to top city attractions.
See the Royal Botanical Gardens
The city of Sydney also has an excellent botanical garden that spans about 74 acres of plants and flowers. Here you can take a break from busy city life and take in the sights and smells of roses, orchids, herbs, and other plants. The Royal Botanical Gardens is located along the Sydney Harbor and is easy to get to from other attractions in the city.
Check Out the Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Australia has a fascinating history connected with convicts and the prison system. To understand this historical connection, visit the Hyde Park Barracks Museum, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is where prisoners were brought when they were transported over from Great Britain, and it also served as residences for Irish orphans during the Potato Famine. This is a great way to learn about what life was like for convicts and others in need of shelter in Australia in the 1800s. The adult admission fee is $12.