Australia Sydney Travel

Top 10 Things to Do in Sydney for the First Time Visitor

You’ve seen the main Sydney icons, snapped a selfie in front of the Sydney Opera House, took a few happy snaps with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background, made it to Mrs Macquaries Chair and shopped at the various malls in the city’s CBD.

Top 10 Things to do in Sydney

Museums don’t take your fancy. Now what? Here are our top 10 tips for what to see and do in Sydney for a first time visitor – a guide that’s often been tested and tried by visiting friends and family.

1. Spend the Day at Manly

Taste of Manly 2011
Manly Beach

Catch the Manly ferry from Circular Quay to Manly for an ultimate summer’s day out. The scenic journey takes 30 minutes and you’ll find yourself a world away form the CBD. Laze in the sun on the golden sandy beach, stroll along the tree-lined promenade and explore the Manly Corso, a part-pedestrian mall lined with cool pubs and bars, cafes, surf shops and galleries. You can even partake in a little Stand Up Boarding and Parasailing for the best views over Manly.

2. Visit Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach is well worth seeing on your first visit and can be easily reached by bus from the city centre. Bask in the sun on the fine sand of Sydney’s iconic beach, hire a surfboard and hit the waves or take a leisurely stroll along the promenade. There are many shops, cafes, restaurants and bars to keep you occupied.

3. Explore the Rocks

aroma 2010
The Rocks

For a historical glimpse into Sydney, discover on foot the area known as The Rocks, located on the southern shore of Sydney Harbour facing the Sydney Opera House. The Rocks precinct is full of heritage shops, pubs, eateries, souvenir shops and vantage points that would show you a different perspective of Sydney.

4. Lunch at the Sydney Fish Market

Sydney Fish Market
Sydney Fish Market

Catch the light rail to the Sydney Fish Market where you’ll find it abound with fresh seafood. Freshly-shucked oysters, seafood cooked on demand and live crayfish make it a go-to destination for a casual lunch.

5. Opera Bar for Cocktails at Sunset

Opera Bar
Opera Bar

Watch the sun set from the new Opera Bar as you sip on a cocktail or a flute of champagne with the harbour almost at arms’ reach.

6.Visit Cockatoo Island

OUTPOST - Cockatoo Island
Art at Cockatoo Island

Catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island, a former industrial site now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Head to the Visitor Centre for self-guided suggested tours then relax at the Island Bar (open during summer) for cocktails and tasty bites.

7. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Cruise
Sydney Harbour Bridge

To see Sydney from dizzying heights, take the Sydney Bridge Climb and embrace the views from 134metres above sea level. Ticket cost includes a Climb Group Photograph, a Certificate of Achievement, a BridgeClimb Cap and free entry to the Pylon Lookout.

8. Take a Cruise with Captain Cook Cruises

Captain Cook Cruises
Captain Cook Cruise

Glide along Sydney Harbour with Captain Cook Cruises. Our pick is for the Captain Cook Coffee Cruise which runs on the afternoon and returns before sunset.

9. Watsons Bay

Doyles Fishermans Wharf, Watsons Bay
Fish and Chips at Watsons Bay

For a different view of Sydney, head to Watsons Bay by bus or ferry. Enjoy fish and chips near the water, a cool drink at Watsons Bay Hotel and take a walk up to the lighthouse for spectacular views.

10. Get Out of Sydney

Glenguin Winery, Hunter Valley
Hunter Valley

Take a day trip to the Blue Mountains, just 60km outside of Sydney where you can see the Three Sisters rocks formation, ride the Scenic Railway, go hiking and visit the Jenolan Caves if you’re staying longer than a day. If you’re into wine, stay overnight or longer at the Hunter Valley where you can visit wineries and learn about wines at their Cellar Door, taste regional produce as well as visit breweries such as Hunter Beer Co and Lovedale Brewery. Alternatively, spend a weekend in Canberra, Australia’s capital.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.