Experiencing the best of Sydney doesn't have to cost a fortune. Here's a list of my 8 favourite things to do in Sydney.
1. Blue Mountains
- Sydney World: $39 AUD
- Transportation to/from/within blue mountains: $15 AUD (daily cap for the OPAL card between Monday and Saturday
- Food: The food at Scenic World are somewhat overpriced, so recommend packing some lunch
- Transportation to/from blue mountains - take the early morning blue mountains line for a 2 hour train ride between central station and katoomba station.
- Transportation within blue mountains - take the local bus #686 to get to the three sisters and scenic world.
The blue mountains offers a relaxing and enjoyable experience with picturesque landscapes and offers a great retreat from the hustle and bustle of the CBD.
When you hop on the bus #686 outside katoomba station, be sure to exit at the bus stop for Three Sisters/Echo Point Lookout to get a view of the three sisters (rock formation) among the backdrop of the blue mountains.
If you plan to do some hiking in the afternoon, visit the visitor/information centre at the echo point lookout to ask the friendly staff some questions. Otherwise hop on the bus #686 to head towards Scenic World.
Scenic World is a tourist attraction in Blue Mountains, and although is not necessarily a good value for money experience, it certainly still provided an enjoyable experience. I especially enjoyed the Skyway which provided an opportunity to enjoy the panoramic views whilst inside a cable car suspended hundreds of metres above the ground. Additionally the scenic walkway provides a great way to enjoy a tranquil walk on an elevated boardwalk inside a rainforest. The scenic world's main attraction (Scenic Railway) on the other hand felt a bit flat and did not meet the hype of an "adventure" ride.
After Scenic World, I would highly recommend enjoying one of the walkways/trails available in the area. The one I did is the giant stairway (starting at Echo Point lookout) which is a 980 steps down to the valley floor and along the way allows you to get up close and personal with one of the three sisters. Though the steps can be a bit uneven, this was a rewarding experience that offers a backdrop of enjoyable views along the way.
Check out the blue mountains section of my sydney travel journal video to see the blue mountains experience.
2. Vivid Sydney
Free - much of this festival is free and open to the public, however some attractions may have a cost
I was lucky that I visited Sydney when the Vivid Sydney festival happened to be on (during 2016 the festival lasted three weeks between May and June). During this festival, the city of Sydney and it's iconic landmarks are lit up with colourful lights, projections and fireworks.
The uniqueness of this experience would have made this the number one on my list had this been available year round. Nonetheless, if you have a choice on when you visit Sydney, I would recommend booking it at the time the festival is on.
Most of the lighting shows can be found in and around the CBD with the best being:
- Circular Quay - Check out the circular quay section of my sydney travel journal video to see the sydney harbour bridge, opera house and other buildings in this area lit up.
- Botanic Gardens - Check out the botany gardens section of my sydney travel journal video to see the gardens and it's trees lit up.
- Darling Harbour - Check out the darling harbour section of my sydney travel journal video to see the stunning light and firework show at darling harbour.
3. Sydney Free Walking Tour
Free* - although the tour is classed as free in their website, the guides are not paid for their time and it is highly recommended that you tip them for what you feel the tour is worth
The Sydney Free walking tour is a highly recommended activity, and is best taken when you first arrive in Sydney. The tour is an awesome way to learn about the history of the city, get oriented with where things are in the city, hear awesome tips on decreasing the cost of your visit and also visit interesting places that you would not have heard of (for example we had the opportunity to see the art exhibit of bird cages at Angels Place where bird cages are hanged above the street and complemented with the sound of birds that would have lived in this area prior to civilization).
4. Walk across the Sydney harbour bridge + Pylon Lookout
- Walking across the bridge: Free
- Pylon Lookout: $13 AUD
Experiencing the Sydney harbour bridge doesn't have to cost hundred dollars. Whilst the bridge climb could be an exhilarating experience, if you are low on budget then you can still enjoy the Sydney harbour bridge by walking across it, and going up the 200 step stairway of the Pylon Lookup building to enjoy 360 degree views of the Sydney Harbour from the bridge.
Whilst in the Pylon lookout, you can also learn about the history of the harbour bridge through the exhibits inside the Pylon lookout.
Tip: the entrance to the harbour bridge walk was a little difficult to find so I've pin pointed the Cumberland Street entrance from The Rocks in Google Maps.
5. Relax and explore at Manly
Free* - apart from the cost of the public transportation (ferry) between Sydney and Manly.
The Sydney Manly ferry is one of the iconic (and cost effective) ways to cruise/enjoy the Sydney harbour.
From the ferry terminal at Manly, Manly beach is only a short walk through Manly Corso (a pedestrian thoroughfare with shops), and provides a great opportunity to relax on the beach (with a Ben and Jerry's ice cream) and walk along the coastline.
This is another great opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
6. Relax and explore at Watson's Bay
Free* - apart from the cost of the public transportation (ferry) between Sydney and Watson's Bay.
Like Manly, Watson's Bay is another opportunity to hop on a ferry, enjoy a cruise on the sydney harbour and explore another picturesque Sydney coastline.
With parks and beaches next to the ferry terminal, you won't be short of tings to do or places to relax. When the sun is about to set, check out take the short walk to The Gap (view location in google maps) to enjoy picturesque views as well as see the waves smashing into the cliff face. It is also worth noting that although this is a popular visitor location, this place is also infamous for the number of suicides that have occurred here.
7. Get up close and personal with the Sydney Opera House
- Walking outside - Free
- Going inside - The only way to have a look inside is to pay for a guided tour or to buy tickets to a show
Prior to arriving at Sydney, I thought the opera house would be at the top of my list of favourite things to do in Sydney. Whilst the iconic building is a sight to behold, I personally felt it was more magnificent when viewed from afar in the backdrop of the sydney harbour and circular quay.
None the less, being up close and personal to the Sydney Opera House, it's hard not to be amazed at the engineering marvel with which the sails on the roof has been built.
The area sorrounding the opera house is also a great place to sit down have a coffee and watch the ferries go in and out of the ferry terminal.
8. Enjoy the tranquility of the parks in Sydney
Sydney is lucky to be surrounded by many beautiful parks with my favourite being the Royal botanic gardens and Hyde Park.
These parks provide a great opportunity to relax and have a picnic before continuing on with your busy day.
Want more ideas on things to do?
- Get the Lonely Planet Australia Travel Guide eBook (affiliate link)
- Check out Lonely Planet's 20 free things to do in Sydney for some other inspiration.
Do you agree with the list above? or do you have some other suggestions on things you must do when in Sydney? Please add your suggestions in the comments below.