Sydney’s Must-Visit Highlights For First-Time Visitors

One of the world’s most beautiful cities, prepare to be dazzled by Sydney’s incredible array of natural, cultural and architectural attractions this year. Ideal for first-time visitors, plan your Aussie adventure and tick these iconic must-sees off your tourist list…

1 Touch the sublime at Sydney Opera House

Feel your jaw drop as you approach the distinctive white ‘shells’ of the Sydney Opera House and take in the iconic building’s striking location beside the deep-blue waters of the harbour. Ascend the banked front stairs — used as a stage for artists over the years — and step inside to discover the world’s busiest performing arts centres, hosting shows ranging from opera and ballet to comedy and rock.

Explore the hidden side of the working venue on an early-morning backstage tour, while away the late afternoon sipping cocktails and watching the sun light up the Sydney Harbour Bridge at the Opera Bar, or savour fine dining with incredible views at Sydney Opera House’s Bennelong restaurant.

2 Cruise to Taronga Zoo Sydney

Thrill at the sight of Australia’s unique native wildlife while taking in the million-dollar views over Sydney Harbour to the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge at Taronga Zoo Sydney. Enjoy a mini harbour cruise on the 12-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay in central Sydney to the wharf below the hillside zoo.

Feel a sense of amazement as you encounter iconic native animals such as koalas and kangaroos alongside creatures from around the world — the zoo is home to more than 5,000 animals from around 350 species. Immerse in the animal world overnight at Taronga’s luxurious Wildlife Retreat or drift off to sleep in a safari-style tent on a Roar and Snore experience.

3 Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge

Absorb the dazzling views of the harbour city from another legendary landmark, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, affectionately known as the ‘coat hanger’ by locals. Scale the heights of the immense steel arches on a guided walk with BridgeClimb Sydney to drink in an incredible panorama.

Enrich the experience as you learn about the city’s Aboriginal history and culture from an Indigenous Storyteller guide on BridgeClimb’s Burrawa Indigenous Experience. Or feel the sea breeze in your face as you walk along the protected pedestrian path between the city centre and North Sydney.

4 Explore Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Feel yourself unwind as you reconnect with nature’s astonishing diversity while strolling through the harbourside Royal Botanic Garden, right next to the Sydney Opera House. Lose yourself for a moment in the oldest botanic garden in Australia, a haven for more than 27,000 plants from around the world, including a significant section dedicated to Australian natives.

See the harbour foreshore from a new perspective on an Aboriginal Harbour Heritage Tour, discover new flavours on an Aboriginal Bush Tucker Tour, and savour modern Asian cuisine at celebrity chef Luke Nguyen’s Botanic House restaurant.

5 Go glamping on Cockatoo Island

Let your imagination run wild as you roam across UNESCO World Heritage-listed Cockatoo Island, a short ferry ride from Circular Quay. Wander through the relics of this former convict prison and naval dockyard, take in the harbour views over a drink at Societé Overboard bar, or feel your skin tingle on an adults-only after-dark ghost tour as you learn of the grisly past of Sydney’s largest harbour island.

Soak up the unique atmosphere as you spend the night in a charming heritage cottage or glamp in the waterfront camping ground, backdropped by the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

6 Be stirred by Bangarra Dance Theatre

Feel yourself moved by the powerful storytelling and dynamic contemporary choreography at an unforgettable performance by critically acclaimed Aboriginal dance company Bangarra Dance Theatre. Journey into a world brought to life by a team of choreographers and classically trained artists with proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, all drawing on tens of thousands of years of Indigenous culture.

Join the buzzing crowd at the Sydney Opera House for Bangarra premieres or head to the company’s intimate Studio Theatre in the Walsh Bay arts precinct for occasional emerging works.

7 Learn to surf at Bondi Beach

Feel part of a special community when you grab a surfboard and paddle out through the white-water at Bondi, Sydney’s most legendary beach. Rent a board and join the locals riding the swell before they head off to work in the morning — then follow the sandy footprints to the surfing tribe’s favoured cafés for a post-surf breakfast. Or get tips on paddling, catching waves and maintaining your balance as well as learn the sport’s essential safety rules from the experienced instructors at Let’s Go Surfing, and you’ll be chasing breaks in no time.

9 Lace up your shoes for a coastal walk

Stir your senses as well as your heart rate as you follow one of Sydney’s spectacular coastal walks, enjoying uninterrupted ocean and harbour views as you walk from rugged headlands to secluded bays and beaches. Follow delightful trails through national parkland and along clifftops all across the city. Join local joggers on the 6km Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, snaking from the Bondi Icebergs ocean pool to the golden shores of Coogee in the eastern suburbs.

Closer to the city, plunge into the netted harbour pool at Vaucluse’s Nielsen Park for a refreshing swim after tackling the Hermitage Foreshore Track, a hidden gem offering up views of Shark Island and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Weave through rainforest and past lighthouses with Sydney Harbour views on the 10km Spit Bridge to Manly Walk on the North Shore. Or get your pulse racing on the steep track to Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach, on the northern tip of the Sydney coastline.

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