We get it, you don't want to be a tourist and you want to do things that are a bit different to everyone else. However it's unlikely you'll ever be able to visit Australia again and there are certain Sydney attractions that you just have to visit! Here are the best places to visit in Sydney (making sure to take pictures to prove you've been here!)
Top Sydney Attractions
1. Sydney Opera House
Unsurprisingly the first attraction on our list is one of the most famous buildings in the world - The Sydney Opera House. The must do thing is to sit on the steps and have your photo taken. When I first saw the Opera House it actually completely surprised me. The colour was different for a start and it was also a bit bigger than I'd expected.
If you do get a chance to see a show inside, it's well worth it. The Opera House is home to The Australian Ballet, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and the Sydney Theatre Co amongst others. Alternatively do try to make the effort to visit one of the places to eat and drink inside. You can get everything from casual drinks and nibbles to a formal dining experience.
2. Sydney Harbour Bridge
Of course the Harbour Bridge, or Coathanger as the locals call it, also has to get a mention. You can do a bridge walk if that takes your fancy or just admire it from below. Sydney Harbour Bridge is probably most famous around the world as the location of one of the worlds first New Years Eve fireworks displays each year.
3. Bondi Beach
Another must see is Bondi Beach. Famous for all the beautiful surfers and for the fact that on Christmas Day the whole beach is filled with backpackers. You absolutely should visit even if it's just to do the fantastic Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk.
4. The Rocks
The Rocks is a beautiful, historic part of Sydney just 5 minutes away from Circular Quay. Not only can you learn more about Australia's convict history at the Justice and Police Museum but you can also enjoy fantastic shopping at The Rocks Markets every weekend. There are some lovely old pubs to be found around the cobbled streets as well as some really upmarket shops and galleries. A real mix of the past and present! Make sure to check out Pancakes on The Rocks for a bit of an afternoon treat.
5. Darling Harbour
You'll find many of the popular things to do in Sydney located in Darling Harbour. It's nice enough to stroll around this pedestrianised district and just people-watch but you should also try to visit some of the amazing attractions you'll find here, such as the Australian National Maritime Museum, which has some great exhibits, or the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Darling Harbour is also where you'll find...
6. Wild Life Sydney Zoo
You begin to get a sense that Darling Harbour might be slightly larger than you thought when you realise there's a zoo here. It might not be the biggest zoo you'll visit but you will get the opportunity to meet Australia's "Big 5" - Koala's, Kangaroos, Crocodiles, Wombats and Platypusses (Platypi?). There are actually several different zones within the zoo for you to explore - The Kangaroo Walkabout, Devils Den, Butterfly Tropics, Gumtree Valley, Wallaby Cliffs and Nightfall.
7. SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
Right next door to Wild Life Sydney and you can check out some marine life at this fabulous aquarium. There are lots of different zones to explore here as well. Check out sharks and rays or my personal favourite seeing penguins at the Penguin Expedition. You'll also see a dugong which sadly are very rarely seen in the wild. Sea Life Sydney is especially worth a visit if you're unable to visit the Great Barrier Reef on your Australia trip.
8. Madame Tussauds
Walk out of the Aquarium or Wild Life Sydney and walk right into Madame Tussauds. Take some cheesy selfies with your favourite celebrities!
9. Sydney Tower Eye
The building you can see from all over Sydney is 309 metres high and offers amazing 360 degree views of the whole of Sydney.
Top Tip If you're interested in visiting Wild Life Sydney, Sea Life Aquarium. Madame Tussauds and Sydney Tower Eye then it's worth considering a "Sydney Big Ticket". You'll save yourself a load of money by purchasing a ticket for either 2, 3 or 4 of these attractions. It'll cost you $70 for all attractions, a saving of up to $84 if you were to purchase tickets individually! (Prices correct as of 24th June 2019 - check current prices with your Travel Agent at your Sydney hostel).
10. Barangaroo Reserve
Barangaroo Reserve is a beautiful waterfront area which has only been open since 2015. Previously this area was a container terminal (and pretty ugly!). These days you can walk amongst native trees, passing some public art installations on the way. There are also cycle pathways, shops and restaurants as well as an event area. Make sure to check out the Aboriginal cultural experience "Barangaroo Ngangamay".
11. Sydney Harbour Cruise
There are numerous options for getting out and seeing Sydney from the water. The cheapest option is to get on one of the ferries. You'll still have the opportunity to check out the Opera House from a different angle, possibly see some marine life, whilst at the same time getting to your destination, which is, more often than not, Manly.
Manly is one of the most popular destinations on Sydneys North Shore. It'll take 30 minutes by ferry to get here and you can then explore the shops and restaurants or just chill out in the ocean pool. Manly beach is nice but our tip is to head a little further along the bush track and get yourself to Shelly Beach. It's also worth checking out some more of Sydneys Northern Beaches.
13. Taronga Zoo
Another popular destination from Circular Quay by ferry is to head to Taronga Zoo. It'll take just 12 minutes to get to this not-for-profit zoo which supports wildlife conservation. Once there you'll get amazing views of Sydney as well as the chance to see animals from around the world. They also now have a 'Wild Ropes' course if you fancy a bit more adventure!
14. Powerhouse Museum
Heading back to the CBD now and a fascinating place to visit. The Powerhouse Museum is a "Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences". There are permanent exhibitions as well as temporary ones. Learn about Australian culture, history and lifestyle and much more here.
15. Hyde Park
Located in the CBD, Hyde Park, named after Londons Hyde Park, is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of city life. All around the park you'll find interesting statues and monuments including the famous Archibald fountain. Of course you could just enjoy sunbathing in this large park - the oldest in Australia.
16. The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
The Royal Botanic Garden was established in 1816. I recommend joining an Aboriginal Heritage Walk to learn about the Cadigal people who were the original owners of this area. (every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 10am to 11.30am). Alternatively you could join a free guided tour to learn more about the plants at the Gardens. Or maybe just enjoy your surroundings while using the free wifi!
There's loads to do here with plenty of exhibits to explore, but one thing you absolutely should do is head to Mrs Macquarie's Chair which boasts unrivalled views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
17. Art Gallery of New South Wales
Located in The Domain on the edge of The Royal Botanic Garden you'll find the Art Gallery of New South Wales. As well as finding some contemporary art there's some collections from European masters and Asian artists as well. The Gallery is also home to one of the largest collections of Aboriginal art in Australia. Admission is free, although some temporary exhibits may require an entry fee.
18. George Street
George Street is the oldest street in Australia and many old buildings are still found here. Check out the Town Hall, St Andrews Cathedral and The Strand Arcade for a mix of architectural styles. Possibly the most impressive building on George Street would be...
19. The Queen Victoria Building
If you like shopping and stunning architecture then head to the beautiful Queen Victoria Building on George Street. The building was first completed in 1898 and fully renovated in the 1980's. You'll find some beautiful original features such as the 19th Century staircase which is beside the Dome (look up!). There are also some lovely stained glass windows.
20. Luna Park
You don't have to enter Luna Park but you should try and see the famous entrance to the park, especially if you're not visiting Melbourne during your trip (as Melbourne has it's own Luna Park with the same freaky entrance!).
21. Blue Mountains Day Trip
Finally, and not actually in Sydney itself, the unmissable Blue Mountains should be visited on a day trip from Sydney. Most trips also include entrance to Featherdale Wildlife Park so it really is a wonderful day out from Sydney CBD.