12 best places to visit in Sydney on your next trip | finder.com.au

Where to go in Sydney

Get to know every side of Sydney with this list of top spots in one of the world’s most famous cities.

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Explore the best areas in Sydney from outstanding beaches to the trendiest suburbs, national parks and historic sites.

We share the best locales in the city where you can find fine art, mouthwatering food, the coolest bars and all of the top city attractions that you simply must experience while visiting the most popular city in Australia.

1. Circular Quay

The most celebrated area in all of Sydney is Circular Quay, as it’s home to two of the major attractions in the city: the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.

Sitting on the edge of Sydney Harbour, this area is packed with restaurants and is the jumping-off point for exploring more of Sydney across the bay when you hop on a ferry.


2. Chinatown/Haymarket

Haymarket is a suburb in Sydney that is home to the vibrant and bustling Chinatown.

Sydney Chinatown is a mix of Chinese eateries, sushi and Korean barbeque. The area also has shops for everyone from Asian trends to designer brands and tourist shops. Traditional Chinese festivals are often held here, and the rest of Haymarket is known for its bargain shopping.

  • Best for: Shopping, Asian cultures and food.
  • How to get there: Catch a train to Town Hall or Central station which is a 15-minute walk to Chinatown, or take the lightrail to Haymarket stop. It is also a nine-minute walk from Darling Harbour or 20 minutes by transit from Circular Quay.
  • Top five things to see/do: Start your night with a few drinks here, shop for bargains at Paddy’s Market, follow along on a food tour, explore the Chinatown Night Market, catch a festival.
  • How long do I need? Half-day.
  • Recommended tour: There’s no better way to explore Sydney’s Chinatown than through a food tour exploring the many great tastes of China and beyond.

3. Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is nestled beside the water and adjacent to the city centre making it easy to access all of its entertainment options.

It’s perfect for travellers of any age with family-friendly attractions, restaurants lining the water and the area comes alive at night with clubs and bars.

  • Best for: Food and tourist attractions.
  • How to get there: For trains get off at Town Hall station, buses at Museum station. By transit it will take 20 minutes from Darling Harbour or 45 minutes from Bondi Beach. Darling Harbour is within walking distance of Chinatown (nine minutes).
  • Top five things to see/do: Visit the SEA LIFE Aquarium, take a selfie at Madame Tussauds wax museum, dine along the water at Cockle Bay Wharf, find quiet in the Chinese Garden of Friendship and get shopping at Harbourside Shopping Centre.
  • How long do I need? Half-day to full-day.
  • Recommended tour: Discover Sydney’s best with the Sydney Attraction Pass: Darling Harbour Experience Ticket that gives you the freedom to explore the main sites whenever you want.

4. Bondi Beach

The white sand of this crescent-shaped beach draws visitors in year-round.

It’s a prime spot for surfers looking to catch some waves and is either the beginning or the end of the scenic Bondi to Coogee Coastal walk. After some time in the sun the nearby Hall Street is lined healthy food options and pubs for all to enjoy.

  • Best for: Surfing, nightlife, scenic views and relaxing.
  • How to get there: Take a bus and get off at Campbell Pde near Hall St. It’s approximately a 45-minute transit ride from Darling Harbour and Circular Quay or a 25-minute drive.
  • Top five things to see/do: Take in the scenery on the Bondi to Coogee Coastal walk, bask in the sun on the beach, give the waves a try with some surfing, swim in the well-known Iceberg ocean pool and dine in some trendy restaurants.
  • How long do I need? Half-day.
  • Recommended tour: Do a Bondi Beach Walking Tour for your chance to spot celebrities, walk along the shores, see Aboriginal rock art sites and more.

5. Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains boast rugged scenery just outside of Sydney to the west, with dramatic cliffs and stunning views.

The area is filled with towns, waterfalls, eucalyptus forests and galleries. Katoomba is the most popular village that travellers typically choose, as it borders Blue Mountain National Park where you can spot the famous Three Sisters.

  • Best for: Scenic sites, outdoor adventure.
  • How to get there: Blue Mountains for a 2.5-hour drive from the Sydney CBD or three hours by train from Central Station.
  • Top five things to see/do: See the Three Sisters, ride the Scenic Railway, visit Wentworth Falls, visit the town of Katoomba and explore walking trails throughout Blue Mountain National Park.
  • How long do I need? One to two days.
  • Recommended tour: Experience a Blue Mountains Day Trip from Sydney where you’ll see the best sites, meet Australian animals and ride the world’s steepest scenic railway.

6. Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden is an oasis in the heart of Sydney CBD.

Here you’ll find horticulture displays and plant science plus beautiful panoramas of the Sydney Harbour from the most famous viewpoints.

  • Best for: Culture and nature.
  • How to get there: The gardens are a 4-minute walk from Circular Quay or it can be reached by bus (Museum station) or train (Town Hall station) which is a 20-25 minute transit ride from Darling Harbour.
  • Top five things to see/do: Join a walking tour to learn about Australia’s first botanic garden, visit the Palace Rose Garden and the Australian Native Rockery, explore the Calyx for entertainment and colourful flowers, head to Mrs Macquarie's Chair (the most famous vantage point) and stroll along the harbour for a peaceful break from the city.
  • How long do I need? Two to four hours.
  • Recommended tour: Enjoy a free guided walk of the gardens to learn about the wildlife and the garden’s history.

7. Botany Bay

Just south of Sydney you’ll find Botany Bay, made famous from Captain Cook’s landing in the 1700s.

Botany Bay is an inlet in the Tasman Sea and was named because of the large amount of plants collected from there. It is a heritage-listed site and an important place in Australian history.

  • Best for: Scenic sites, history.
  • Where it is/how to get there: Botany Bay is a 50-minute drive from Sydney CBD. Bus routes provide access to the area when you get off at Botany Road Mascot stop.
  • Top five things to see/do: Check out the best scenic lookouts, explore the marine life while diving or snorkeling, hike around the area and enjoy a picnic.
  • How long do I need? One day.
  • Recommended tour: Botany Bay is easily accessible, and the best tour is the one you can take yourself.

8. Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo has been open since the early 1900s And is located along the northern part of Sydney Harbour.

It houses a number of animal and adventure attractions, and you can even sleep over at the zoo. There are over 4,000 animals to see and 20 shows or talks a day.

  • Best for: Animal lovers, families.
  • How to get there: For buses and ferries from Circular Quay get off at Taronga Zoo Wharf. Transit from Central station is 35-55 minutes or 15 minutes from Circular Quay. It’s approximately a 20-minute drive from Sydney CBD.
  • Top five things to see/do: Have an early morning walk as the animals wake up, take a stroll through the Aussie Walkthrough, enjoy a zoo high tea, spent a night at the zoo and spot whales on a cruise before visiting the zoo
  • How long do I need? Half-day to full-day.
  • Recommended tour: Have a Wild Australia Experience with a behind-the-scenes zoo exploration, get a picture with a koala and ride the Sky Safari cable car.

9. Royal National Park

Just south of Sydney Royal National Park is where you can see coastal cliffs, quiet beaches, bushland and wildlife.

Exploring the park on the many trails takes you to stunning lookouts along the coast and over rivers. It’s in the Royal National Park that you’ll find the renowned naturally-shaped Figure Eight Pools.

  • Best for: Outdoor lovers, nature.
  • How to get there: You can reach Royal National Park by driving 50 minutes from the Sydney CBD.
  • Top five things to see/do: Relax at Wattamolla lagoon, visit the Figure Eight Pools, check out the view from Bald Hill lookout, explore the park by kayak and surf at Garie Beach.
  • How long do I need? One day.
  • Recommended tour: Enjoy a Coastal Adventure Tour and see the Figure Eight Pools, hike along the coast track, relax at the beach and visit the best lookout in the park.

10. Ku-ring-gai National Park

Ku-ring-gai National Park in the north of Sydney holds a lot of history. It’s a protected area of rainforest, bushland and coastline.

The Red Hands Cave track brings you to Indigenous sites with rock paintings and engravings.

  • Best for: Nature, water activities.
  • Where it is/How to get there: Ku-ring-gai National Park is a 45-minute drive from the Sydney CBD or 1.5 hours from Central station by a combination of trains and buses.
  • Top five things to see/do: See the views at West Head lookout, visit Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse, go kayaking and bushwalking, learn about local history and try stand up paddleboarding.
  • How long do I need? One day.
  • Recommended tour: Join a Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park Day Trip from Sydney to admire the scenery, visit Palm Beach, learn about the local history and more.
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11. Northern Beaches

When visiting Sydney you’ll be spoiled for beach options. Manly is the most well-known northern beach and is a popular area filled with restaurants and shops.

Watson’s Bay is another prominent harbourside suburb that showcases views of Sydney Harbour and is home to sandy beaches.

  • Best for: Beach lovers, relaxing, shopping and Sunday sessions.
  • How to get there: Manly Beach is a 35-minute drive from the Sydney CBD, 35 minutes by ferry from Circular Quay, or an hour by combinations of trains, buses and ferries from Central station. Water taxis are also available from Sydney Harbour.
  • Top five things to see/do: Take a coastal walk, bask in the sun on the pristine beaches, catch sunset on a bike tour, try surfing and enjoy some of the local seafood.
  • How long do I need? Half-day to full-day.
  • Recommended tour: Enjoy a 3 Beaches Kayak Tour to see Manly Beach and its neighbouring beaches from the water to hilltops, including secret hidden-away spots.

12. Parramatta

Parramatta is a multicultural suburb in Sydney, and an up-and-coming art and film scene.

The area is popular with young professionals and is where you can find trendy bars, eateries and lots of creative types. Along the river are walking and cycling paths and historic colonial sites.

  • Best for: History and art lovers.
  • How to get there: Parramatta can be reached by train from Central station (35 minutes), by car (45 minutes) or by ferry from Circular Quay (49 minutes).
  • Top five things to see/do: Explore galleries, find top bars and cafes, stroll along the river to find theatres, restaurants and historic sites, visit Elizabeth Farm and spend some time in Parramatta Park.
  • How long do I need? Half-day to full-day.
  • Recommended tour: Experience the Taste of Australia in Parramatta where you can explore the history of Australia through food with an optional river cruise to take in the sites.

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