Things to do in Sydney

There are a huge number of things to do in Sydney when you're on vacation - so plan well ahead if you've only a few days to spend here before travelling on.

That way you'll get the most out of even the shortest stay - and you'll have some memorable experiences to look back on.

What's Fun and Family-Friendly

Remarkable Sydney Travel Tips has many suggestions to make your Sydney stay enjoyable.

Let's start with what's Family-Friendly.

If you've got the kids with you it probably won't be long before sight-seeing the usual landmarks and historical areas doesn't hold the kiddies' attention any more. Dare I say it - they're bored!    

Take them to see the animals

... There's plenty of "animal fun" in Sydney.

Give the kids a few hours up close with Australian animals like the cuddly koala pictured above and let them marvel at our kangaroos.

You could also send shivers up their spines looking at our other wildlife - sharks, deadly snakes and spiders.

Giraffes aren't Aussie natives but they're always good fun - and so photogenic too.

Don't you agree? ... these three at Taronga Zoo look very smart! No matter what age the kids are … they’ll enjoy. And there’s a lot to keep you Mums and Dads entertained too.

Animal Fun things to do in Sydney

Hey! That's my carrot. The giraffes seem anxious as a Taronga Zoo keeper offers their favorite snack to a tourist.

  • Taronga Zoo is Sydney's zoo with the world famous views. In addition to the much loved Aussie animals there are plenty of amazing exotic animals – like bears, tigers, lions and elephants – from all parts of the world. Taronga has a magnificent Sydney Harbour setting and is among the world’s best zoos. Combine a 12-minute harbour ferry ride from the city with the Taronga Zoo experience - including a gondola cable car ride with views over the zoo and harbour. A day at this famous zoo has to be one of the best things to do in Sydney.

  • Sea Life Sydney Aquarium is the place to see little penguins being hand-fed and dugongs munching on lettuce. Among the most thrilling of things to do in Sydney is to walk through the aquarium tunnels while sharks swim just above you! Located near the CBD at Darling Harbour, it has one of the world’s largest aquariums with more than 650 species of Australian aquatic life. Fancy snorkeling the "Great Barrier Reef" with reef sharks while actually in Sydney's CBD? You can try this new attraction now. Shark Reef Snorkel details here. (Pictured below - a Lemon Shark gets used to Sea Life's new $5m Shark Valley attraction).  

  • Wild Life Sydney Zoo is a small zoo located at Darling Harbour beside the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. Pressed for time in your Sydney visit, but really want to see Australian animals? This is the venue for you. In two hours you can see deadly Aussie spiders, butterflies, wallabies, koalas, wombats, quolls - and five-metre Rex the biggest saltwater crocodile in captivity. No matter if it’s raining or a Sydney scorcher – most of the zoo is enclosed and air-conditioned. All details here. (Pictured below at the zoo ... an Agile Wallaby mum. Her joey looks out at the world from pouch safety).

  • Manly Sea Life Sanctuary is at popular Manly Beach. Swim with sharks in the Sea Life aquarium – if you dare! (And get the photos to prove you did!) This toothy well-fed Grey Nurse Shark (pictured) is one of several just waiting to welcome you! And there are no cages on this dive ... this is the real thing. If you don't want the Extreme Dive experience as one of your things to do in Sydney, there's still lots of fun to be had at the Sanctuary. The young ones will love the touch pool and seeing the fish feeding. Full details here. Take the Manly Ferry from Circular Quay and enjoy Sydney Harbour on the way, then combine the Sea Life Sanctuary with the rest of the day at magnificent Manly Beach and The Corso.

  • Featherdale Wildlife Park is where you can hug a koala, pet the wallabies and feed baby kangaroos - all without it costing any extra! For tourists wanting to be real close to the sweetest Aussie animals (and getting a photo of the experience) this zoo is a must. Featherdale features wildlife that is indigenous to Australia, so lots of koalas, 'roos and wallabies - but also Tasmanian devils, and loads of birds - including emus and the southern cassowary. The wildlife park is in Doonside, western Sydney, so it will take you about an hour by train and bus from the CBD. This wildlife park is among my picks for best things to do in Sydney if you have a young family. Pictured below at the park is a devil showing off impressive carnivorous jaws, and a koala mum with her joey.     

Other family things to do in Sydney

Luna Park Sydney is a great favourite of Aussies who love old time amusement parks.

Expect your kids to have big smiles (to match the iconic Luna Park welcome). They'll certainly see it as one of the best things to do in Sydney. You'll be pretty happy too because there's NO Entry Fee!

Luna Park has been at Milsons Point more than 75 years - the City and Sydney Harbour Bridge a wonderful backdrop to the carnival fun.

Book tickets online for best deals - especially the unlimited rides pass. If you can, pick a weekday to visit ... smaller crowds mean more rides, less queuing, and better value.

But check first to make sure Luna Park will be open - and what the hours are for the day. (They sometimes change).

Pick a fine day too ... and you'll have all the family smiling!

Great rides include the Rotor and the Wild Mouse - and the much loved gentle giant Ferris Wheel (pictured) with its top views of Sydney Harbour and bridge.

If you love photography, then visiting Luna Park is one of the best things to do in Sydney. Soak up the atmosphere and get classic shots of sideshows and amusement park rides.

You'll be in your element - and that Bridge backdrop can't be beaten! 

Sydney Tower is by far the city's tallest building. Go up to the Sydney Tower Eye observation deck and you'll get the best view there is of Sydney ... from way way up!

The Tower Eye can be one of the best things to do in Sydney on a clear day. With such visibility you can see a vast panorama - with the wonderful blue of Sydney Harbour defining so many intricate bays and waterways.


A bit scary - but one of the best things to do in Sydney on a clear day.

At twice the height of Sydney Harbour Bridge the Tower Eye lets you see all the way to the Blue Mountains - or way out to sea.

Be brave and take their glass Skywalk (pictured). At 268m above the ground it's high - but safe - and fun to do if you're adventurous!

Skywalk is an open-air, glass-floored platform which encircles the Sydney Tower Eye. It's a bit scary, with the viewing platform extending over the edge of the main deck structure.

Unlike the Harbour Bridge you don't have to climb any steps to get the great views. At the Sydney Tower you zoom up by elevator.

However, if you're doing the Skywalk you must arrive on time so you can attend a safety briefing. (Miss it and you won't step out onto the glass).

You'll also be suited up in a full safety harness. You can't take cameras on the skywalk because of the fear they may be dropped.

The Sydney Tower revolves - taking 40 minutes to go right around. The Skywalk experience is short compared with climbing the Harbour Bridge, but it's cheaper and much higher up. Tickets and best prices here.

Where is the Sydney Tower Eye and Skywalk? - In the new Westfield Shopping Centre at the corner of Pitt Street and Market Street in the heart of the city's retail precinct. That's just a short walk from Town Hall and St James rail stations.

Chinese Garden of Friendship - an island of tranquility right bang in the middle of busy Sydney. If you need a break from hustle and bustle, this is the place to get it!

There's therapy in the sound of flowing water and such beauty in the historic design and gardening expertise. Not expensive at $15 for a family of four. (You'll pay a little more if you want to get into classic Chinese costume for some photo ops).

For some locals, a regular visit to the Chinese Garden is among the best of things to do in Sydney. It is also a popular setting for weddings because of its scenic beauty.

Try the Tea-house and sample the Chinese pastries. There's also some wildlife to delight the kids - turtles, lizards and big fish.

Chinese Garden of Friendship is located very close to Chinatown and is at the southern end of Darling Harbour.

Beautiful spring scenes at the Chinese Garden of Friendship.

Cockatoo Island - so easy to get to and so much interesting history to see. Just a quick 20-minute ferry trip away from Circular Quay. So take in the Sydney Harbour sights (especially the Harbour Bridge and Opera House) as you zip out to this former convict island and naval industry hub. Lots of photo ops here with great views of the city from the island. Explore the spooky tunnels (see picture below) cut through the sandstone.

The ferry ride isn't free, but you don't have to pay to get onto Cockatoo Island and soak up the history. Wear shoes and don't take alcohol. Food and drinks readily available there.

Want to stay overnight? With million dollar views it's becoming a popular spot to do so. Unzip the tent in the morning and watch the work and sail boats go by. Great for families, and did I mention photography? ... capture sunrise and sunset over the harbour waters. Of memorable things to do in Sydney, camping in this urban park is a standout.

Humour in bones - at the Australian Museum.

Australian Museum - so many interesting things to see here, including dinosaurs and skeletons.

This chap (pictured) has been here rather a long time, but still enjoys a magazine in company with his pet dog and caged bird.

Here at the museum you can learn all about Australia's killer marsupial "lions" ... dubbed the "ultimate carnivore". With very scary teeth and claws Thylacoleo carnifex was a predator widespread across Australia until about 30,000 years ago.

The Australian Museum is only seven minutes walk from three train stations in central Sydney - St James, Museum and Town Hall.

It's on the corner of College St and William St, opposite St Marys Cathedral and just across the road from Hyde Park.

When you're considering things to do in Sydney, make a note of this museum for a rainy day. It's ideal for kids too, with lots of fun stuff and great facilities for the youngest ones.

Animal fun just an hour away ...

Australian Reptile Park - a quick train ride north to Somersby on the Central Coast for a wonderful family day with snakes, crocodiles and alligators.

But don't think this place is just reptilian. It's also jam-packed full of Aussie native animals - including very friendly kangaroos, wallabies, Tasmanian devils, wombats and koalas.

What makes this "Zoo with a Bite" are the shows, which go on all through the day. They mix a unique brand of education, humour and drama - making them truly memorable. 

Highlights include the Ranger feeding Elvis the cranky saltwater croc (pictured). Lots of interaction with kangaroos, koalas, Tasmanian devils and other Aussie favourites makes this bushland zoo very popular with tourists.

How to make Family travel affordable

... Take advantage of Sydney's Family Funday Sunday. This is a great scheme where rail, light rail, bus and ferry travel on a Sunday can be had for just $2.50 per person ... and it's unlimited!

So you really don't have to spend much to have a fun day out in Greater Sydney on a Sunday.

Your great value Family Funday Sunday pass can even have you sight-seeing up the Blue Mountains, or wine sampling in the Hunter Valley.

Depending on weather and surf conditions, I would opt for a family day at Manly or Bondi Beach. They can be reached easily by public transport.

Minimum requirements to qualify for Family Funday Sunday: Your travelling group must be related and it must include one adult and one child.

When considering things to do in Sydney don't forget the huge advantage of Sunday. Factor in the cheap travel and make Sunday your Family Funday!

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Fan of the Opera

Meet an unusual Sydney show-stopper who has joined the list of "things to do in Sydney".

This New Zealand fur seal can attract big crowds to these VIP steps of the Sydney Opera House.

He first enjoyed sun-bathing in front of thousands of tourists in 2014.

Sometimes he did it for several hours providing great entertainment for onlookers. Each time his fur dried out he would quickly take another dip before settling back on the steps.

The seal - called Lu-seal or Seal-este by some competitors in a radio program - has sometimes played in the clear Sydney Harbour waters for weeks at a time.

So keep an eye out for the seal when you're walking near the Opera House on your visit ... you never know when he'll be back.

Mardi Gras Parade

Hope you didn't miss the huge 2016 Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on Saturday night (March 5). This annual Parade is always a blast!

It's on around the same date each year at the end of three hectic weeks of Mardi Gras activities. 

If you've never been to the Parade it's free and a great spectacle. 

The 2016 Parade had 175 floats and more than 12,000 rainbow participants strutting their stuff in flamboyant costumes.

Among things to do in Sydney this has got to be right up there for sheer spectacle. So if you find yourself in Sydney early in March of any year get to this Darlinghurst event! (Check out the Sydney Mardi Gras website for date and details).

The annual Parade draws more than 400,000 onlookers and is always fun to watch ... but get there early and take a milk crate to stand on so you can see the action over the crowds!

Expect to be shocked or surprised (see photo below) and look out for things political. Russian President Vladimir Putin was in the hot seat in the 2014 Parade - as you'll see here.