Things to Do in Sydney - page 3
Opened in 1826, Sydney’s State Library of New South Wales is the oldest library in Australia and a repository for a huge and diverse collection of books. The iconic building is also home to over 1 million photos, maps and manuscripts. Architecturally grand from the outside, inside is modern, bright and attractive, and the Mitchell Library looks straight out of a movie with its book-lined walls.
The library also has five historic galleries in the Mitchell Wing which host both permanent and temporary free exhibitions — from collections of 18th-century Australian natural history illustrations to the diaries of Australian men and women writing in WWI.
Next to Parliament House and the Royal Botanic Gardens on Macquarie Street, the State Library of New South Wales also has its own book club. And on a regular basis there are also talks on literary, historical, and contemporary issues. Film screenings and workshops are often held at the library too.
You can also get to know the library better on one of its tours — there’s an introductory one if you want to get to know the services and resources, and there are also regular history and heritage tours. In the verandah and reading rooms are express computers that can be used for up to half an hour without a library card. There’s also free wifi available throughout the library, and, as well as having an onsite bookstore and gift shop, the library has its own cafe, Cafe Trim where you can pick up coffee and cake or a sandwich.
The Sydney Observatory is part of the Sydney Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Built in 1858, the observatory is one of the most important places in Australian scientific history. Visitors can check out exhibits related to astronomy, meteorology, and timekeeping, as well as the planetarium and the oldest working telescope in Australia.
Double Bay is the meeting point of Sydney’s prominence–an exclusive shopping district with a European flair full of designer boutiques, jewelers, waterfront properties and world-class restaurants surrounded by Sydney Harbour itself. Here, you will find open parks, stately mansions, tree-lined boulevards and plenty of spots to relax.
Within the beautiful surroundings of Guilfoyle Park, Double Bay also hosts Sydney’s most popular organic food market, which is open every Thursday. If you are in the mood for a little bit of glitzy dining, be sure to check out Bay Street with its plethora of fancy bars, including the ever famous Mrs. Sippy. Of course, you can’t leave Double Bay without spending a couple hours soaking in the sun at the idyllic Redleaf Beach and enjoying a swim in Redleaf Pool.
Though people see Double Bay primarily as a shopping and café district, it is also home to the Double Bay Street Festival, which regularly draws well over 60,000 people.
This rocky 13-hectare island in the heart of Port Jackson is as rich in history as it is in sandstone. Once home to an explosives store and later a convict stockade, Goat Island has housed the Sydney Water Police and even served as a film set. What originally served as a destination for some of the nation’s biggest criminals (who were forced to labor in the massive quarries), is now part of Sydney Harbour National Park.
Popular walking tours guide travelers around this much-storied island, with stops at the Queens powder magazine (where ammunition was once stored) and at the old convict quarry and sleeping quarters. Learn about life on Goat Island, the punishments endured by prisoners and their attempts to escape.
Sydney’s Parliament House is a complex of buildings that has housed the Parliament of New South Wales since 1829. Listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register, the site consists of the north wing of the Rum Hospital building (which was built in 1816 as part of the country’s first hospital) flanked by two Neo-gothic buildings.
In 2000, Sydney Olympic Park hosted athletes from around the world, all of whom arrived hungry for gold. And while these games are now more than a decade behind us, this world-class facility still draws travelers and locals looking to experience the Olympic spirit.
The park is made up of several venues like ANZ Stadium, Sydney Showground, Athletic Centre, Aquatic Centre and Sports Centre.
At the park, visitors can wander through the scenic stretches of well-kept boardwalk that winds through protected wetlands or settle the score in a match at the world-class tennis center. Bikes and Segways are available for hire, which makes exploring the grounds just a little more manageable. The Urban Jungle Adventure Park, with its high ropes course, is a popular stop for families and thrill-seekers, and weekend archery clinics help travelers hit the bull’s-eye. Travelers can explore the park solo or hire a guide for an in-depth Olympic experience.
Be it surfers on the beaches, the discovery of Australia via the sea route from Europe or the subsequent commerce and immigration—Australia is closely tied to water. The Australian National Maritime Museum acts accordingly in featuring rich exhibitions ranging from the time of the Eora First People to the First Fleet all the way to the present. Visitors learn how convicts traveled in dark and damp accommodations and how passengers sailing to a new life survived long ocean journeys through reconstructed stories made up of artifacts and mementos left behind.
Those interested in military history can make their way to the Navy exhibit, which explores naval traditions during war and peace times. Here, visitors get the chance to test a submarine’s periscope and try out a soldier’s cramped bunk bed. The museum even has its own fleet, with many of the vessels accessible via guided tour. Anchored in the harbor are a warship, the destroyer HMAS Vampire, a submarine and an exact replica of the HMB Endeavour, the ship with which James Cook reached Australia in 1770, among others. The submarine was decommissioned only in 1999 and is still in close to operational condition. Its diving alarm often gives visitors quite a fright.
The largest working fish market in the Southern Hemisphere, Sydney Fish Market (SFM) rivals some of Japan’s biggest fish markets. Vendors sell approximately 52 tons of seafood per day, and the market is also home to some of the best fish restaurants and retailers in New South Wales.
Sumptuously decorated and timelessly elegant, central Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building is an unforgettable shopping destination. Built in High Victorian Romanesque style in 1898, and now meticulously restored, it stands on the site of the original Sydney markets.
The QVB's soaring central dome boasts translucent stained-glass clad in copper on the outside, and the shopping area takes up several balconied floors linked by grand staircases. Tiled floors, pillars, colonnades, balustrades, and arches. Chiming clocks and interesting historical displays complete the QVB’s flamboyant decor.
Originally the shops included tailors and florists; today there’s a wide range of specialist stores, from stationers to couturiers, cafes and coffee shops.
Life in Sydney isn’t all about the beach and surfing, but about culture as well. Located inside the walls of a majestic building from 1788, the former residence of Gov. Arthur Phillip, the Museum of Sydney informs visitors about the history of New South Wales’ capital in an entertaining way. The collection displays archaeological finds, utensils from the everyday life of the Aborigines and the first settlers, as well as documents and pictures about the development of Sydney to Australia’s largest city.
Multimedia presentations and computer animations bring the history of the former penal colony to life, and although the museum mostly informs guests about the city’s history, it also takes a critical look at the clash of cultures that happened between the Aborigines and European immigrants.
The museum's location in itself is deeply symbolic. It was here that in 1788, the Cadigal, a group of Aborigines inhabiting the area, and the English first encountered each other. The sculptures in front of the museum, called the “Edge of Trees,” accordingly symbolize the Cadigal looking on from the edge of the trees as Arthur Philip’s fleet anchored in the Bay of Sydney and hoisted the Union Jack to formally found the first British colony on Australian ground.
More Things to Do in Sydney
Just south of Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach, Bronte Beach offers all the appeal of its neighbor—golden sands, surf-worthy waves, and scores of sun-bronzed holidaymakers—but its smaller size and lighter traffic make it a local favorite. Head here to enjoy a beachside barbecue in Bronte Park, paddle in the rock pools, or put your surf skills to the test.
With two locations in the heart of Sydney, Paddy’s Market is quickly becoming a must-visit for visitors to Sydney.
Flemington Paddy’s Market is the place to go for local produce. If you’re after some of the best fruit and veggies in Sydney then visit the Flemington location. As well as Paddy’s Market, there’s a flower market in the area. Visit on the weekend to see Sydney’s Paddy’s Market come alive with clothes, gifts and souvenirs vendors, as well as a Swap and Sell Market selling second hand goods.
The Haymarket location is the one most people think of when they think of Paddy’s. The Haymarket market near Chinatown has a flea market vibe with clothes, souvenirs, some produce, jewellery, flowers and more. Haymarket Paddy’s is easier to get to, plus it has the added benefit of being next to some of Sydney’s best Chinese restaurants.
Travelers love Milsons Point because of the uninterrupted views of Harbour Bridge and the iconic Opera House. During hot summer nights, locals gather on this tiny peninsula in Sydney Harbour opposite Sydney Cove and watch the sun dip down over the central business district skyline. This quiet spot has become a destination for those looking to capture a perfect picture of the city.
When day turns to night, young couples can be found holding hands as they stroll along the neon-lit midway of nearby Luna Park. The low-key crowd will appreciate the well-manicured suburbs of the north shore that are ripe with quiet cafes, continental restaurants and plenty of friendly locals.
If you’re visiting Sydney and watching the sunset while standing out on the sand, then you must be standing on Shelly Beach—the only westward facing beach on Australia’s eastern coast.
Located south of popular Manly, Shelly Beach is a smaller and quieter place to soak up some sun. The waters here in Cabbage Tree Bay are part of a protected reserve, where a small reef creates calm conditions for snorkeling, swimming, and diving. Over 150 species of marine life inhabit Cabbage Tree Bay—and the shallow waters of 30 feet or less means there’s actually a good chance of finding them.
On Shelley’s western end, out towards the reef, watch as surfers rip apart waves at the surf spot known as “Bower’s,” and even when the waves are overhead, Shelley Beach is still protected when compared to east-facing Manly. On the short stroll from Manly to Shelly, stop to admire the Fairy Bower pool that juts out into the sea, or grab a bite at Le Kiosk restaurant across the street from the sand. Above the beach, on the rocky headland, a small bush trail leads to a viewpoint gazing back towards Manly, where the pine-lined shore and golden sands combine to form one of Sydney’s most classic coastal scenes.
Known to locals as “the Royal” or “the Nasho,” Australia’s Royal National Park has been a favorite nature escape for Sydney locals since 1879—and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its diverse landscapes range from eucalyptus forests and ancient sandstone cliffs to wildlife-rich wetlands and sandy beaches beckoning for a swim.
Spread out over four spacious floors, Sydney's trendsetting White Rabbit Gallery is the largest collection of Chinese contemporary art found outside of China. Privately owned by Judith Neilson, the gallery features work from hundreds of artists and completely changes every six months to feature a new collection.
The White Rabbit Gallery styles its exhibitions from over 2,000 pieces of modern art personally sourced by Neilson on trips to China and Taiwan. Thought provoking and visually fierce, the featured art has included everything from paintings and sculptures to calligraphy, photography, and games. Opened in 2009, the White Rabbit Gallery as become a fixture in Sydney's art scene and is a popular stop on private art tours in the city.
Located in the suburb of Vaucluse in eastern Sydney, Nielson Park is a popular attraction in the larger Sydney Harbour National Park. Its tree-lined shores are perfect for spending an afternoon soaking up sun and dipping toes into the surf or picnicking with friends. The netted swimming pool and food kiosk add to this beach’s appeal, but travelers should note thatNielsonPark is popular among the family set, which means the sandy shores are rarely quiet and always filled with energetic kids.
Vaucluse has always been a neighborhood for the wealthy. Wonderful yet outrageously expensive villas, lovingly restored from the colonial era, stand together and increase in cost as the beauty of the view and location increases too. To gain insight into the life of Sydney's former high society, visit the Vaucluse House, a villa surrounded by a landscaped garden and wooded grounds. It was built in 1803 in the Gothic Revival style, with small turrets and battlements that make it look more like a castle than a house.
The Vaucluse House once belonged to ex-convict Sir Thomas Henry Browne Hayes, who got shipped off to Australia for abducting a banker’s daughter and built this estate. It also once served as the residence of writer, explorer and politician William Charles Wentworth, who is known as the first person to climb the Blue Mountains and who restored this former cottage to the mansion it is today.
The house offers everything you’d expect from a manor home—antique furniture, an extensive drawing room, lots of bedrooms, staff quarters, stables and a huge garden. The gardens are often used for wedding receptions and are an ideal place for a stroll. On top of that, the Vaucluse House also serves as a teahouse, where visitors can settle for a refreshment and enjoy the tranquility.
Forget the urban, corporate bustle of Sydney’s CBD, and escape to the artsy, brick alleyways of the nearby Newtown suburb. Once a rough and tumble area to the south of downtown Sydney, the gentrified suburb has been completely revitalized as an outpost of foodies and shoppers. When walking the streets of funky Newtown—which are often speckled with graffiti—browse through trendy shopping boutiques or hip little corner cafés. Enjoy live music at the dozens of pubs and theaters scattered across town, and absorb the eclectic, creative vibes of this bohemian Sydney suburb. On King Street, vintage bookshops and music stores ironically sit next to antique shops, and the alternative, grunge, counterculture collective makes for some of the city’s best people watching. From here, it’s only a short drive to Sydney’s beaches or the lights of Darling Harbor, but given Newtown’s creative grit and casual sense of refinement, there’s an indie sense of disconnect from the Sydney most travelers know.
Home to some of Sydney’s best shopping, Oxford Street is an edgy thoroughfare that runs east from Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD) toward Bondi Junction. Lined with trendy shops and boutiques, it has become a central hub of Sydney’s late-night club scene, as well as the unofficial center of Sydney’s LGBT community.
In addition to the Bridge Climb, there is a cheap alternative to get the famous view from the top of town on the Sydney Harbour Bridge–the Pylon Lookout. The bridge walkway leads to the South East Pylon and to the entrance of the lookout, from where 200 steps lead up to the viewing platform located 285 feet (87 meters) above sea level.
From here enjoy fantastic panorama views of the Opera House, Circular Quay and the two arches of the Harbour Bridge. You'll also be able to observe the daring bridge climbers.
The Pylon Lookout doesn't only consist of the viewing platform though, but is made up of three levels of exhibits. A visit to the small museum located inside the Pylon is included in an admission ticket and includes information about the history and construction of the bridge, including the dangerous working conditions of the riveters, stonemasons and riggers who constructed it. Hear incredible stories, such as the tale of a worker who survived a fall from the bridge, and watch a film that features the building process and artifacts that were crucial to the accurate construction of one of Australia’s most famous icons.
Since 1879, the Powerhouse Museum has served as the main attraction for Sydney's Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Its impressive halls are filled with all things technological—from science and communication to transport and computers—even massive steam engines.
Jam-packed with more than 400,000 artifacts, this Sydney staple has become a destination for train lovers, engineers, computer nerds, scientists, and the curious. While the permanent collection is pretty incredible on its own, popular temporary exhibitions, such as those that have showcasedStar Trek,The Lord of the Rings, Fabergé and even singer Kylie Minogue, keep this classic museum contemporary and up to date.
Please note the museum is undergoing a staged closure from June 2020, and will be closing fully in June 2021 to relocate to a different Sydney location.
Extending out of Sydney Harbour’s north shore, Bradleys Head overlooks many of the sights of Sydney, and visitors flock here for views of the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Fort Denison. Many will come and linger with a picnic or a fishing spot, or take off on one of the many hiking trails. The popular Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk grants even better views of the bay, with the option to continue a longer walk onto the Split Bridge track.
The mast of the HMAS Sydney, a ship of the Royal Australian Navy that fought naval battles in World War I, is mounted on the headland as a memorial. Cannons left over from past defenses still stand, and the Athol Hall that once served soldiers their meals now operates as a modern cafe. Bradleys Head is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park, and offers a new perspective of the city.
Camp Cove is a small golden beach popular with swimmers and families. As the turquoise bay is for the most part protected from surf and winds, it is often completely calm. Often less crowded than other nearby Sydney beaches, it is considered a bit of hidden gem by locals. Indigenous rock carvings made by Aboriginals of whales and fish can still be viewed on the rocks lining the beach. Officers of the First Fleet frequently visited Camp Cove as well.
Just sitting on the beach allows for a great vantage point of the surrounding sea and Sydney skyline. Boats docked just off shore dot the coastline. Furthermore, the calm conditions provide an opportunity to easily view the natural wildlife. Fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving from the shore is common.
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