Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in New South Wales
Few sights are as instantly recognizable as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the grand centerpiece of Sydney Harbour and one of Australia's most photographed landmarks. The historic structure dates to 1932 and is the world's largest steel arch bridge. It's also an important transport hub, linking downtown Sydney with the north shore, Manly, and the area's northern beaches.
With the iconic silhouette of Sydney Opera House and the dramatic arch of Sydney Harbour Bridge etched against a backdrop of glittering ocean and soaring skyscrapers, Sydney Harbour is Australia’s quintessential postcard image. The harbor, the natural heart of Sydney, features more than 150 miles (240 kilometers) lined with golden beaches, lush gardens, and vibrant neighborhoods.
A world-class performing arts venue and iconic Australian landmark, the Sydney Opera House—with its distinctive Jorn Utzon design—defines the Sydney Harbour district. Distinguished by soaring halls with a white ceramic–tiled exterior shaped to evoke the sails of a yacht, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see Sydney attraction and popular stop on most city tours.
Situated at the heart of Australia’s Blue Mountains UNESCO World Heritage Site, Scenic World offers the rare chance to explore the mountains from all angles. Ride overhead in a cable car, hike along the valley floor, ride a train through mountain tunnels, and discover some of the most impressive scenery in Blue Mountains National Park.
Australia is home to some of the world's most fearsome and fascinating wildlife, and at Featherdale Wildlife Park outside Sydney, visitors can meet over 1,700 of the country's colorful critters. Discover how echidnas are mammals (yet lay eggs); learn about the saltwater crocodiles that can grow to well over 2,000 pounds; admire the plumage of native birds such as brolgas, emus, and bustards; and view a collection of some of the world's most venomous snakes.
Guided feeding sessions are immensely popular at the park, with animal food available for purchase throughout the park for $2 and Featherdale staff members on hand to assist guests in feeding the kangaroos, wallabies, and pademelons. Guides also provide additional information about how the park is involved in conservation, highlighting the work done to reintroduce endangered species into the Australian wild and the park's ongoing research into some of Australia's most intriguing yet lesser-known species.
Although not offered by Viator, Featherdale also offers private animal encounters with a trainer for an additional fee (starting at $149), as well as personal koala encounters (starting at $20), during which travelers can pet and have their photo taken with the mammal. Guests are not allowed to hold koalas in accordance with New South Wales law.
The Three Sisters is an ancient rock formation located in the Blue Mountains National Park in the town of Katoomba. The towering trio of stone has a mythical dimension in the Aboriginal Dreamtime legend about three sisters who lived in the Jamison Valley and fell in love with three brothers from a rival tribe whom they were forbidden to marry.
As Australia’s most famous beach—and the star of its own reality TV show, “Bondi Rescue”—Bondi Beach delivers with its crescent of golden sand, crashing waves, and crowds of bronzed sunseekers. Just minutes from downtown Sydney, this is the spot to work on your tan, hit the waves, sip cocktails at a beachside bar, or hike along coastal cliffs.
Located in central Sydney, the historic precinct of the Rocks is the oldest area in the city and the site of the first European settlement. Full of history and character, today the Rocks is home to fashionable boutiques, artisan markets, historic pubs, trendy restaurants, and a thriving arts and culture scene.
Paddington is an upmarket suburb of eastern central Sydney that’s famous for its heritage terraced houses with attractive wrought-iron balconies and fences, as well as boutiques and fine dining. The Saturday Paddington Markets stretch along the main road, Oxford Street, and are a popular place to find local arts, crafts, and fashion.
Perched high on the sea cliffs at the edge of Cape Byron—Australia’s easternmost point—the Cape Byron Lighthouse has been guarding the rocky shores of the Pacific since 1901. One of Byron Bay’s most memorable landmarks, the lighthouse affords panoramic views along the coast and is home to a Maritime Museum.
More Things to Do in New South Wales
One of Sydney’s top attractions, Darling Harbour boasts fine-dining restaurants, a shopping center, one of the largest IMAX cinema screens in the world, and two entertainment staples for families: SEA LIFE® Sydney and WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo. Extend your visit into the evening to view the city lights reflected on the water.
Positioned on a headland in The Domain park, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is a sandstone bench offering spectacular Sydney Harbour views. Hand-carved by convicts in 1810 as a viewpoint for the then Governor’s wife—Mrs Elizabeth Macquarie—it now features on most Sydney visitor bucket lists.
The SEA LIFE® Sydney Aquarium encapsulates the diversity of Australia’s aquatic life. Wander exhibits that showcase everything from saltwater crocs and Southern Ocean penguins to turtles from the Great Barrier Reef and jellyfish. Plus, its prime Darling Harbour location lets you combine the aquarium with other family-friendly stops.
Perched on the edge of Sydney Harbour and backed by the sleek skyscrapers of the city’s central business district, Circular Quay is the scenic gateway to Manly Beach, Taronga Zoo, and Watson’s Bay. From this transportation hub—from which ferries depart every few minutes—you can enjoy unobstructed views of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.
With sun-blushed golden sands, surf-worthy waves, and a backdrop of forested hills; Main Beach is Byron Bay’s flagship beach. Stretching along the town’s seafront promenade, it’s a favorite among locals and draws sunseekers from all around the country to swim, surf, and scuba dive.
Stretching along the coast of Sydney Harbour against a backdrop of the Sydney Opera House, Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden and neighboring park, The Domain, offer spectacular views and beautiful scenery. This inner-city oasis boasts exotic plants, a tropical rain forest, woodland, flowers, and rare horticultural exhibits.
The lively suburb of Manly is one of Sydney’s most vibrant seaside areas and a popular destination for surfers from across the globe. Visit Manly Beach to enjoy the golden sand, catch world-class waves, and shop and eat along the lively Corso promenade, which is lined with cafes and restaurants.
Watson’s Bay is a Sydney suburb that forms the eastern edge of Sydney Harbour. It claims to be Australia’s oldest fishing village, and is still a popular place to dine on seafood. With city views, white-sand beaches, coastal walks, parks, and plenty of restaurants and boutiques, Watsons Bay appeals to all kinds of travelers.
Anyone who’s seen a picture of the Blue Mountains should recognize Echo Point. Famous for its view of the Three Sisters, this sweeping viewpoint on the outskirts of Katoomba defines the Blue Mountains’ beauty. From this cliff top ledge, the jagged escarpment vertically drops towards the distant valley floor—a void where clouds can linger in the treetops nearly a thousand feet below.
Take a deep breath and drink in the beauty of the Blue Mountains’ southern flank, and then consider walking the “Giant Stairway” that drops down into the valley. Over 800 stairs that are carved from the mountain descend 1,000 vertical feet, where numerous hiking trails weave their way along the forested valley floor. Climbing the walls of the “Ruined Castle” is a popular valley hike, and is a good way to escape the crowds that tend to gather at the viewpoint. Rather than hiking back up the stairs, take a ride on the “Scenic Railway” that leads back to the top of the cliff. At inclines of up to 60° it’s considered the world’s steepest railway, and drops passengers at Scenic World—a short walk from Echo Point Lookout.
What is now a popular destination for history buffs once served as a defense facility that kept watch over the bay. Fort Denison Island, located northeast of the Royal Botanic Gardens, was where some of the most gruesome acts against convicted felons took place.
Today, travelers can wander the grounds of this recently restored island and see the gibbet where criminals were hanged. Explore the fort built to protect the island from invaders and climb the historic Martello Tower, the only one of its kind in the country. The island is home to an informative museum, as well as a number of landmarks that illustrate its dark and violent past.
Please note: Fort Denison is currently closed for maintenance. The reopening is scheduled for late 2021.
The Blue Mountains National Park, part of the Greater But Mountains World Heritage Area, is one of Australia’s most visited national parks and makes an easy day trip from Sydney. The park has over 80 miles (140 kilometers) of walking trails, protected Aboriginal sites for visitors to admire, and camping. It’s also home to Echo Point where the famous Three Sisters rock formation sits.
As Sydney’s tallest structure, the Sydney Tower Eye is an integral part of the city’s skyline. At twice the height of Sydney Harbour Bridge, the 1,000-foot-high (309-meter) tower provides panoramic views that take in the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach; on a clear day, you can even see as far as the Blue Mountains.
Katoomba is one of the most visited towns in the Blue Mountains. Home to Echo Point, where visitors can see the Three Sisters rock formation and Scenic World, Katoomba offers ample attractions and activities to delight all kinds of travelers. While it maintains a small-town feel, it’s home to a large selection of accommodations, dining options, and shopping in the center of town.
To the east, and within walking distance, of Byron Bay’s town center and main beach, the picturesque, sheltered Wategos Beach is a popular spot for surfing, swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, and making use of the numerous beachside picnic tables and barbecues. A visit to Wategos Beach promises a relaxing time and excellent scenery.
- Things to do in Sydney
- Things to do in Byron Bay
- Things to do in Port Stephens
- Things to do in Hunter Valley
- Things to do in Victoria
- Things to do in Queensland
- Things to do in Tasmania
- Things to do in Gold Coast
- Things to do in Noosa & Sunshine Coast
- Things to do in Hervey Bay
- Things to do in Yarra Valley
- Things to do in South Australia
- Things to do in South Island
- Things to do in North Island
- Things to do in Northern Territory