This post was originally published in 2015 but was update din 2018 when we’ve added even more insider tips for fun things to do in Sydney.

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The large sprawling cosmopolitan city of Sydney lures millions to its culture seeped neighbourhoods, enchanting harbour, pristine beaches, and a buzzing food and entertainment scene. Whether you come to Sydney for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months, you’ll struggle to explore all the amazing sights and fun things to do in Sydney.

The locals rave about Sydney’s vibrant lifestyle, the glitz and glamour of nightlife and entertainment perfectly contrasted by the natural backdrop of national parks and a picturesque coastline. Sydney has it all, but if you stick to the touristy areas, you’ll barely scratch the surface of what makes Sydney one of the greatest cities on earth.

So go beyond Sydney’s major sights and attractions and follow the locals’ tips for visiting Australia’s largest city.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Sydney boasts some amazing nature and scenery which makes it perfect for those who love the outdoors. If you’re looking for some fun things to do in Sydney that get you out and about, then you have plenty to choose from.

Walk the Famous Bondi to Coogee Walk

This 6 km walk along Sydney’s beautiful coastline is a favourite with locals and visitors. It features stunning views, great beaches, national parks, cliffs, bays and rock pools. The walk takes about 2 hours to complete, but with all the photo ops and activities along the way, it can easily be a full day adventure.

local tips for Sydney, Bondi to Coogee Walk
Stunning scenery along the Bondi to Coogee Walk. Photo by Isabell Schulz via Flickr CC

Walk from Spit to Manly

Experience the diversity of Sydney Harbour Bays on one of the great walking tracks located in the Northern part of the city. The Spit to Manly walk is 10 km, taking a minimum of 3 hours to complete. There are a variety of things to see and do along the way, from swimming to whale watching.

Visit Cockatoo Island

One of the top places to visit in Sydney is Cockatoo Island. Head to the island for a day, or choose to stay overnight and take in the islands maritime or convict history. Explore the abandoned shipyards, WWII structures that date back to the mid-1800s when the island operated as a convict penal establishment. Plus there are music events, art exhibits, historic walks, and plenty of outdoor activities to choose from.

Local tips for Sydney, Cockatoo Island
The eerie beauty of the abandoned shipyard on Cockatoo Island. Photo by Nicki Mannix via Flickr CC

Discover Bare Island

This island made popular by the Bare Island Fort, (opened only on Sundays) is a great spot for some fun activities in Sydney. The island offers much more than just a visit to the fort, there is also 12km bush walk that takes you the whole way around the headland. It’s also a popular place for fishing and snorkelling/scuba diving. In fact, the water surrounding Bare Island Fort is one of the most popular scuba diving sites in NSW.

Hit the Beaches

When you are on the lookout for fun things to do in Sydney, your search will naturally take you to the beaches. Many of the activities in Sydney revolve around beach-life, and it really should come as no surprise since there are over 100 beaches! There are countless beach activities in Sydney, including many organised tours!

Relax and Take in the Views on Balmoral Beach

Touted as one of the top places to go in Sydney, Balmoral Beach is a favourite with the locals. Known for the stretch of white sand, calm sheltered waters, it is considered one of the best beaches in Sydney.

Spend your time catching the rays, paddle boarding, or simply sit and relax on Rocky Point watching the ferries in the harbour.

Local tips for Sydney, Balmoral beach
Balmoral Beach. Photo by Phil Whitehouse via Flickr CC

Get Away From the Crowds at Whale Beach

If you are looking for more secluded places to go in Sydney, then a trip to Whale Beach is recommended. Adored by the locals, this is a beautiful little beach with lots of space, great surfing, markets, shops, and more. It’s ways away from the city, but so worth the trip!

Outsmart the Tourists on Bondi

We know, you can’t miss Bondi, while you are in Sydney. Bondi Beach is on every list of fun things to do in Sydney, which does mean it is very touristy. But we do have some great local tips for avoiding the crowds. 

Head up to the North Bondi grassy knoll for a patch of grass, wonderful views, and maybe even few drinks up on the hill. Keep it cool and you can usually get away with some beers in the sun on the typically “no alcohol allowed” Bondi Beach.

local tips for sydney, bondi beach
Perfect picnic spot, on the grassy knolls along Bondi beach. Photo by daytrippinlaura via Flickr CC

If you don’t want to look like a tourist and blend in with the locals, then there is one activity you’ll need to get the hang of… Surfing!

Surfing is also one of the hugely popular activities in Sydney. If you want to experience Bondi beach like a real local but don’t have the skills, then take a 2-hour surf lesson for beginners. You’ll be catching waves on Bondi Beach in no time!

Immerse Yourself in Sydney’s Multicultural Food Scene

Here are just a few notable local favourites that are might not make it into the fancy guidebooks.

Best Dumplings at Chinese Noodle House in Haymarket

Haymarket is home to Chinatown so there’s plenty of Asian options to choose from in the area, but with a 4.0 Tripadvisor rating, the Chinese Noodle House is arguably the best dumpling place in Sydney. Ridiculously cheap, super quick service, and BYO. Get the fried dumplings and braised eggplant. Delicious!

Best Yum Cha at the Marigold in Haymarket

One of the bigger and better Yum Cha places to go in Sydney, the Marigold, has been a fixture in Sydney’s food scene for over 30 years. Come for lunch, sip some tea with a wide assortment of savoury and sweet dim sum.

Thai Infusion at Ms G’s in Potts Point

Ms G’s is a great spot for amazing Asian inspired dishes. Behind the neon pink door are four levels of dining, communal tables and a veggie garden courtyard. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so put your name down on the waiting list and head up to Kings Kross Hotel for some drinks while you wait.

Local tips for Sydney, Kings Cross Hotel
Enjoy a yummy cocktail at Kings Cross Hotel rooftop bar. Photo courtesy of Kings Cross Hotel

Great Mexican at El Loco in Surry Hills

El Loco is a cool Mexican bar with a laid back vibe and super cheap tacos. It’s one of the top Sydney places to visit on Friday’s and Saturday’s when they offer tacos, tequilas, and table dancing.

Burgers and Beers at Mary’s in Newtown

A good neighbourhood bar and a great burger joint. If you are looking for fun things to do in Sydney in the evenings, check out Mary’s. As well as the best burgers in the city, they also have great beers, live music and a buzzing atmosphere.

Local tips for Sydney, Mary's Burger Bar
Burger, beer and more at Mary’s! Photo courtesy of Mary’s Newtown

Best Gelato at Messina

For those of you with a sweet tooth, one of the best places to go in Sydney to satisfy your sugar cravings is Messina. Locals claim Messina is home to the best gelato in Australia! It’s cheap, offers amazing flavours, and a fully customizable menu.

Locals tips for Sydney
Have a sweet time checking out the flavours at Messina Gelato. Photo by Jason Tong via Flickr CC

Local Produce at Bondi Food Markets in North Bondi

One of our favourite fun things to do in Sydney is a wander around the Bondi food markets. Opened only on Saturdays from 9am until 1pm, this is a place to find great local produce, food and entertainment. The markets offer a quintessential Sydney experience and a relaxing, pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning in Sydney.

They also offer an opportunity to buy directly from small artisans, helping support their unique products and brands.

Let the Days Roll Into Nights at the Local Hot Spots

Sydney during the day is great, sure, but the city comes alive as the sun goes down. The locals have plenty to share when it comes to evening activities in Sydney.

Prime Location and Great Vibe at the Bucket List Bar

Head to the Bucket List Bar to mingle with the good looking crowd on a perfect Bondi Beach location, with a great vibe and some good tunes.

Catch a Sunset at Pavilion in Coogee

The Pavilion is one of those perfect Sydney places to visit with the girls (or the guys!) Kick up your feet, grab a cocktail and join one of the best Sunday Sessions in town at the Coogee Pavilion.

local tips for Sydney
Coogee Pavilion rooftop bar gives great views over Coogee. Photo courtesy of Coogee Pavilion

Catch the Games at The Golden Sheaf in Double Bay

Australia is a nation of sports lovers and catching a game is definitely top of the locals’ lists of what to see in Sydney. Enjoy the lively atmosphere at The Golden Sheaf, locally known as one of the best spots to catch the NRL, AFL and especially Rugby Union games. It’s always a good time!

Enjoy the View the Glenmore Hotel at the Rocks

The rooftop bar at the Glenmore Hotel is one of the most impressive places to go in Sydney. It offers 180 degree views of Sydney Harbour and CBD, a great cocktail menu and a good atmosphere. Opened all year round, the Glenmore Hotel is a constant favourite for locals and visitors alike.

Local tips for Sydney, Glenmore Hotel, Sydney. Australia
Glenmore Hotel, Sydney. Photo by Michael Coghlan via Flickr CC

Discover the Hidden Whiskey Bar in the City

This truly is a hidden gem! Baxter’s Inn is a proper speakeasy whiskey bar right in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. It’s small, it’s cool, with a classic vibe and a dash of quirky. Certainly one of the more unique Sydney places to visit. If you love whiskey, you’ll love this place!

Rum is the Spirit of Choice at the Lobo Plantation

The cocktails at Lobo Plantation are not cheap, but the chilled out atmosphere, ambient music, and a dark lit Havana like decor is all too alluring to resist.

Best Cocktails at Sydney’s Cutest Afterdark Hangout

Don’t be fooled by the checkered floors and 50s diner decor of Hinky Dinks, when it comes to cocktails, this funky little bar on Darlinghurst Road can definitely deliver. The locals call it one of the best cocktail bars in town. Add it to the list of fun things to do in Sydney!

Hinky Dinks, Sydney. Australia
Hinky Dinks, Sydney. Photo credit: hinkydinks.com.au

Activities in Sydney for the Culture Vultures

S.A.S.H Sundays in Darling Harbour

Overlooking the Darling Harbour, SASH brings proper house music and fun to Sydney every Sunday afternoon. Partying on Friday and Saturday nights is sooo last year!

Catch a Flick at St George Open Air Cinema

If you are visiting Sydney in the summer months, then you’ll have plenty of fun things to do in Sydney, one of the best being the Westpac Open Air Cinema.  

Each summer more than 60 000 Sydneysiders and visitors flock to the Sydney Harbour for good food, fine wine and the latest film screened against the backdrop of Sydney’s city skyline. Tickets normally sell out within a few hours so get in if you get a chance.

Watch the Fireworks at Darling Harbour

It doesn’t have to be a special celebration to enjoy fireworks in Sydney. Every Saturday at 9pm crowds gather in Darling Harbour to watch the amazing fireworks light up the sky. It one of the best free and fun things to do in Sydney!

Darling Harbour Fireworks, Sydney. Australia. Photo credit: Nigel Howe via Flickr CC
Darling Harbour Fireworks, Sydney. Photo credit: Nigel Howe via Flickr CC

Experience Sydney Like a Local

Huge thanks to a few of our wonderful friends from Sydney for contributing to this amazing list of locals’ tips for fun things to do in Sydney. No matter how many times we have visited this fantastic city, we could never have gathered enough experience to write a post like this on our own!

BEFORE YOU GO: Don’t forget travel insurance!

We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance, especially in a country like Australia. Whether you just plan to explore the cities, do a little bit of hiking, or go extreme (think surfing, scuba diving, or ever skydiving), being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind.We learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way and now we never travel without coverage.

Get a quote through our recommended insurance provider, World Nomads.

 

Are you a Sydney local? Do you have any other great activities in Sydney to add to the list?

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