Sydney is one of the most popular stops for round the world travellers or gap year explorers and there is much to do in this great city. From Sydney’s iconic landmarks and green spaces to shopping and beaches, you’ll always be busy here.
- 1. Taronga Zoo
- 2. Cheap Tuesdays
- 3. Sydney Aquarium
- 4. Pancakes On The Rocks
- 5. Check out the beaches
- 6. Max Brenners
- 7. Take a Ferry
- 8. Eat Sushi!
- 9. FREE – Sculpture by The Sea Exhibition
- 10. Great Bars for Backpackers!
- 11. FREE – Get Fit for FREE
- 12. FREE – Galleries & Museums
- 13. FREE – The Royal Botanic Gardens
- 14. Shopping in Sydney
- 15. Go to a Festival
1. Taronga Zoo
Have an unforgettable day out in Sydney’s top major attraction, Taronga Zoo, home to around 340 species and over 2500 individual and fascinating animals. Only 12 minutes from the city by ferry with breathtaking views across Sydney, from the Harbour Bridge to the Opera House and free shows and keeper talks throughout the day.
With splashing seal shows, elephant soccer and memorable animal encounters, you don’t need to be a kid to walk away from Taronga Zoo with a huge smile on your face!
2. Cheap Tuesdays
Make Tuesdays the new Thursdays in Sydney and take advantage of heaps of great offers that won’t break your backpacker bank balance. Tuesdays in Sydney offer BOGOF’s and plenty of discounted rates, from 30 per cent off cinema tickets at most Event Cinemas to Happy hour drinks in numerous bars across the city.
Go to Helm Bar in Darling Harbour for Cocktail Tuesday which offers $7 cocktails from 12.00pm onwards and $10 steaks or head to The Kings Cross Hotel for $4 beers and $4 burgers all night. Whoever said staying in was the new going out clearly hadn’t had a night out in Sydney on a school night!
3. Sydney Aquarium
Discover the world’s largest collection of all-Australian aquatic life at Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour. At Sydney Aquarium, underwater viewing tunnels allow you to witness close ups of Australia’s spectacular sea creatures including giant turtles, catfish and a variety of reef sharks.
If this isn’t close enough to the sharks for you, step on to the ‘Shark Explorer’ glass-bottom boat for an unforgettable experience where you will have the opportunity to feed huge grey nurse sharks, lemon sharks and more! Visit two of only six dugongs on display in the world in the Mermaid Lagoon and take a mesmerising journey alongside the colourful species that live in and around Sydney Aquariums stunning Great Barrier Reef. An exciting and engaging day out for any backpacker, whether flying solo or in a group.
4. Pancakes On The Rocks
For pancakes that are bigger than your face visit Pancakes on the Rocks, gold award-winner for best casual dining restaurant from 2003-2009. Famous for their fantastic pancakes, order the ‘Strawberry Patch’ or ‘Devils Delight’ (every chocoholics dream) or simply their traditional ‘short stack’ buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, which are equally impressive.
Also established as Sydney’s favourite destination for pizza’s, salads, crepes and ribs, if it’s a savoury treat over something sweet that you’re after, Pancakes on The Rocks has something on their menu to suit everyone.
5. Check out the beaches
No trip to Sydney is complete without a day spent at the beach so get ready to Slip-Slop-Slap! Sydney hosts a number of beaches, with Bondi being the most famous of them all, attracting thousands of backpackers each year. (Although some say it’s a bit like Paris Hilton; famous for being famous and everybody has laid on it!).
If you’re going to be in Sydney for a while it’s also worth venturing a little further out from the city and visiting the stunning Northern Beaches, including Mona Vale, Newport and the famous Palm Beach (where Aussie Soap Opera Home & Away is filmed). Surf, swim, walk or simply enjoy relaxing in Sydney’s sun, sea and sand.
6. Max Brenners
If you are a chocoholic and you are on George Street make sure you don’t walk past worldwide, award-winning Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. Thank me now, or thank me after you have tried and tasted one of their amazing chocolate creations.
From stacked Belgian waffles drizzled with pure melted chocolate, Choc-Banana Pizzas with white chocolate droplets to their famous hot chocolate in a ‘hug mug’. Dark, Milk or White, Rich Italian or Spicy Mexican, it’s all about rich, indulgent, luxurious chocolate at Max Brenners.
7. Take a Ferry
A ferry ride is an excellent opportunity to witness the beauty of Sydney Harbour and will provide you with incredible views of Sydney’s infamous Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, extending from the city centre across to North Sydney. hether you go on an organised cruise or simply take a thirty minute ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly Beach for some surfing action, both will provide you with idyllic scenery and endless photo opportunities.
8. Eat Sushi!
In Sydney you will struggle to avoid some of the freshest and tastiest sushi and sashimi around. From fine dining in an exquisite Japanese restaurant, to hand-selecting an array of fresh dishes as they spin round you at ‘The Sushi Train’ to simply buying a $2 hand roll from the Japanese guy selling it on a stall down the road. When in Sydney – try Sushi!
9. FREE – Sculpture by The Sea Exhibition
Between the 27th October- and the 13th November the world’s largest free-to-the-public outdoor sculpture exhibition is being held along the coast. If you are fortunate enough to be in Sydney during these dates make sure you take advantage and enjoy a scenic coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama Beach. Here you will witness a giant sculptural park with over 100 spectacular sculptures by artists from Australia and across the world.
10. Great Bars for Backpackers!
Sydney has heaps of places to drink and party and a huge offering of pubs and clubs. Irish Pub, Scruffy Murphy’s, Side Bar and The Scary Canary, all located in the city are a huge hit with backpackers worldwide along with World Bar & O’Malleys in Kings Cross.
The Coogee Bay Hotel which is just opposite Coogee Beach is also a great place to hang out and chill either during the day or of a night with fellow backpackers, locals and tourists alike.
11. FREE – Get Fit for FREE
Whether travelling and backpacking or living and working in Sydney, forget the gym membership and get fit for FREE! Make the most of the Sydney sunshine and scenery by engaging in some outdoor exercise.
Go for a brisk walk or light jog each morning in Hyde Park, located right in the heart of Sydney city, train on the beach, or run across the unique Sydney icon that is the Sydney Harbour Bridge. All are great ways to explore Sydney and will ensure that you get to see all the sites before you leave.
For more inspiration, here is a great guide on the best walks in Sydney.
12. FREE – Galleries & Museums
With numerous galleries and museums that are free of charge in Sydney, why not have a day out hopping from one to another and see how many you can fit in for free in a day?
Learn how Australia’s currency notes have reflected the country’s economic and political development and explore displays of both Aussie coins and banknotes from the early days at The Museum of Australian Currency Notes in Martins Place, open from Monday-Fri day, 10am-4pm.
Visit the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour from Tuesday-Saturday from 11am for a free guided tour and relive Australia’s maritime heritage and culture. Alternatively, there’s free entry to many wonderful art galleries in Sydney including the Art Gallery of NSW in the Domain, and the Museum of Contemporary Art at The Rocks.
13. FREE – The Royal Botanic Gardens
Located just a short walk around the water’s edge from the Sydney Opera House with a great vantage point for harbour views are the Royal Botanic Gardens. The Gardens are a place of natural beauty and are excellent for escaping the noise of the city, attracting over 3 million visitors each year.
Entry to the Gardens is completely free except for special or ticketed events and opening times are usually from 7am-6.30pm, closing a little earlier between May and July.
14. Shopping in Sydney
Sydney has some fantastic places to shop in and around the city from discount department stores to designer labels. Visit Bondi Junction and shop till you drop in Westfield’s; the second largest shopping centre in NSW or go to the impressive QVB (Queen Victoria Building) on George Street where you will find high-street to high-end fashion.
If it’s a unique and traditional market experience that you’re after then make sure you check out Paddy’s Market from Tuesday- Sunday between 9.00am-5.00pm; dirt cheap and souvenirs galore!
Finally, for backpackers who are after throw away fashion on their travels, look no further than stores, ‘Supre’ and ‘Cotton On’. Supre – great for ‘fun fast fashion’ as well as picking up a last minute budget party outfit (although sorry guys this one’s just for the girls). However, Cotton On caters for both guys and girls and has all the basics any backpacker could wish for, such as vests, tees, ‘thongs’ and outerwear.
15. Go to a Festival
Summer time in Sydney is the start of sundrenched days drinking alcohol, amongst huge crowds at some of the most epic festivals around – every backpackers dream ey?! Kicking off with Field Day on the 1st January at the Domain, there’s no better way to start the year that at one of the most anticipated events on the Sydney dance music calendar.
Other mega festivals to look out for include Big Day Out, Summerdayze and Steresonic, all renowned for their legendary line ups and attracting thousands of raving fans each year. And if it’s live music, theatre, comedy and dance that are more your scene then you’ll absolutely love Sydney Festival First Night.
Held on the first Saturday in January each year from 3pm-11pm, Sydney Festival First Night is welcome to all the public and is absolutely FREE.
This post was written by GYE contributor Hayley Woolf, an avid traveller currently living in Sydney, Australia.
Amar was born and raised in England and embarked on an 11-country round-the-world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second, which ended up being a 23-country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then, Amar has spent the last 14 years traveling the 7 continents.