Things to Do 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.
As Australia's easternmost and strongest lighthouse, Cape Byron Light is a main attraction for both the historical aspect of the building itself as well as the spectacular views it provides from the edge of Cape Byron. Opened for operation in 1901, the lighthouse provides Byron Bay visitors with a glimpse into the marine industry from years past when lighthouses had to be manned by live-in keepers so passing ships remained safe along the coast. Still active today, Cape Byron Light changed to a fully automated system in 1989, making a live-in keeper obsolete.
The eastern coast of Australia sees humpback whale migrations each year, and the lighthouse platform acts as the perfect vantage point for its 500,000 annual visitors, as well as the Southern Cross University's Whale Research Centre, which is located on the premises.
The lighthouse itself stands 74 feet tall (22.5 meters); an internal spiral staircase reaches from the lobby to its viewing platform. Onsite still stands the original lighthouse keeper's residence next to the assistant keepers' duplex. The original, kerosene-based light source has been upgraded over the years with a switch to electric in 1956. This is also the time when the light became the most powerful in all of Australia's lighthouses with an intensity of 2,200,000 cd.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This unique landmark—a massive rock fashioned into a cozy bench—was carved from sandstone in the early 1800s by Gov. Lachlan Macquarie for his wife Elizabeth. As the story goes, when the weather was warm and the sun high, Mrs Macquarie loved to relax at the point of this scenic peninsula and stare out over the ocean.
Today, travelers enjoy a leisurely walk to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair from the iconic Opera House or wander over to this historic attraction after a visit to the nearby Royal Botanic Garden. In a bustling city that’s alive with energy, the stone bench offers visitors a perfect place to unwind, relax and take in the some of the best views of Sydney Harbour.
Australia mainland's easternmost point of Cape Byron possesses a number of reasons to pay it a visit: the Cape Byron Light, the Cape Byron Marine Park, and the Cape Byron walking track. Set about 1.9 miles (3 km) northeast of the quaint Byron Bay, Cape Byron lies in the Cape Byron State Conservation Area.
A day trip from Byron Bay can be spent first at the Cape Byron Light – a lighthouse that was opened in 1901 and is still in use today. A climb to the top, through the internal spiral staircase, brings visitors to a glorious viewing platform looking out across the Pacific Ocean, which is a prime place to catch whales, sea turtles, dolphins and other passing wildlife.
Wildlife lovers will enjoy the many sheltered beaches and protected reefs that encompass the 54,000 acre Cape Byron Marine Park. Swimming, fishing (in some areas), kayaking and diving are all possible around Cape Byron, the latter of which is good for getting up close and personal with the likes of sea turtles, fish, rays and sharks. But getting in or on the water isn't always necessary; whale watching and dolphin spotting are popular from the shore.
Catch a bit of fresh air and exercise by hitting Cape Byron's 2.3 mile (3.7 km) walking track. This track takes walkers and cyclists to top attractions such as the Captain Cook Lookout, Palm Valley, Wategos Beach and the Cape Byron Lighthouse.
More Things to Do in New South Wales
The sheltered, picturesque Wategos Beach is popular on Cape Byron for surfing and relaxing. Numerous picnic tables and electric barbecues allow visitors to enjoy the pristine surrounds over lunch. The nearby Cape Byron Walking Track passes behind the beach, calling for an afternoon stroll. Lifeguard patrols provide a safer beach environment during the busier summer months.
Little Wategos Beach offers a more secluded vibe given the fact it can only be reached by foot from the neighboring Wategos Beach. Little Wategos sits on the tip of Cape Byron, making it the easternmost beach on Australia's mainland. Although usually inviting, swimmers are encouraged to practice caution as strong currents can form even on mild days.
Besides swimming and surfing (longboarding does well here), the Wategos Beach area sees its fair share of fishing, particularly for flathead and whiting.
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.
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.
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.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site covering an area of around 3,861 square miles (10,000 square kilometers), the Blue Mountains region is a popular day-trip destination from Sydney. Featuring tall forests, sandstone cliffs, dramatic canyons, and scenic lookouts and waterfalls, the area is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Often nicknamed “Paddo” by locals, Paddington is a suburb of Sydney that features a nice mix of culture, history and shopping opportunities. Known for its colonial architecture and beautiful
balconied buildings, Paddo has long been a local favorite. And although the population of this district is quite meager, at just over 11,000 people, it packs a massive punch when it comes
In general, one could divide Paddington into four even more distinct districts. Five Ways is a bit of a village within a village and home to some of the best foodie spots in the Sydney area. Paddington Markets, as the name points at, is a massive flea market that takes place at the Uniting Church grounds. William Street is the art designer's district in which some of Sydney's top up-and-coming designers have their shops, and all of it is tied into Oxford Street, which runs the entire length of Paddington and is lined with shops, boutiques, cafes and eateries.
Of course, there's more to Paddington than just the shops. The district is also home to the Sydney Cricket Grounds, Sydney Football Stadium, Victoria Barracks and a number of other worthy sights.
Hailed as one of the finest examples of an English-style Gothic cathedral in the world, St. Mary’s Cathedral wows you with its sandstone exterior, stained glass windows, and ornate crypt, which features a mosaic floor and an exhibition on the first Australian Catholics. Plus, a visit to the cathedral affords great views of the skyscrapers in Sydney CBD.
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.
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.
Situated in the gorgeous Hunter Valley wine region of NSW, the Hunter Valley Gardens boast more than 60 acres of displays designed to showcase various vibrant colors and fragrances. There are 10 feature gardens, each individually planned and planted to create a stunning view and experience for visitors. The garden names lend themselves to the imagination: Sunken Garden, Storybook Garden, Rose Garden, Oriental Garden, The Lakes Walk, Italian Grotto, The Indian Mosaic, and the Formal, Chinese and Border gardens.
Each is superbly landscaped to represent its chosen theme, with water features and other attractions included to present the most immersive experience. Hunter Valley Gardens is such a large site that the area includes its own village, complete with shops, restaurants and cafes full of local delicacies. Aside from the lush greens, Aqua Golf, the Hunter Valley Train and more than five miles of walking tracks within the gardens keep even the fussiest visitors entertained.
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.
Wentworth Falls is a charming town located in the Blue Mountains Heritage Site about 60 miles (100 kilometers) west from Sydney. Known for its eponymous waterfalls, the town has a number of walking and hiking trails, picnic and BBQ areas, a well-preserved Aboriginal site, and a charming downtown with historic buildings and gourmet coffee shops.
From the lookout at Minyon Falls, visitors will hear the roar of cascading, rushing water as it falls over the rock formations and gathers in a natural swimming pool down below. In addition to the waterfall, travelers can also catch coastal views and let the surrounding rain forest engulf their senses. Whether visiting the falls while passing through on a hiking trek or a cycling adventure, stop and enjoy this World-Heritage-listed wonder at Nightcap National Park.
Provided picnic tables and barbecue pits make the falls an excellent place to rest and refuel for the journey back out of the park. Take a dip in the freshwater pool beneath the falls before heading off!
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.
- 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