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The Top 10 Sydney Tourist Activities That Even Locals Love

Cosmopolitan, cultural and jaw-droppingly beautiful, it’s no wonder why Sydney attracts millions of visitors every year. And while every city has touristy activities, some of Sydney’s don’t just get the tourist tick: they’re things that locals clamour to do, too.

Here’s how to make the most of the Harbour City.

Jet boat riding in the harbour

For thrill-chasing locals, the only way to jet across a harbour is on a speedboat. For 30-45 minutes, you’ll zip up and down the water at hair-raising speeds, all while enjoying a front row seat to the harbour city. Thunder Jet and Harbour Jet operate services daily – just don’t wear anything too dainty! You will gwatet soaked with seaspray, and it’ll be a hoot.

Thunder Jet: Circular Quay Eastern Pontoon, Jetty 1

Harbour Jet: King Street Wharf 9, Darling Harbour

Fish n’ chips at Watsons Bay

In the East, Watsons Bay has the prime position on the harbour. Start by walking the South Head Heritage Trail, a scenic bushwalk with hints of the city’s history. When you reach the bay, grab fish n’ chips from Doyles’ takeaway kiosk – golden yet juicy, it’s a contender for Sydney’s best – and ask for extra chilli plum sauce. Flop onto the grass and enjoy!

Fishermans Wharf, Watsons Bay

The Rocks Market

With its cobblestoned streets, colonial buildings and old-school pubs, The Rocks is the oldest part of Sydney, and also its most charming. If only those walls could talk! On Saturdays and Sundays (10am-5pm), the suburb hosts a much-loved market, where you can meander through stalls selling clothing, jewellery, accessories, arts and crafts. For foodies, the market serves up gastronomic goodies every Friday (9am-3pm). 

Playfair Street, George Street and Jack Mundey Place, The Rocks 

Top tip: On that foodie note, Carriageworks Farmers Market is bustling with restaurant stalls and a colourful display of produce from farmers across NSW. It’s on every Saturday (8am-1pm).

Cocktails at the Shangri-La

The Shangri-La’s Blu Bar takes hotel bars to another level – literally. On level 36, the swanky cocktail bar is famous for two things: its extensive cocktail list (try the vanilla espresso martini), and its spectacular 360-degree views of the city. If you’re hungry, head next door to Altitude, which dishes up a fine dining menu as well as a bottomless Saturday brunch [link to Saturday brunch blog].

176 Cumberland Street, The Rocks

Catch a ride with Sydney Seaplanes

Sydney is a playground for romantics, and soaring over the city on a seaplane is one way to impress a date. After taking off from Rose Bay, the seaplane flies over the coastline to stunning spots like Palm Beach, Cottage Point and Berowra Waters. You can even opt for a fly-and-dine experience (we recommend Jonah’s at Palm Beach), or a fly-and-stay.

Lyne Park, Rose Bay

Stroll through Taronga Zoo

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! As you snake your way through Taronga Zoo, you’ll spot exotic animals like elephants, chimps, and giraffes (we all know that Instagram shot), as well as natives like koalas and platypi. The zoo also offers an overnight glamping experience: Roar and Snore, which includes dinner, a night tour and a stay in a safari-style tent.

Bradley’s Head Road, Mosman

Bondi-Coogee coastal walk

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve walked the well-worn path from Bondi to Coogee: it never gets old. The six-kilometre stretch of coastline passes beaches, rockpools, parks and lookouts. Reward yourself with a bevvy at Coogee Pavilion, and top off the return journey with a swim at Bondi Icebergs, the most picturesque ocean pool in the country.

Coogee Pavilion: 169 Dolphin Street, Coogee

Bondi Icebergs: 1 Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach

Top tip: North side? The Manly to Spit coastal walk is just as beautiful, taking in bays, beaches and bushland. Do as the locals do, and catch the bus back to Manly for drinks at Papi Chulo.

See a show at the Sydney Theatre Company

In Walsh Bay, the city’s best performers take the stage for the Sydney Theatre Company. It’s a hotbed for talent, and where many A-list actors made their names. Hickson Road is also home to the Sydney Dance Company, a mecca for contemporary dance. Whatever show you choose, pop into The Bar at the End of the Wharf for a drink beforehand.

The Wharf, 4 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay

Sunset drinks at Opera Bar

Stretching across the foreshore, this harbourfront bar sits right under the pearly shells of the Opera House. While its casual vibe and panoramic views are amazing at any time of the day, the bar is best at sunset. Sip on the Sydney Sling as you watch the sun dip below the horizon, and then order a charcuterie board or platter of freshly-shucked oysters.

Lower Concourse Level, Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Standup paddleboarding at Manly

When the sun is shining, locals can be spotted stand-up paddeboarding around Manly. 

While the water near Manly Wharf is popular, Little Manly Beach is calmer and better for beginners, while Shelley Beach is brimming with vibrant sealife (making it one of Sydney’s best snorkelling spots). Manly Kayak Centre offers SUP lessons and hires out boards on an hourly basis.

East Pier, Manly Wharf, Manly