Can you visit all the important Sydney sights & landmarks in just one weekend? This was our challenge when we were acting as tour guide for our French exchange student. Firstly, what are the top Sydney sights for tourists?
Sydney Sights & Landmarks
- Circular Quay
- Opera House
- Royal Botanic Gardens
- The Historic Rocks Area of Sydney
- Sydney Harbour Bridge
- Luna Park
- Sydney Ferrys
- Manly Corso
- Queen Victoria Building
- Centrepoint Tower
- Darling Harbour
- Chinese Garden of Friendship
- Bondi Beach
- Attend a Cricket/Rugby League Game (depending on the season)
As I prepared a list of famous Sydney landmarks to visit, I noticed that most of them were located near public transport. This would make getting around much easier!
Plus we could take advantage of the harbour ferries whilst travelling from Luna Park to Circular Quay and Manly Travelling by ferry on Sydney Harbour is a must on any visit to Sydney, it affords the most gorgeous views of the city and its iconic buildings.
For ease I have broken the story into Sydney Sights & Landmarks Day 1 and Day 2. Download and print the stories and I can become your personal tour guide.
Sydney Sights & Landmarks Day 1
1. Circular Quay
Start your day at Circular Quay and walk towards the Opera House. You will notice lots of buskers performing alone the promenade. The atmosphere at Circular Quay is always upbeat and vibrant. There are plenty of great cafes and restaurants you may wish to come back to for a meal at a later date.
For an extravagant sugar rush don’t forget to stop at Guylian Belgian Chocolate Café. We are in a hurry but you may need a quick coffee break and a sweet treat to give you a little energy boost. After all, we have a lot of sights to see!
If the weather is hot you might prefer some gelato. There are plenty of ice-cream and gelato kiosks to choose from along the short walk.
2. Opera House
Continue around to the Opera House and take all the photo’s you like. Inside the Opera House you will find a box office with information about the upcoming shows. If you wish you can also book a one hour guided tour of the Opera House.
Once you have your pictures of this most recognisable Sydney icon keep walking around the outside of the building. You will soon see the gates to the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens.
3. Royal Botanic Gardens
In 2016 the Gardens are celebrating their 200th birthday. The gardens were established in 1816 and features plantings from all over the world. It was established by Governor Macquarie as a scientific and research institution. The head botanist Charles Fraser was appointed to research plant species and acclimatise introduced plants to the new land.
Free guided tours depart from the booth outside the Garden Shop at the Royal Botanic Gardens at 10.30am each morning. The gardens are used now by locals and tourists alike for picnics, a quiet place to read a book or to exercise in the parklands. Otherwise you can simply stroll through the gardens at your leisure.
After the Botanic Gardens its time to return to Circular Quay. This time we are walking towards the Harbour Bridge. Continue walking until you reach George St, then turn right. You’re now entering The Rocks.
4. The Historic Rocks Area of Sydney
Due to the proximity to the harbour, The Rocks was established very soon after Sydney was colonised in 1788. This makes it one of Sydney’s most significant historic areas. Many of the original buildings and streets were constructed using the local sandstone. Hence the name “The Rocks.” Although the Rocks has now been restored to a beautiful historic tourist precinct, the area started out far less glamorous.
The Rocks originated as a slum area in early colony days. It featured rowdy pubs, brothels and poor living conditions for convicts, ex-convicts, wharf man and residents.
To get a taste of Sydney history perhaps stop in for a quick beer at The Fortune of War pub. This pub is thought to be the oldest surviving hotel at the rocks, and has held a continuous license for the longest period. The present building was built in 1922 but the original building was known to be operating on the site prior to 1828. Others pubs such as the Lord Nelson contest this fact and argue they were the forerunner. The Observer, the Orient, the Mercantile, the Palisade and the Hero of Waterloo are all historic “Rocks pubs” in their own right.
Nowadays there are guided and self guided tours that you can do through the area. These tours take you through the old cobblestone laneways and past significant buildings explaining the rich history of this Sydney sight.
The Rocks also has a market which operates each weekend on Argyle street. Argyle St is one of the main side streets off George street in The Rocks and is a particularly pretty street. The market consists of around 100 stalls, and is surrounded by permanent shopfronts housing a mix of souvenirs shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants.
We had lunch at The Australian Heritage Hotel which is at 100 Cumberland Street in the Rocks right near the Big Dig site.
5. Sydney Harbour Bridge
Doing an expensive Bridge Climb isn’t the only way to get a beautiful birds eye view of the harbour from “The Big Coat Hanger”. The Sydney Harbour Bridge has a pedestrian walkway which can be accessed from each side of this historic landmark. Walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge is an absolute must for visitors. You will be rewarded with the most awe inspiring views of the city, the harbour, opera house, counterpoint tower and many other Sydney sights.
We’re starting our walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge from “The Rocks” entrance at Cumberland Street. The access to the Harbour Bridge walkway is well signposted throughout the rocks.
There are quite a few stairs to climb initially as you get to the pylon lookout, but the view makes it a worthwhile exercise.
The walk over the Harbour Bridge is an easy, flat 1km stroll and should only take about 20 minutes, even if you stop to take pictures.
Once you walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge you will find yourself very close to our next famous Sydney icon.
6. Luna Park
Luna Park is the happiest face on Sydney Harbour. The Big smile has welcomed countless park visitors over the years. Once you exist the harbour bridge you will go left past the North Sydney Olympic Pool and ready to photograph the famous face.
At the time of writing entry to the park was free and rides were $10 each. A cheaper option if your planning to enjoy a few rides at Luna Park is the unlimited ride pass. The prices of the pass is based on the height of the park guest. Prices range from $22 – $48 for adults.
7. Harbour Ferries
We have admired Sydney Harbour from above, we have walked around the quay. Now it’s time to take a Sydney Ferry to Circular Quay.
Simply walk back 140 metres toward the Harbour Bridge and you will find the Milson Point Ferry. Take the ferry back to Circular Quay and change to a Manly ferry for the last of our Sydney Sights for the day.
8. Manly Corso
The ferry to Manly takes about 30 minutes and is a great opportunity to see more of Sydney by water. Sit back and enjoy the ride. The ferry docks at the far end of Manly Corso, simply take a walk up the corso where you will find the beautiful Manly Beach.
If we’ve timed this tour well, you will have an opportunity to enjoy an afternoon swim, take a few sunset photographs before you start to consider your dining option.
Dining options along the Manly Corso are plentiful. Choose something to suit your palate and budget.
If your planning to see the Sydney Sights by public transport you will need to purchase an Opal Card from a retailer prior to travel. The cards are free, and funds are then added to the card in order to travel on the transport system. The Opal cards cover buses, trains and most ferries.
You will need your Opal Card for day 2 of our Sydney Sights & Landmarks Tour.