Top 10 Things to Do in Sydney for First Time Visitors – Must See & Do Attractions

Sydney is a fantastic global city, filled with top cultural attractions, commercial endeavors, and beautiful greenspaces.

A visit here is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of us, so you’ll want to make the most of this amazing experience.

If you’re looking for some of the top things to do on your first trip to Sydney, some of our favorite attractions include:

  • Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Sydney and Bondi: 1-Day Classic Tour
  • Circular Quay
  • The Sydney Opera House Tour
  • Magistic Cruisemart Harbour Sightseeing Cruise
  • BlueBananas Electric Bike Tours: The Mini Banana – Bike the Bridge Tour
  • Bondi Beach – Bondi Surf 2-hour Board and Wetsuit Rental
  • Sydney Jet – Thrill Ride
  • Darling Harbour
  • Madame Tussauds Sydney
  • WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo

Save on Admission to Top Things to do in Sydney

 Many of these popular attractions are available on The Sydney Pass.

Choose as you do from several popular attractions in Sydney, and save up to 45% on combined admission prices.

See all available passes, attractions, and prices – Learn more.

Please note that some of the attractions listed here are not available with The Sydney Pass and may incur additional costs.

Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Sydney and Bondi: 1-Day Classic Tour

Big Bus Sydney in Sydney Harbour Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

Start your trip to Sydney off right with a ride aboard the hop-on hop-off tour from Big Bus Sydney. This comprehensive tour of Sydney and nearby Bondi is an excellent introduction to the city for first-time visitors, offering expert narration that will introduce everything you pass.

Of course, one of the benefits of a tour like this is the flexibility to customize your experience. Hop off at sites that intrigue you, and board again when it’s time to move on. There are more than 20 different stops to choose from across two different lines, so you’ve got access to much of the city on this tour.

Buses run at intervals of approximately every 15-30 minutes, so there’s no need to wait for a while to re-board. Consider this your one-stop shop for sightseeing Sydney!

Getting In: Big Bus Sydney Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour tickets are available on The Sydney Pass.

Circular Quay

A harbour in Sydney Cove (shaped mostly like a square, despite its name), Circular Quay is a popular tourist destination. You’ll find plenty of easily accessible pedestrian walkways, parks, restaurants, shops, and much more. It’s also a major transport hub, so you’ll see locals thronging the area, too.

It’s also often the place where you’ll see local celebrations and city-wide events. Circular Quay is located right between two of the city’s most important landmarks, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Museum of Contemporary Art is also located here – a great attraction for art lovers.

Getting In: The Circular Quay is free to explore; the Museum of Contemporary Art is separately ticketed and is not included on The Sydney Pass.

The Sydney Opera House Tour

Tour the Sydney Opera House

You can’t visit Circular Quay without spending some time around the Sydney Opera House. While you’re sure to get amazing photos of the exterior as you stroll by, you’ll learn a lot more about this architectural icon with an in-depth experience.

Join a tour of the Sydney Opera House to see behind the scenes of this cultural giant, and learn about its history from conceptualization and design to the many legendary performances that have taken place in this magnificent venue. This tour is also a good opportunity to learn more about the cultural scene in Sydney. Perhaps you can also snag some opera tickets for later?

Getting In: Sydney Opera House Tour tickets are available on The Sydney Pass; tickets for performances are separately priced and are not included on the pass.

Magistic Cruisemart Harbour Sightseeing Cruise

Magistic Sydney Harbour Cruise complimentary beverage

Sydney Harbour is not only one of the most significant waterways in all of the city, but perhaps in the entire world, too. Its signature vistas include the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, as well as Luna Park, Fort Denison, and the elaborate homes of the rich and famous along the shoreline.

If you want the authentic aquatic perspective on Sydney Harbour, a two-hour cruise from Magistic Cruisemart is a great option. Sit back and relax on a luxury catamaran as you enjoy informative and engaging GPS-based narration about all the sites you’re sailing past. You can also enjoy a complimentary beverage (you choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic) and stellar photo opportunities from three expansive outdoor decks and large panoramic windows.

Getting In: Magistic Cruisemart Harbour Sightseeing Cruise tickets are available on The Sydney Pass.

BlueBananas Electric Bike Tours: The Mini Banana – Bike the Bridge Tour

Guided Bike Tour in Sydney

A fun and unique way to explore Sydney is on two wheels. This city is just perfect for a cycling excursion, so pop on that helmet and get ready to ride! If you’re unfamiliar with the terrain or just want a little guidance, join up with a bike tour to see more of the city without having to bumble around on your own.

The Bike the Bridge Tour from BlueBananas is an exciting option. This tour escorts you across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and down into some fun and lesser-known neighborhoods. You’ll see charming little parks, hidden hot spots, and local hangouts.  The tour covers about 8 miles and the terrain is pretty easy the whole way, so it’s good for kids and adults alike.

Getting In: Sydney Electric Bike Tour tickets are available on The Sydney Pass.

Bondi Beach – Bondi Surf 2-hour Board and Wetsuit Rental

Surfer at Bondi Beach renting a surf board

You’ve heard of the signature surf culture of Bondi Beach – now is your chance to see if you’ve got what it takes to surf like an Australian! Snag a surfboard and wetsuit rental and head out into the azure waters of the South Pacific. You’ve got your gear for two hours, which is just about enough time to figure out what you’re doing before the waves exhaust you.

While you’re in the area, be sure to explore Bondi Beach further. You’ll find gorgeous sunny expanses of sand and sea, aboriginal rock carvings, a 3-mile hiking trail, a monument to Black Sunday, and more. There’s so much to see and do on Bondi Beach that you’ll have to limit your sunbathing!

Getting In: Bondi Beach Surf Board and Wetsuit Rental tickets are available on The Sydney Pass.

Sydney Jet – Thrill Ride

Sydney Thrill Jet Boat Ride Zipping around Sydney Harbour

Another delightful way to explore Sydney Harbour offers thrills and splashes galore. The Sydney Jet Thrill Ride is the most exhilarating boat ride in the city, zipping around the harbour at speeds of up to 45 knots (50 miles per hour). It also performs tricks like fishtails, power brakes, 270-degree spins, and more. The Sydney Jet is a ton of fun for families and couples alike.

It’s not just a thrill ride, either. Your Sydney Jet experience also includes an informative sightseeing component, too. Your captain will provide important info about the sights and sounds of Sydney Harbour on your 30-minute excursion. Think of it like a speed date version of Sydney sightseeing!

Getting In: Sydney Jet Boat Ride tickets are available on The Sydney Pass.

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour is arguably the entertainment capital of Sydney. Just adjacent to the city centre, it’s a massive recreational district that attracts locals and visitors in droves. You’ll find everything here from shopping to top name attractions, and could honestly spend days just exploring this neighborhood alone.

Some of the top attractions in Darling Harbour include the unbeatable Harbourside Shopping Centre, the serene Chinese Garden of Friendship, the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre (which sees many popular events year round), a casino, several hotels, a few museums, plus Madame Tussauds and the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo (more on those below).

Getting In: Darling Harbour is free to explore; additional attractions may incur separate costs.

Madame Tussauds Sydney

Posing with the Queen at Madame Tussads Sydney World Leaders Exhibit

Pay a visit to this world-famous wax museum and explore more than 200 years of creative history. The chain was first founded in London, and continues to nurture its British-inspired roots here in Australia. At this particular institution, you’ll get to enjoy exploring several themed areas including Music, Sports, Film & TV, History & World Leaders, A-List, and the All-New Fashion Experience.

Celebrities on display include an array of people famous for various reasons, including President Obama, her Majesty the Queen, Mahatma Gandhi, and then pop culture figures like Katy Perry, Angelina Jolie, Michael Jackson, and Johnny Depp.

There are also several interactive activities for you to enjoy, like practicing your golf swing, trying your hand at cricket, and showing off your runway strut. It’s a fun and engaging way to spend an hour or two, and the kids are sure to love the freedom to touch basically everything in the museum.

Getting In: Madame Tussauds Sydney tickets are available on The Sydney Pass.

WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo

Family getting up close to a koala at the WILD LIFE Zoo

For the animal lovers, the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo can’t be beat. Home to critters from around the world and with a special focus on Australian wildlife, this zoo offers some of the most unique animal experiences around. You’ll get to see signature Australian critters like koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, pythons, birds, Tasmanian devils, and tons more.

Stroll through ten different habitat zones, including the Butterfly Tropics, the impressive Nightfall, and Kangaroo Walkabout. Don’t miss the Koala Rooftop experience, where you can get your photo taken with the iconic and adorable koala. Given that it’s the most popular animal in all of Australia, that’s one for your bucket list!

Getting In: WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo tickets are available on The Sydney Pass.

Let’s Recap

So there you have it – our selection of the top things to do in Sydney for first-time visitors.

Whether you love arts and culture, nature and science, or simply the great outdoors, there’s something for you to enjoy on this trip.

We hope that some of these ideas provide inspiration as you make your own Sydney itinerary.

Don’t forget to pick up The Sydney Pass, to save up to 45% on combined admission prices. Happy travels!

The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.

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