There’s so much joy and adventure waiting to be discovered in Sydney Harbour that it can be overwhelming to decide where to begin. Sydney Harbour Escapes is here to help you choose which Sydney Harbour tourist attractions to visit first. Let’s dive right into those crisp waters and take a look at our top 10 must-see attractions in Sydney Harbour.
1. Sydney Opera House
We couldn’t write this list without kicking off with the most recognisable attraction of all. The iconic white curves of the Sydney Opera House and the history behind it have made it one of Australia’s — and the world’s — most famous landmarks.
This Sydney Harbour tourist attraction is more than just a photo opportunity, though — it’s the most recognisable symbol of Australia’s artistic culture. It’s also a place you can visit year-round for live performances, whether you’re watching a world-class ballet show, a classical opera, or an international pop music sensation.
2. Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Sydney Harbour Bridge (opened in 1932) joins the CBD with the North Shore and is another unforgettable landmark that promises adventure and freedom. This Sydney Harbour attraction is also fondly known as the ‘Coathanger’, thanks to its distinct shape. You can enjoy fantastic views of the city, the harbour, and the Opera House by walking across the Harbour Bridge for free, at your leisure. If you’re a bit more adventurous, you can also book the famous Bridge Climb experience and venture right up to the top of this architectural marvel. While you’re snapping your photos, don’t forget to wave at the boats passing below you!
3. Royal Botanic Gardens
When the hustle and bustle of the city gets too much, escape to Sydney’s most popular gardens, which can be found right next to the Opera House. Enjoy a breathtaking collection of exotic plants and historic trees alongside breathtaking views of Sydney’s CBD. The Royal Botanic Gardens is Australia’s oldest botanic garden and scientific institution (open since 1816). Whether you follow a guided tour to learn about gardens, horticulture, and science, or take a quiet stroll or enjoy a serene picnic among the colourful garden, you will surely be captivated by the allure of Sydney’s famous 30-hectare garden.
4. The Rocks
If you fancy visiting friendly pubs, vintage cobbled lanes, and historical treasures, why not check out The Rocks? It just so happens to be one of Sydney’s oldest neighbourhoods and the city’s historic heart. It’s also a great place to view Sydney Harbour and walk directly under the Harbour Bridge. There are over 100 heritage sites and buildings in the Rocks, which can be easily accessed from Circular Quay or Barangaroo. Explore unique galleries, convict-built buildings, narrow laneways, and local craft markets, and visit the Museum of Contemporary Art.
5. Darling Harbour
Alongside the other Sydney Harbour attractions and precincts, Darling Harbour offers the largest variety of activities and tourist hotspots. Some of the main world-famous attractions that can be found here include the Sydney Aquarium, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Chinese Garden of Friendship, and the Madame Tussauds wax museum.
When the sun sets, Darling Harbour doesn’t go to sleep; you can enjoy the nocturnal atmosphere of this waterside precinct all night long, from stylish restaurants to lively bars to trendy nightclubs.
6. Taronga Zoo
Take a ferry from Circular Quay to get to this famous zoo, set against the city skyline. With excellent shows for all ages and fascinating opportunities to see and learn about national wildlife, Taronga Zoo is your destination for a fun day out in Sydney.
Not only is Taronga Zoo one of the best zoos in the world, with national conservation and sustainability efforts, but it’s also the starting point of a famous walking track — the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk, along which you’ll pass secluded beaches and stunning lookouts.
7. Circular Quay
Of all the attractions in Sydney Harbour, Circular Quay might just be the most frequented. As the central hub for water transport, the Quay allows countless Sydneysiders to explore the Harbour waters and visit the rest of the attractions on this list.
But Circular Quay is more than just a ferry stop — it’s a central locale for street performers, al fresco dining, ice cream stands, and the best views of Sydney’s most famous landmarks.
8. Cockatoo island
Cockatoo Islands is a UNESCO World Heritage and National Heritage Listed island that you can find bang in the middle of Sydney Harbour. The island has been used as a naval base, a convict prison, and a shipbuilding yard throughout Sydney’s rich evolution.
Take a boat out to this historical island and enjoy learning about Sydney’s history while soaking up the Australian sunshine. While you’re here, why not book an overnight stay at the waterfront camping site? You won’t get views like this anywhere else.
9. Luna Park
Just across the Harbour Bridge, on the lower tip of the North Shore, you’ll find the most popular amusement park in Australia. Book a day pass to Luna Park and enter a world of joy, thrills, and classic 1930’s style architecture.
You can get to Luna Park from the nearby Milsons Point train station; or by walking across the Harbour Bridge. A great way to round out your rollercoaster of a day is by walking around the Lavender Bay foreshore to get to Wendy’s Secret Garden.
10. Barangaroo Reserve
Enjoy the perfect blend of urban sophistication and natural beauty at Barangaroo Reserve, a waterfront park known for its beautiful native gardens and breathtaking harbour views. Here, you’ll find over 75,000 plants native to Sydney.
Visit Barangaroo by boat from Circular Quay or walk from Wynyard train station. After your garden stroll, visit the Cutaway — a unique cultural space where you can experience a range of creative events, from music festivals to art exhibitions.
Time to Set Sail
And there you have it — the top 10 tourist attractions to see in Australia’s most famous harbour. Remember, the best way to explore Sydney Harbour is from the water. So, why not take your Sydney adventures to the next level by hiring a boat from Sydney Harbour Escapes? Contact us today to experience the joys of Sydney’s top attractions through the freedom of the water and set sail on your own Sydney Harbour adventure.