The Sydney Harbour National Park protects more than 970 acres of land, foreshores and islands in metropolitan Sydney. The park is well known for its sheltered beaches and historic landmarks, which include Aboriginal and colonial sites. Visitors can enjoy guided culture tours or simply wander the bushland trails to see local wildlife. The park's shorelines offer gorgeous views and plenty of prime swimming spots.
The Big Dig Archaeological Site, located in an area of Sydney aptly dubbed The Rocks, contains the archaeological remains of homes, shops and other artifacts from the late 18th century. Now home to an education center and youth hostel, the site provides a frozen-in-time peek at life in the earliest European settlements in Australia.
Once home primarily to convicts and shipbuilders, Cockatoo Island has been reimagined as a landmark of Sydney's cultural heritage. A short ferry ride on the harbour, the island features guided history tours, art installations and major art and music festivals throughout the year. For its historic association with convict transport and European colonial expansion, the island was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010.
Among the most famous and iconic buildings in the world, the Sydney Opera House sits at Bennelong Point on Sydney Harbour and is home to multiple venues that host a wide variety of performing arts events. An artistic masterpiece itself, most people recognize its silhouette from photos of the harbor—but the detail and craftsmanship you'll find up close is just as awe-inspiring.
Best Day Trip
Just a two-hour drive from Sydney, the Hunter Valley wine region is home to more than 150 wineries and many charming, chef-driven restaurants. But even those with no affinity for wine can find plenty to love among the picturesque landscapes. Bicycling and horseback riding are popular ways to explore the area, and you can see diverse local wildlife including koalas, wallabies and kangaroos.
Off the Beaten Path
Perhaps not as secret as it once was, Wendy's Secret Garden is a peaceful botanical wonderland hidden among the urban landscape in Lavender Bay. Formerly an abandoned train yard, private resident Wendy Whiteley transformed the space near her home with local and exotic plants, winding garden paths, cobblestone stairs and unique art installations. Visitors can enjoy the garden any time, free of charge—but it's still secret enough that you may need to ask a local where to find it.
Most Iconic Attraction
Nicknamed "the coat hanger" because of its iconic arched design, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the centerpiece of the city and a must-see attraction all its own. Visitors can walk or bicycle across it, but the truly adventurous can climb to the top—preferably at twilight—for breathtaking sunset views of the entire city.
Australian history doesn't begin with European colonialism. At Grotto Point in the Sydney Harbour National Park you can see traces of the ancient Aboriginal peoples—the oldest continuous culture on Earth dating back more than 60,000 years—including rock engravings depicting kangaroos, humans, whales, boomerangs and more. And don't miss the Grotto Point Lighthouse, a historic and still active beacon on the harbour.
You may know some dedicated sports fans, but there's something special about the enthusiasm Australians have for their favorite teams. Join the raucous crowds at the Sydney Cricket Ground, a multi-sport stadium that plays host to professional cricket, rugby and Australian rules football, among other sporting events. And remember, when you hear a chant of "Aussie, Aussie Aussie!" the appropriate reply is a hearty "Oi, Oi, Oi!"
Neighborhood to Explore
A hip, bohemian-flavored respite from the bustle of Sydney's central district, Newtown has been a hotbed of culture for more than a century. Its many pubs and restaurants stand alongside legendary music venues, theaters and independent performing spaces. Its proximity to Sydney University ensures the neighborhood will always stay young at heart.