The Best of Sydney

Skyline of Sydney, Australia

Sydney is the gateway to the land down under. With a vibrant cultural scene, fantastic food and wine, and some of the world’s rawest and most captivating landscapes right in its backyard, the Harbour City is the star of the southern hemisphere.

From Sydney, the whole world feels within reach. Look closely and you’ll see. All around, there are nods to Britain’s brick-building heritage, and anyone who’s meandered through San Francisco’s rainbow-hemmed streets will immediately feel at home in Darlinghurst. By the harbor, tiny islets echo the mossy holms of Stockholm’s archipelago. Beyond them, the wild Australian bushland beckons to the adventurous explorer. The most beautiful of experiences require only a bit of your time and attention.

Discover Aussie bushwalking

Other places in the English-speaking world call it hiking, trekking, or promenading. The Australians call it bushwalking. Beyond being a quintessential pastime, going for a bushwalk is the best way to explore an often unsung side of Sydney.

There are several great tracks running along the coast, with the most notable among them being the route from Bradleys Head to Balmoral. This one-way, three-hour walk winds past magnificent panoramic views of the harbor, spectacular scrubland, tranquil coves, and secluded beaches. Another trail with rivaling vistas is the Hermitage Foreshore Walk, beginning at Nielsen Bay and continuing on to the idyllic Milk Beach.

Lookout over the Pacific Ocean from the Australian bushland

Plunge into a rock pool

When the heat gets to be too much, it’s time to trade in your walking shoes for a good pair of thongs, as the locals would say. Australia is famous for its beaches, and Sydney has stellar ones on its starboard. Looking out to the Tasman Sea are a string of perfect places to soak up sun and surf.

By the serene Clovelly Beach, a narrow inlet protects swimmers and snorkelers from tumbling waves. But if flair and drama is what you’re after, then head on over to star-studded Bondi. At the end of this long sandy stretch lies the iconic Icebergs Club featuring the world’s most photographed swimming pool. There’s good reason for that: nothing can quite compare to the rush of doing laps in crystal clear water side by side with crushing waves.

Aerial view of Bondi Icebergs rock pools in Sydney, Australia
Photo: Emjeii Beattie

Nearby, Bronte and Coogee Beach also boast their own ocean pools. These breathtaking saltwater baths are a dime in a dozen along Sydney’s coastline. Built in the late 1800s by settlers who—being not quite sure of their swimming skills—wanted a place where they could enjoy the water safely, rock pools have become a wonder unique to Sydney and the region of New South Wales. Each one has its own personality, shaped by the rugged landscape it adorns. The pools are open to the public throughout the year, and you’ll see locals taking a polar plunge even during Australia’s coolest months.

Feast on fruits of the sea

From flower crabs to barramundi, if it’s found in the sea, you’ll also find it at the Sydney Fish Market. It may not be a glamorous venue, but your taste buds will be grateful for the visit. At the world’s third largest fish market, it is a cacophony of sights and sounds as fishmongers shuck, hammer, and chop the day’s freshest catch while the onlookers gawk like seabirds.

Fresh oysters, prawns, and Moreton Bay bugs

Order oysters by the dozen, served in their liquor or baked à la Mornay. For a local favorite, try the Moreton Bay bug. These flat-headed crustaceans are caught in the warm shallow waters around upper Australia, and despite an undeniably unappetizing name, their lobster-like flavor will win over the pickiest of eaters. If those don’t whet your appetite, then how about scrumptious butter-basted scallops, cocktail abalones, deep fried chili calamari skewers, and an eye-popping assortment of sashimi and sushi? At the Sydney Fish Market, the choices are as endless as the sea is deep.

Relax in a royal retreat

The Royal Botanical Garden in the heart of downtown Sydney is an excellent place for high tea or a leisurely stroll. From within the oasis, admire the hive-like central business district up close, take in the postcard views of the Harbour Bridge, and discover the collection of rare and unusual cultivated plants. With over five thousands species, the Garden is Australia’s oldest scientific institution and a national heritage site. It also hosts a spectrum of events and temporary exhibitions throughout the year, from light shows to plants with appetite.

A close up of a tropical pitcher plant

Enjoy a sunset from the House

Even from a distance, it’s easy to spot the unmistakeable silhouette of the Sydney Opera House. The architectural masterpiece rests at the heart of Sydney’s waterway like a colony of giant, sleeping clams. As the day dims, they begin to rouse, and their shimmering shells transform into a living canvas, illuminated by the Dreamtime creations of Australia’s Aboriginal artists. Evenings at the opera house are filled with bustle and buzz. Locals and visitors alike flock to the bar for a prime seat to watch the sun drop over the horizon. Swirling glasses of rosé clink and chime to the beat of live music as laughter permeates the air. It is the place to be for a great night out.

Vintage interior of the Sydney Opera House

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