In the space of two centuries, Sydney has transformed itself from a British penal colony to a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis, a financial capital of the Asia-Pacific region, and an international tourist center with a population of close to four million. Located near the southern end of Australia’s eastern coast, it is the largest city on the Australian continent, the capital of New South Wales, and one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas. The city’s dominant feature has always been its stunning physical location on one of the world’s most beautiful harbors.
In the second half of the twentieth century, Sydney grew from a primarily Anglo-Saxon enclave to a multiethnic city whose cultural sophistication is symbolized by the unique outlines of its famous harbor-front opera house. The twenty-first century was ushered in dramatically with the 2000 Olympic Games, which spurred the city to reinvent itself yet again for a new millennium.
ADVENTURE AND SPORT
The waters of Sydney offer a wealth of activities for all ages and skill levels. Learn to surf, explore Sydney’s waterways sailing, kayaking and paddleboarding, or take a leisurely dip in Sydney’s beaches and outdoor pools. You can enjoy whitewater rafting, canoeing or kayaking at Penrith Whitewater Stadium, an Olympic venue.
Thrillseekers have a range of action-packed activities to enjoy. Get your heart pumping on a jet boat ride zooming and fishtailing on Sydney Harbour or soar on flying foxes in the TreeTop Adventure Park. Experience indoor skydiving at iFLY Downunder in Penrith, or check out the trampoline park Sky Zone.
You’ll find excellent sports and recreation facilities at Sydney Olympic Park, also in western Sydney, and at the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre in Ultimo, near Darling Harbour. The Cook and Phillip Park Aquatic and Fitness Centre is in the city centre, between the Australian Museum and St Mary’s Cathedral.
In the historic Rocks is the King George V Recreation Centre. The Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation is in Narrabeen, a suburb in the Northern Beaches area.
The city’s green spaces are versatile playgrounds. Head to the enchanting Centennial Parklands where you can hire a bike, go horse riding, roller blading or enjoy a round of golf. Sydney Olympic Park also offers a wide range of sporting activities.
Take a flying trapeze lesson, test your aim on the archery range, play mini golf, enjoy the indoor water playground at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre, or hire a bike and explore Bicentennial Park.
For spectacular panoramic views of the city and beyond, climb the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb.
And get to know the city on foot via a number of easily accessible walks, trails and tracks through the Sydney Harbour National Park. Pack water, sunscreen and a camera and enjoy the Manly to Spit Bridge Walk or the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk. The Great North Walk is an ambitious 250 km trek from Sydney to Newcastle, but you can divide it into shorter walks.
NATURE AND PARKS
Fall in love with the natural wonders of Sydney, from the beautiful coastline and sparkling blue Sydney Harbour to majestic whales on their annual migration and spectacular wilderness in some of the world’s oldest national parks. Gorgeous gardens and parks in the city are perfect for picnics, too.
You’ll be delighted with the variety of wonderful walks, including one of the best city walks in the world to iconic attractions such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanic Garden. Another popular walk throughout the year is the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk.
On the edges of Sydney and right in the heart are marvellous national parks, where you’ll find abundant wildlife, bushwalking trails, campsites, waterways for kayaking and fishing, and precious Aboriginal rock art. The Royal National Park is Australia’s oldest national park, established in 1879.
You can even go camping on one of Sydney Harbour’s islands. Cockatoo Island is a World Heritage-listed convict site in Sydney Harbour National Park and offers camping. Tour operators, such as Life’s an Adventure, Sydney Coast Walks and EcoTreasures offer Sydney camping experiences, too.
One of the great natural wonders is the annual migration of thousands of whales along the NSW coast from May to November. Whale watching is popular from coastal walks in Sydney or you can get up close on special boat tours, departing from Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Manly.
Sydney’s cosmopolitan beach lifestyle offers fabulous experiences. Wriggle your toes in the soft white sand. Relax in the sun after an invigorating swim. Watch board riders catch waves. Stroll along the spectacular coastline. Explore underwater worlds. Savour beach picnics and beachside cafes.
And you’ll be thrilled with the many beautiful Sydney beaches, from world-famous Bondi and Manly beaches to the well-kept secrets inside the majestic Sydney Harbour, from northernmost Palm Beach to secluded beaches in Australia’s oldest national park, the Royal National Park in Sydney’s south.
You’ll find plenty of things to do, including swimming, surfing, boating, fishing and exhilarating walks to sandstone headlands perfect for whale watching from May to November. There are free barbecue facilities at some beaches, and an enticing range of cafes, bars and restaurants at popular beaches.
Join snorkelling tours in marine reserves and explore rocky reefs and kelp forests teeming with colourful marine life, such as blue groper, wobbegong sharks and sea dragons. You can also learn how to ride waves at surf schools in Cronulla, Maroubra, Bondi and the Northern Beaches.