Sydney is a unique city, with a location that's pretty hard to beat. With a wealth of great beaches a stone's throw from the CBD, historical sites, fantastic shows, tasty treats and cafes, there is a wide range of things to do in Sydney at any given time.
With so many options for cool things to do in Sydney, how do I choose!?
Car Next Door has got you covered. We went looking for some people to help us with our search for the best spots in Sydney through a task on Airtasker.
Meet Marine and Elodie. They’re Car Next Door borrowers who spent the weekend checking out the sights to give you the best suggestions for things to do in Sydney.
Whether you live in the city and want to explore your hometown or you're just here for a visit, here are two easy, fully planned out Sydney day trips. Both trips feature a mix of outdoor activities, cultural experiences and historical Sydney sites (but no shopping, sorry - save those dollars for a meal at one of Sydney’s many great restaurants!). You can do one or both of these days in full, or pick and choose your favourite activities. Need a way to get around? Check out our rental cars in Sydney.
Free things to do around Sydney - Day 1
- Start your day off in The Rocks, Sydney
- Visit the iconic Sydney Opera House
- Get some thrills at Luna Park
- Househunt at Neutral Bay
- Get some Instagrammable shots at North Head, Manly
- Go for a body surf at Manly Beach
- Swim or surf at Warriewood Beach
- Go wildlife watching at Lane Cove National Park
- Watch the Sydney sunset at Observatory Hill
Our first trip takes you up onto the Northside of Sydney. In total, you’ll cover about 75 kilometres. It’s approximately 2 ½ hours driving in total, not including the time you spend at each destination. We’d recommend budgeting about three hours for the driving in case you hit some of that famous Sydney traffic.
If you’re tight for time or run out because you’re too busy enjoying all the great things you can do, skipping Warriewood Beach will cut 20 kilometres and around 40 minutes from your travel time.
For these activities you'll need:
- Swimmers and a towel
- Workout/walking gear
- Change of clothes
- Picnic blanket
- Food and drinks for a picnic
- A big smile!
Start your day off in The Rocks, Sydney
Start your day off with a harbour view in The Rocks district. With its cobblestone streets, colonial buildings and tons of spots to get that perfect Sydney Harbour Bridge shot for the ‘gram, it’s the perfect starting point. Every Saturday and Sunday The Rocks Weekend Market is on, with over 200 stalls, vendors and buskers. It’s free to have a wander through and soak in the atmosphere.
Visit the iconic Sydney Opera House
Walk for about 10 minutes along Circular Quay and get up close and personal with this Sydney icon. If you’re a local you’ve probably visited this iconic Sydney location before, but for visitors it’s one of those things you have to do in Sydney.
Get some thrills at Luna Park
Luna Park is a Sydney classic. The heritage listed amusement park has been in operation in Australia since the 1930s! Best of all entrance is free, so you can check out the history and the park without having to spend a cent. Make sure to get a picture standing inside the enormous mouth at the entrance. You'll need to pay to take on any rides, but exploring is free.
Househunt at Neutral Bay
Make the drive across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to Neutral Bay, a harbourside suburb on the Lower North Shore of Sydney. From this vantage point you can get some great shots of the Sydney skyline. Neutral Bay also has some beautiful historic homes to see. Wander around, play tourist or pretend you’ve got a trust fund and scout out your next property purchase.
Marine and Elodie picked up Melissa's car from Neutral Bay for their Sydney adventures!
Get some Instagrammable shots at North Head, Manly
One of the best things to do in Sydney is the magnificent urban coastal loop walk from Manly to the North Head. Start at the Queenscliff end of Manly Beach, follow the path to Shelley Beach, and keep walking until you cut through the bushland of the Sydney Harbour National Park. From there it’s a gentle climb up to the spectacular views of North Head.
Marine and Elodie decided they’d prefer to skip the hike and save their energy for a photography shoot. If you’re like them, you can drive to North Head and park there for some sweet city shots (and a nap if you're inclined).
Go for a body surf at Manly Beach
After you’ve worked up a sweat at North Head (either from actual exercise or some very intensive posing), head back down to Manly Beach for a swim and some fish and chips by the beach.
If you're on a budget, pack your own lunch to save money.
Swim or surf at Warriewood Beach
It isn’t a proper Aussie day out if you haven’t tried at least a couple of beaches, right? Warriewood Beach is a little further north of Manly, and is a great surf spot. It tends to have more of a local vibe so is a nice chilled out spot for a swim. Warriewood Beach is also home to a rather notorious blowhole, which you can see from the beach. It does attract some cliff divers, but we don'tt recommend it – it’s risky, and is actively discouraged by the surf lifesavers. But keep an eye out for the spray from the blowhole as you relax.
Do your best Home and Away impressions at Palm Beach
If you’ve decided to skip one of our earlier suggestions, or are happy to travel a bit further, head 15 kilometres (or about a 20-minute drive) north of Warriewood Beach to Palm Beach. You may also recognise it as the beach from Home and Away! You can visit the beach, and who knows, you may even spot some filming and a TV star or two while you’re at it.
While you're at Palm Beach, make sure to do the loop walk up to the heritage listed Barrenjoey Lighthouse. The lighthouse is at the tip of the Barrenjoey Headland, which you can access from the northernmost part of Palm Beach. The hike is an easy to moderate grade and should take about 1 1/2 hours.
Go wildlife watching at Lane Cove National Park
Australia has some pretty incredible wildlife, and you can spot a lot of great wildlife and flora at Lane Cove National Park. Common sightings include kookaburras, colourful lorikeets, swamp wallabies and eastern water dragons. Aside from animal spotting, the park also has plenty of bushwalking trails, cycling tracks, free playgrounds for the kids, picnic areas and the Lane Cove Boat Shed.
Watch the Sydney sunset at Observatory Hill
For your final stop of the day, head over to Observatory Hill where you can relax and watch the sunset after an awesome day out in Sydney.
Stick around for a while to get some great views of the Sydney skyline at night, and see the Harbour Bridge light up.
Free things to do around Sydney - Day 2
- Start your day with a walk at Cremorne Point
- Visit the historic ground of Government House
- Meander around the Royal Botanic Gardens and have a picnic
- Embrace your inner art critic at the Art Gallery of NSW
- Take on the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
- Explore the vibrant Surry Hills neighbourhood
- Take in the sunset like a politician at Kirribilli
Start your day with a walk at Cremorne Point
Elodie and Marine started the day by heading over to Cremorne Point for that classic Sydney skyline view. The nearby Cremorne Point Walk starts is an easy 3 kilometre circuit trail that takes you through the picturesque Mosman Bar and Shell Cove, and also features views of some absolutely gorgeous houses.
Visit the historic ground of Government House
Government House Sydney is one of Australia’s oldest buildings and it’s about as close to an Aussie Downton Abbey mansion that you’ll get. Admission to Government House Sydney is free, but you do need to get your ticket at the Gatehouse. Make sure you have some ID on you and enjoy!
Meander around the Royal Botanic Gardens and have a picnic
Government House is located inside the Royal Botanic Gardens. After you’ve taken a tour of the house, don’t leave before thoroughly exploring the Gardens themselves. Opened in 1816, the Royal Botanic Gardens is the oldest scientific institution in Australia. There are over 28,000 plants and ample harbour views. Pack a picnic and have a leisurely lunch by the water.
Embrace your inner art critic at the Art Gallery of NSW
The Art Gallery of NSW is one of the largest public galleries in Australia. It features a huge range of Australian, European and Asian art, as well as a rotation of specialist exhibits. The best part? General admission is free.
Take on the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
This coastal walk is famous and with good reason! The unique urban coastal track is around six kilometres long, and typically takes around two hours to complete. Make sure to pack water, sunscreen and a hat - slip, slop, slap! The walk runs along the coastline, so you'll find spectacular views the whole way. Cool off with a swim at the chilled out Coogee Beach.
On the way, make sure to have a rest stop at Bronte Beach.
Explore the vibrant Surry Hills neighbourhood
Surry Hills has a ton of gorgeous old terrace homes to admire. The suburb itself is a vibrant, artistic community. The area has a fantastic variety of restaurants, cafes, wine bars and pubs, so you're sure to find whatever food you’re in the mood for. Make sure to wander down Crown Street, Bourke Street and Cleveland for the best local hot spots.
Take in the sunset like the Prime Minister at Kirribilli
You may be aware that Kirribilli is where the Prime Minister calls home, with Kirribilli House the official residence of the PM. Take a quick sticky beak as you walk or drive paste, then head down to the harbour for some sweet sunset views.