Local Tips: 12 Must-See Places in Sydney
Discover Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, a bustling and vibrant city that is a must-visit for anyone travelling to Australia. Home to the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge - easily the city's most famous attractions - the bustling metropolis contains plenty of must-see places you might not find in the guidebooks.
From a tasting of the hidden bars in Sydney to the myriad of picturesque nature spots, we’ve teamed up with Experience Oz to bring you 12 of the best places to visit in Sydney, filled to the brim with destinations that can be summed up in three words: where the locals go.
But even with an incredible blend of exciting city life and extraordinary adventures in nature that includes over 100 stunning beaches, incredible national parks and bustling multiculturalism, there are still plenty more places to go in Sydney to explore when you’re done with our list.
The Tourist Spots
1. The Harbour Bridge & Opera House
No trip to Sydney is complete without a visit to these iconic landmarks. The Harbour Bridge is an engineering marvel that spans the stunning Sydney harbour, while the Opera House is a striking architectural masterpiece recognised worldwide. These landmarks are not only beautiful but also represent the history and cultural identity of Sydney.
When visiting these iconic spots, take your time and soak up the atmosphere. Whether walking across the bridge or touring the Opera House, you'll be surrounded by the city's vibrant energy. Depending on where you visit first, you’ll also be nearby two unique eateries: Luke’s Table at the Pylon Lookout and the always decadent Opera Bar.
From the Oaks Sydney Goldsbrough Suites in Darling Harbour, it’s only a short walk through the city, past Hyde Park, down Macquarie Street to the Sydney Opera House, with the Harbour Bridge, a stone's throw away on the other side of Circular Quay, through The Rocks, a culturally historic part of the city that’s also well worth a visit.
Honestly, there’s so much to do in this great city that it’s hard to keep to just twelve must-see places. Anyway, on with the list.
2. Taronga Zoo
Home to over 4,000 animals, including Australian wildlife like kangaroos and koalas, Taronga Zoo is a great family-friendly attraction. What sets Taronga Zoo apart from other zoos is its commitment to conservation and education. The zoo's conservation programs help to protect endangered species and their habitats, while its education programs aim to inspire visitors to become stewards of the natural world.
Visitors can get up close and personal with the animals through various experiences, including keeper talks, animal encounters, and behind-the-scenes tours. And with breathtaking views of the harbour, Taronga Zoo offers a unique and unforgettable experience that will surely be a highlight of your trip to Sydney.
Luckily, staying at Oaks Hotels, Resorts, and Suites means you're just a stone's throw away from Taronga Zoo. Accessible via the ferry from Circular Quay or by bus, whether you're a solo traveller, a couple, or a family, add Taronga Zoo to your itinerary and make lasting memories with the amazing animals that call this place home.
It’s also one of our top picks for things to do with kids in Sydney, alongside plenty more fun attractions and experiences to keep children big and small entertained for a week or a weekend.
3. Sydney Tower Eye
Although the Sydney Tower Eye has gone by many names during its life, visitors can still enjoy the unrivalled 360-degree views of the city from the top of this towering landmark. At 309 metres tall, it’s the tallest building in the city, with views overlooking the city's iconic landmarks, from the Harbour Bridge and Opera House to Bondi Beach and the Blue Mountains in the distance. And with interactive touch screens that provide information on all the sights, you'll learn more about the city's rich history and culture as you take in the stunning vistas.
4. Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach is one of the world's most famous beaches, and it's not hard to see why. With its golden sand, crystal clear water, and iconic surf culture, it's a must-visit destination for any tourist coming to Sydney.
Whether you're looking to soak up the sun, catch some waves, or simply people-watch, Bondi Beach has something for everyone. With various restaurants, cafes, and shops along the beachfront, you can easily spend a whole day here without running out of things to do. But if you’re looking for a place to grab a drink, look no further than The Royal Bondi, an old-school pub with a sophisticated drinks list alongside a tinnie vending machine for those that love a cold one.
If you want to learn more about the beach's rich history and culture, guided walking tours take you through its past, from its indigenous roots to its early days as a popular seaside resort. Oh, and be sure to dip in the Bondi Icebergs ocean pool while you're there.
5. Manly Beach
Located just a short ferry ride from Sydney Harbour, Manly Beach is a hidden gem offering a laid-back vibe and stunning natural beauty.
Known for its excellent surf breaks and scenic coastal walks, Manly Beach is a great destination for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and relax in a picturesque setting.
Aside from surfing and beach activities, Manly also boasts a range of restaurants, cafes, and bars, making it the perfect spot to unwind and enjoy the local treasures. There’s Hotel Steyne, Wharf Bar, Queen Chows and Sake, just to name a few.
For those who want to learn more about the area's history, guided walking tours take you through the charming town centre and showcase Manly's unique architecture and cultural heritage.
6. Palm Beach
Head north of the city to find this picturesque beach, a favourite spot for locals and celebrities alike. Nestled on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Palm Beach is a hidden gem that tourists often overlook. But those who venture out to this stunning destination will be rewarded with some of the city's most breathtaking views and natural beauty.
Famous for its crystal clear water, golden sand, and stunning coastal scenery, Palm Beach is great for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing in a tranquil setting.
But Palm Beach is more than just a destination for beach lovers. It's also home to some of the most picturesque hiking trails in Sydney, including the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk, which offers stunning views of the coastline and the city skyline - more on that in a bit.
And for those who want to indulge in some luxury, Palm Beach is also home to some of the best restaurants and cafes in the city, offering fresh seafood, local produce, and delicious cocktails.
So if you're looking for a hidden gem that offers stunning natural beauty, exciting outdoor activities, and some of the best food and drinks in the city, Palm Beach is the perfect destination for your next Sydney adventure.
The Local's Spots
7. Old Mate's Place
Tucked away in a CBD alley, this rooftop bar is a hidden gem worth seeking out for its fantastic cocktails and stunning city views. Beloved by locals for its cosy atmosphere, creative cocktails, and spectacular city views, this rooftop bar offers a range of delicious drinks, including seasonal cocktails, boutique wines, and craft beers. But what sets it apart is its unique decor, a blend of vintage and modern elements, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere perfect for a night out with friends or a romantic date.
And with its prime location in the city centre, Old Mate's Place is the perfect spot to start or end a night out in Sydney. So if you're looking for a local bar with a relaxed atmosphere, terrific drinks, and stunning city views, add Old Mate's Place to your must-visit list.
Oaks Sydney Castlereagh Suites is centrally located in Haymarket, making it ideal for bar hopping between some of Sydney’s best speakeasies, dive bars, and a raft of rooftop razzle-dazzle.
8.The Baxter Inn
This whiskey bar has a speakeasy vibe and an extensive selection of rare and vintage whiskeys. A popular haunt among locals and tourists looking for a unique and memorable bar experience, you’ll find The Baxter Inn swill house tucked away in a basement just off a small alleyway in Sydney’s CBD.
As far as hidden bars in Sydney go, this cosy establishment is renowned for its extensive whiskey collection, which features over 800 varieties worldwide. But it's not just the whiskey that makes The Baxter Inn stand out; the bar also offers a range of delicious cocktails, craft beers, and fine wines to suit all tastes and palates (and free pretzels).
The atmosphere inside The Baxter Inn is warm and welcoming, with dim lighting and cosy leather booths that create an intimate setting. And with its central location, it's the perfect spot to unwind after a long day exploring the city or catch up with friends over a few drinks. We love The Baxter Inn for its simple motto: “What you drink and how you want to drink is up to you – we’re just here to help.”
So if you're looking for a unique and memorable bar experience unlike anything else in Sydney, add The Baxter Inn to your must-visit list.
9. Palmer & Co.
Step back to the 1920s at this underground prohibition-style bar serving classic cocktails and live jazz music. Nestled in the heart of Sydney's historic district, Palmer & Co. is a vintage-inspired bar that locals love for its old-world charm, expertly-crafted cocktails, and live jazz performances.
The moment you step inside, you'll feel like you've been transported back to the Prohibition era, with its dim lighting, exposed brick walls, and vintage decor. The bartenders are some of the best in the city, crafting bespoke cocktails using high-quality ingredients and innovative techniques.
But what sets Palmer & Co. apart is its live music performances. Whether a solo jazz pianist or a full band, the live music creates a unique and unforgettable atmosphere perfect for a night out with friends or a romantic date.
And with its prime location in the heart of Sydney's historic district, Palmer & Co. is the perfect spot to start or end a night out exploring the city's rich cultural heritage. So if you're looking for a unique and memorable bar experience steeped in history, add Palmer & Co. to your must-visit list.
Check out our Ultimate Sydney Weekender Guide on the Oaks Hotel, Resorts and Suites travel blog for more restaurants and hidden bars in Sydney for your perusal.
10. Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse
Hike up to this historic lighthouse for stunning coastline views and a glimpse of Sydney's history. Located at the northernmost tip of the Northern Beaches, this historic lighthouse offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding coastline.
Erected in 1881, the lighthouse played a crucial role in guiding ships through the treacherous waters of Broken Bay. Today, it stands as a testament to Sydney's rich maritime history and offers visitors a chance to step back in time and imagine what life was like for the lighthouse keepers who once crewed the station.
The hike to the lighthouse is relatively easy and takes you through beautiful coastal bushland teeming with native flora and fauna. Once you reach the top, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views stretching to Palm Beach and beyond.
So whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or just looking for a great photo opportunity, add Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse to your Sydney itinerary.
11. Paddington Reservoir Gardens
What was once a water storage facility is now a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city. Paddington Reservoir Gardens, located in the trendy suburb of Paddington, offers visitors a unique blend of history, architecture, and green space.
The reservoir was built in the late 1800s to provide water to the growing population of Sydney. However, it was decommissioned in the 1990s and lay abandoned for years until it was transformed into a beautiful garden space in 2009.
Today, the gardens are a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. The sunken garden, surrounded by the reservoir's original brick walls, is the perfect place to sit and relax, and the towering columns and arches make for great photo opportunities.
If you're looking for a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, Paddington Reservoir Gardens is the perfect place to unwind. Take a stroll through the lush greenery, sit by the tranquil pool, or simply soak up the history and architecture of this unique urban oasis.
12. Wendy's Secret Garden in Lavender Bay
This hidden gem is a beautiful picnic or peaceful stroll spot. Wander through the lush gardens and enjoy the stunning harbour views. Tucked away in Lavender Bay, Wendy's Secret Garden is a labour of love that began in 1992 when Wendy Whiteley, the wife of famous Australian artist Brett Whiteley, began clearing the neglected railway land next to her home.
What was once an overgrown and forgotten space has been transformed into a stunning garden with winding paths, hidden nooks, and colourful blooms. As you wander the park, you'll discover hidden statues, benches, and even a tiny waterfall.
But perhaps the best part of Wendy's Secret Garden is the stunning harbour views. You can take sweeping views of Sydney Harbour, the Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House from various vantage points throughout the garden.
Whether you're looking for a peaceful escape from the city or simply want to soak up the beauty of Sydney's natural surroundings, Wendy's Secret Garden is a must-visit spot. Pack a picnic, find a shady spot under a tree, and spend an afternoon exploring this magical oasis.
Sydney from a Local's Point of View
Sydney has plenty of must-see places, from iconic landmarks to hidden gems that only the locals know about. Whether you're looking to soak up the sun on the beach, enjoy a cocktail with a view or explore the city's natural beauty, there's something for everyone in this vibrant and exciting city. So pack your bags, book your stay at Oaks Hotels, Resorts and Suites, and get ready to discover the secrets of Sydney.
Looking for more things to do and places to go in Sydney? We have another list with 11 of the best activities and attractions to explore over a weekend or a week.