What is there to do in Sydney?

Hey Australian people. How’s it going? I’m good, thanks. I know we don’t talk that often, what with the time difference being what it is. So, as a gesture of solidarity, I am posting this at a time where many of you are likely to be awake.

I am flying to Sydney on the 29th of June. I’ll be there for about 10 days with nothing to do but explore the city and its environs. Because I don’t really know anything about Sydney (other than the fact it exists, is nice, and has an opera house), I am reaching out to you to ask the following questions.

What is there to do?

Sydney is a gigantic city. I am not suggesting that there isn’t anything to do. I just don’t know what is good to do there (aside from seeing the aforementioned Opera House). Does anyone have any recommendations? When I go to a new place I like to see live music, go to history museums, see parks, and generally do things that I couldn’t do anywhere except the place I am in.

If you live in Sydney, or have travelled there, what kinds of things should I do while I am there? If it is relevant, I am staying in The Rocks.

Who is there?

If any of you have been dying to meet me, I’m certainly up for hanging out while I’m there. There’s a Skeptics in the Pub meetup on the 4th that I am planning on attending. Above and beyond that, however, I’m sure there are lots of opportunities to do social things.

Also, if you have a group that is having a meeting you’d like me to speak at, I’ve got a couple of prepared talks, or I can just hang out and chat with people if that’s easier.

Anyway, if you’re so inclined, leave me some info in the comments, or e-mail me.

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  1. Funkopolis says

    I was just in Sydney a few months ago… Some ideas:
    – wear a hat. There is no ozone.
    – get a day-pass for the ferry and just go around the harbour (check out Manley). (There are also combined ferry/bus/underground passes). The public transportation network there is pretty excellent.
    – Go to the Opera Bar, but don’t get the tacos, go for the burger. Learn from my mistake.
    – The Botanical Gardens and the Modern Art Museum are within walking distance
    – The Australian Museum has marsupial skeletons and asteroids! And a skeleton cowboy riding a skeleton horse!
    – if you don’t know what to drink, just say “Bundy and Rum”. Everything’ll be fine.

    If you’re really at a loose end, just strike up a conversation. Every single Australian I met was incredibly warm and friendly. Just lovely.

  2. says

    While I’d love it if you followed Suido’s advice =D, last time I was in Sydney, my best friend there took me on a walk across the Harbour Bridge – I recommend going on the train to North Shore, walking south across the Bridge, and then take in the Rocks markets if they’re open – we chose Sunday to do it (the Rocks is the suburb immediately on the east once you’ve made the crossing, one of the oldest parts of the inner city). And for getting to some places like Manly, there’s no better alternative as a tourist than taking the ferry.

    Maybe drop into tigtog’s joint blog, Hoyden About Town (she also hosts the well-known Finally Feminism 101 blog) and say hello, there’s rather a lot of friendly Sydney-siders there who’ll undoubtedly have a few good suggestions for you.

  3. chrisho-stuart says

    I live in Newcastle: about 120km North of Sydney. With any luck, I’ll get to the Skeptics in the Pub! I’d love to meet up with you and others.

    If you like parks and green spaces, take a day to go into the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney. Katoomba is the classic tourist destination… with good reason. It is about two hours away by train. Go for a walk to the Three Sisters from Echo Point. It’s an easy 45 minute walk. There are longer walks down to the valley floor and other locations as well if you like bush walking. Do stick to the well defined trails if you try a longer walk.

    Include Wentworth Falls also in your Blue Mountains day!

  4. fraserj-h says

    The aquarium is pretty awesome. Has a giant Lego Moby Dick, and Neptune/Poseidon amongst others. I second the trip around the Harbour. If you have a head for heights, the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb is awesome. And be prepared to spend more money than you think. Oz is expensive (though the dollar has started to drop again).

  5. says

    Sydneysider here (@hawleyrose on twitter). From the Rocks you’re in a prime possie (Australian for ‘position’) to see a bunch of the best museums and sights – the Sydney Musuem, Police & Justice Museum (no really, usually very well done exhibitions). No matter how often I see the Harbour, I can’t get jaded about it.

    Sydney is on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and, for instance, the Botanic Gardens, which is just behind the Opera House so walking distance from you has an Aboriginal heritage tour which I’ve heard is good though I’ve never done it http://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/welcome/royal_botanic_garden/Whats_on/royal_botanic_gardens__and__domain_calendar/event_view?SQ_CALENDAR_VIEW=event&SQ_CALENDAR_EVENT_ID=103307

    Its also NAIDOC (National Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Council) Week when you’re here so there are a bunch of activities related to that http://whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/events/14460-naidoc-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-celebrations-2013

    In general the Botanic Gardens are beautiful, and from there close by are the Art Gallery, the parliament building (I checked, parliament is in recess alas so you won’t be able to sit in), State Library (great exhibitions usually), Australian Museum…

    In terms of food, get out of the CBD to, say, King St Newtown or my beloved neighbourhood Marrickville (both only 20 mins on public transport from The Rocks) where you are spoiled for choice for cheap, wonderful, fresh food from basically any global cuisine you can think of. On 6th July I see there’s a food festival at Bankstown which is further out (30 mins on train from city) but the multicultural heartland so that would be a place to see Sydney outside the touristy stuff. http://www.bankstown.nsw.gov.au/index.aspx?NID=1050

    Also we are in Winter so while I doubt it compares to the Canadian winter bring a jacket. 😉

  6. fwtbc says

    Some good suggestions above, though “bundy and rum” is essentially asking for rum and rum.

    Taronga Zoo is a short ferry ride from where you’ll be staying, and a ferry ride over to Manly where it’s required by law to eat fish & chips on the beach is also a good option.

    If you’re able to get down to Canberra for a night or two, there’s a lot of great places to see there, too.

    I might see you at Skeptics In The Pub. I’ll be the one with the labrador.

  7. mildlymagnificent says

    Last time I was in Sydney was 10 years ago, so I can’t help with food and pubs. One place we really liked was the Powerhouse Museum -Science and Technology. Though I should point out that it’s school holidays for the whole time you’ll be there, so I’d check their calendar of activities if you don’t want to be overwhelmed by ankle biters jostling to get in to something put on for them.

    Everyone else’s recommendations I’d endorse as well. Gardens, zoo, museums, Opera House, galleries are all very good, the Blue Mountains and the beaches are seriously spectacular. I wouldn’t live there for quids, but it’s a fantastic holiday place.

  8. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    If you head over to Adelaide, I’d be honoured to shout you a beer, Crommunist, if you’d like.

    Are you heading diagonally across to the same 35 degree south latitude and my misnamed* state of South Australia by any chance? Hope so.

    * Victoria and Tasmania are further south than us to say nothing of the Australian Antartica territory and Herd island!

  9. dexitroboper says

    The Harbour Bridge climb is great, although expensive – an evening climb is the most spectacular. There’s live music at The Basement near Circular Quay, they have a wide variety of local and international artists. Another live music venue is Venue 505, a short walk from Central station. There’s a great venue in Marrickville called The Newsagency where shows are usually in the range $10-$20 per person.

  10. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    ^ (Always thought our state should be renamed for accuracy and to avoid confusion with South Africa too. Something indigenous based would be nice or maybe a historical reference.)

    @ 7. mildlymagnificent : All I’ve seen of Sydney is the airport but I went through there, umm, yikes, about twelve years ago so I’m even more out of date..

    @1. Funkopolis

    I was just in Sydney a few months ago… Some ideas:
    – wear a hat. There is no ozone.

    Well there is but a lot of it is in the troposphere rather than the stratosphere – specifically the thin if recovering ozone layer – where it helps stop the worst of the ultraviolet rays.

    if you don’t know what to drink, just say “Bundy and Rum”

    Don’t you mean ‘bundy and coke’ as #6 has already pointed out bundy *is* rum. More a beer person than a spirits one myself but, hey, if that’s your poison of choice, sure. 😉

    @2. Suido

    What to do in Sydney: 1. Go to Melbourne.

    LOL. Or Adelaide or “BrisVegas” or Hobart or so many other places. Visit the Dish in Parkes and the Siding Spring telescope or the new ASKAP precursor to the Square Kilometre Array if you get the chance maybe? I’ll happily show you around the Stockport observatory and the Adelaide planetarium at Mawson Lakes.

    NB. For those who don’t know Sydney and Melbourne have a very fierce rivalry going on since, about forever, which is why we have our national capital in Canberra – halfway between them.

  11. Holms says

    It’s winter. Since you’re Canadian and this is Australia, this may still be t-shirt and shorts weather for you. You will not see any of that cold, white stuff on the ground or falling from the clouds. That shit is just weird.

  12. says

    Naah, for mass market beer I’d go James Squires. But if you’re staying in the Rocks, try the Lord Nelson for fabulous microbrew. There’s also Murray’s at Manly and Red Oak in the city. For less beer-related ideas, you really must go eat at the Sailor’s Thai canteen which is also in the rocks. And the Sydney Oyster bar (the view!)

    What sort of things do you like to do? There’s Chinatown for yum cha, there’s lots of lovely harbour walks (though I think cycling is quite hazardous), cheap cruises by public transport – the ferry to Manly for fish & chips on the beach, the river cat to Parramatta (and straight back, just for the ride). A day trip to the Blue Mountains would be good. The Taronga zoo is not too bad. There’s Saturday markets at Glebe & Paddington. Funky kinky gothy queer alt retro feral raver & hippie shopping on Enmore road and South King St (take the train to Newtown station then walk.) Music of every kind. Fancy food galore. All sorts of pubs & bars.

    If you do decide to go to Canberra (though 10 days in .au is very short, and I wouldn’t expect it), then please do get in touch – it’s essential to have a local guide to this rather peculiar place. I’d love to meet you, but I can’t make it to Sydney during the week. I might consider a weekend trip though.

  13. chrisho-stuart says

    Damn. I am already booked up for the date of Skeptics in the Pub, so I won’t be able to come down and meet you in person. But I hope you have a great trip!

  14. chrisho-stuart says

    Lol. And in that vein:

    “I like my coffee like I like my men. White, and bitter.”

  15. Ysanne says

    * Blue Mountains, definitely. Try Katoomba and the Three Sisters.
    * Look at and even cuddle koalas, kangaroos, wombats and other cute (though potentially smelly) marsupials at Featherdale Wildlife park (maybe there are others too — locals please advise…) Also, look at the hordes of bats in the Botanical Gardens (but don’t cuddle them unless you want to study exotic deadly viruses close-up).
    * Bridge Climb — it’s expensive but definitely worth it. I did the “technical” tour and loved every moment.
    * Museums and stuff — yep, great.
    * Beaches… though they’re better in summer. 🙂
    * Melbourne’s always worth a look.
    * Try the coffee, it’s great.
    * Rocks Markets is cute.
    * The harbour is great, and a ferry ride around it definitely worth the price. Also, plan lots of time for trying to find the best photo angle for the Opera House, especially in this weird Aussie just-before-sunset light that makes the world look like an HDR photo.
    * Give Brisbane a miss. Not the best time of year for it… but if you’re planning to see it and want to meet up, get in touch!

  16. says

    Oh, language.

    Republicans = Anti-monarchists.
    Liberals = city Republicans.
    Nationals = country Republicans.
    Coalition = Republicans.
    Labor = Democrats.
    Democrats = a faded irrelevance

    Middy* = small beer (285 ml)
    Schooner* = medium beer (425 ml)
    Pint* = pint. (570ml, metric approx to proper imperial pint, not American mini-pint)
    Fosters = pissweak rubbish produced for export to stupid foreigners
    Cider = alcoholic cider
    Chips = crisps or hot chips, depending on context.
    Hot chips = chips, fries.
    White/Black coffee = with or without milk
    root = fuck. NOT cheer.
    bugger = a mild polite semi-insult, can replace most non-sexual uses of fuck. (fucked up, fuck off etc)
    bushwalking = hiking

    * beer sizes vary by state. A lot. This is for NSW.

  17. says

    Ian, I might make my first visit to a Sydney Skeptics in the Pub in your honour.

    If you do go to the zoo make sure you catch the Free Flight Bird Show, which has a spectacular backdrop view over the Harbour towards the Bridge and Opera House. It’s best if you take a seat with some food/drink and maybe a book about 45 minutes before the show (a nice rest after seeing about half of the available exhibits) if you want a good possie, especially since it’s school holidays when you’re here. Remember to take your broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses for the glare.

  18. beardymcviking says


    In this case though, I won’t be there… so Sydney!

    I don’t know I’ll get to come meet you though, since I’m just passing through. I’d love to meet you though, so I’ll follow you on twitter on the chance that I can 🙂

  19. beardymcviking says

    Oh yeah, some small advice. You might come across people selling battery acid as ‘rum’ in bars, Don’t be fooled! It’s usually easy to spot, labelled ‘Bundaberg’ and referred to as ‘Bundy’.

  20. Madouc says

    So jealous! Both of you getting to visit my favourite city in the world and of all the Sydney skeptics for getting to meet you!

    Here’s a city guide I put together a few months ago: http://www.dimsumandthensome.com.hk/hk/newsletter/q-insider-24-hours-in-sydney/

    You’re there in the dead of winter, so the scenes won’t be quite as sunny as pictured [but hey, you’re Canadian, so it probably is like summer for you /obligatorysnarkaboutCanadianweather].

    Of course, I wouldn’t actually recommend The Ivy for you, it’s for pretentious Hong Kongers like myself.

  21. billingtondev says

    Have a good time in Seednee – just don’t believe anything an Aussie tells you about us Kiwis. We love ’em like cuzzie-bro’s – but there’s – you know – a REASON they have to shorten every noun longer than two syllables. (See above – ‘Bundy’ eg.)

    going now….
    toodle-oo… 😉

  22. says

    I have a blog for visitors to Sydney – it’s full of mostly free things to do… I would recommend getting a weekly public transport ticket that will give you unlimited bus, ferry and inner city train travel and using public transport to explore the city.

    There are a few links that you might like – I tried to paste them here but it was playing up.

    The blog is called SydneyExpert. I suggest checking out the the free Sydney tag or the Public transport tag

    Useful posts would be:

    Exploring Sydney’s Aboriginal culture
    5 Harbour ferry rides to take
    Sightseeing using public bus routes
    Sydney beaches to visit via public transport
    My TopWalks in Sydney

    Hope you have a great time.

    Oh and for free wifi visit the public library in Customs house at Circular Quay.


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