Having lived there most of my life I may be the teensiest bit biased, but I do believe Sydney is one of the greatest places in the world. I was going to say one of the greatest cities, but that category is too limiting. So I’m going with places.
There’s sooooo much to see and do that I still haven’t come close to doing everything I want to, and I know I’m not the only one.
So when I decided to take a bit of a look at great tours and things to do in and around the fair harbour city I chose ones that Sydney friends could enjoy as much as international visitors.
Knowing what it’s like to have a fluctuating budget I also wanted to break them into different price points so you can find your own sweet spot.
As the prices for some tours change depending on the day and time, I won’t list individual prices, but at the time of writing these guys all fit into the price categories below.
So whether you’re a tourist or a local here are some ideas to get you out and about.
Sydney Tours and Things To Do Under $50
I’ve been to the Opera House more times than I can remember, and have seen everything from opera to ballet to rock bands and stars like Liza Minelli or Dionne Warwick under those sails.
But when I did one of the Sydney Opera House’s guided walking tours I discovered things I’d never known before. The tours take you from the controversy when it was being built to the present day, pointing out fascinating quirks and sharing all sorts of tales from those corridors.
Don’t just take photos of the Opera House, get inside and hear some of those tales.
The Queen Victoria Building may be a beautiful shopping centre in the heart of Sydney’s CBD but she has some stories to tell. And a ghost or two.
The QVB puts on guided tours every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11.30am. You can usually just turn up to the concierge’s desk on the ground floor on the day but to check if there’s room you can call the QVB Concierge on 02 9264 9209.
The oldest continuous Mounted Police Unit in the world can be found in Sydney and as well as keeping the peace on the streets, the mounted police open their doors twice a week for people to go behind the scenes and into the stables.
I loved going to meet the horses and the people who work with them, and to find out the answers to things I’d always wondered, such as how can a person on a horse arrest someone who’s on the ground? (Very effectively it turns out, as I share in my post about going to the Mounted Police Tours).
The tours are held every Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10.30am and are free, but you need to book ahead by calling them on 02 9319 2154.
One of the largest aquariums in the world, with over 13-thousand marine animals from 700 different species, the Sydney Aquarium is well worth a look, and is a pretty good spot to stay dry, even if you are surrounded by water, on a rainy day.
You can visit the dugongs and see platypus, meet cute penguins, check out the largest crab in the world, “Crabzilla”, the Japanese Spider Crab, and get a taste of what it’s like to be in the Great Barrier Reef.
An individual ticket to the Sydney Aquarium falls into this budget bracket, but coming up in the Under $100 section you can get a pass for five Sydney attractions including the aquarium for more bang for your buck.
One of the best ways to see Sydney is from the water and this 24-hour hop on hop off ticket with Captain Cook Cruises lets you explore at your own pace.
There’s commentary along the way sharing some of Australia’s history and information about the harbour and the city around it.
Stops include Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, Taronga Zoo, Watsons Bay, Luna Park, Fort Denison, and one of my favourite spots in Sydney, Shark Island.
And of course Sydney also has a hop on hop off bus, which has two routes, one to take you around some of the most popular city spots and another to take you down to Bondi Beach and around the bays.
And don’t forget there are lots of free things you can do including lying on some of the world’s best beaches and doing beautiful walks like the Cremorne Point Walk.
Sydney Tours and Things To Do Under $100
It may start off calmly enough going under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and past the Opera House but when this sightseeing tour gets going it really gets the adrenalin pumping.
This high-speed ride on a 900-horsepower Special Forces boat takes passengers out past the cliffs of North Head and into the open ocean, hitting speeds of around 110km/h and jumping waves before it reaches Bondi and more photo opportunities at the famous beach.
Step on board a beautiful timber built tall ship in The Rocks and start your day by sailing past some of Sydney’s famous landmarks with a glass of bubbles in your hand.
Now while this is called a tall ship champagne brunch cruise I am a bit of a stickler about the use of the word champagne, so I should point out that it’s really sparkling Aussie wine.
Which is how you can be out on a tall ship, eating oysters and enjoying a smoked salmon buffet while having your glass repeatedly refilled with bubbles all for under $100.
If you’d like to get involved you can help hoist the sails, or just sit back, eat, drink and watch Sydney go by.
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is a beautiful piece of protected wilderness where you can see wildlife, marine life and perhaps even the local white bellied sea eagle.
A guided paddleboard tour takes you out into calm waters with a guide who can both help you get the hang of paddleboarding and teach you about the things you’re paddling past.
Remember earlier when I mentioned the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and how there’d be a combo pass? This is the one.
For $20 more than the entry to the Aquarium you can get entry to five attractions: SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary, Maddam Tussauds and Sydney Tower Eye which is the highest vantage point in Sydney with 360 degree views from 250m in the sky.
And no need to rush around and try to do everything at once. This combo pass gives you 30 days to use them up after entry to the first one, so you can save them for those rainy days (literally, they’re mostly inside and good rainy day options).
Sydney Tours and Things to Do Under $200
Find out what it feels like to sail on an authentic America’s Cup yacht in one of the most famous harbours in the world.
Learn how to steer at the helm, give your muscles a work out helping to hoist the main sail, or just sit back and watch the crew do all the hard work as you breathe in that sea breeze and feel the wind in your hair.
Get your motor running and the adrenalin pumping as you ride from the city to Bondi on the back of a Harley Davidson.
After being picked up at your hotel you’re kitted out with leather jacket, gloves and helmet, and then you hop on the back of the Harley as your driver and guide revs the engine.
Cruise through Sydney down to Bondi, take advantage of the photo stops along the way before being dropped back at your hotel an hour later.
Want to go further on that Harley and see some of the Blue Mountains? Then the Lower Blue Mountains Harley Davidson tour may be for you.
This hour and a half ride starts and ends at your hotel but rather than going down the beach it heads west, cruising along the weaving and winding Great Western Highway up to Springwood, and then down past the Hawkesbury Heights lookout and along the Castlereagh Road.
This full day tour with AAT Kings takes in the Blue Mountains, Scenic World and Featherdale Wildlife Park, and is a chance to see spectacular scenery, explore the charming mountain village of Leura and have some Aussie animal encounters on the way home.
Ride the steepest funicular in the world, see the Three Sisters, walk through ancient rainforests, and take some time to explore the boutiques and museums in Leura.
After lunch with a view from the cliff top Conservation Hut at Wentworth Falls you’ll head to Featherdale Wildlife Park where you can meet kangaroos, koalas, dingos, Tasmanian devils and more before heading back to Sydney.
Another day trip out of Sydney, and this one is for the wine lovers. After being picked up from your hotel you head up to one of Australia’s great wine regions, the Hunter Valley where you spend the day tasting Aussie vintages.
Get tips on tasting techniques and learn about the art of wine making as you explore some of the award winning wines at Hope Estate and McGuigans and enjoy lunch at the Hunter Valley Resort. This is one day trip where you’ll be glad there’s no debate over who’ll be the designated driver.
Sydney Tours and Things To Do $200 and Above
Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a bit of a tourist cliché, but take it from someone who’s done it twice, it’s also pretty awesome.
There are different ways you can climb it, and personally I preferred doing the BridgeClimb Express which takes two and a half hours and takes you over the lower arch before climbing up a ladder to the top of the bridge.
The original BridgeClimb Experience takes three and a half hours and goes over the top arch, but also goes at a slower pace.
I explain the differences in more detail in my review of the BridgeClimb Express but regardless of which one you go for they both give you the chance to do something pretty special.
Don’t forget if you’re watching your budget you can also walk across the harbour bridge for free. That’s something I’d highly recommend as you get to look out onto the harbour and up into the bridge, and there are some fun spots to explore over on the Kirribilli side.
Earlier we talked about having a bubbly brunch on a tall ship, but if you’d like to spend more time on one of these special vessels then this is the way to go.
Your tall ship, the Soren Larsen has been around the world twice and your two-day one night cruise includes sailing around the harbour, dinner under the stars, and the chance to explore Goat Island, which has some of Australia’s most important convict-built buildings, before another relaxing afternoon of sailing.
First timers and experienced divers alike are welcome to take the plunge at Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary, where they can swim cage free amongst sharks, turtles, stingrays and hundreds of other fish in the Oceanarium.
Family and friends can take photos from the viewing tunnel, while strangers can just be jealous that they don’t know you or aren’t in the wetsuits themselves.
While I have yet to fly with the Red Baron guys here in Australia, one of the most memorable experiences of my life is doing aerial acrobatics outside of New York in a Pitts Special.
There’s nothing quite like doing loops and rolls and spinning up there in the air with the wind in your face. And I can feel my heart rate increase just when I remember what it was like to casually fly along upside down in an open cockpit.
While my Pitts Special experience was with a friend in his plane, I so want to do it again and love the fact that anyone can do it in Sydney. Definitely one you won’t forget in a hurry.
Get the bird’s eye view of Sydney from your helicopter, well, your helicopter for a few hours anyway, as you fly along the cliffs and beaches, over famous landmarks and past a different angle on the city skyline.
There are a range of options on offer in Sydney, including private helicopter tours where the price is for the whole helicopter and can take up to three passengers, and others where the price is per passenger.
You can also watch the sun go down from that special vantage point on a sunset helicopter tour.
So there we have it. Twenty tours and things to do in Sydney to help get you out and about.
Of course there’s a lot more where that came from so if you’ve done a tour in Sydney you love, do let me know so I can add it to my To Do list for next time.
Happy Sydney travels!
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