Things to do in Sydney

Unique Things to do in Sydney

Go beyond Sydney's greatest hits to discover the city's unique attractions and unusual experiences.

From the architectural glory of the Opera House to the wonders of the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney has much to offer visitors. Of course, Australia's largest city is more than its biggest attractions. Off the beaten path, there's a wealth of hidden gems that tourists usually don't see.

Whether you're into art, nature, history, or food, there are plenty of unique things to do in Sydney. Each one offers a different window into this multicultural metropolis.

Cultural Deep Dives

Sydney's cultural landscape is a reflection of the city's remarkable diversity and inclusion — more than 50% of the population was born outside Australia. Explore these unique activities to learn about the region's rich heritage and ever-evolving communities.

1. Street Art in Newtown

Discover Sydney's hipster haven with a DIY street-art tour of Newtown. This Inner West neighborhood is known for its abundance of colorful murals, which turn otherwise ordinary buildings into larger-than-life works of art.

Most are tucked away in parking lots and side streets along King Street. Finding them is all part of the adventure. Take advantage of the I Have a Dream mural, which sparked the area's passion for public art back in 1991.

The treasure hunt doesn't end with the murals. Newtown is packed with bizarre and bohemian shops waiting to be browsed. Feeling peckish? The food offerings are many and varied, with options ranging from Finnish fare to Nigerian specialties.

2. Indigenous Cultural Tours

Evidence of Sydney's indigenous culture isn't immediately obvious. That's why an Aboriginal cultural tour is so fascinating. The experienced tour guides reveal the unseen history of this massive Australian city.

Discover ancient rock carvings near Bondi Beach or Palm Beach. Tour an Aboriginal cultural center. Or explore historic artifacts in the Australian Museum. We highly recommend that you choose a tour that's led by an Aboriginal guide. It's a wonderful way to hear insider insights into the culture, both past and present.

3. The Ken Done Gallery

Ken Done is one of the most well-known names in the Australian art world. The artist started pursuing a full-time art career at age 40. Today, Done's instantly recognizable work is internationally acclaimed.

Immerse yourself in a world of color and geometry at the Ken Done Gallery in The Rocks, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Sydney. It's located inside the Australian Steam Navigation Building. Here, vivid paintings contrast the historic wooden beams and brick exterior.

End your visit with a bit of souvenir shopping in the excellent and eclectic gallery shop.

Nature and Adventure Unleashed

At first glance, Sydney seems like a never-ending urban jungle. If you know where to look, however, you'll find an array of opportunities to experience Australia's astonishing natural beauty. Whether you're inclined toward aquatic activities or classic bush walks, Sydney delivers.

4. Kayak to Shark Island

If the name Shark Island conjures a Jaws-style encounter, rest easy. You won't find any terrifying creatures when you visit this tiny piece of paradise. The island, which also goes by its infinitely more interesting original name, Boowambillee, is conveniently set in Sydney Harbour.

Pack a picnic and spend a few hours exploring the shore and enjoying the city's skyline views. When the conditions are calm, you can kayak to Shark Island. Otherwise, the island is a short ferry trip from Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, or Taronga Zoo.

You must pay Sydney Harbour National Park fees no matter how you travel. Make sure to bring everything you need. The island has bathrooms and drinking water, but not much else.

Photographer: Pascal Bernardon

5. Secret Gardens of Sydney

Hidden away in the Lavender Bay area of North Sydney, you'll find Wendy's Secret Garden. A lush oasis, complete with trees, shrubs, and flowering plants, awaits. Wander the peaceful paths until you find the best part: a spectacular view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Bring a snack or a coffee, and enjoy the panorama from the picnic table.

The garden, which Wendy Whiteley created, is free and open to the public unless it's booked for a special event. There are no signs pointing the way. This is one of the most beloved local secrets of Sydney, after all, and the search is part of the mystery. Keep an eye out for the enormous fig tree that stands guard over the main entrance.

Photographer: Bradley Deacon

6. Wolli Creek Preservation Area

Get into an Aussie state of mind with a bush walk through the Wolli Creek Preservation Area. Located along Wolli Creek near the airport in southwestern Sydney, this greenway is a delightful wilderness retreat in the midst of the urban sprawl.

The best place to start your journey is Wolli Creek Regional Park. The park is accessible from the Bexley North, Turrella, and Bardwell Park train stations. We suggest you bring your walking shoes. A hike down the 2-kilometer Wolli Creek walking track is a must-do experience.

The packed dirt trail parallels the creek, taking you through thick vegetation and past enormous rocks. At times, it's hard to believe you're in the middle of a major city. The eastern section of the track ends in Waterworth Park. If you're feeling ambitious, walk down the Two Valley Trail along Cooks River.

Gastronomic Secrets

Sydney's food scene has exploded in the past few decades. Local chefs embrace the city's cultural milieu, bringing together elements from various traditions. Immerse yourself in this creative culinary world with memorable dining experiences.

7. Dining in the Dark

How does sight factor into the experience of eating? You'll find out at Dining in the Dark, one of the most unusual things to do in Sydney. Slip on a blindfold at the table, and feel the rest of your senses heighten. Once you're acclimated, servers bring a series of intriguing courses. Your job is to revel in the flavors, textures, and sensations.

Dining in the Dark, which takes place at Capriccio Osteria, doesn't have traditional menus. Instead, you can choose from three themes: meat, seafood, or vegan. The dishes are secret, but the kitchen can work around allergies. Expect the entire adventure to take about 90 minutes.

8. Rooftop Bars with a View - The Glenmore at The Rocks

Sydney's skyline is world-renowned, and the best place to see it is from one of the city's spectacular rooftop bars. There's never a bad time to go. Sydney is stunning at all hours of the day and night.

For one of the best views in the city, we love to head to the rooftop of The Glenmore, a hotel in The Rocks. Every table offers an unparalleled look at famous landmarks, including the Sydney Opera House. The roof is retractable, so the restaurant is open all year and in all weather. This is a popular spot, so book a table in advance.

9. The Baxter Inn

Is there a wormhole at the entrance of The Baxter Inn? We wouldn't be surprised. Every step takes you deeper into a different world — Old World Boston, to be exact.

You'll find yourself in a vibey basement space, complete with dim lighting, low wooden ceiling beams, and brick walls. This kind of bar will ruin all other bars for you.

The real standout at The Baxter Inn is the staggering wall of whiskey. They feature every imaginable option from Scotland's finest distilleries. Snag a stool at the long bar to watch the ultra-skilled (and impeccably coiffed) bartenders mix up some of the best craft cocktails in the city.

Don't be put off if there's a line outside. The experience is well worth the wait.

Artistic Endeavors

Sydney is a hotbed of creativity and innovation — traits that directly impact the arts. Galleries, museums, and experimental theaters abound, giving you plenty of chances to see what's new and exciting in Australia.

10. Art After Hours

Marvel at artistic masterpieces without the crowds during Art After Hours at the Art Gallery of NSW. Every Wednesday, the gallery stays open until 10:00 p.m. Grab a drink from one of the pop-up bars and enjoy a relaxed evening stroll through the collections. Free guided tours run regularly.

To dive deeper into Sydney's art world, come at 6:00 p.m. to join a workshop, musical performance, or lecture. Topics vary but often relate to the current exhibits. Art After Hours is free and requires no advance booking so that you can drop in on a whim.

If you're using public transportation, take advantage of the free shuttle bus that runs to and from Town Hall, Martin Place, and Wynyard.

Photographer: sam manchester

11. Independent Theatres - Old Fitz Theatre

If you're a fan of new playwrights and daring artistic expressions, the Old Fitz Theatre should be high on your list of unusual things to do in Sydney. Tucked away in the basement of the Old Fitzroy Hotel just north of Surry Hills, this tiny venue is home to some of Australia's most fascinating theatrical performances.

Expect to see a bit of everything at the Old Fitz, from rock cabarets to intimate plays and brand-new musicals. The theater hosts regular premiere performances. It’s a great spot to see shows before they take the world by storm.

Book tickets in advance, as the theatre only has 55 seats. Seating is unreserved, so make sure to arrive early. We recommend getting dinner and drinks in the upstairs pub. You can even take your cocktails down to the performance.

12. White Rabbit Gallery

Contemporary art is the star of the show at the White Rabbit Gallery, a four-floor space near Chippendale Green. Curators create remarkably varied exhibitions ranging from large-scale light installations to classic paintings. Each one features the work of Chinese artists from the year 2000 and beyond.

Not familiar with modern art? Visit Wednesday through Sunday to join a guided tour. Leave ample time to wander on your own because you'll find something new and intriguing in every room. Entry is free for everyone, and convenient public transportation links are nearby.

Sydney's Unusual Experiences

Do you prefer one-of-a-kind adventures to major tourist attractions? Check out these unique experiences in Sydney. You'll come away with great stories and killer photos.

13. Ghost Tours of The Rocks

See one of Sydney's most historic and haunted neighborhoods after nightfall on a ghost tour of The Rocks. Guides take you deep into the dark side of this storied area, recalling the secret, spooky tales that only longtime locals know.

As you wander the cobblestone streets and dark alleys, you might see evidence of the hauntings and horrors. Most tours come with access to areas that are usually closed to the public.

For believers and skeptics alike, ghost tours are the perfect way to experience the hidden history of The Rocks. The tour guides are both knowledgeable and entertaining, ensuring the evening is fun for all ages.

14. Swim in an Ocean Pool at Sunrise-Bronte Baths

Look beyond the sand at many beaches in Sydney, and you'll discover a distinctly Australian attraction: ocean pools. One of the most beautiful is the Bronte Baths, a curved pool that looks like an extension of the rocky shoreline.

From the edge, you'll have a panoramic view of Bronte Beach and the rock formations. Come at sunrise to watch the coast come to life while local lap swimmers complete their morning workout.

A visit to the Bronte Baths is one of our favorite things to do in Sydney with kids. The baths are free to enter and open around the clock, and changing rooms and bathrooms are on-site.

Check the conditions before you come. When conditions are rough, local authorities may close the pool for safety.

Photographer: Gilberto Olimpio

15. The Grounds of Alexandria

Part garden shop, part restaurant, The Grounds of Alexandria is one of the trendiest ways to experience the Sydney food scene.

If you need more time, stop into The Grounds of Alexandria Cafe for coffee, freshly baked goods, and a quick wander around the space. We recommend booking a table in The Potting Shed restaurant. That way, you can linger over lunch or dinner under a canopy of greenery.

Not in the mood for food? Drop by The Grounds to pick up fresh flowers, explore the garden, and snap a quick Instagram photo near the latest floral installation. If you're traveling with little ones, the small farm will surely be a hit.

Photographer: Kate Darmody

Embrace the Unseen: Sydney's Invitation to the Extraordinary

For visitors who take the time to venture off the tourist trail, Sydney is a wonderland of unusual experiences and artistic adventures. Choose a ghostly moonlit walk or a trip to a worldly whiskey pub. The experience will leave you with a broader perspective and a wealth of priceless memories.

Can't get enough of the unique things to do in Sydney? Plan to attend one of our inspiring shows. Your ticket grants you entry into a visceral world of color, light, and matchless artistry. Join us on the quest at one of our shows in Sydney!

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