Outdoor Activities in Sydney - A Sydney Itinerary for the Active!
Sydney, Australia is the ideal city for someone like myself - ie. a person with far too much energy to know what to do with, and a serious love for the outdoors.
My brother actually lived in Sydney for two years and, when I visited him, I was immediately struck by how fit everyone was and just how much the city was actually built around these outdoor activities in Sydney. Wherever you looked, there were people walking, swimming, exploring, and generally continuing to perfect their already perfect, golden tan.
As much as I love exploring the interior of historical sites across the world, it was a wonderful realization for me when I understood that the culture of Sydney, Australia was so intertwined with celebrating the city’s geographical fortune. I mean, why not, right?
In light of that, my approach to discover Sydney was to be outdoors as much as possible, and, because of that, i just adored the Sydney itinerary that I ended up with, and thought I ought to share. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t dare step inside at some point (for example to pop in to a museum, or see a show at the Sydney Opera House), but I am saying the bulk of your Sydney itinerary should be focused on the interplay between the city and nature, hence my posts on the outdoor activities in Sydney.
So, What Outdoor Activities in Sydney Belong on Your Sydney Itinerary?
Obviously, how you construct your Sydney itinerary around outdoor activities is going to be highly dependent on what you like to do. In general, I’ll be mentioning what I feel are the top sights to see outdoors that still offer a lot of cultural value, and will give you an insight into the city.
For the sake of providing some variance, I’ll talk about different walking trails, opportunities to get out on the water, swimming and chilling out at a few of Sydney’s many famous beaches, and then tourist sites in Sydney where you’re outdoors. In this way, the aim to cover as much ground as possible, and allow you to find at least a few outdoor activities in Sydney that will appeal to you.
I’ll also be focusing on activities which I consider unique things to do in Sydney, in that you wouldn’t be able to replicate it in any real way anywhere else on the planet.
Catch Some Rays at Sydney’s Famous Bondi Beach
Just 7 kilometres from Sydney’s central business district is Bondi Beach, which has become not just one of Sydney’s top attractions, but one of the most visited sites in the country. And yet, when I visited I didn’t feel like it was too touristy at all. For the most part, what I saw was the those who lived in Sydney taking full advantage of this natural marvel, but it certainly can get busy.
Bondi Beach is a neighbourhood, but the literal Bondi Beach which the neighbourhood is named after is roughly a kilometre in length, and all kinds of pretty. On a nice day, it can be very crowded and thus a little nicer to visit in the early morning (not to mention you’ll avoid the intense heat around noon). At Bondi, you can do all sorts of outdoor activities. For one, if you want to be outside, but you just want to chill out, then get your tan on and relax. Of course, you can also go for a swim, or go surfing if you want to be more active. If you’ll be spending a fair bit of time in Sydney, you can even consider learning to to surf at Bondi Beach!
My sister in law, Katie, whom I love dearly, had an affinity for Bondi Beach, and I feel like she’d argue that no weekend in Sydney is complete without some quality time at Bondi.
If you’re a fan of the sunshine, you may also want to check out my hugely popular post on the Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in the Caribbean!
Get Out out on the Water at Sydney Harbour
Seeing some of the major sights of Sydney from the land was pleasant, there’s no doubt, but seeing the city from the water is a whole other ballgame.
You can go on a harbour cruise, take the Sydney ferry, hire a private vessel, rent a kayak, or really anything in between. For example, I’m sure you could manage to get your hands on a paddle board if that’s something you’d like to do. There are no shortage of Sydney adventures to be had when it comes to Sydney Harbour.
However you choose to do it, it’s breathtaking to get a view of the Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or the Sydney skyline from the water and, as such, it’s something to think about when you’re thinking about outdoor activities in Sydney.
Check Out the South Head Heritage Trail
In terms of walks to do around Sydney, this isn’t as well known, but the South Head Heritage Trail offers some unique and enticing viewpoints. Getting here can be a bit tricky, but more than likely, taking the F4 Ferry to Watson’s Bay is going to make the most sense. You can look at the Sydney Ferry schedule to get more information on that.
The South Head Heritage Trail is particularly picturesque because it includes a walk past Hornby Lighthouse, which as been kept in excellent condition by New South Wales Tourism, and is painted in a bright combination of red and white that serves well for photos. Note, you’ll have to walk across a beach to get to the start of the trail, but then you’ll have a nice walk (I’ve also heard of people biking the trail, but it’s much less common). Be sure to stop at take some pictures at Lady Bay Beach. If it’s sunny skies, the South Head Heritage Trail is a nice addition to any Sydney itinerary.
Do the Coastal Walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach
I’m going to be blunt - you need to do this walk if you’re visiting Sydney in order to understand what makes this city so alluring. I can remember this walk so vividly, and for that I’m eternally thankful.
The walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach is a stunning clifftop coastal walk where you’ll constantly have to pinch yourself to remember that you’re still in the boundaries of a metropolis. The walk itself is about 6 kilometres, and it took Bri and I about two hours, but we took breaks and stopped for photos with some regularity. You’ll also see public pools along the way as well, which have waves dramatically crashing over and into them.
There are a ton of beaches and parks along the route where you can feel free to stop and appreciate the outdoors (and even public bathrooms). The walk itself isn’t particularly difficult at all, but the payoff is enormous. Bri and I loved it, so I should note that I would include this under the umbrella of fun things to do in Sydney for couples.
This was one of the highlights, if not the highlight of our Sydney itinerary. All good Sydney adventures should have an active component to them as far as I’m concerned.
Take in the Sights and Sounds of Darling Harbour
This isn’t your prototypical outdoor activity in Sydney, I know, but hear me out. The Harbour itself has done a noteworthy job in terms of creating a cacophony of outdoor activities that are worth the price of admission.
Perhaps the most popular way to see Darling Harbour is to enjoy the fireworks that take place every Saturday night, but, as a lover of urban culture, I tended to appreciate strolling around Steam Mill Lane as well.
The real unsung hero of Darling Harbour is the Chinese Garden of Friendship. This alone is why I felt comfortable including Darling Harbour on this list because the Chinese Garden of Friendship serves to provide some relief to any packed Sydney itinerary. The garden feels secluded, and worlds away from a bustling city, which makes it one of those unique things to do in Sydney that diversifies what your Sydney adventures will look like.
Don’t Miss Out on Manly Beach
Visiting Manly Beach with Bri and my brother was one of my favourite things that I did in Australia at large, so, suffice to say, I’ll pass that recommendation onto my readers.
It’s likely going to be easiest to get to Manly Beach by taking the F1 ferry, which runs between Manly Wharf and Circular Quay. That route is a nice way to discover Sydney and get out on the water, anyway and could easily be quantified as a valuable tourist experience. What makes Manly Beach stand out for me is that it feels so removed from the city, and feels to me almost like its own adventure. Manly Beach, for reference sake, is situated among the northern beaches of Sydney.
The ferry itself takes roughly thirty minutes to and from Circular Quay to Manly Beach, but give yourself a bit of time at Manly Beach because if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up appreciating the vibe and staying longer than you thought. I know that my brother insisted we have this on our Sydney itinerary when we visited him, and he lived there for a couple of years, so I trust his opinion!
All things considered, a visit to Manly Beach is one of the top outdoor activities in Sydney, of that there is no question.
If you’re appreciating this post, you might also like to read about my visit to Australia’s famous “Twelve Apostles.”
Visit the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney
If you’re going to be visiting the Sydney Opera House, then my recommendation is to take the relatively short walk right afterwards to get to the Botanic Gardens. That little walk offers some mighty fine views of the city.
Once you get to the Royal Botanic Gardens, you’ll have unstoppable harbour views, and get the chance to relax in what many people call “Sydney’s favourite garden.”
You can visit “The Calyx” for food, workshops and a variety of activities, learn about aboriginal culture, dive a little deeper into the origins of the plants and animals, or simply go into your own world as you walk amongst the Palace Rose Garden. It’s another one of those places that is in the heart of the city, more or less, yet feels world’s away from cement and finance! It’s also a nice adventure to add to your Sydney itinerary regardless of age!
Get Your Nature Fix in Nielsen Park
Nielsen Park, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, is actually a heritage listed historic site and, nowadays, it’s considered to be one of Sydney’s favourite recreational areas.
Nielson Park is technically part of Sydney Harbour National Park, and it’s best known for its areas to relax, such as Shark Beach, which is on Port Jackson. There’s also a kiosk on Shark Beach that has been running since 1914 which, obviously, is a fair bit of time ago.
Some folks also like to come to the area to pay their respects to the fact that it was traditional the aboriginal lands of the Birrabirragal peoples, and others like to appreciate The Vaucluse and Greycliffe Estates, which are also technically part of Nielsen Park. In my humble opinion, Nielsen Park is just yet another spot that offers outdoor activities in Sydney with premium views, which also happens to have an array of activities to suit any traveller or tourist.
If you’re in it for the viewpoints though, honestly, that’s a completely legitimate way to discover Sydney as far as I’m concerned.
Take Note of Rose Bay and Double Bay
I’ve included Rose Bay and Double Bay together in this instance because they’re commonly visited together, considering they’re not terribly far apart.
Double Bay is a posh suburb with plenty of well to do coffee shops, restaurants and shopping, and, of course, access to the water. For that matter, though, it seems you’re never far from the water on you’re quest to discover Sydney.
Rose Bay is a little farther along the trail from the Central Business District towards Bondi Beach and is also a fairly ritzy suburb of Sydney, but I think Rose Bay is a bit better for outdoor lovers just because of Lyne Park, and the fact that there’s quite a bit more swimming going on and that at Rose Bay.
I wouldn’t spend my whole day at either, but if you’re grabbing a bus to Bondi, think about stopping at Rose Bay or Double Bay, depending on what interests you, of course. Once again, perhaps the real reason for the popularity of such areas are the views offered of Sydney Harbour in all its majesty, and that’s why places like Rose Bay and Double Bay make it on to people’s Sydney itinerary.
All Things Considered, What’s the Best Way to Get Around Sydney?
I’m a person who absolutely loves walking, and Sydney is a perfect city for walking, but if you want to see a big chunk of Sydney, you’re going to need some transportation that’s faster than your feet. That’s where I think there’s value in considering a Sydney Bus Tour. This can be useful if you’re interested in seeing a fair bit of the city, but still having flexibility to have your trip, your way.
You’ll need to take ferries and so forth for some sites, but the hop-on hop-off style bus tours have value in place like Sydney Australia.
Let’s Talk About Where to Stay in Sydney
I don’t think there’s necessarily a wrong choice when it comes to where to stay in Sydney, but I’ll talk briefly about the main places you may want to stay. For starters, I stayed in Surry Hills while I was there, and I loved it since it was away from tourist attractions and had its own vibe, but was also still quite central.
For the sake of ease, looking at properties in the Central Business District (CBD) is never a bad idea, and will provide a good base. If you’re looking for a little more historical Sydney, think about The Rocks, which, generally speaking, is Sydney’s old town. There’s also the option of staying in Bondi, or even Manly if you want to steer clear of the financial district. Darling Harbour also isn’t a bad option, but I think the safest bet is to find somewhere in the Central Business District and use that as your home base.
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Some Final Thoughts on Outdoor Activities in Sydney
All I can say is that if you’re fond of the outdoors, Sydney is going to be an absolute treat for you. Some days, particularly in summer, you’ve got to be cautious not to spend too much time outside, but if you’re hydrating and practicing proper sun safety, then you should be just fine. That’s part of the reason that visiting those Sydney beaches can be nice though because you can cool down in the water, find a little shade, then head off.
On that note, most of these places, especially the walking trail etc. understand there is heat, and have shade and water available for you along the way.
The reason I think a Sydney itinerary like this can be so valuable is because the views that you’ll get of the city just from taking part in these outdoor activities in Sydney is something else. I firmly believe that Sydney is a city that deserves to be appreciated outdoors, and that’s the way it’s set up the be enjoyed. All I can say is this, bring your camera because Sydney is arguably the most photogenic city on the planet, and it’s just waiting to be explored.