Australia’s largest city has come a long way since England’s (less than) finest were first shipped to its sun-drenched shores. Everyone knows about its famous icons – namely, the Bridge and the Opera House – but what else is there to see and do in the Harbour City? The good news is that there’s plenty, which is why the cosmopolitan capital of New South Wales draws over 3 million international visitors each year. Plus, the locals know how to have fun too. Here are a few things to try next time you’re in town.

1. Hire a Kayak & Paddle in Sydney’s famous harbour

If you want to indulge your adventurous streak or just work off some holiday pounds, you can rent a single or double ‘sit on top’ kayak, and do it while taking in the city’s coastline from its attractive harbour. Sydney Kayak Adventures start at pretty Chowder Bay before heading for Taylors Bay and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sydney Harbour | Sydney

Kayaking on Sydney Harbour © Taras Vyshnya, 2013. Used under license from

2. Go back to the 1920s & have a drink at Palmer & Co Speakeasy

The Roaring Twenties live on at Palmer & Co, tucked away behind the opulent Establishment Bar in the heart of the city. The attention to detail in this enchanting throwback to Prohibition really does astonish – from the rounded brick ceilings and cocktail waitresses to the cabinets stuffed with rare rums and spirits. The party continues until 5am.

Palmer & Co | Sydney

Palmer & Co Speakeasy © Palmer & Co

3. Fish & chips at Balmoral Beach

It’s a local institution: enjoying fish and chips (with a glass of wine) at this charming seaside hideaway, a few kilometres north-east of the CBD on Sydney’s lower north shore. Take the ferry to Mosman Wharf and the bus to Mosman Village, then walk down Raglan Street to the beach.

Balmoral Beach | Sydney

Balmoral Beach © n.hewson

4. Manly Ghost Tour

After you’ve finished your fish and chips, join the Quarantine Station ghost tour at Manly’s picturesque North Head. Touted as one of the most haunted sites in Australia, you’ll hear spine-tingling stories about the fates of previous visitors as the guide leads you through the hospital and morgue. Try the midnight tour. You know you want to.

Quarantine Station | Sydney

Quarantine Station © Sydney Heritage

5. Chinese Gardens in Darling Harbour

Founded in 1988 by the Chinese community to celebrate their rich local heritage, these enchanting gardens feature waterfalls, exotic plants, ponds and secluded stone paths. Located at Darling Harbour’s south end, it’s the perfect place to relax and reflect.

Chinese Gardens at Darling Harbour | Sydney

Chinese Gardens at Darling Harbour © Newtown grafitti

6. Manly Spit walk and Penguin Cove

Sydney’s most famous beachside town (after Bondi) also has much to offer holidaymakers who like to hike. The Spit Bridge to Manly walk is a local favourite, boasting sweeping views over Middle Harbour. There are some good side trips along the way, as well as places where you can grab a bite to eat. When you reach Manly, stop at Penguin Cove to see the local colony of Little Penguins come ashore (nightly from July to February).

The Views from the Spit Bridge to Manly walk © jezarnold

The views from the Spit Bridge to Manly walk © jezarnold

7. Sunset at Hugos on Manly Beach

If your legs have had enough after the long trek from the Spit, you can rest them at Hugos on Manly Wharf while the sun sets. This extremely stylish waterfront bar and restaurant describes itself (with some credibility, one has to admit) as ‘Sydney cool at its best’. Try their award-winning pizza.

Hugos | Sydney

Award-winning Pizza at Hugos © Hugos

8. Twilight sailing at Rushcutters Bay

Ten minutes drive from the Sydney CBD, pristine (and fabulously wealthy) Rushcutters Bay is the city’s number one spot for sail-boating enthusiasts. For a surprisingly reasonable $99, you can hop aboard one and, for three hours, experience all the thrills of twilight yacht racing. No sailing experience necessary.

Rushcutters Bay | Sydney

Rushcutters Bay © dicktay2000

9. Shopping at Double Bay

Stylish boutiques sell high fashion, couture and homewares at Sydney’s most exclusive shopping precinct. A short stroll from Edgecliff train station, it’s sort of an Antipodean Rodeo Drive, but with fewer palm trees. Elegant cafes line the leafy streets, and if you need pampering, pop into a spa.

Double Bay | Sydney

Double Bay © Madeleine_H

10. Drinks at the Island Bar at Cockatoo Island

Formerly a shipbuilding yard and naval base, Cockatoo Island is now Sydney’s very own party isle, with a chic Island Bar constructed from recycled industrial containers. Enjoy cocktails from a deck chair while taking in the sunset over Sydney Harbour. A twelve minute ferry trip from Circular Quay (next to the Opera House).

Island Bar | Sydney

Island Bar, Sydney © Island Bar

Words by Carla C. Burton, self-employed Travel and Hospitality writer and Gold Coast native. To find out more about Carla or to follow her other posts, follow her on Twitter @CarlaCBurton.