Are you travelling to Sydney Australia, or plan to as part of your travel bucket list?
A city of world famous attractions and stunning beaches, Sydney is an unforgettable destination.
What to see in Sydney? Sydney is home to must see icons like the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach, but this Harbour City is constantly evolving. There are many new bars, theatre shows and pop up designer shops at every turn, and the urban buzz is perfectly balanced by afternoons spent lying on the beach. Sydney is also the perfect base for day trips and weekends away.
We’ve all heard of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, but what if you’re searching for unusual things to do in Sydney or you are planning a longer than usual stay in Sydney and are keen to head off the beaten path?
Here are some of the best alternative things to do in Sydney Australia and unique places to visit in Sydney, for travellers wishing to delve further into what the spectacular city has to offer.
1 | Go on a kayak tour of Sydney Harbour
Every tourist makes sure to visit Sydney Harbour. But kayaking around Sydney Harbour is one of the alternative things to do in Sydney.
There is nothing like kayaking on the water to get your energy pumped!
Kayaking on Sydney Harbor offers one of the most spectacular paddling environments. From overcoming your fear of the water, to the challenge of paddling, to feeling the wind and the splash in your face, the sense of accomplishment after a little movement on the water feels great.
Sydney Harbor is a very busy waterway. From large personal watercraft and high-speed ferries to small power boats, yachts and kayaks, it’s important to note these are busy fairways and specific rules.
Ensure to be aware of other boats, swimmers, sea life, hazards and seaplanes as the risk of collision is much higher in port. If you plan to travel to port, know your responsibilities and take extra care. Before heading out, make sure you have the proper confined water safety gear and a life jacket.
There are many different Kayak tours to choose from to suit different ages and groups, and after some research you are sure to find the kayak tour to suit you.
2 | Take a Bus To Bondi Beach
Visiting Bondi Beach while in Sydney is popular and one of the best things to do while visiting the busy city. Bondi is a picturesque surf beach with bars and restaurants overlooking the bay.
A welcome relief from the busyness of inner Sydney during the winter months, or ideal for some much needed beach time, socialising and people watching in the warmer weather.
Catching a bus will make you feel like a local, show you the inner suburbs and give you an idea of Sydney everyday culture.
Visiting Bondi beach is definitely one of the unique things to do in Sydney. It's an iconic location that exudes a relaxed and chilled-out vibe, with locals enjoying the beach life to the fullest. Surfing enthusiasts are in for a treat with the reliable waves, and for those who prefer to take a dip, the nearby Icebergs ocean pool is a year-round favorite for the hardy locals.
Visit this website to plan your trip to Bondi Beach https://hellobondi.com.au/getting-around/transport/
3 | Visit An Alternative Art Gallery
There are many art galleries in Sydney to visit, from small artist run spaces to the major galleries.
The Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia both stage major events, including exhibitions by leading public and transnational artists. You’ll also find further artworks at the Museum of Sydney or view Chinese art at White Rabbit Gallery, located in Chippendale.
Alternatively, a visit to the private galleries including the Ken Done Gallery and those specialising in Aboriginal art are worth a visit.
4 | Discover Sydney's Secret Bars
Sydney is famous for its nightlife. There are so many amazing bars, clubs, and restaurants to choose from, and the city really comes alive after dark. Whether you're looking for a quiet drink with friends or a wild night out, Sydney has something for everyone. The atmosphere is always electric, and there's never a dull moment. So why not grab a few friends and explore all that Sydney has to offer after dark?
If you're looking for an unusual things to do in Sydney, you should definitely explore hidden bars in Sydney. Unique concept bars, with unusual drinks, await you. These bars are tucked away in some of Sydney's most unusual locations.
Take part in an organised bar or pub crawl or plan your own!
A bar crawl is perfect for a date night, singles, all ages and visitors who want a fun and unique night out exploring Sydney's best small pubs and bars.
There are many lists of best cool and hidden bars and pubs in Sydney, like this one to get you started on a night out. Whether you’re after a drink with a view or a hidden wine bar there are more than enough bars and pubs to choose from in Sydney.
5 | Attend A Cool Festival in Sydney
Attending one of the many festivals and events held in Sydney is one of the cool things to do in Sydney. The climate in Sydney is favourable for outdoor events and there is always plenty to choose from in this bustling city.
Celebrate in Sydney with cool film festivals, cruises, pop-up stores, music and exhibitions.
Sydney has an exciting calendar of events throughout the year. Let yourself be carried away by the performance of a lifetime. Watch a blockbuster sporting event that leaves you breathless. Be drawn into the story of the city in an exhibition that will open your heart and mind.
Stay outside late as the sun goes down - there are alleyways to explore, unique food and wine to enjoy, accompanied by live music.
This guide will set you on your way for current and future event details in Sydney.
6 | Visit Carriageworks
Carriageworks is a multi cultural arts centre located in Redfern, Sydney.
The creative urban centre used to be the Eveleigh railway workshop and is one of Australia's most renowned contemporary multi art organisations. Make sure to add it to your list of quirky things to do in Sydney.
This interesting arts centre presents a variety of performing arts, photography, festivals, fairs, and trade shows.
Carriageworks also hosts a popular Farmers Market.
Open on Saturdays from 8am, discover some of the freshest seasonal produce from the top growers in Sydney and NSW.
7 | Stay In An Eco Hotel in Sydney
Unique places to stay in Sydney will make a great addition to your extraordinary trip to Sydney.
The eco hotels in Sydney offer sustainable accommodation in Australia's favourite playground. Are you looking for the perfect eco-friendly getaway? This vibrant Australian coastal city is home to some of the best eco-hotels in the world, a perfect blend of sustainable tourism and luxury accommodation.
From chic inner-city properties to luxury retreats in Bondi, Sydney has it all.
World-class beaches, incredible restaurants and bars, and a classic laidback Australian attitude you'll never want to leave.
Here are Sydney's best eco-friendly hotels, giving you the chance to enjoy an eco-friendly and sustainable holiday in one of Australia's most iconic destinations:
The Old Clare Hotel - If you're looking for an environmentally-friendly hotel, this one is a great option. They use up-cycled furniture, offer biodegradable slippers, and provide plastic-free amenities. It's perfect for travelers who care about the environment.
Pittwater Eco YHA - Looking for a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of Sydney? YHA Pittwater Eco (Sydney) is the perfect retreat for you! Tucked away on the hillside of Morning Bay in the breathtaking Ku-ring-gai National Park, this property is only accessible by ferry, providing you with the ultimate secluded getaway. Surrounded by lush bushland, you'll feel completely at peace in this serene oasis.
The hostel takes energy reduction seriously and implements a passive solar design that ensures a comfortable environment during both winter and summer. The solar hot water system effectively satisfies all showering needs using only sunlight. Additionally, on-site composting of organic waste and the availability of recycling stations in the kitchens reflect the hostel's commitment to sustainability. It is worth noting that the majority of the items used in the hostel are recycled, making it an ideal location to witness sustainability in action.
8 | Join an Incredible Tour of Sydney's Indigenous History
There are plenty of ways to learn the first people’s history of Sydney Australia. One of the best ways is to take a tour! By taking part in one of these Aboriginal tours in Sydney and you'll have the chance to learn about the rich culture of early Australians.
Indigenous Australians have inhabited the land for over 60,000 years. Their history is full of inspiring and interesting art and stories which reflect their culture and pastimes.
See here to choose from some of the best Indigenous tours of Sydney:
9 | Check out Real Australian Theatre and Discover Emerging Artists
Attending a Sydney Theatre Company show is one of the fun things to do in Sydney, especially in the cooler months. The quality of the performances has made the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) a major force in the Australian Theatre scene since its establishment in 1978.
As the resident theatre company of the Sydney Opera House, the company presents a diverse annual production at its own grounds at the Quay and nearby Roslyn Park Theatre in Walsh Bay.
The STC provides audiences with a rich and varied program of Australian theatre, renditions of classics and the best new international productions.
As a NSW State Theatre Company, it also produces significant educational programs and productions developed by and for emerging artists.
10 | Volunteer in Sydney
Sydney is Australia's largest city and a major regional centre for economic, cultural and business. The vibrant hub has grown into one of the world's leading global cities, with a GDP higher than most other countries. However, like any major city, Sydney has a lot of social issues that need to be addressed.
As a result, those who choose to volunteer in Sydney can take part in a variety of projects and experience life in one of the most interesting and influential cities in the world.
If you are looking for free things to do in Sydney and you want to be a maker rather than a consumer, try to get involved in one of the volunteer projects in Sydney. I am sure you will get much more than you expected because this experience, where you help someone, do something together with local people, is invaluable.
Volunteering is definitely one of the non-touristy things to do in Sydney, and you can have an unforgettable experience.
For more on volunteering in Sydney, visit here:
11 | Try Something New - Unique stays in Sydney
Spend the night with the animals at Taronga Zoo
Indulge in an unforgettable night with the magnificent creatures at Taronga Zoo by reserving your stay at the Wildlife Retreat. This elite eco-retreat, nestled in the heart of the famed zoo and surrounded by pristine bushland on Bradleys Head, offers stunning views of the animals through its floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
Moreover, your booking comes with exclusive after-hours access to the zoo. Rest assured, your stay will be both memorable and meaningful, as every booking contributes to the zoo's crucial conservation programs.
Go glamping on World Heritage-listed Cockatoo Island
Immerse yourself in the unmatched beauty of the world's most breathtaking harbor by opting for a glamping experience on Cockatoo Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Whether you choose to bring your own tent or indulge in luxurious glamping with pre-set tents and plush bedding, this accommodation has budget-friendly options to cater to your every need.
Moreover, the campsite offers a range of amenities, including communal bathrooms, hot showers, a camp kitchen, and barbecues, to ensure that you have a comfortable stay. While you're here, make sure to explore the island's intriguing historic sites to make the most out of your stay.
Some other unique places to stay in Sydney include:
Sydney’s former quarantine station - now it's a fabulous hotel with a beach
Looking for an exceptional Sydney experience? Consider checking into one of these one-of-a-kind properties and uncover a fresh perspective on the city.
12 | Explore Off The Beaten Path Sydney
If you want to discover off the beaten track Sydney, then you need to trust the universe and start turning off the tourist routes.
One great way to discover Sydney's hidden gems is by befriending the locals. Not only can they introduce you to these secret spots, but they might even join you for a day out! This is the perfect way to truly immerse yourself in the local culture.
If you're looking to meet new people, try attending social events posted on Facebook or simply ask any friendly local about their favorite spots. You never know who might have a great recommendation, whether it's your hostel receptionist, bartender, fruit vendor, or someone you strike up a conversation with.
Conclusion: Alternative Sydney is Waiting For You
Sydney, Australia caters to a widely diverse population. The stunning beaches, parks and restaurants will exceed your expectations, making this city a must to add to your travel bucket list.
From the vibrant culture to the architecture to the great outdoors, aside from the tourist hotspots, there are plenty of alternative and unusual things to do in Sydney, Australia.
Ensure to research ahead of time for peak seasons which will affect costs and availability and you will have the best time taking in all Sydney has to offer!
About The Author
Kate Rae is a travel blogger at Not A Tourist providing alternative and unique travel tips for Australia. Not A Tourist is a go to place for Australian travel tips and secrets, written by a local.
Think budgeting, organisation and off the grid advice. Kate loves coffee, sunshine and wandering through new cities discovering neighbourhoods and incredible sights.