Top 10 outdoor activities in Sydney
Laid-back Sydney is the cosmopolitan capital of New South Wales, a glittering sun-soaked state boasting plenty of outdoorsy pleasures. We discover the top 10 outdoor activities in Sydney that guarantee fun from daybreak to sundown.
10. Get your skates on
What: Let the good times roll as you glide across the streets of Sydney. Rollerblading Sydney offers rollerblading lessons and tours to skaters of all abilities and caters for beginners (basic techniques and how to stop), intermediates (mastering turns – great for ski cross-training) and advanced (slalom, aggressive inline, jumps and spins). Students may bring their own skates to lessons so long as they have a heel-brake.
Highlights: Skaters meet for either private or group lessons with professionally trained instructors at the stairs by the Burton Street tunnel chairs, adjacent to Milsons Point Train Station. Once you have mastered the basics, there is the opportunity to push your limits of endurance and join the school’s weekly Wednesday ‘skate night’ which kicks off at 9pm and lasts for up to three hours. Alternatively, devoted bladers can join the tours run across the Harbour Bridge and around Sydney. Lessons cost £32 per person per hour (includes recreational skating equipment; minimum two people) or £45 per person for 90 minutes. Wearing a helmet is compulsory and the school hires out full protective equipment and inline skates if required.
9. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
What: Those with a head for heights can rise to the challenge of climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge, the iconic suspension bridge that defines the city’s skyline. BridgeClimb offers adventurers the chance to enjoy the ‘Climb of your Life’ by ascending to the 134 metre summit. The journey takes 3.5 hours and involves climbing ladders, catwalks and 1332 steps. Opened in 1932, the steel bridge – nicknamed The Coathanger because of its arch-based design – measures 1149 metres long and weighs 53,140 tons.
Highlights: Known as The Bridge Climb, groups of 14 participants are ‘latched on’ in the Climb Base below the Bradfield Highway before venturing onto the catwalks. After climbing four ladders to the start of the upper arch, the group continues along the Bridge’s outer arch on the Opera House side to reach the summit. The 360 degrees views from here are breathtaking; stretching from the mouth of the harbour as far inland as the Blue Mountains. All participants are breathalysed before climbing and must have an alcohol-blood reading below .05 – anyone found to be over the limit cannot continue. Prices are determined by the time of day; night climbs cost from £129 for adults and from £96 for children (aged 10-15) whilst day climbs cost from £152 for adults and from £102 for children. The peak climbing period is December to January when prices are more expensive.
8. Enjoy an opera show on the Sydney Harbour
What: Running from the last week of March to around the third week of April, the Sydney Opera House brings its incredible opera shows to the water. Take a seat at the Fleet Steps at Mrs Macquarie's Point amidst the botanical gardens and enjoy a beautiful masterpiece which takes place on a floating stage, getting there early to watch the stunning sunset.
Highlights: Seeing a dramatic opera is remarkable in itself, but taking it on to the water only adds to the enjoyment. Overlooking Sydney Harbour, each show is filled with colour, intricate costumes and amazing set-design, finishing with jaw-dropping fireworks and even offering a themed food and drink menu to tantalise your tastebuds before the show starts. It's a feast for all the senses, a cultural delight that everyone will enjoy. The next Sydney Harbour Opera takes place 22 March - 21 April 2019, with prices starting from £55.
7. Explore the jaw-dropping Blue Mountains
What: The Blue Mountains are nothing short of stunning. Just west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains is a naturally stunning region home to rugged mountains and cliffs shrouded in eucalyptus forest, and dotted with cascading waterfalls and scenic bushwalking trails. It's an epic playground for adventurous souls - whether you fancy trekking to the stunning Three Sisters, careering through the mountains on a 4WD adventure, or grabbing a bike and riding through the forest, your days spent here will be fuelled by adrenaline rushes.
Highlights: A day-long mountain tour is a great way to get out of the city and enjoy getting back to nature. A day trip here can see you visiting the small village of Leura for a morning cuppa, hopping on the world's steepest incline railway at Scenic World (a great family-friendly tourist park), enjoying lunch whilst overlooking Jamison Valley, and venturing through Featherdale Wildlife Park to see koalas and kangaroos.
6. Get on your bike
What: There is little more fabulous than touring the waterfront city of Sydney by bike; not only is it stress-free and enjoyed at your own pace, but it means that you can explore parts of the city you may never get to see on a bus, walking or taxi tour. Bonza Bike Tours offer a huge range of cycling tours; the most popular is the four-hour Sydney Classic bike tour which runs daily. With the added bonus of an expert guide (who is also trained in road safety), the unique route takes you through Sydney’s historic neighbourhoods and also includes cycling over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Group sizes are kept quite small; there is usually one guide for every 8-10 riders.
Highlights: This is the only guided cycling tour in town that highlights the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Rocks, Darling Harbour, Hyde Park, the Royal Botanic Gardens (including the Flying Foxes), Hyde Park, the Anzac War Memorial, Chinatown, Sydney Tower and over 30 more iconic sights. Costing £72 for adults and £55 for children, each rider is provided with a super-comfortable bicycle (choose from men’s, women’s, children’s, baby seats, kids’ tandems and trail alongs), a bright red Bonza safety helmet, bicycle mounted bags for small items and rain ponchos if necessary.
5. Fly like a bird
What: Established in 1982, Sydney Hang Gliding Centre (formerly Aerial Technics) is Sydney’s first and only full-time hang gliding centre that claims a perfect safety record. Whilst an approved licence issued by the Hang Gliding Federation of Australia is required to take a solo flight, the centre offers beginners tandem hang gliding flights with qualified instructors that also include a ground lesson, safety briefing and preparation for take-off from the top of Bald Hill at Stanwell Park.
Highlights: With nothing else but a sail and howling gusts of wind, flyers are airborne with an instructor for around 30 minutes. The instructor will be controlling the hand glider at all times as you both soar above the spectacular Illawarra escarpment before safely landing on the beach at Stanwell Park. No special clothing is required, but loose fitting clothes such as a tracksuit or jeans and fleece are recommended and the school supplies special flying jackets if weather conditions demand. There is a limitation of a maximum weight of 95kg and minimum age of 14 years. Tandem flights costs £136 per person on weekdays, or you could opt for the Premium package that can be taken on any day at £153 per person. In-flight photos are included in the cost.
4. Stay ice cool at Bondi Beach
What: As part of the Bondi Winter Magic Festival that runs annually in July to coincide with the school holidays, the Bondi Bergstation Ice Skating Rink gives Sydneysiders and visitors the opportunity to skate by the sands of iconic Bondi Beach. The world’s largest beachside outdoor ice skating rink measures 900 square metres and is temporarily located on Bondi’s southern shores during the festival.
Highlights: This huge family-friendly winter wonderland thrills with all the trimmings and trappings of a magical ice-themed European-style village. There is an Alpine Bar serving up hot chocolate and toasty treats and lots of igloo-like canteens selling pancakes, waffles and Glühwein (special mulled wine). Tens of thousands of visitors are expected every day to enjoy a 45-minute slide on the sparkling slab of ice; the rink opens from 12pm to 10pm during weekdays and 10am to 10pm during the weekend. Ticket prices vary for access to the rink and skate hire and sessions cost approximately £20 for adults and £15 for children. There are also several ice skating performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
3. Enjoy a scenic walk through The Royal Botanic Garden
What: Offering natural beauty and vivid colours in the heart of Sydney, the stunning Royal Botanic Garden is ideal for those hoping for a leisurely walk with friends and family, or a little education on Australia's fascinating flora. There's plenty of things to discover and do here, including delving into the city's Aboriginal heritage and learning about foraging, enjoying a revitalising cup of coffee in one of the many cafes, or hopping on the Choo Choo Express for an insightful tour that teaches you about the garden's history. There's a few vibrant festivals held here each year too, so it's worth checking out their events page.
Highlights: Those with green fingers and a desire to see Australia's most beautiful flowers will relish a free tour with one of the volunteer guides. Passionate and friendly, your guide will take you round the gardens to witness the gorgeous must-sees of the season. These tours focus on the plants and flowers that are at their most special and bountiful depending on which time of year you visit, meaning you'll get to see parts of the gardens in full bloom.
2. Hit the waves and learn to surf
What: Established in 1995 by National Women’s Director of Surfing Australia and champion surfer Brenda Miley and her partner Craig ‘Wacca’ Wachholz, Let’s Go Surfing is the only officially licenced surf school on the golden sands at Bondi Beach. A superb starting point for absolute beginners, lessons focus on surf awareness and safety, surfing-specific warm-ups and stretches on the sand, paddling through shore breaks, standing up on a surfboard, catching waves and board control.
Highlights: Perfect for novices wanting to kick-start their surfing journey, the school’s Surf Easy Course costs £114 per adults and £103 per child, and includes surfboard and wetsuit rental, sunblock and three two-hour lessons with professional surf coaches who are also fully-trained in first aid. Alternatively, the Bondi Surf Lesson is a group lesson ideal for novices or those needing a refresher course and costs £53 for two hours (to join this lesson you must be at least 12 years of age). The school teaches children as young as seven years old and there is no upper age limit. Lessons start from 6am and end at 8pm in during the summer months.
1. Tantalise your tastebuds with a foodie cruise
What: If seeing Darling Harbour at a new angle and dining on sensational food really floats your boat, a daytime cruise on board MV Sydney 2000 will satisfy all your cravings. This Breakfast, Lunch & High Tea cruise offers just that - a chance to enjoy a delicious meal whilst being treated to gorgeous views of Darling Harbour's homes of the rich and famous, the harbour islands, and a number of luscious national parks. Choose between a Weekend Breakfast Cruise, a High Tea Cruise, a Seafood Buffet Cruise or an a la carte lunch on the Top Deck Cruise, all serving up decadent cuisine alongside picturesque views.
Highlights: No matter which cruise you choose, you'll be able to enjoy truly flavoursome dishes. All of the options follow the same wonderful route, sailing past beautiful Luna Park, around the Circular Quay, and even past Taronga Zoo. The two lunch cruises have the added extra of sailing past Shark Island. The Seafood Buffet Lunch is one of our favourites, serving up a delightful array of seafood plucked straight from Sydney's shores alongside an interesting commentary (which you won't get on any other cruise), though the Top Deck lunch and High Tea at Sea are much more sophisticated affairs.