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 £52 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. Take a dip at the ABC
What: The Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton Pool is a chic bathing retreat set on the glittering shores of Woolloomooloo Bay. Previously known as the Sydney Domain Baths, it was re-named in 1968 in honour of Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton, the Australian swimming legend who won five Olympic medals during the 1920s. Open between September and April, the eight-lane outdoor saltwater 50-metre Olympic-sized harbourside pool is perfect for serious swimmers whilst the smaller (20 metre) shaded learner’s pool is ideal for children. The ABC offers swimming lessons and karate classes and also houses a Hatha-based Yoga school.
Highlights: Tan-toppers who like to strut around in miniscule swimwear and designer eyewear can pose to perfection on daybeds in the terraced area. For an après-swim refuel, head to ABC’s award-winning Poolside Café; set on the fringe of the Royal Botanic Gardens with Mrs Macquarie’s Point on one side and Woolloomooloo Bay on the other, the views of Sydney Harbour are dazzling. The Boy Wonder Mini Breakfast – fried quail eggs, mini sourdough toast, pork chipolata, crispy speck (£9) – is a firm favourite with swimming patrons. ABC is open daily from 6am to 7pm and reopens for the 2013/14 season on 1 September 2013. Admission costs £4 for adults and £2.90 for children.
7. Thrill the kids at the Darling Quarter
What: Part of a major urban renewal within Sydney’s Darling Harbour, the Darling Quarter Kids Playground opened in September 2011 as one of the city’s most vibrant community projects. The 4,000-square-metre play space encourages children of all ages to interact with nature and natural systems and features 11 age-appropriate play zones within a landscaped environment.
Highlights: This fun-filled playground impresses even the savviest of teens with challenging 18 metre-long balance ropes, balancing beams and a giant slide. There is also a climbing wall, spider’s web climbing frame, jumbo swings, a sandpit with digger and a 21 metre-long flying fox that whizzes kids through the air through a grove of trees. The best bit is the network of customised interactive water playthings including jets, pumps, wheels, pulleys, water buckets and even an Archimedes water screw. This harbourside precinct also features a superb selection of kid-friendly cafes and restaurants; Guylian Belgian Chocolate Café offers an extended lunch and dinner menu whilst Meno Diciotto (meaning ‘minus 18’ in Italian) serves gelato ice-creams, sumptuous sorbets, Italian coffee and hot gelato brioche. The playground is open 24/7 and entrance is free.
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 £64 for adults and £51 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 £159 per person on weekends and public holidays and £143 on weekdays. 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. Saddle up at Centennial Park
What: Located less than five kilometres from the Sydney CBD, Centennial Park is a sprawling 189-hectare public park nestled between Moore Park to the west and Queens Park to the east. Nicknamed ‘the people’s park’, this stunning green oasis boast palm-lined avenues, wetland areas, playgrounds, sports fields, cycling tracks and several picnic areas with free-to-use electric BBQs that are available on a first-come basis. As the world’s only urban park with riding facilities, it houses a branch of the Centennial Parklands Equestrian Centre, one of the nation’s most diverse horse riding schools.
Highlights: Located next to Fox Studios, the Centennial Park riding school is the ideal inner city riding destination for all ages and abilities. Those with little or no previous riding experience will be guided through the parkland on horseback with a professional instructor whilst advanced riders can take lessons in dressage and showjumping. Private lessons for adults cost £78 per hour (£94 on weekends) and £55 per half-hour for children over four years old. Group lessons are cheaper and cost £55 per person per hour. All lessons include riding boots, helmets and safety equipment hire.
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 between £127 and £140 per person (depending on the season) 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 Experience is a group lesson ideal for novices or those needing a refresher course and costs £58 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. SKYWALK at Sydney Tower
What: For an exhilarating 45-minute experience 268 metres (around 853 feet) above the city’s glittering landmarks, the heart-pulsing SKYWALK is a unique purpose-built steel glass walkway set above the Sydney Tower Eye. At exactly twice the height of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, SKYWALK is Sydney’s highest open-air attraction and guarantees truly outstanding views of the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach, the Blue Mountains and beyond.
Highlights: Following a pre-walk safety briefing inside Sydney Tower, participants are fitted out with a protective all-in-one Skysuit before venturing out onto the roof. Everyone is harnessed to safety rails by sliding cables and carefully escorted onto the walkway and suspended glass floor viewing platforms. An experienced guide provides an insider’s commentary on the amazing sights and landmarks of Sydney, and there is the opportunity to have your photograph taken on the platform with the harbour as a backdrop. Admission costs £45 for adults and £29 for children aged 8-15. The VIP SKYWALK (adults £97; children £84.50) also includes the 4D Cinema Experience at Sydney Tower, a photo on arrival at the themed photo point and access to the Observation Deck. SKYWALK participants must be 8 years and over and it is not recommended for vertigo sufferers.