Sydney, the state capital of New South Wales, is Australia’s most populated city and a global tourist destination. It seamlessly blends traditional Australian culture (think surfing, koalas, and kangaroos) with a diverse mix of other cultures, especially those of Eastern Asia. With iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge, natural attractions such as the Blue Mountains to the West, Darling and Sydney Harbors, incredible food, and serene beaches, Sydney promises endless entertainment for students, residents, and tourists alike.
Sydney is also a growing hub for business. It is Australia’s leading economic city and is home to many national and multinational corporations, especially in the areas of finance, banking, information and communications technology, and accounting. The 2000 Sydney Olympics propelled the city’s tourism businesses to new heights. If you are a business traveler, it is increasingly likely that you will one day find yourself in the city.
Traveling for business can be arduous and tiring. Oftentimes nothing seems better than filling the time between meetings and corporate events with long naps and repeated calls to room service. But when you find yourself in a city like Sydney, it would be foolish not to experience what the city has to offer, especially if you can grab a few extra days before or after your business obligations to see the sights and explore one of the Southern Hemisphere’s premier destinations. There are a million things to do in Sydney, but here’s a compilation of my top great things to do as a business traveler while in Sydney. They range from quick attractions to half and full-day trips.
01 of 05
Take a Tour of the City
When I first get to a new place, I always like to take a tour to get my bearings. Sydney is a sprawling city with many different neighborhoods to discover. There are a few ways to do this, but I would recommend one of two options. If you want to do a walking tour, I would do the “I’m Free” tour, which is lead by a local guide and explores the sites of downtown Sydney. All you have to do is look for a guide wearing a bright green shirt at 10:30 or 2:30 at Town Hall Square any day of the week. Tours last for three hours and are free.
If you’re like me and prefer bus tours, I would recommend the Sydney and Bondi Hop-on Hop-off Tour, which can be found on Viator.com. The two-part tour takes you to all the sights, including the Harbor Bridge, Opera House, Bondi Beach, the Central Business District, the Historical Rocks District, and many others. The tour has 34 stops, pre-recorded audio detailing each location, and takes place on a double-decker red bus, much like the ones you’d see in London and other major cities.
The hop-on hop-off nature of the bus tour allows you to get off and check out stops along the way. I would recommend stopping at Harbor area and checking out the bridge and taking a tour of the Opera House. Tickets for the bus tour are either valid for 24 or 48 hours, which gives riders to take their time off of the bus. If you only have one day to take in the city, taking plenty of stops to explore while on the bus tour is a great way to spend it.
02 of 05
See the City From up High
Taking a tour from the ground is great, but how about seeing the city from up high? With its classical architecture seamlessly blended with its iconic coastline, Sydney is one of the most eye-appealing cities I’ve ever been to. There are a few ways to take in the sprawling views from up high, but I would recommend one of two options.
The first is by visiting Sydney Tower Eye & Skywalk, the tallest building in Sydney. The Tower offers two options, either a visit to the observation deck or to the outside skywalk tour, which lasts around 45 minutes. Both give visitors a great view of Sydney and beyond, although the Skywalk is a bit pricier. In either case, buy your tickets online, where there are fairly significant discounts. Also, count on long lines to collect your tickets, as your mobile voucher is not enough to get into the tower.
The second way that I would recommend seeing the city from up high is by climbing the Harbor Bridge at BridgeClimb Sydney. If you’re willing to spend a bit extra (~$280 AUD), this is, in my opinion, the best way to see Sydney, and an experience you won’t soon forget. Tours last from 1.5-3 hours and have been taken by numerous celebrities over the years, photos of which are displayed in the main entrance. The tour begins with pre-climb prep, followed by the climb up the east side of the bridge facing the inner harbor and Opera House, culminating in the summit, where photos are taken, then the descent down the west side of the bridge with the Blue Mountains in the distance and the post-climb afterward. Strapped onto the side of the bridge and outfitted with a blue and gray jumper, you are guided by one of BridgeClimb’s insightful and interesting guides, who describe the bridge’s construction, its 80+ year history, and the incredible views climbers see.
My tour guide, Richard, had given thousands of tours, yet his excitement about the bridge was palpable, and his knowledge about the bridge and the city was unmatched. The 360-degree sprawling view from the top of the bridge, where you can see the city of Sydney and the surrounding areas in their entirety and hear the buzz of the cars zooming by hundreds of feet below your feet perched atop the thin metal beams of the bridge top is truly one-of-a-kind.
If you can splurge on anything while in Sydney, I don’t think there would be anything I would recommend more than this. The BridgeClimb was truly a highlight of my trip. Photos cost extra but are very much worth it to show to family, friends, and coworkers.
03 of 05
Kangaroos, Koalas, and Dingos, Oh My!
Your trip to Australia would be incomplete without seeing it’s famous wildlife. While best viewed in their natural habitat, the time and energy this takes are often too much for business travelers.
Not to worry, however, as Sydney has great zoos and wildlife parks. Taronga Zoo, Wildlife Sydney Zoo, and Symbio Wildlife Park are all great places to visit.
My favorite, however, was Featherdale Wildlife Park, located about 30 miles from downtown Sydney. If you have the time (at least 4 hours allocated for round trip), Featherdale offers a smaller, more intimate, natural experience than the other zoos and wildlife parks. Priced around $30, a ticket allows you to get up close and personal with the animals in a way that either costs extra or isn’t possible at the other zoos and parks. You can touch a kangaroo, pet a koala, and get a picture with a dingo. The park also has daily feedings for all its animals with detailed presentations about the animals given by the staff at each feeding. I would to check before you go to see when the feeding of your favorite animals are so you can schedule your visit accordingly.
04 of 05
Go to the Beach
Besides Kangaroos, the image that comes to most people’s mind’s when Australia is mentioned is a blond-haired, tan, surfer catching a wave on a beautiful beach. And for good reason. Almost 85% of the population of Australians live within 30 miles of the beach. With most of the country covered by uninhabitable desert, a large percentage of the country’s residents settled near the water. Australian culture and its coastline/beaches are extremely interwoven and a large portion of Australian culture, especially its sporting culture, are tied to the beach. Thus, when visiting the country, your trip would be remiss without a trip to the beach. Sydney’s warm weather means spending time at the beach is enjoyable almost year round, perhaps with the exception of the cooler July and August months.
In Sydney, there are a couple of great options for beaches to visit. Most famous is Bondi Beach, located just a few miles east of Sydney’s CBD. It’s beautiful coastline, combined with its long history as a resident-favorite beach turned popular tourist attraction make it a must-see while in Sydney. At any given time, you will see people swimming, catching some sun, surfing, working out, playing Aussie sports on the sand, among other things. There’s also great food options a bit further inland and a walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee beach that offers tremendous coastal views. If you’re going to swim, do so between the flags, which are patrolled by lifeguards who determined the area to be safest for swimming. Be careful of the beach’s powerful rip currents, which have taken the lives of many unsuspecting tourists over the years. On a lighter note, keep a lookout for celebrities, who often frequent the beach!
Another great beach option is Manly Beach, which is just a 30-minute ferry away from Circular Quay in Sydney Harbor. The long, popular beach is accompanied by a busy beach town with many restaurants, bars, shops, and nightclubs that keep the area busy late into the night. A healthy rivalry exists between the residents who go to Manly and those who go to Bondi, and both will insist that their beach is better, although they may also lament the distraction and business that tourists bring along with them. I would recommend going to Manly on a Sunday if you can, as the ferry fare only costs $2.50 each way, rather than the full price of $7-$10.
On a related note, the city’s bus and train system is called Opal. Cards are bought and “topped-up” (adding cash to balance) at various shops and stands around the city. If you use eight rides starting on Monday, the rest of your rides for the week are free. This includes the ferry, and all trains and public buses.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Additional Things to Do in Sydney
Besides these activities, there’s plenty of other options that Sydney has to offer. Here’s a few more things to do while in Sydney: go to an Australian sporting event (depending on the time of year, there’s Aussie rules football, rugby union/league, soccer, netball, cricket, greyhound racing, and more), one of the many museums in the city, Sydney Sea Life Aquarium, IMAX theater, Watson’s Bay, surf camp, Sydney Casino (The Star), Olympic Park, explore Newtown. There’s also Vivid Lights, an exposition of light, music, and ideas in the month of June each year.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, TripSavvy believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.
Sydney, Australia is a cultural, tourist, and business hub. Its as interesting and lively as any city I've ever been to. As a business traveler, it's always hard to squeeze in extra time to actually experience the city you are in. If you are able to, however, Sydney is the place to do so. Whether you have a few hours, a few days, or a week, there's a ton to do for every possible interest. So get out there, and as Aussies' love to say, Give it a go, Mate!