Sydney Harbour

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
62 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 50
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
199th/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 60% SUMMARY RATING: Great experience


Sydney’s Harbour is blessed with stunning natural beauty that helps make it one of the most iconic city settings in the world and simply a must-visit for most people’s trip to Australia


5 high level tips:

  1. Focus on the Harbourside area – a controversial point, but I’d say the waterfront attractions of Sydney far exceed the experiences to be found in the rest of the city.  So, focus on the Harbourside area with its world-class attractions of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and beautiful gardens
  2. Walk the whole way from from Darling Harbour to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair – whilst it looks a long way on the map, this is only 7km / 4.5miles, is very flat and will take you less than 2 hours whilst giving time to stop for photos etc.  It takes in Darling Harbour, The Rocks area, a walk under the Harbour Bridge, The Opera House, the Royal Botanical Garden and shows you a variety of views across the Harbour from central city to a feeling of almost entirely left it
  3. Views from the water and Taronga Zoo – regular ferries leave from one side of the harbour to the other and are a great and simple way to get those water views, but also consider the 12 minute ferry trip to Taronga Zoo which gives you that boat trip, plus amazing views from the other side and a zoo that has a superb record for animal welfare
  4. The Beaches – one of the highlights of Sydney as a whole is its beaches.  Bondi is the obvious one – it is stunning and has the wonderful Bondi to Coogee Clifftop Walk, but can get very busy and touristy.  Instead, consider the 20min ferry from Circular Quay (right in the middle of the Harbourside area) to Manly, for Sydney’s best beaches and less touristy
  5. Sydney vs Melbourne – if it’s a first visit to Australia, it’s hard to see anyone choosing Melbourne over Sydney simply because of the Sydney Harbourside wow factor, but you’ll find many agreeing that Melbourne is actually a more pleasant city to spend time in with its street cafe culture, buzzing sports events and generally more chilled out vibe.  If on a super short time frame and want to check out both, I’d suggest 1 day in Sydney focused on the Harbourside area, and 2 days to absorb Melbourne more (and see here for tips on a trip to Melbourne – A couple of days in Melbourne)


#1 Walking the whole way from from Darling Harbour to Mrs Macquarie's Chair. Seeing Darling Harbour, The Rocks area, a walk under the Harbour Bridge, The Opera House and the Royal Botanical Gardens

#2 The world-famous Sydney Opera House

#3 Walking under and around the enormous Sydney Harbour Bridge

#4 The beautiful beaches. Bondi is the famous one, but Manly is far less crowded

#5 Taking the short ferry from central Sydney waterfront to Taronga Zoo and its glorious views with the animals

#6 The Royal Botanical Gardens at the end of the harbour walk that make you feel pleasantly detached from the city

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone