Sydney’s Spectacular Free Time Options

by on Friday, 19 July 2013

ISV’s Optional Activity Package includes a cruise on beautiful Sydney Harbor © all images used with permission by Trys Eddy, Tour Leader with ISV

Coming to Australia between May and August on your ISV Volunteer and Travel Program? Lucky you! Sydney is arguably Australia’s most beautiful and exciting city and gateway to the Blue Mountains and incredible coastal areas.

A few of ISV’s Volunteer projects are located within a few hours of Sydney. We also have a full day to explore the city as part of the ISV Adventure Tour. As part of the tour the ISV Optional Activity Package includes a Sydney Harbor cruise in the evening so you can see Sydney from its’ most beautiful vantage points. Your day is free to enjoy Sydney as you like!  You may wish to purchase an all-day travel ticket for Sydney public buses, trains, and ferries for $22 AUD or you may choose to see the city by foot.

Below is a guide to some of the must-see locations in Sydney. Ask your ISV Leader for advice if you require further suggestions. To pre-plan Sydney activities or events, the City of Sydney (Official Government Website) may be useful (

1. Sydney Cove/Circular Quay: “The Gateway to Sydney Harbor” – Circular Quay often has street performers and is situated right by the Sydney Opera House. We suggest walking along the foreshore. From here you can take a ferry to Taronga Zoo (ferries depart Wharf #2 at Circular Quay and leave roughly every 30 minutes).  Alternatively, take the ferry from the Circular Quay to Manly (great scenery on this ride!) and experience Sydney’s famous North-side harbor and beach. Ferries depart Wharf #3 at Circular Quay for Manly Beach area roughly every half hour. For the return trip from Manly ferries also depart roughly every half hour. For exact ferry times, you may check at the wharf or visit We recommend that you spend about 1-1 ½ hours and take the return ferry for Circular Quay.

The Royal Botanic Gardens are a favourite destination with travellers

2. Sydney Opera House: One of the most beautiful, unique and recognizable buildings in this world, this is Australia’s premier cultural center for opera, ballet, theatre and music (and the busiest performing arts center in the world)! Guided tours run daily.

3. Royal Botanic Gardens:Right on the edge of the harbor and nearby to Sydney Opera House, the gardens are a favorite destination for tourists and locals alike.

4. Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair: Visit this place for spectacular views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbor.

5. Art Gallery of NSW: Extensive collection of Australian, Aboriginal and contemporary art. Entry is free!

6. Australian Museum:Located near Hyde Park and St. Mary’s Cathedral, this is a great museum for Natural History with multiple exhibitions, including Aboriginal artifacts, dinosaurs, and Australian flora and fauna. (Open 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day. Tickets cost $12).

One of the most recognizable buildings in the word, Sydney Opera House is a must see!

7. Bondi Beach: You could take the train from the bohemian nightspot of Kings Cross (or Town Hall/Central) to Bondi Junction, then a bus to Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach, packed with beach culture, restaurants and great surf! Take a coastal walk to nearby beaches (e.g., Tamarama, Bronte Beach and Coogee Beach approximately 2 hours roundtrip from Bondi).

8. Queen Victoria Building (QVB): “The most beautiful shopping centre in the world.”  Located centrally in the Sydney Central Business District (CBD) area.

9. Central Train Station: The main train station in Sydney providing intercity and interstate services. Next door to Wake Up Hostel. A good way to find your way back to our Sydney accommodation!

10. Chinatown:Great for an inexpensive Asian meal or shopping at Paddy’s Markets (Thurs, Fri, and weekends) and Market City.  Located close to Wake Up Hostel.

11. Sydney Fish Market: Experience the hustle and bustle of Australia’s biggest seafood market… fresh fish and seafood of all kinds! (Open daily 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.)

12. Darling Harbor: Huge waterfront leisure and tourist park with great shopping (especially souvenirs) and food outlets.

13. Chinese Garden/IMAX Theatre:Cockle Bay bars, restaurants and nightclubs (including Sydney’s Largest Nightclub: “Home”).

World-famous Bondi Beach

14. Sydney Aquarium: Australia’s #1 visited tourist attraction! See sharks and other amazing aquatic life, including a spectacular glass-arched underwater hallway that lets you look at Australian sea life from underneath!

15. The Rocks:  Close to Argyle Place, this is the most historic part of Sydney, filled with amazing architecture of sandstone buildings, right on Sydney Harbor. It’s a great place to walk around site-seeing and visit the oldest pub in Australia!

16. Pylon Lookout: Climb the 200 stairs inside the southeastern pylon of the Sydney Harbor Bridge (Open 10am  to 5pm) for panoramic views of the harbor and the city ($11 AUD per person) or walk across the Bridge (take the walkway on the east side of the bridge accessible from Cumberland St. in The Rocks, takes about 20 mins). At the other side of the bridge you’ll come to Milsons Point.  Go down the stairs and walk under the bridge, across the grassy area to the water. Here you will have some great camera shots of the city and the Opera House. Have a coffee in Kirribilli or McMahons Point.

17. Bridge Climb: Alternatively, for a cost of $198-$298 (depending on the time of day), you can try the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb and take a 3.5 hour guided walk up over the Harbor Bridge arches ( Note: Bridge Climb is very popular and you may want to book in advance.

18. MCA: Also in The Rocks area is the Museum of Contemporary Art (free!)

19. Paddy’s Markets: A great place nearby your tour accommodation (Wake Up Hostel) for purchasing Australian souvenirs and affordable items – a recommended stop by past ISV participants.

Australian Rules Football, Rugby League and Rugby Union matches are great places to check out some Aussie culture © google images


There are also many major sporting events in Sydney, especially football (Rugby Union, Rugby League or Australian Rules). Be sure to check out a match if you want to see some real Aussie culture. The staff at Wake Up Hostel or your Tour Leader will be able to assist with timetables and information.

Cafes, Pubs and Restaurants

Sydney offers an incredible selection of dining options (plenty with very affordable prices) and places to hang out for coffee or drinks.  The city is extremely multicultural and you can find most cuisines. If you wish, you can also find local delicacies such as kangaroo or crocodile to try!

Get out and explore Sydney. We know you’ll love it!

To learn more about ISV’s Volunteer and Travel Programs please visit our website.

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