Six totally NEW things to do in Sydney

By Helen Foster

I’m a big fan of visiting places more than once. I’ve been to Bangkok eight times, Las Vegas five and Tokyo twice with a third in the offing. My theory is this; the first time you go somewhere your time is taken up doing the obvious tourist sites, the second time you get to go off the beaten track a bit more but only after you’ve been somewhere a third time do you even start to get a feel for the place – however I admit, having lived in Sydney for three years and going back three times since I left six years ago, even I was wondering what to do when I went back again recently for a friend’s wedding. I needn’t have worried, in a city that’s always changing, it’s not difficult to find new things to do. Here’s six new experiences I tried on my latest trip.

Eat inside the Opera House

in sydney
Steak Tenderloin. Photo: Jason James

I’ve had plenty of drinks in the sun-soaked Opera bar just outside the Opera House but I’d never been inside – until now. My destination was Bennelong, the restaurant housed in an incredible space inside one of the ‘sails’. Headed up by iconic Aussie chef Peter Gilmore, it’s the funky little brother to the venerable Quay that sits across the harbour. Budget wise it has something for everyone – for a special meal, the three course menu is $130 (about £65), and trust me you want to finish with the Cherry Jam Lamington. If you’re not in the mood for a fine dining experience, visit less formal Cured and Cultured in the bar for their latest must-have dish. When I was there it was the $22 (£11) Five Cheese Truffle Sandwich. After this went viral one couple even drove 12 hours from Melbourne to try one. Simply add a glass of local red wine and soak in the buzz. You can also spend $650 to dine at the chef’s table in the kitchen, but then you won’t be able to stare up at the ceiling thinking ‘I’m in the Opera House’. My head literally didn’t stop swivelling with excitement throughout the entire meal.

Meet the wildlife

in sydney
Davey. Photo: Sam West

Eighty percent of Australian animals are found only in Oz, and they’re (nearly) all super cute, so while you’re here take the chance to pet them. Wildlife Sydney Zoo in Darling Harbour has recently had a makeover and has new attractions (like a zipline over the crocodiles) and it also lets you get up close to cuties like koalas, kangaroos and, the big selling point for me, adorable Davy the quokka. Quokka selfies are a thing on Rottnest Island close to Perth where they roam free, but if you’re not going to Western Australia on your trip, getting to pet Davy is the next best thing. If you prefer your animals more snarly than snuggly, try the cassowary feeding. Cassowary are 6ft tall flightless birds with a middle claw on their foot that can take you out in seconds – I’m guessing they don’t let you get that close though. A day visit costs $28 if booked online at

Explore Barangaroo

in Sydney
Photo: Christopher Yardin

This natural reserve close to the historic Rocks district only opened last August. Filled with native plants and with sweeping harbour views, it’s the perfect place to walk or run off the effects of Sydney’s amazing food scene. Eventually Barangaroo will connect two main tourist areas, Darling Harbour and The Rocks, with one long scenic pathway (and allow an uninterrupted 14km walk/run round the Sydney shoreline). Until that happens the area is constantly changing so check the website for details of what’s happening and scheduled events and exhibitions.

Hit the Cat Café

in sydney
Photo: Mathieu Cheviron

When we checked into our Airbnb in buzzy bar-packed Surry Hills one of the wifi networks that popped up was Catmosphere Café – it was at this point I realised I was staying over the road from Sydney’s first ever Cat Café. It costs $20 for a one hour visit (appointments are recommended) which includes a coffee and all the fluffy fun you can handle… unless it’s super hot and the air con isn’t working (like the day I went) at which point you’ll be confronted by sleepy cats and the odd twitching tail indicating ‘don’t touch me unless you want to be swiped’. My advice would be to go first thing in the morning for maximum fun. Oh and they also recently launched Cat Yoga for $25 which includes a workout and 15 minute cuddle time.

Take a ferry to Cockatoo Island

in sydney
The old shipyard. Photo: Neil Rawson

This island in the middle of Sydney’s harbour is a UNESCO World Heritage site but for some reason I’d never even registered its existence until this trip. Originally a penal colony, it’s a great place to learn about Sydney’s convict history via the $5 audio tour, however, post its ‘Orange Is The New Black’ moment it then became a shipbuilding hub; one that nobody quite cleaned up. This means it’s full of decaying old machinery that makes it amazing for photographers wanting to capture something a bit more abstract than another shot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s an Instagram dream. Ferries to the island take about 10 minutes from the main ferry ports at Circular Quay or Darling Harbour and entry to the island is free.

Try a silent disco

in sydney
Throwing shapes at a silent disco Photo: Lee Carson

The Rocks is Sydney’s most historic district, full of winding cobbled streets, quaint terraced houses and a pub every few hundred feet. For something different, I suggest that for one Friday night of your trip you forgo all of that and instead take the one hour $35 Silent Disco tour with Disco D Tours It’s brilliant. You pop on your headphones, turn on the tunes and shimmy, shuffle and shake your way around the Rocks. Yes people will stare at you like you’ve completely lost the plot as you do your best B52s Rock Lobster moves outside a pizza place, but you’ll be having too much fun to care. They also disco round Darling Harbour too.

Getting There and Where to Stay

I shouldn’t tell you this as it might mean I can’t get a cheap seat for my next trip but the fastest way to get to Sydney is on Asiana Airlines via Seoul. It knocks a good two hours off what is frankly a monstrous 24+ hour journey. You also get an overnight stop in Seoul on the way back as a bonus. Sydney hotels can be pricey so I now generally use whenever I travel there. Not only does it generally work out cheaper, it also lets you stay in less touristy areas and there’s hundreds of prices and properties to choose from. If you’d prefer a hotel, try the Meriton Campbell Street which is in the middle of everything.

Read Helen’s blog on fun things to improve your health (not a kale salad in sight…)

About the guest author

Helen Foster

Helen Foster

Helen Foster is a former travel editor turned health journalist (but she still has an extremely over-used passport). Find her blog at

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