Sydney see and do guide

An independent selection of the best things to see and do in Sydney. No paid placements, no advertorial.

Sydney see and do guide

Introduction

| 12 Jan 2021
Last updated 12 Jan 2021

Welcome to the Rusty Compass independent guide to the best things to see and do in Sydney. This guide is the product of a COVID year and more getting to know Sydney all over again after being away for most of the last three decades. Sydney's where I was born so getting to know your hometown afresh is an eye-opening experience. This page gives you a broad survey. Click on the links for a deeper look. We're still adding things so come back again soon.


Art Galleries of Sydney

Australia's unique Indigenous art heritage will be a highlight of your exploration of Sydney's galleries. Since colonisation, European artists have been interpreting the landscapes and the settlement. This work is another interesting feature of Sydney's galleries. The Art Gallery of New South Wales houses Sydney's finest collection of art. Not to be missed. The MCA - Museum of Contemporary Art - with its focus on the new is also very good. There are a number of excellent smaller galleries. All those that we list are free.

Check out our independent guide to Sydney's galleries here.

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Photo: Mark Bowyer Art Gallery of New South Wales
 

The Museums of Sydney

When travellers think Sydney, they're more likely to think beaches, the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and outdoor life, than museums and galleries. And you get the sense that Sydney has dropped the ball a little on the museum game.  Sydney has nothing to match the great museums of Europe or North America. It's a patchy affair really. Some of the smaller museums and historic houses will be a a highlight.

Check out our guide to the best of Sydney's museums.

Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Tasmanian Tiger - Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney

Cemeteries of Sydney

If your interest in history runs to cemeteries - as ours does - we've compiled a collection of the most interesting cemeteries in Sydney. It'll take you from the coast into the suburbs with interesting things to see along the way.

Check out our full guide to Sydney's cemeteries here.

Waverley Cemetery, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Waverley Cemetery, Sydney

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge was the city's first iconic man-made structure of the post-colonial era. It opened to great fanfare in 1932 in the middle of the Great Depression and carries tremendous symbolism for the city. It has gone on to serve Sydney as a central piece of infrastructure for almost 100 years. It's also a formidable creation of design, engineering and planning. Take a walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge and walk around it too.

Check out our full guide to Sydney Harbour Bridge here.

Sydney Harbour Bridge - Observatory Hill
Photo: Mark Bowyer Sydney Harbour Bridge - Observatory Hill
 

The Powerhouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum - or Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences - is all about technology, science and design in an old industrial setting. The old tram powerhouse, is spectacular (hence the name). It's enough reason for a visit. There are classic bits of Australian industrial history on display, as well as temporary exhibitions on design and technology. Admission Free.

For more on the Powerhouse Museum, click here.

Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

Sydney's best swimming spots

From lesser known beaches and ocean pools, to harbour gems and suburban swimming centres - this is our list of Sydney's best places for a casual dip. They've been selected not just because they're amazing places to swim, but because they're in interesting, often beautiful settings. The settings will be at least as rewarding as the swims.

For our guide to Sydney's best swimming spots, click here.

Camp Cove, Watson's Bay
Photo: Mark Bowyer Camp Cove, Watson's Bay 

Hyde Park Barracks

The 1819 Hyde Park Barracks is one of the oldest convict sites in Australia. It's a serious piece of history designed by convict architect Francis Greenway under Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Inside is a museum remembering convict life, the building's time as a women's immigration depot, and Indigenous dispossession. Adults $24.

For more on Hyde Park Barracks click here.

Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney

Chau Chak Wing Museum

The Chau Chak Wing Museum opened in late 2020. It's Sydney's newest museum and one of its best. Located on the campus of Sydney University, it brings together the university's three old museums in a single gleaming new complex. Admission is free.

For more on the Chau Chak Wing Museum click here.

Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney

Watson's Bay - Camp Cove, The Gap, South Head Heritage Trail

You'll easily fill a leisurely afternoon or longer at Watson's Bay. The gateway to Sydney's South Head has a mellow village feel, dramatic coastal views, great walks, sweet harbour beaches and a fascinating history. Its location at the end of the peninsula feels pleasantly removed from the city and the neighbouring suburbs. It's where you'll find the site of Australia's oldest lighthouse, The Gap, historic Camp Cove and views across the harbour from South Head. A good supply of eateries will keep you covered through your visit too.

For more on Watson's Bay and what's there, click here.

Camp Cove
Photo: Mark Bowyer Camp Cove

University of Sydney

The Chau Chak Wing Museum (above) is the main attraction of a visit to the historic campus of Sydney University. Sydney's newest museum sits in the grounds of its oldest university. The university is also interesting for a walk and a look - especially the original 1850s gothic sandstone buildings of the Main Quad.

For more on visiting Sydney University, click here.

The historic Main Quad at the University of Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer The historic Main Quad at the University of Sydney

Museum of Contemporary Art, MCA

Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is Australia's premier gallery of contemporary art. Indigenous art is well represented in the collection of more than 4000 works. Housed on the site of the former colonial-era Commissariat, the museum looks over Circular Quay to the Opera House. It's a fabulous location for a must-see gallery.

For more on visiting the MCA, click here.

Address: 140 George St, The Rocks - right by Circular Quay

Museum of Contemporary Art - MCA, Sydney
Photo: Mark Bowyer Museum of Contemporary Art - MCA, Sydney

 

Our independent selection of the best things to see and do in Sydney, kicked off in January 2021 and is in development. Let us know if you have any suggestions.

Museums of Sydney

When travellers think Sydney, they're more likely to think beaches, the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and outdoor life, than... Read more

Cemeteries of Sydney

Sydney's cemeteries date back to the earliest years of the British penal settlement in Australia. They're interesting places to... Read more
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