5 Reasons Why Sydney And Beyond Should Be On Your 2023 Bucket List


Farah Fazanna •  Feb 17, 2023

New South Wales (NSW) is well-known for their sparkling iconic capital of Sydney, its seemingly endless beaches and bushland, and its sophisticated dining scene. But combine the icons with hidden gems, this east coast state becomes a destination worthy of bucket list status. From sunset camel rides to soaring above breathtaking scenery in a hot air balloon, these are some of the must-do experiences in Sydney and NSW for both nature and city lovers.

1. Enjoy breathtaking natural landscapes

Australia is well-known for its outdoor experiences and if you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature, you’ve come to the right place. NSW is famous for its amazing outdoors, wildlife and breathtaking flora and fauna. There’s plenty to do here!

Blue Mountains National Park

Credit: Destination NSW

Known as Sydney’s ‘backyard wilderness’, see the forested valleys of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park unfolding under the famous blue haze (created by eucalyptus oils in the atmosphere!) ? Take in the beautiful view of the famous Three Sisters from a number of scenic lookouts: Echo Point, Honeymoon Bridge, Pulpit Rock, Lincoln Rock and Elysian Rock.

Credit: Destination NSW

If you want to explore the Blue Mountains further, the Scenic World should be on your itinerary! Descend into the Jamison Valley on the world’s steepest train, the Scenic Railway, or glide on the Scenic Cableway past Orphan Rock and the iconic Three Sisters - you decide!

Enjoy a stroll beneath the ancient rainforest canopy at your own pace along the 10-minute, 30-minute and 50-minute Scenic Walkway. The 720-metre journey on the Scenic Skyway provides the best views of Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters, Mt Solitary and Jamison Valley. Then, you can return to the main building via the Cableway or the Scenic Railway where you’ll glide past ancient sandstone cliffs, epic valley views and the spectacular Katoomba Falls ? Check out the Scenic World website to plan your trip!

Stargaze in Blue Mountains National Park

While you’re here, take the chance to stay overnight and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stargaze! It’s a beautiful chance to experience the Southern Sky and its celestial wonders only visible from the Southern hemisphere ?

Take a dip in one of the ocean pools

Credit: Destination NSW

Search for an image of Sydney and no doubt photos of Sydney’s famous ocean pools would make an appearance. The stunning Bondi Icebergs Pool is a must-visit and the best part? it’s open to the public all year long (except on Thursdays, as it’s the cleaning day)! So, better pack your swimsuits ?

Credit: Destination NSW

Other ocean pools that you can visit include Bermagui Blue Pool, Merewether Baths, and Blowhole Point Ocean Pool, a safe swimming spot near Kiama’s famed Blowhole, which is also the largest blowhole in the world!

Soak up the sun at one of NSW’s famed beaches

Port Stephens is Australia’s dolphin capital

Credit: Destination NSW

What's a trip to New South Wales without visiting its famous beaches, right? If you’re looking for a chill and laid-back beach lifestyle, head over to Byron Bay. It has plenty of cool and Insta-worthy cafes and restaurants. There are a few halal restaurants here serving Middle Eastern, Indian and vegetarian dishes such as Zaza Kebabs, Bali Bagus Restaurant and Bombay To Byron Restaurant.

Wanna watch dolphins? Port Stephens is Australia’s dolphin capital where you’ll be guaranteed to see these majestic animals all year round. For whale watching, Port Stephens and Jervis Bay are the best spots to go to every May to November as it’s the migration season.

Want to enjoy a scenic view? Check out Palm Beach and visit the iconic Barrenjoey Lighthouse, which was built in 1881 from sandstone. Its oil room and keepers’ cottages remain unpainted in the original stone finish. You can enjoy a scenic 30-minute walk up to the lighthouse ?

2. Jaw-dropping worthy wildlife encounters

It’s not just the zoo where you can get up close to some of the creatures that call New South Wales home – you can ride camels on the beach, picnic alongside kangaroos and have breakfast with alpacas.

Learn about koalas at Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary

Credit: Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary on Facebook

Get up close and personal with Australia’s iconic animal at the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary. It’s a unique experience where you can meet and learn about koalas in a natural and idyllic bushland setting. The sanctuary is also the Port Stephens Koalas Hospital which ensures first-class care to sick, injured and orphaned koalas.

Credit: Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary on Facebook

You can also experience glamping here where it’s located within the natural bushland habitat of the koalas — so you’ll literally be living around the cute furry animals! ?

it’s close enough to experience the abundance of sights and activities Port Stephens has to offer. Yet, it’s still secluded enough for you to enjoy the native bird and animal life which have made their homes in the surrounding wetlands ?

Spot kangaroos in the wild at Pebbly Beach and Emerald Beach

Credit: Destination NSW

A picturesque and relatively quiet beach on the South Coast, Pebbly Beach is best known for the friendly kangaroos that graze near the water. The beach in Murramarang National Park is well known for its friendly kangaroos. You might catch them playing in the water if you’re lucky ?

You can also visit Emerald Beach, about 20km from Coffs Harbour. Step onto Emerald Beach around sunrise or sunset and you are guaranteed to spot the resident kangaroos ? If you can't find them on the beach, they may have wandered up Look At Me Now Headland (what a great name!) or further onto Moonee Beach.

Have breakfast with alpacas at Iris Lodge Alpacas, Central Coast

Credit: Iris Lodge Alpacas

Here’s another experience you can’t get back home - having breakfast with alpacas at Iris Lodge Alpacas on the Central Coast! You also get to feed and pet the alpacas! Just imagine these cute animals accompanying your meal; what a great sight to start your day ?

P/S: Breakfast includes a selection of cereals, yoghurt, a fruit platter, muffins, tea bread, sandwich, tea, coffee, juice and water. Gluten-free and vegan options are available.

Get up close and personal with Australia’s iconic animals at the zoos

Looking for a wholesome animal encounter? Check out the Taronga Zoo! There are plenty of animal encounters that you can experience at the Taronga Zoo such as the iconic koalas and capybaras. You can learn about these incredibly curious species from the expert keepers and get the opportunity to feed these adorable animals some of their favourite snacks! Soak up breathtaking Sydney Harbour views, watch the Asian Elephant herd play from above and try to spot the squirrel monkeys as they explore their home – all from the heights of Sydney’s only cableway experience Sky Safari!

Credit: Destination NSW

You can also make your way to one of Sydney’s newest zoos, the Sydney Zoo! Home to over 4,000 animals including a wide range of exotic and native species, Sydney Zoo provides an experience that is more immersive and engaging than traditional zoos. It’s also home to Australia’s largest Reptile and Nocturnal House and an aquarium ?

3. There are plenty of adventure-filled activities

This one’s for the adrenaline junkies! New South Wales offers more than just wildlife watching and nature. Add these heart-racing, palm-sweating activities to your bucket list!

Hot air balloon ride

Credit: Destination NSW

Take part in a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Hunter Valley where you can enjoy a delicious gourmet breakfast after landing. Yes, they can cater to vegetarian diets as well ?

Halal status: Vegetarian breakfast is available but they also serve alcoholic beverages during the ride. We recommend you dine at your own discretion.

Skydive over the pristine New South Wales coastline.

Credit: Skydive Australia on Facebook

You may have had your senses tickled in Sydney, but nothing can prepare you for the physical joyride of this skydive. Ride the salty breeze from up to 15,000 feet above sea level carving towards the pristine New South Wales coastline. The only beach skydive on offer in the Greater Sydney vicinity, there’s no topping the trip from the sky onto Wollongong’s North Beach! Get your head in the clouds. Let the butterflies flutter. This skydive will start a fire inside you that can never be put out!

Surfing on Bondi Beach

Credit: Let’s Go Surfing on Facebook

Want to try surfing? You’re in Sydney, so why not! Head over to the iconic Bondi Beach and sign up for a course with Let’s Go Surfing, Bondi’s only licensed surf school on Australia’s most famous beach. The surfing course is perfect for beginners so no worries if you don’t have any surfing experience!

Jet boat rides in Sydney Harbour

Credit: Destination NSW

Another activity to include on your bucket list is jet boating in Sydney Harbour! Experience the full power of the jet at 75 km/hr, with a continual mix of stunts including, wild spins, sweeping fishtails and power brake stops! Speed by Sydney’s most popular icons include the Sydney Opera House, Luna Park Sydney, Fort Denison and more! You will even get to ride under the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

Sand dunes quad biking in Port Stephens

Credits: Destination NSW

If you’re into adrenaline-rush activities, then the sand dunes quad biking in Port Stephens is for you! This popular spot, just a few hours’ drive from Sydney, has lots to offer visitors, but the famous Stockton Bight sand dunes are not to be missed! Explore winding, deep bush paths and be amazed as they open up to stunning clearings. Hold on tight as you speed across sandy dunes, sending you bumping and climbing ?

Camel rides in Port Stephens

Credit: Destination NSW

Into a more laidback activity? Then enjoy camel riding on Birubi Beach, Anna Bay in Port Stephens. A guided tour along the soft, silky sand on the beach, and into the sand dunes is a must when you visit Port Stephens. The experience is certainly unique, especially if you ride at sunset ?

4. Take an epic once-in-a-lifetime road trip

A road trip is one of the best ways to explore NSW! It gives you the chance to take in the stunning scenery, visit hidden gems, travel according to your own schedule and make memories that’ll last a lifetime ?

The Grand Pacific Drive

Credit: Tourism Illawarra

The Grand Pacific Drive is a 140km scenic coastal drive beginning at Royal National Park.

This natural beauty is the second oldest natural park in the world, and it’s perfect for sightseeing with several walking trails to choose from! ? The whole journey takes about a 2.5-hour drive, but you can stretch the trip to a few days where you can stop and enjoy the Pacific Ocean. Some stops you must include in your itinerary include Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and Jervis Bay.

Southern Highlands

Credits: Destination NSW

For quaint country towns, green pastures and rolling hills, take a 1.5-hour drive through the Southern Highlands ? The best times to visit are during Spring for the Tulip Time Festival (where a spectacular display of 75,000 tulips are mass-planted in Corbett Gardens, Bowral)

season and Autumn (from March to May) for the glorious autumn colours and red maple leaves.

Credits: Destination NSW

If you’re visiting on a weekend, be sure to check out the local markets where you can purchase local honey, butter, fresh produce and many more! No matter when you visit, the Southern Highlands is perfect for an exciting getaway from Sydney ?

Already planning your epic NSW road trip? Check out 8 Must-Know Tips For Your Sydney-New South Wales Road Trip to prepare for your trip!

5. Delectable Muslim-friendly dining scene

Buy local produce at farmers' markets

Credit: Destination NSW

The weekly Carriageworks Farmers Market is a Sydney institution that provides the freshest seasonal produce from the best growers and producers from around NSW. Find organic and biodynamic produce, artisan bread, single-origin coffee, herbal teas, meat and locally-produced honey freshly cut flowers here ? Check out the website for more info.

Opening hours: 8am - 1pm every Saturday

Experience Sydney’s original market at The Rocks Markets where you can enjoy a stroll and find locally designed fashion and jewellery, unique arts and homewares, gourmet street food and handmade sweets ? Check out the website for more info!

Opening hours: 10am - 5pm every Saturday and Sunday

Paddy's Haymarket is for the curious of mind and also for those who are budget conscious. It operates like a traditional market and offers imported and local women’s fashion, kids' clothes, hair accessories, and jewellery as well as fresh produce, gifts, souvenirs, gadgets, and lots more! ?

Enjoy fresh seafood

Credit: Destination NSW

The Sydney Fish Market is a must-visit for any seafood lovers. More than just a fish market, you can also enjoy the freshest fish and shellfish here! Take your visit to the next level and join the Sydney Fish Market Behind the Scenes Tour where you can learn all about their dutch auction system, the huge range of species that pass through the auction floor, how to buy the freshest seafood in the retailers, the types of boats in their fishing fleet, and tonnes more information!

If you’re a fan of oysters, then you simply must check out the Sydney Oyster Farm Tours t! During the (literally) “Immerse Yourself” tour, you’ll slide into waders and disembark at an oyster lease where you will be met by oyster farmers who will guide you to your in-water table. Get ready to taste freshly opened oysters from the very waters you are standing in. It can’t get any fresher than this! ?

Explore the food scene in Sydney

A vibrant district that's only a few minutes walk from the world's most beautiful harbour, Darling Square is filled with world-class dining spots. Don’t worry about finding Muslim-friendly eateries here as there are plenty. Find a seat at Gong Cha, Meet Fresh, Messina, and Shortstop Coffee & Donuts.

Just a stone’s throw from Darling Square, The Exchange is another must-visit stop in Sydney. Designed by the famed Japanese architecture firm Kengo Kuma & Associates, the building is wrapped in 20 km of pale Accoya timber strips. It’s the newest Sydney architectural icon — perfect for that Insta snap ? Foodies, head over to the ground floor food hall that is sure to satisfy your appetite called Maker’s Dozen. You can find Muslim-friendly dining options here such as Fishbowl, Fifteen Centimetres and Bubble Nini Tea.

The Grounds of Alexandria is the perfect Insta-worthy spot

Credit: Destination NSW

While in Sydney, be sure to experience their cafe culture as well! Check out 9 Halal Eateries In Sydney You Have To Try On Your Next Visit (Nearby Things To Do!) and Save This For Your Future Travel: This Turkish Street Food in Sydney Is Muslim & Vegan Friendly.

It’s easy to understand what lies within Sydney and New South Wales’s allure and it’s what makes people keep returning because it’s simply gorgeous every season ? So will you be making Sydney your travel destination soon? We know we are!

This article is brought to you by Destination NSW.