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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 09 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Mark Chipperfield

The historic Royal Botanic Garden is the oldest scientific institution in Australia, stretching back to the First Fleet, and featuring 30 hectares packed with exotic and native plants.

But what makes this a stand-out amongst botanical gardens is its location, in the most scenic part of the city, right on the harbour. A footpath starting at Sydney Opera House will take you alongside the harbour and through the garden, for a fantastic one- or two-hour walk.

Look out for giant eels in the pond, loud, squawking cockatoos, and huge roosts of giant (and harmless) fruit bats, which hang from many of the trees; they’re a compelling sight.

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: 1-2 hours

Getting there & doing it

Start at the Sydney Opera House, walk around it and away from Circular Quay. After about half a kilometre, divert inland to go through the gardens. For a longer walk, continue around Farm Cove to Mrs Macquarie’s chair – a hand-carved, sandstone rock in the shape of a bench – and then follow the coastal footpath around and back toward Woolloomooloo wharf.

Aim to finish your walk at the Finger Wharf, Woolloomooloo, which has a number of excellent restaurants and cafés all serving al fresco, harbourside breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Entry to the gardens is free, from dawn to dusk.

When to do it

The Botanical Garden is open from dawn to dusk. The walk is best starting at sunrise, when crowds are fewest, the light is stunning, and the air fresh with the smell of the sea.

Recommended itineraries by our writers that include this experience

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Ovolo Woolloomooloo

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.8 miles]

A glamourous, stylish hotel in a restored heritage pier, that’s also now a buzzing wharf, with excellent restaurants. Conveniently located just 15 minutes’ walk from downtown.

Official star rating:

Establishment Hotel

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.8 miles]

A glamorous boutique for the sexy and stylish crowd, conveniently located in the heart of the city, close to a lot of the major sights and attractions.

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Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.9 miles]

Overlooking Circular Quay, the benchmark for five-star luxury in Sydney offers legendary service, sumptuous interiors and excellent food and drink.

Official star rating:

Park Hyatt Sydney

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.9 miles]

A sumptuous five-star hotel in the best location in the city – under the Bridge, opposite the Opera House, with breathtaking views of the harbour all around.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience


New South Wales, Australia

One of the world’s most dynamic and glamorous cities, with golden beaches, world-class eating and dining and effervescent, friendly people.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Sydney Opera House

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.5 miles]

Magnetic, enchanting and still remarkably modern, this iconic Opera House is a must-see. Walk around the outside or book in for a guided tour or performance.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

Kayaking on Sydney Harbour

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.5 miles]

See some of Sydney’s most famous landmarks – including the Opera House – from the water, with a kayak tour around the world’s most beautiful natural harbour.

Best for ages: 4+ | £70 | 2 hours

The Rocks

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.8 miles]

The Rocks – the birthplace of European settlement in Australia – is atmospheric, quaint, vibrant and packed with great things to taste, see, buy and explore.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

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Four cardboard cut outs on display in the justice museum sydney

Justice and Police Museum

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.4 miles]

This small museum, set in two former police courts and a former police station, was the original legal hub at the time of the settlers. Today it preserves the history of crime and punishment in the city, with exhibits on famous criminals, collections of weapons and restored prison cells.

Best for ages: 6+ | £7

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An outdoor pool on the edge of the harbour in front of Sydney's skyline.

Boy Charlton Pool

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[0.5 miles]

Sydney is famed for its ocean and harbourside pools and this stunning harbourside pool is a stand-out. The Botanic Gardens are on one side, harbour views on the other. Great swim and sunbathing; there’s a fine cafe on site too.

Best for ages: 4+ | £12

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Vivid Sydney

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia[1.1 miles]

Vivid Sydney brings some of the world’s most creative minds and the latest digital light technology together to create astonishing installations that transform the city skyline and night sky.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free | 3 weeks

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Round-ups that include this experience

24 Unforgettable short walks (< 1 day)

Multiple countries

From traversing sand dunes, to walking on glaciers, through canyons, up mountains and along ancient city walls, here’s our round-up of the world’s best walks. Each walk can be tackled in a day or less with a moderate level of fitness and no technical ability.

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