North Sydney Hotel | Rydges North Sydney Hotel Accommodation | Local Area
06 - 06 Feb 2016

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Twilight at Taronga

Things To Do

Discover exciting things to do in North Sydney

Rydges North Sydney is convenient to a wide variety of things to do in North Sydney. Our guests enjoy strolling along the scenic pathways of Luna Park, striking up friendly games of cricket in the North Sydney Oval and heading to Sydney Harbour for sunny days on the water and North Sydney beaches. Luna Park boasts North Sydney Olympic Pool, a local favorite with its views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and ocean. Taronga Zoo is also nearby, and many parents find visiting the animals is their kids’ favorite thing to do in North Sydney.

Located in the heart of Sydney’s Central Business District, Rydges North Sydney boasts accommodation near major company headquarters and popular shopping, dining and nightlife venues.  Golfers enjoy hitting the links at Cammeray Golf Club, where they’ll find a fun, challenging par-66 course awaits.

Keep up with the latest local area highlights by following our Rydges North Sydney blog, or check out our event calendar to discover timely attractions going on during your stay.  

Things to do in Sydney

If you are staying at Rydges North Sydney you are handy to so many things to see and do in Sydney. On the north side of the Harbour there are terrific family attractions like Luna Park (Milson’s Point, just under the western side of the Harbour Bridge) and Taronga Park Zoo (Mosman). You can head to Manly for one of Sydney’s best beaches and Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary where you can hop into a tank of sharks with Dive Xtreme.

Of course, North Sydney leads to the wonderful Sydney Harbour Bridge – it’s lovely for a stroll across or, just on the other side (Cumberland Street in The Rocks) is the Climb Base for Bridgeclimb. It really is one of Sydney’s most rewarding attractions. The Rocks is steeped in history and has a wonderful atmosphere with its historic buildings, pubs and restaurants. Stroll through the Argyle Cut to the Garrison Church and the Hero of Waterloo pub. Cadman’s Cottage is one of the few buildings that remain from the colony’s early years (1816).

Just above The Rocks on the aptly named Observatory Hill is the Sydney Observatory. It has an astronomy museum and night telescope viewings. There’s also the Museum of Contemporary Art and just back from Circular Quay is the Museum of Sydney (corner of Bridge and Phillip Streets) and, the eastern end of the Quay on Bennelong Point, is the iconic Sydney Opera House. Even if you don’t see a show it is a fabulous building to explore (there are guided tours) with some excellent dining options on site.

Hopping a ferry from Circular Quay can be a rewarding experience. The harbour certainly is magnificent – you can take a ferry to Manly, Taronga Zoo or Watson’s Bay. Just opposite the Opera House you can see Kirribilli House, the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence and the Admiralty House, the Governor General’s Sydney abode. There are also islands to explore like Cockatoo Island and Fort Denison.

From the Opera House you can take a stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens to the Domain and the Art Gallery of New South Wales and continue on to St Mary’s Cathedral and Hyde Park with its Archibald Fountain and Anzac Memorial… or head up Macquarie Street to Hyde Park where you will pass the Conservatorium of Music, the State Library of NSW, the NSW Parliament, Sydney Hospital, The Mint, Hyde Park Barracks and St James Church. Head to Market Street to get a bird’s eye view of the city from the Sydney Tower Eye. Hyde Park is divided by Park Street, take a right to get to Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building and keep on going to Darling Harbour.

You can also get to Darling Harbour from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Many of Sydney’s top attractions can be found here including the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, Wild Life Sydney Zoo, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the IMAX Theatre, Sydney Powerhouse Museum and the Chinese Garden of Friendship. There are lots of excellent dining options and it’s a good spot to hop on a harbour cruise.

Manly Sea Life Sanctuary

If you are thinking of visiting Manly, it is worth putting aside a couple of hours to visit the Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary. It’s fun and informative for families of all ages and you can experience conservation in action through their breed, rescue and protect program. You will discover sharks, stingrays, turtles, tropical fish, Little Penguins, marine residents of Sydney Harbour and even shark divers.

The Sanctuary is a breeding habitat for Little Penguins and is one of the last colonies on mainland Australia. There are around 60 breeding pairs and breeding season is from July to February but Penguin Cove is home to the delightful little critters year round. Shark Harbour is the place to discover the magnificent deep water animals including Grey Nurse sharks, massive and majestic stingrays, ‘Sea Biscuit’ the rescued Green Sea Turtle and loads of fish. You can also discover the secrets of Sydney Harbour in Underwater Sydney. Sydney Harbour is home to more species of fish than can be found in the entire Mediterranean Sea including sharks, octopus, seahorses, lionfish and cuttlefish.

And, if you would like an adrenalin hit, they don’t come much better than hopping into a tank of sharks without a cage. Shark Dive Xtreme is one of the few places in the world where you are guaranteed an underwater shark encounter. The resident colony of Grey Nurse sharks range from a metre to three metres long and they all have those scary thin sharp teeth which make them look far more ferocious than they actually are. Because they have those scary thin teeth, people thought they were man-eaters and hunted them to near extinction. They are still highly endangered with only about 500 left off the entire coastline. While the teeth are thin and sharp, they aren’t capable of tearing flesh. Grey Nurse sharks are fish-eaters and those rows of teeth are the perfect design for grabbing slippery fish. You also get to swim with the hundreds of fish, turtles and massive manta rays.

Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary is open every day except Christmas Day from 9:30am to 5:00pm (last entry 4:30pm). Getting to the Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary is easy. If taking a ferry from Circular Quay, hop on at Wharf 3 – it takes 30 minutes – and as you head into Manly Wharf you will see the sanctuary to the left, about 300m from the wharf at the end of the beach. If you are driving, just follow the signs to Manly and head to the wharf. The roads around the sanctuary have two-hour free parking and that is usually enough time to enjoy a visit – if you want to stay longer, just nip out and move the car – your ticket is valid for re-entry. For a bus, take one from North Sydney to Neutral Bay and then a 143 o 144 which will take you to Manly Wharf in about 20 minutes.

Here is a link to the Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary website for more info and the daily schedules for talks, tours and shark dives.

Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo is simply fabulous – the harbour location is stunning and there’s something rather nice in seeing all those exotic animals enjoying views that we two-legged animals pay a fortune for! Apart from the views and the array of animals there are plenty of opportunities to get up close with lots of critters like the koala encounters, the seal and bird shows and the Lemur Forest Adventure. It is no wonder the zoo was voted Australia’s number one tourist attraction.

There’s always plenty happening at Taronga. As well as those stunning harbour views there are more than 4,000 animals to see, over 20 keeper talks and shows every day plus tours, events, concerts and new attractions like the treetop adventure, Wild Ropes.

Wild Ropes combines fun with adrenalin, getting in touch with nature, sensational views and a rewarding memory. Set in bushland there are two high courses and two low courses with 60 different challenges. The courses all have sweeping views of the harbour and, a little closer, you can get a different view of nature because koalas, kangaroos, emus and wallabies may be part of your habitat as you climb through the trees or soar on a flying fox.

You can’t take anything that might fall and hurt people or animals below – like phones, coins, keys, watches, loose jewellery, bags and sunglasses without a strap. Free lockers are provided. There is the opportunity for an on-course action photo. You will also need to wear fully enclosed shoes with rigid soles. The activity takes around 90 minutes with the first session starting at 9:30am and the last at 3:30pm. It is very popular so best to book ahead and arrive 15 minutes prior to your session time. You can complete the course on its own or combine it with a zoo experience.

While there’s a lot to do and see as part of the zoo entry price there are a few special ‘add-ons’ available like the Animal Encounters where you can get up close to a koala, feed a giraffe, meet a reptile or have an owl encounter with the chance to take the bird on your wrist. A souvenir photo of you and the animal is included in the price.  There is also a Green Screen for an amazing photo opportunity. You can choose to make photo-friends with stunning and endangered animals like the Western Lowland Gorilla, the Black Rhino and the Sumatran Tiger.

Taronga Zoo Membership is terrific value if you plan three or more visits in a year – and there’s plenty to justify that and more! Taronga is a not-for-profit organisation that supports wildlife conservation. The zoo believes that through education they can inspire and create behaviour change to support species conservation and habitat preservation. Sadly, many species that call Taronga home are already threatened.

The zoo is open every day except Christmas Day from 9:30am. Rydges North Sydney has accommodation and Taronga Zoo packages for you and the family. Here’s a link to the official Taronga Zoo website.

Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art has a simple but powerful ‘mission statement’ – it is “dedicated to exhibiting, collecting and interpreting the work of today’s artists”. This makes it an exciting place to visit, explore and discover all types of art from photography to bark paintings. The MCA is at 140 George Street, The Rocks, on the western side of Circular Quay with a stunning outlook on Sydney Harbour. It is open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm (closed Christmas Day) and you can also see art after dark every Thursday when the galleries, café and store are all open until 9pm.

The MCA has over 4,000 works of art in its collection and has dedicated an entire floor to its permanent collection. Each collection hang, which changes at irregular intervals, highlights some of the key works owned by the MCA. Admission to the MCA and its exhibitions are free. The MCA does charge entry to special exhibitions – usually one per year but with numerous exhibitions open simultaneously there is always a free exhibition to view.


There are free guided tours of exhibitions daily. They run at 11:00am and 1:00pm on weekdays with an additional 7:00pm tour on Thursdays. On weekends the guided tours run at 11:00am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm. All public access areas of the MCA are wheelchair accessible. Wheelchairs are also available on request from the MCA Level 1 Information desk.

An example of a special temporary exhibition is ‘Grayson Perry – my pretty little art career’ (December 10, 2015 to May 1, 2016). This is the first major survey exhibition in the Southern hemisphere by internationally renowned artist and Turner Prize recipient, Grayson Perry, as part of the Sydney International Art Series. Grayson Perry is one of the best known British artists of his generation, acclaimed for his ceramics, sculptures, drawings, prints and tapestries. With a keen eye for detail and a love of the popular vernacular, Perry infuses his artworks with a sly humour and reflection on society past and present. The artist’s highly decorated pots in particular reveal extensive, impressive imagery ranging from the highly personal to the political, their subjects including his own family, the art world, Biblical stories, the royal family, and images of warfare and sexual fantasy.

Perry’s transvestism and feminine alter ego 'Claire’ emerges through his practice as a recurring visual motif. A contemporary of the YBA (Young British Artists) generation, he has forged a distinctive career that sits apart from the cooler theoretical approach of some of his peers, favouring a more flamboyant, accessible aesthetic that blurs the division of high art and popular culture.

The Museum of Contemporary Art opened its doors to the public in November 1991. It was established through a bequest by Australian expatriate artist John Power (1881-1943), who left his personal fortune to the University of Sydney to inform and educate Australians about international contemporary visual art. The commitment to innovative programming and ground-breaking exhibitions continues.

Here is a link to the Museum of Contemporary Art website for more info and details on current and future exhibitions.

Luna Park Sydney

Sydney’s iconic Luna Park has been providing thrills and family fun for decades, since 1935 in fact! The park is at Milson’s Point, under the northern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and is very handy for guests staying at Rydges North Sydney (ask about an accommodation and rides package).

While the park has been totally refurbished and has state-of-the-art rides there is still a lot of old world charm, especially in Coney Island where there are the totally fun (but not high on the adrenalin Richter) experiences like the Mirror Maze, the Wheel of Joy, Barrels of Fun and the mat slides.

Another popular ride that is still on the gentle scale is the 40m Ferris Wheel that gives a great view of the park, the harbour and the bridge. And, of course, Sideshow Alley remains a favourite with the Laughing Clowns, Knock’ems and the Shooting Gallery as well as those perennial favourites, the Carousel and Dodgem City. Other popular attractions for the littlies include Space Shuttle, U-Drive, Magic Castle and the Whirly Wheel.

For those looking for an adrenalin rush there’s Hair Raiser – get taken 50m above sea level and then be dropped at 80km per hour to be back to earth in less than a second – and Freak Out, swinging riders 120 degrees while being 21 metres in the air – and there are thrills aplenty on Spider and Tumble Bug.

TheWild Mouse has long been a favourite. It’s a ride where the circuit isn’t banked and the cars zip around the 400 metre circuit in just 61 seconds – and it certainly feels a lot longer than a minute! Part of the illusion is that the cars are much wider than the track and you do feel like you are about to be flung into the harbour.

The Rotor has been there since the 1950’s and works on a very simple scientific principle – if you dare a human that they can’t do something without throwing up, chances are they will give it a try. It’s based in gravity and centrifugal force – the riders enter a round room, put their backs to the wall and the room starts to spin… fast… and even faster… and even faster until it reaches a ridiculous speed and the riders are pinned to the wall. Then the floor drops and riders are left hanging mid-air with the challenge to wriggle parallel to the floor without losing their lunch or dignity.

There’s also the Devil’s Drop (tallest mat slide in Coney Island), The Body Rock (spin from side to side and shake, rattle and roll) and The Jungle Twist. The Jungle Twist is a compact spinning coaster where you get a 360 degree view of your surroundings as your coaster car spins with the bends of the track.

As they say – “Luna Park – just for fun!” And, on entering, take a look back at the stunning view of the harbour and the bridge – no wonder the gate’s face is so beaming, happy and welcoming! Here is a link to the official Luna Park website.

Manly Beach

The old saying about Manly goes, “seven miles from Sydney and a million miles from care” and, as with many adages, there is a lot of truth in that. Manly is more than a beach – it is a lifestyle – a place that is wonderfully laid back while being somewhat paradoxically vibrant and bustling… it is a great place to live or to visit, to unwind and relax. As well as the sand, swimming and surfing there’s excellent shopping, dining and family attractions.

Manly has water at both ends of The Corso. The Corso has been around since the 1850’s and it is the part-pedestrian mall that links the harbour wharf and the beach. It’s a terrific spot for shopping or just a stroll or a sit to watch the passing parade. The strip is lined with surf shops, pubs, cafés, restaurants, galleries and entertainment.  There are plenty of places to sit and there’s also street art and fountains that are popular with the kiddies.

The beach at the Manly Wharf end is small but nice. It is a great spot for a picnic or family get together and an excellent safe stretch of sand to get the young children accustomed to a beach being a place to swim. There are no waves, just the occasional gentle lapping that may have been caused by the arrival of a ferry. At the western end of the beach (to the right looking at the harbour) is the Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary and it is a great family attraction with sharks, stingrays, turtles, Little Penguins and lots of fish. You can even dive with the sharks.

Just near the sanctuary is the Manly Art Gallery & Museum and it has a creative program of changing exhibitions as well as workshops, artist talks, performances, kids’ art workshops and other special events.

But back to the beach. It is a lovely, long stretch of sand/ocean and the three main sections are Queenscliff, North Steyne and South Steyne. Manly was one of the first seaside resorts to allow swimming during daylight hours, back in 1903, and it has been a favourite seaside destination ever since. People flock to the beach in summer to sunbathe, swim, surf, parasail or scuba dive. There are surf schools that cater for all ages and they will have beginners out on a wave and up on a board in no time. There are also saltwater swimming pools, playgrounds and plenty of places to grab a drink or a snack. The passing parade ocean side is also interesting with walkers, joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers and skateboarders adding to the holiday atmosphere.

The beach is patrolled all year round by lifeguards and you should always only swim between the red and yellow flags.

Manly, incidentally, was named by Captain Arthur Phillip because of physical look of the local Aboriginal people, stating, “Their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place”.  Here is a link to the Manly Council website and the Manly Australia website.

Cockatoo Island | Things To Do | Rydges North Sydney

There are a few islands to visit in Sydney Harbour. Shark and Clark Islands are lovely spots for a picnic, historic Fort Denison is an excellent sightseeing option with a nice café for lunch and there’s lesser-known Cockatoo Island on the western side of the Harbour Bridge and it is well worth a visit.

Cockatoo Island was once a convict prison. It then became an industrial school for girls and, finally, it became Australia’s biggest shipyard. It is the largest island in the harbour and is located near the Balmain peninsular where the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers meet. It is a UNESCO world-heritage listed island full of historic character and atmosphere with, naturally, magnificent harbour views. To book a tour and hop a ferry to the island, head to West Circular Quay and Cadman’s Cottage (Sydney Harbour Federation Trust – phone 61 2 9253 0888).

You can explore the brooding sandstone convict gaol, the large dock and the hand-carved storage silos. The islands maritime history is evident through the huge industrial sheds, slipways, wharves, residences, workshops and tunnels. At its peak during World War Two over 4000 men worked on the island building and repairing ships.

The island’s Visitor Centre is located just near the Parramatta Wharf when you disembark the ferry and volunteers are on hand to explain the self-guided suggested tours (or audio tours). There is a Highlights Tour that takes an hour to 90 minutes and takes in Fitzroy Dock, Mould Loft, Biloela House, Tunnel 1 and the Convict Silos. The In-depth Tour is more thorough and, as such, takes two to two-and-a-half hours. It takes in the Highlight Tour attractions as well as the Electric Portal Jib Crane, the Powerhouse, the Turbine Shop and the Wolverine Film Set (where the pivotal escape scene was shot). There’s the Convict Trail (an hour to 90 minutes) that visits the Military Guardhouse, the Mess Hall, Fitzroy Dock and the Convict Silos. The Maritime Trail (also an hour to 90 minutes) is for those interested in maritime and wartime history with visits to attractions that include The Turbine Shop, the Submarine Crane, the Mould Loft and Sutherland Dock. When completed in 1890 it was the largest single graving dock in the world and is a fine example of late 19th century engineering.

You can take your own picnic but not alcohol. There are also public barbecues and BBQ packs can be pre-ordered from Societe Overboard (phone 0434 372 260). Societe Overboard (near Parramatta Wharf) offers breakfast and lunch options (sandwiches, salads and burgers) plus hot and cold drinks including beer and wine. The Marina Café is family-friendly spot (also licensed) that serves wraps, dumplings, salads and cakes. And there is the Island Bar that serves up cocktails and drinks over an Italian style lunch or dinner (no children after 3:00pm on weekends). There are vending machines and the tap water is drinkable (Sydney water).

There’s so much to see and do on Cockatoo Island it is worthy of more than just one visit. Here is a link to the Cockatoo Island website.

Sydney Harbour Cruises

Sydney Harbour. It is stunning. It is sparkling. It is spectacular. It is the spiritual heart of Sydney and what makes it a sought out city to live in and a sought out destination to visit. You can drive and walk around it, you can drive and climb over it, you can even dive under it but there is no better way to enjoy the harbour than to get out on it. Take a cruise to explore the coves, sandstone bluffs, parklands, beaches, tributaries, islands and the man-made periwinkles that are collectively known as expensive real estate.

If you aren’t lucky or rich enough to own your own boat, a harbour cruise is the best way to get out and about and there are lots of different cruising options. There are cocktail cruises, lunch and dinner cruises, sightseeing cruises and specialised cruises for events like Christmas, Mother’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

The most basic, inexpensive and (many would argue) enjoyable harbour cruise is to hop on a Manly ferry from Wharf Three at Circular Quay. The journey takes half an hour and is more than pleasant. You can wander from side to side for a change of scenery and it is usually a gentle ride (unless there is a swell when you cross the heads, but that can add to the experience). You get to see things like the Sydney Opera House, Kirribilli House, Admiralty House, Taronga Zoo, Fort Denison, Shark and Clark Islands, Rushcutters Bay, Point Piper, Rose Bay, Double Bay, Watsons Bay and, of course, Manly. Ferries run on the half hour.

You can also enjoy a ferry cruise to the harbour islands like Clark Island, Shark Island and Cockatoo Island for a picnic. At the other end of the cost scale, you could hire a water taxi to be your personal chauffeur or, you could just opt for one of the professional cruise operators who will undoubtedly provide a rewarding experience.

You can experience the harbour on a Tall Ship – you can get involved and help hoist the sails or just sit back and relax and take in the salty harbour breeze to take in the view and enjoy a lunch. The ticket booth is at Wharf 5, Circular Quay.

Or perhaps head to Darling Harbour and take a cruise from there. Captain Cook Cruises offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktail and high tea cruises as well as whale watching, sightseeing and hop on-hop off attraction passes.

There are Sydney Harbour Dinner Cruises that offer restaurant quality dining aboard a luxury catamaran (depart King Street Wharf). Sydney Harbour Charter Cruises are also based here. And while not specifically a harbour cruise, if you take a Whale Watching Cruise you get the adventure and reward of whale watching with the bonus of seeing Sydney Harbour on the way out and back.

It was Samuel Johnson who said that “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life…” If the good doctor had lived in Sydney, he surely would have said the same about its harbour.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Bridgeclimb in Sydney is undoubtedly one of the city’s best attractions – you get a shot of adrenalin, a dollop of history, a sense of achievement and simply the most sensational views of the harbour and the city.

It may seem expensive before heading up but will also seem exceptional value at the end when you realise you have purchased a fabulous experience and a lifetime memory. If you don’t want to splurge on yourself, it also makes a terrific gift.

You don't need to be super-fit and it is totally safe because you are clipped on to the guide rail at all times. You do, however, have to be sober and all participants are breath-tested prior to the climb. The ‘Coathanger’ dates back to 1932 and she’s in excellent shape for an old girl. She is much more than a means to get people and traffic from the city to the north side of the harbour and vice-versa. She is part of the city’s fabric and character, much the same way that the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, the Statue of Liberty to New York and Big Ben to London.

You have to be over 10 and over 1.2 metres tall to participate (children 10 to 15 must be with an adult). The oldest climber to date was 100. You just need to take comfortable shoes, sunglasses and a sense of fun and adventure. There are a number of climb options including the Bridgeclimb Sampler, Day climb, Night climb, Dawn climb, Bridgeclimb Extress and there is now a Mandarin Climb for Chinese visitors (the guides speak fluent Mandarin). You can even have a Bridgeclimb Wedding. Allow around two hours and 40 minutes for the climb. Here is a link to the official Bridgeclimb website and the Climb Base (start/finish) is at 3 Cumberland Street in The Rocks.

When you complete Bridgeclimb you are given a free pass to visit the Pylon Lookout. The Pylon Lookout could be considered the ‘poor man’s Bridgeclimb’ – you still get a terrific view of the harbour and city as well as the history of the bridge. There are 200 stairs to the lookout which is 87 metres above mean sea level. On the way up there are three levels of exhibits that give the history of the bridge. It is open every day, apart from Christmas Day, from 10:00am to 5:00pm.

The museum/lookout is in the South East Pylon. Access is via the pedestrian pathway on the Eastern side of the Bridge (use the 'Bridge Stairs' in Cumberland Street opposite the charming Australian Hotel – which is a nice spot for a drink, snack or lunch).

The bridge pylons are actually more ornamental than a critical part of the bridge structure. It took 250 Australian, Scottish and Irish stonemasons to prepare the granite for them. It would probably be ‘just another bridge’ without them. A walk across the bridge is also highly recommended – allow around 20 minutes. If you are planning to walk from the North side use the steps near Milsons Point Railway Station.