Home to arguably the ‘best games ever’, Sydney Olympic Park remains central to the recreational and sporting life of the New South Wales capital. Twenty one years on from the 2000 Olympic Games, the Park and its surrounds continue to evolve, adding new experiences to a host of established favourites. Here are ten fabulous things to do on a visit to Sydney Olympic Park.
1. See the stadium where it all began
The centerpiece of the 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games and a major venue for the 2003 Rugby World Cup, Stadium Australia – formerly known as ANZ Stadium – is a magnificent monument to Sydney’s ambitions as an international sporting destination. Walk around the massive arena, crane your neck to take in its sheer scale, and check out the nearby Olympic Cauldron (now a fountain). Behind-the-scenes ‘Explore’ tours and breathtaking overhead ‘Gantry’ tours will resume as soon as Coronavirus restrictions allow.
2. Follow in the wake of our swimming stars
One of the best-loved facilities at the Park, the Aquatic Centre is a public sporting facility steeped in Olympic history. Book your lane for lap swimming in the 50-metre pool where Ian Thorpe won five Olympic gold medals, or try out one of the competition-quality diving boards and platforms. Other attractions include the Dive into History exhibition, Splash n Fun Water Playground for kids and adults, Rapid River Ride, Water Slide and Splasher’s Playground for younger children.
3. Learn about the legends of Australian sport
Located in Quaycentre, the NSW Hall of Champions pays tribute to more than 370 great Australian athletes across 55 sports. With unique stories, photographs and artefacts, this museum brings to life the achievements of such legendary figures as Shane Gould, Evonne Goolagong and Jack Brabham. To commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Sydney Games, a special Olympic Champions Exhibition is also running till the end of May 2021.
4. Join the circus
The modern circus is all about human endeavour, and nowhere is that more thrilling to watch than on the trapeze. Get a taste of the high-flying fun for yourself at Circus Arts. Located at the Aquatic Centre on Olympic Boulevard, Circus Arts offers trapeze classes for all levels and all ages above five years. Take a single class or an eight-week course. You might even become a ‘frequent flyer’!
5. Bike through Bicentennial Park
This 40-hectare, mostly level park on the eastern side of the Sydney Olympic Park precinct contains 35 kilometres of safe, family-friendly cycleways. Hire a bike – including tandems and tagalongs – or bring your own, to explore open grasslands and shady mangrove forests dotted with bird hides, fountains and sculptures. Stop at the Treillage Tower for great views of the park, river and city skyline, or head to Waterview Café for some well-earned refreshment.
6. Walk the Brickpit Ring
Much of Sydney’s 20th-century housing was built with materials from the State Brickworks, established in 1911 on the clay-filled soil around Homebush Bay. An elevated walkway – 18.5 metres above ground – now encircles the old brickpit, allowing visitors to see this piece of industrial heritage while also protecting the habitat of the rare green and golden bell frog. The 550-metre circular walk gives great views over the area and is enhanced by the natural sounds of frogs and birds, along with the recorded voices of former pit workers.
7. Connect with the natural environment
Sydney Olympic Park encompasses several ecologically significant landscapes, including freshwater wetlands, estuaries and mangrove forests, which provide habitat for dozens of species of lizards, frogs, waterfowl and migratory birds. It’s easy to immerse yourself in these peaceful natural landscapes by following the boardwalks through the Badu Mangroves or Narawang Wetlands. The Waterbird Refuge at the northern end of the Badu Mangroves is a particularly good place to experience the Park’s rich avian life.
8. Chance your arm at the Archery Centre
Whether you want to channel your inner medieval warrior, improve your strength, or simply strike an empowering pose, the Archery Centre at Sydney Olympic Park has all you need to learn and practise this ancient sport. There are sessions or classes for all ages (10 years and up) and for different levels of skill. Birthday parties, school holiday programs and team-building events are also available.
9. Visit the Newington Armory precinct
Once a naval arms and explosives depot, the area between Sydney Olympic Park and the Parramatta River has been developed into a multipurpose heritage and recreation precinct. The best day to visit is Sunday, when the Heritage Railway operates a Discovery Tour around the historic military buildings and through otherwise inaccessible forests. Weekends are also the time to take a Segway Tour along the riverfront or visit the Birdlife Australia Discovery Centre. The Armory Wharf Café, serving modern Australian cuisine with uninterrupted river views, is open from Wednesday to Sunday.
10. Play at Blaxland Riverside Park
Located right beside Armory Wharf Café, Blaxland Riverside Park is a wonderful place for a family day out or an outdoor gathering with friends. There’s a scenic riverside walking path, picnic areas and free-to-use gas and electric BBQs. The park also includes Sydney’s biggest playground! The 3-hectare play space includes 12 separate play areas and is exceptionally well-equipped, with a huge flying fox, integrated scramble wall and slide complex, climbing ropes, tree house, water play area and mega-swing structure.
Need a place to stay?
APX Parramatta offers contemporary loft-style apartment accommodation, just a ten-minute drive from Sydney Olympic Park. The hotel is also ideally placed for fast transport links to both the Sydney CBD and gorgeous Blue Mountains. APX Darling Harbour offers spacious apartments surrounded by bars and eateries, located walking distance from the Darling Harbour. Another great accommodation option is the APX World Square, centrally located in Sydney CBD, this hotel offers modern apartment accommodation with large private balconies overlooking the city.
About the writer
Roslyn Jolly is a freelance travel writer whose work has appeared in Luxury Travel, Get Up & Go, The Sunday Telegraph and The Australian. In her former career as an English Literature academic, she studied and taught the work of great travel writers, such as Henry James, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, and became fascinated by the history of travel and tourism. Two years at school in Wales and three years at university in England allowed her to travel extensively in Europe and North America, which she continues to do.
Cover image courtesy – Destination NSW
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