Sydney is hands down one of my favorite destinations. The city is clean. The food scene is incredible. The coffee scene crushes Seattle. But most importantly, who doesn’t love those Australian accents?
I was fortunate enough to take an 11 day trip to Australia. In an attempt to cram as much of Australia in the shortest amount of time, I planned 3 awesome days in Sydney followed by 2 days in Cairns (the Great Barrier Reef) and 6 Days in Brisbane/The Gold Coast. You can certainly have a great trip and see a lot of Sydney in 3 days but 4-5 days would certainly allow you to enjoy more of the city and neighboring areas.
Most people coming to Sydney will have just arrived from a long haul flight (SEE PREVIOUS BLOG FOR TIPS TO FLY TO AUSTRALIA IN FIRST CLASS FOR FREE).
The best way to combat the long trip is to start your trip with a City Walk around Sydney.
We landed at Sydney International Airport (SYD) at 6AM and dropped off our bags at our beautiful hotel, The Westin Sydney, which is in the heart of the CBD (Central Business District). They were able to accommodate us with a room instantly which was amazing. We were able to drop off our bags, get organized, shower, and head out. Despite having a Business class seat from the US to Sydney, I was still exhausted but pushed through to try and get on the Australia time zone. (Fun Fact - I still fell asleep before it got dark out pretty much every day and didn't see the night sky until our last evening in the city)
Sydney City Walk - Day 1
Circular Quay - is the bustling harbour where you’ll find great restaurants, better views, and the main destination to catch all of your ferries. The city is geographically spread out around Sydney Harbour, so ferries are often the quickest and the only way to get some of the locations. It is for this reason that you most likely will not need to rent a car. A cheap boat ride not only take you to where you want to go but it also serves as a cheap and great scenic tour of the city.
Sydney Opera House - sits adjacent to the Circular Quay. This is the iconic destination you most likely envision when you think of Sydney. You can easily stay here for over an hour. Be sure to walk around the perimeter and take in all the views of the Harbour, Bridge, and CBD. Pro Tip: Plan ahead and check the event schedule to see if there is something you would want to attend at the venue during your stay.
Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair - follow the path along the water from the Opera House and you will come to the next scenic point. This rock peninsula provides more views of the city in addition to being able to look East and see the rest of the Harbour out towards the ocean.
Royal Botanic Gardens - as you walk back towards the Opera House, you will notice large parks on your left. These are beautiful and public grounds home to a very scenic landscape. Grab something from the cafe and have an impromptu picnic as you take in the city views for lunch.
Sydney Harbour Bridge - Continue past to the other side of the Circular Quay and you’ll find yourself walking on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Walk across the iconic structure and enjoy the endless views from the high vantage point. Pro Tip - Schedule the climbing tour to the top of the Bridge. This is a long and strenuous activity so if you aren’t in Sydney for more than 3 days, the free walk along the bridge will more than suffice.
North Sydney Olympic Pool - growing up a swimmer this was a must on the other side of the bridge. If you weren’t a collegiate swimmer, this still has a very cool view of the city for you to enjoy. Buy a pass for a few dollars and enter the facility. Get in a few laps at a very scenic spot. I can promise you that not many pools will beat this view. However, that one better spot is just down below.
Luna Park Sydney - there is a little amusement park right next to the pool. Take a stroll in and snap some cool photos for the gram.
Milsons Point - On the other side of the pool is a little park along the water which boasts some more scenic views of the city and bridge.
Pro Tip: Save time and your legs, and take an Uber or Taxi back to the CBD. Note, the walk back to the CBD is more scenic as you're heading towards the city so consider taking a car ride the first time travelling across the bridge as the city will be behind you.
Sydney City Walk - Day 2
Central Business District - walk through the bustling city. You will find little bakeries and coffee shops on every corner. There are a select few Starbucks shops in the city but not like what you would see in the US. Enjoy these little coffee shops. I promise you will not be upset.
Hyde Park - another beautiful park in the city
Angel Place (Alley) - A hidden little alley that is very good for your instagram.
Darling Harbour - this is another cool harbour area to spend some time. The aquarium and zoo are also located here in addition to some great shops and restaurants yet again. Pro Tip: Check out the Queen Victoria Building not too far from here as well
Pitt Street Mall / Westfield Sydney - walk through the huge outdoor shopping areas. Can you count how many Ugg Stores there are?
Sydney Tower - the best part of the Westsfield mall is to access the Sydney Tower. There is a restaurant at the 2nd highest floor but that can be skipped and is more of a tourist trap. Simply buy a ticket for the Sky Walk and come here for an unobstructed 360 degree view of the city. Pro Trip: Plan to come here a little before Golden Hour. Watch the sunset and see the city light up below your feet as the sky darkens.
Sydney Opera House (NIGHT) - Come back to the Opera House at night. There is a daily light show that is displayed on to the structure which makes for a good show. There are some great restaurants in the area (I don’t think I had a bad meal in Australia) or you can have a fancy dinner at the Bennelong Restaurant and Bar. Pro Tip - schedule a spot at the bar for drinks and appetizers ahead of time to take in golden hour, sunset, and the full ambiance while saving some money.
Sydney Ferry Ride - If you are going to take the Ferry around the harbour be sure to stop at Watsons Bay and Manly. Both are very cool little towns along the ocean and have beautiful coastlines and beaches. At a minimum, Manly has a little coastal walk which will take you from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach. Pro Tip: Explore the city longer and stay for a sunset dinner. Take the Ferry back to the CBD and take in the city views as it lights up at night.
Sydney Beaches - Day 3
Bondi Beach - You don’t need to rent a car in Sydney. Save money and take a short uber/taxi to Bondi Beach. Bondi Beach can get very crowded so plan to come here during the week or get there early in the morning to beat the crowds. Bondi has a huge sandy beach and park just right behind the sand for added public space. There are also some great restaurants and shops across the park.
Bondi Icebergs - Swimming is big in Australia. Right along the coast is a beautiful outdoor 50 meter pool with an adjacent 25 meter pool perpendicular. This is the pool that beats the North Sydney Olympic Pool. The pool here is a little different because it is filled with Salt Water. During the right tides, the ocean water below comes crashing into the pool wall and sprays fresh water into the air and pool. You will find a large combination of sunbathers and lap swimmers here in addition to countless tourists. There is also a large cafe upstairs that overlooks the pool and ocean for optimal viewing.
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk - As soon as you pass Icebergs, you are on the path to Coogee. Be aware - if you want to walk all the way to Coogee, you will have a 2-3 hour walk ahead of you. The walk is certainly worth the steps and time but be sure to pack light. The entire path is along the coast with sweeping views of the rocks, bluffs, oceans, and beach towns along the way. Pro Tip - take an uber/taxi to Coogee and walk to Bondi as the views will be more impressive as you come to Bondi.
Bronte Beach - there is a nice park here and there are also a few places to stop and eat. We stopped at an awesome brunch cafe here along the way.
Gordons Bay - another beautiful beach that serves as a good spot along the way to jump in the water to cool off during the walk.
McIvers Baths - another fresh water swimming pool for a dip, laps, or just for a photo.
Giles Beach - rest and swim at the beach here at the end after a long walk.
Stop at the final beach town of Coogee. Relax on the beach or grab a drink and some snacks (Coogee Pavillion is a great spot and right on the beach)
Favorite Restaurant in Sydney:
Mr Wong - Modern Cantonese Menu in the heart of the CBD. Great food and better ambiance.
Best time to visit Sydney is November as Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere and this is when the warm temperatures arrive and before the crowds. A New Years celebration trip would be another amazing time to come as it is the first major city to ring in the new year.