Going on natural beauty, Australia couldn’t ask for a much more perfect gateway than Sydney. Greeting visitors with its magnificent harbour and the gleaming white sails of Sydney Opera House, Australia’s first and largest city makes use of its natural geography like few others. Not one to rest on its looks, Sydney also serves up a full plate of cultural attractions, on travel to Australia, with a wide variety of hopping neighbourhoods to keep you occupied at all hours of the day.
What to see and when, with time on your hands? Here are four perfect days in Sydney to suit every type of Globetrotter.
Classic Sydney in a Day
Weekday mornings in Sydney’s CBD (Central Business District) are madness, so enjoy people-watching over a leisurely breakfast at a local café while you wait for the chaos of rush hour to pass. Then hop a train down to Circular Quay and The Rocks for some Colonial Sydney 101, perhaps booking a Rocks walking tour. Art buffs can linger at the Museum of Contemporary Art until lunchtime.
Watch the ferries and street performers over a quayside lunch, then check in for your essential tour of Sydney Opera House. Pose for some photos with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and take a walk through the Royal Botanic Garden. Both The Mint and Hyde Park Barracks Museum close at 5pm, so if you have time, visit whichever one interests you more before popping across to Hyde Park to admire the Archibald Fountain. St Mary’s Cathedral looms just across College Street, and is particularly atmospheric at dusk.
Book your ticket to the top of the Sydney Tower Eye for sunset, or go after dark for Sydney’s best night time view. You can enjoy either fine dining or a casual buffet at the top if you’re so inclined.
Harbours and Hipsters – The Best of the Inner West
Sydney has always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Darling Harbour, but as of this writing, things are on the upswing, with updated public spaces and improved facilities, making this popular visitor hub more appealing than ever on travel to Australia. Start your day at either the Australian National Maritime Museum, or the superb SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. Also worth a look are the Chinese Garden of Friendship, and – at least until it relocates in 2023 – the Powerhouse Museum. Choose, say, two of these to fill up your morning without rushing, adjusting of course, for your own pace and interests.
Head into Haymarket, aka Chinatown for a top notch Asian lunch, stopping for a look at the Frank Gehry designed “paper bag” UTS Business School on the way. This brings you to Central Station, where you can hop a train or bus to the heart of all things Bohemian in Sydney, Newtown. Browsing, exploring, and tasting King Street will happily swallow the balance of your afternoon. It’s also probably the best place in Sydney to pick up a unique souvenir, and easily boasts Sydney’s best choice of cafes.
Stay on in the evening, enjoying dinner at one of Newtown’s excellent Thai restaurants, or perhaps see what’s playing at the New Theatre, Australia’s oldest operating theatre company. If nightlife is your thing, this is one of the few remaining neighbourhoods in inner Sydney that remains open into the wee hours.
Eastern Promises – From the City to the Surf
Begin your day admiring the architecture of Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building, Sydney’s loveliest shopping mall. Be sure to roam the top level for the most unusual stores and a close-up look at the building’s clocks and historic dioramas. Then cross through Hyde Park, stopping to pay your respects at the Anzac War Memorial. Afterwards, dive into the Australian Museum, one of the best collections found anywhere in the country. A short walk south along College will take you to Oxford Street, the heart of Sydney’s LGBT community and the main route of the famed Sydney Mardi Gras. It’s also the place to catch the 380 bus bound for Bondi.
Linger over lunch and spend as long as you like exploring the colourful sights and characters of Bondi Beach on your travel to Australia. Just save some energy for the Coastal Cliff Walk. You don’t have to do the whole 3 kilometre trail, but even a portion of it offers Sydney’s most spectacular coastal views.
Take the bus back to the CBD in the late afternoon or evening, freshening up for dinner at one of the many fine restaurants in Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, or King’s Cross. Theatre lovers might even take in an innovative show at Darlinghurst Theatre Company, or a musical at the intimate Hayes Theatre in Potts Point.
Highlights of the Harbour
Sydney Harbour is the city’s centrepiece, and if you don’t spend at least one day enjoying all it has to offer, on travel to Australia, you really have missed out on a major, major part of what makes the city so special. Start the day down at Circular Quay, boarding the ferry bound for Taronga Zoo. Sydney’s most iconic wildlife attraction showcases animals from around the world. Take the cable car to the zoo’s entrance, then zigzag your way down, finally boarding your ferry back to Circular Quay. If you want a truly unique experience, consider spending the night with a “Roar and Snore” package, which includes an up close and personal encounter with some of the animals, a guided tour, buffet dinner, and comfortable tent accommodation overlooking stunning Sydney Harbour.
So Much to See in Sydney’s Taronga Zoo
Assuming you aren’t staying the night, switch ferries, bound for Watson’s Bay, one of Sydney’s most exclusive suburbs. Here, you’ll enjoy stellar harbour views, with unpretentious, if slightly upmarket lunch options. Wander up to the Gap Bluff for Pacific views and a glimpse of the wrecked ship, Dunbar, perhaps going right up to South Head and Hornby Lighthouse.
If Sydney Harbour has been the highlight of your day, let it work its charms into the night. Catch a sunset over the Sydney Harbour Bridge with a cocktail in your hand, perhaps before taking in a Sydney Opera House performance, or just a leisurely harbourside dinner.