Sydney is probably the most recognisable city associated with Australia, it is a major gateway to Australia and has lots of world famous landmarks and famous beaches. I have been lucky enough to travel to Sydney on many occasions with my work.
With the airline I work for we stop over in Sydney for about 36 hours, and stop in Singapore for 48 hours on the way to Sydney and stop back in Singapore again on the way back. The Singapore/Sydney trip is a 9 day trip and is actually one of my favourite trips to do with work, as I love both Singapore and Sydney and they have both started to feel like second homes now.
The first time I went to Sydney with work I was so excited as I had never been to Australia before, and couldn’t wait to go exploring. On my first ever trip to Sydney I actually got to spend 3 days there as unfortunately for our passengers our aircraft went tech, and parts had to be flown over from London Heathrow. I have to admit I was over the moon to get some extra time in this exciting city.
Since my first ever trip to Sydney I have done many more Singapore/Sydney trips and always try to visit an area or place that I haven’t been to before. My brother in law lives in Adelaide and on one particular trip I bought my husband along and my brother in law flew up from Adelaide to meet us which was great, as I love having a layover with family it makes it feel like a mini holiday, even though I was really tired we packed lots in, and met up with some of my husbands friends that now live in Sydney too.
Sydney has so much to offer from beautiful beaches and bays, to world famous surf spots and landmarks. Sydney has a really cool vibe and there is always something going on in the city.
Sights & Activities
Most people I speak to seem to prefer Manly Beach to Bondi Beach. I think maybe I’m one of the rare few that actually prefer Bondi Beach. I just think Bondi is so iconic all around the world, and has so much to see and do there, it really does have something for everyone. It has lots of street art to admire, surfing or watching surfers, and lots of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops. Even if your not a big fan of swimming in the Ocean you can swim and relax at the ocean pool at Icebergs Club.
I really love the atmosphere around Bondi it’s got a really cool laid back atmosphere to it, but with a bit of a quirky edge. Even if your not a surfer just going to the beach and sunbathing here is great, I have been to Bondi on several occasions and always have a great time there.
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
The coastal walk between Bondi Beach and Coogee Beach was one of the best coastal walks I’ve ever done. We started from Coogee Beach and walked to Bondi Beach it is approximately 3.5 miles, and takes just short of 3 hours to walk, it is a leisurely walk taking in many bays, rock pools, cliffs and coves along the way and lots of breathtaking scenery.
This is one of my favourite things I’ve done in Sydney, I went when I took my husband and my brother in law and their friend that lives in Coogee took us along the walk, and we also had some of the other crew that I was working with join us. It was a beautiful sunny day when we went and we had breakfast then headed off for the walk, we took our time and stopped to admire views and take photos. I cannot recommend this walk enough it is an absolute must do in Sydney!
Sydney’s Chinatown is like most other Chinatowns around the world, the Main Street which is Dixon Street is the heart and soul of Chinatown, it has a huge selection of Asian eateries and shops. As Sydney can be quite pricey this is the place to go to get cheap eats if you are on a budget and craving some Asian food.
The Main Street also has some ornate gates either end of the street which are decorated with dragons, bamboo tiles and golden writing. If your in Sydney for a while I would recommend having a stroll through Chinatown, and not too far from the Main Street is Paddy’s Market.
Circular Quay is one of the main tourist hubs in Sydney, with many of Sydney’s main landmarks located within the area. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and The Rocks are all located within this horseshoe cove.
Circular Quay was once where Australia’s first European settlers came and was once home to ex convicts, sailors and whalers and had lots of brothels and pubs. Today it is home to upmarket bars and restaurants offering champagne breakfasts overlooking the opera house, lots of street performers and the many tourists and locals coming in and out on the many ferries that run from the harbour.
Circular Quay is a bustling vibrant area of Sydney, I always really enjoy having a wander around the Quay and seeing what’s new, sometimes it’s lovely to just sit and relax with a drink and watch a cruise ship coming in.
Sydney City Hall was constructed between the mid to late 1800s. It’s function and use is very different today and is mainly used now for meetings, events and exhibitions and is home to the council and civic offices. When exploring Sydney try to stop by this historical building in the heart of the city centre.
Darling Harbour is a former dockland which was regenerated in the 80s and is now home to a numerous amount of restaurants and cafes. It has lots of Sydneys tourist attractions such as a Sealife Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife Zoo, Madame Tussaud’s and various museums and parks.
Darling Harbour is an upmarket area of Sydney, I enjoy wandering around Darling Harbour and grabbing a drink here, however I wouldn’t recommend spending too much time here it’s great to wander around maybe for an hour or 2 but you won’t find the authentic Sydney experience here it’s more purpose built and office spaces.
If your in Sydney during Australia Day go to Darling Harbour as they normally put on lots of family friendly activities and entertainment, and some years have beautiful firework displays on in the evening which is a perfect way to finish off the day.
Manly Beach is Sydney’s second most famous Beach after Bondi Beach. Over a mile long stretch of golden sand beach makes up Manly Beach and lined by pine trees. Manly Beach attracts lots of tourists and locals, every time I have visited Manly it’s always been busy that’s one reason why I tend to prefer Bondi as I always find it less busy.
Manly Beach however is still iconic to Sydney and is a must visit on any Sydney Itinerary. I do love wandering down the Main Street of Manly and looking in all the shops which sell a selection of clothes as well as souvenirs. Manly also has lots of cafes and restaurants that line the beach front.
Paddy’s Market is located right next to Chinatown in a large brick building. It has a variety of take away or eat in food options. Paddy’s Market is ideal for budget conscious travellers looking for a bargain. It is a traditional market and offers women’s fashion, kids clothes, accessories, jewellery, food, souvenirs, gadgets, and lots more. Paddy’s Market in Haymarket is open Wednesday – Sunday, and is a great market selling a variety of products.
Royal Botanical Gardens
The Royal Botanical Gardens are a free attraction which expand over a huge area of Sydney, you can enter these gardens next to the Opera House. The gardens have a huge array of plants and trees from both Australia and the rest of the world. The gardens were created in 1816, and is steeped in history. There are several free walking tours from November to March, and aboriginal tours are also available for approx AUS$40 per person.
When I visited the gardens it was on my first visit to Sydney and we wandered through the gardens in the morning before heading to the Opera House. If your only in Sydney for a short period of time I wouldn’t make the Botanical Gardens a must do on your itinerary unless your an avid gardener. However if you do have time I would suggest walking through the gardens while visiting the Opera House – time permitting.
The Rocks is located in Circular Quay, and has lots of old buildings and quirky lanes which is quite rare for Sydney as many of the cities buildings are modern and high structures and more high tech buildings being built, its great to see The Rocks being maintained and preserved.
The Rocks used to be a maritime hub and was known in the old days for its open sewers and dingy alleyways, since the 1970s it has been transformed into a tourist hub. The Rocks is now home to some amazing restaurants, bars and pubs.
As well as having lots of places to eat and drink there is some gorgeous little boutiques, and also has a weekend artisan market which has stalls selling local arts, crafts and food. On Fridays there is a foodie market which has lots of street food and local products available, and during the month of December there is a Christmas market.
The Rocks also hosts many festivals and live music events, and there are several museums and galleries to visit, The Rocks is the cultural core of Sydney and should be on every Sydney itinerary.
Watson’s Bay is a quick 15/20 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay. Watson’s Bay is a quiet suburban area of Sydney which is a lot less well known compared to other beaches in Sydney.
On one of my trips here I got the ferry over with one of my colleagues, and we had the most lovely day. As we arrived during lunch time we started our day at Doyle’s Fish and chips take away, and then wandered along the South Head Heritage Trail which took us past Lady Bay, which to our surprise was a nudist beach, we didn’t go down to it as we didn’t know where to look. We carried on over to the Hornby Lighthouse which has breathtaking views over the cliffs below and out the vast Pacific Ocean.
After having a little walk we decided to go and sunbath at Camp Cove which has the most gorgeous beach and calm clear waters which makes a change from both Bondi and Manly’s crashing waves. There is a small beach bar located at Camp Cove, if your needing some rest and relaxation, this is the beach for you.
Wildlife Sydney Zoo
The Wildlife Sydney Zoo is located in Darling Harbour next to the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium. This is a small zoo which houses lots of Australian native insects, reptiles, snakes and other small critters as well as having kangaroos and koalas. It’s a small zoo in comparison to Taronga Zoo which I still haven’t been too, however if your short on time and want to see some Australian wildlife without leaving the city this is a great little zoo.
You can purchase combo packages too with the Aquarium next door, if your just wanting to visit the zoo it was AUS$40 per person, I visited here on my first trip to Sydney when we were delayed and we spent a few hours here and really enjoyed it.
Food & Beverage
Bondi Icebergs Club
When visiting Bondi then a trip to Bondi Icebergs Club is a must, on weekends it is absolutely heaving as it offers great value casual bistro dining with excellent views over Bondi Beach. If you don’t fancy eating here then you can just go in for a drink as there are 2 bars inside.
As well as having a restaurant and bar you can pay to access the famous Ocean Pools which were the Bondi Baths, and have been there for over a 100 years in your ticket price you also get access to the sauna. When I visited Icebergs I went there for lunch and got a lovely salad, the portions are big here I ordered a side of chips with my salad that I really didn’t need.
City Extra boasts an amazing location in Circular Quay with great views overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge with both outside and indoor seating areas. It’s a great spot with incredible views and also good for people watching. The food is modern and delicious and not only is it a great place for dinner but also a great for breakfast too. The food is also reasonably priced considering it’s location. Its also open 24 hours a day so even if your jet lagged and can’t sleep this is a great find to come and grab some food or drink.
Coogee Bay Hotel
Coogee Bay Hotel is a little gem right on the beachfront of Coogee it has a really friendly and casual atmosphere. It’s great to come here for drinks or dinner. We came and had a few drinks at their beach bar and also ordered some food from their menu which serves up comfort food that is affordable. After dinner my husband, brother in law and some of their friends and crew sat outside enjoying some drinks, we really loved the mood here and the view of the beach.
Doyle’s is situated in Watson’s Bay and was set up and is still run by the Doyle family since 1885. They serve up a selection of seafood dishes and delicacies. They have their restaurant which is Doyle’s on the Beach which is more up market sit down restaurant, or if that is a bit out of your price range, go to Doyle’s on the Wharf takeaway which is just opposite the restaurant, and also has some seating but is more laid back and affordable, we ordered some fish and chips and it was delicious and great value.
However if your a big fan of seafood and want something special I would suggest reserving a table at Doyle’s on the Beach, try to book in advance as it gets extremely busy. Doyle’s is associated with Watson’s Bay and is well know by many locals and tourists.
Fish Shack Is situated in Manly directly opposite the beach and serves up fish and chips either as a takeaway option or you can sit in. They also sell drinks here too so if you fancy a cold beer that’s close to the beach then this place is for you.
I am obsessed with Gloria Jeans! They are a coffee shop chain situated all over Sydney and the rest of Australia, they are kind of similar to Starbucks. I always love their cold iced drinks which change seasonally, Gloria Jeans offer up great pick me up drinks and snacks which are great for on the go.
Kazbah overlooks Darling Harbour and specialises in Middle Eastern cuisine such as grills, meze, sharing platters and tagines etc. It’s interior is sleek and stylish and has touches of Moroccan flare.
North Bondi Fish
North Bondi Fish is my favourite bar in Sydney and sits overlooking Bondi Beach. It is a bar but serves up fresh and delicious food, and amazing cocktails and on a weekend there is a DJ. North Bondi Fish just oozes cool and is full of the most beautiful people I have ever seen. Their cocktails and sharing jugs are so tasty and easy to drink I usually always loose track of time in there.
Olivo is set overlooking Darling Harbour and when your jet lagged and craving a decent breakfast this is my go to place. Their breakfast is fresh and tasty and affordable and always hits the spot. It is an Italian restaurant and has a great menu on offer for lunch and dinner too.
As you may have guessed Opera Bar is situated just by the Opera House. Opera Bar is always busy with both tourists and locals, it has amazing views overlooking the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Opera Bar on a hot sunny day is the place to be in Sydney, and I always like to come here for a glass of prossecco. Sunset at Opera Bar is always pretty magical and I can’t recommend this bar enough.
Ribs & Burgers
Located in the heart of the Rocks is Ribs and Burgers and you guessed it, it just sells ribs and burgers but done really well. It’s a casual restaurant you order at the till and orders are cooked up fresh. Staff here are really friendly and welcoming and the outside seating area is perfect on a warm day. They also offer take out and delivery too.
The Glenmore is a heritage listed building and has been in The Rocks since 1912. It is a popular watering hole and had a large refurb a few years back. The rooftop bar is great and has amazing views across the harbour. The Glenmore is also a great spot for a casual lunch on the rooftop.
We went to the Tropicana Cafe in Coogee before walking along the Coogee to Bondi coastal walk. I’m not normally a huge fan of breakfast but the breakfast at the Tropicana Cafe was one of the best I’ve ever had, I had the chicken breakfast wrap and it was absolutely delicious. I would recommend starting your day off here before heading off on the coastal walk if your starting from Coogee.
Transport & Getting Around
Sydney is really easy to get around once you get used to it. Sydney has lots of public transport available from buses, trains and ferries. I always tend to try and get ferries when visiting the various beaches and bays in Sydney, as I find it easy to leave from Circular Quay.
The Opal Card is widely available throughout Sydney and can be purchased and topped up in many newsagents around the city. The Opal Card is capped at AUS$15.80 per adult for a day of travel on all public transport.
I would suggest before travelling to Sydney or venturing out for the day to plan your public transport, as there are quite a lot of options, it can be quite daunting for someone who isn’t familiar with the city, and Sydney is quite spread out. You can plan all your travel plans online at Transport New South Wales.
Sydney is a great city and iconic all around the world. It’s best in the Australian spring and summer, I have spent time in Sydney when the weather wasn’t great and I have to admit it does loose some of its charm when the weather isn’t great.
This city has lots to offer, but it’s also one of the cities you don’t have to spend weeks getting to see everything. You could easily spend a day or 2 exploring the city and a bit more time if you want to spend time on Sydney’s many beaches and coves.
Sydney is quite expensive so be prepared this is not a cheap city. However a lot of the main sites and attractions are free, such as the Opera House. I would recommend sitting at Opera Bar at the Opera House and treating yourself to your favourite tipple and enjoying the view of this iconic building on a sunny day.
I would also recommend if you are strapped for time in the city but would like to see some of the beaches and coves then try and squeeze in the Bondi to Coogee Beach Walk, it takes about 3 hours but you will take in so many beaches and coves along the way and can see two of Sydney’s famous beaches, which is great if you don’t have much time and gives you a taste of the beach life in Sydney.
One last tip would be if your flying into Sydney, then prior to landing make sure to look out the window of the plane, as you get the most spectacular views of the Blue Mountains and the coastline of Sydney.