Sydney is much different than Melbourne, in that it reminds me of many other large cities I’ve been to in the world, namely San Francisco. In walking the streets, you will recognize a lot of large company names, including tech/consulting business, shops, and restaurants. But, what sets it apart is its location, and some of the most iconic architecture in the world.
Below is my itinerary for Sydney, including how to get around, what I saw, and where I dined/drank.
Getting to/from the airport
Sydney has a multitude of easy ways to get to/from the airport. Cabs are the most convenient (and most expensive – about $55 AUD each way – Lyft might be cheaper). There is also a train that takes you to/from the airport, to virtually any destination. If you aren’t lugging a ton of stuff (like I did), then I recommend the train.
Getting to/from destinations across Sydney Harbor
To get to anywhere, away from Sydney, such as Manly Beach, Bondi Beach, Coogee, Taronga Zoo, etc., you have to take the ferry at Circular Quay. The rides provide the best views of Sydney, are equipped with free Wi-fi, and for the longer rides, a cafe. There are many different ferry companies. I used those that the Opal Card supports, which also happen to be cheaper (about $15 AUD roundtrip to most places).
NOTE: Make sure to take one ferry ride, back to Sydney, at sunset, and sit at the front of the boat, no matter how cold. I failed to do this, and missed the sun setting, which would have provided more spectacular pictures than the one below.
Since it’s winter, almost all hotels are highly affordable. The Four Seasons had a pre-paid deal of less than $200 AUD a night, which put me smack in the middle of the city in decent accommodations.
Places to Dine/Drink
Ripples – I love recommendations from local inhabitants. This one came from a guy that my mom sat next to on a plane, and while it doesn’t look like much from the outside, it sits right on the water, under the Sydney bridge, and serves up five-star meals. It’s my best recommendation in this city for any time dining. NOTE: The pork belly and short ribs dishes are AMAZING!
Abode – Nestled in the middle of many corporate offices is Abode. It serves up all sorts of amazing food (their sweet potato fries are THE BEST) and drinks, in a chic, upscale setting. It’s a great place for happy hour!
Palmer & Co. – Imagine stepping into a Prohibition Era bar filled with swing dancers, clinking glasses, loud laughter, and bartenders serving up the best cocktails, all while feeling like you just transported yourself back to the 1920s. Being a sucker for this era (with a secret wish to transport back in time for a week), my jaw hit the floor when we walked in. This was everything I had ever wanted to see in a Speakeasy, and it didn’t disappoint. It is a MUST-SEE in Sydney!
Felix – Down Ash street (and many other alleyways) is a string of eclectic fine-dining restaurants. Felis is a French Bistro, nestled down this alleyway, offering both indoor and outdoor seating. It instantly transports you into Europe, and it’s food didn’t disappoint. I recommend it for lunch, and highly recommend the beetroot salad.
Opera Bar – There are several restaurants and bars that line the pathway up to the Opera House, with the Opera Bar being one of the biggest. It offers the best views of the water, city, bridge, and Opera house, with almost all of the seating being outdoors. Their food selections are great, with plenty of gluten-free options, including the best gluten-free pizza I’ve ever had (try their Margherita one). Note that ordering is different. You grab your own table, and go to the bar to order food and drink. You’ll receive a number and a server will come bring you your food.
The Morrison – Tucked behind the raucous pub, is the restaurant portion of The Morrison. It’s in this quieter area that my mom and I had dinner. It’s not a bad place to go for dinner and dessert (especially for a date night). My recommendation is the Chicken Maryland.
Caminetto – Nestled down a historic street in The Rocks, is a great indoor/outdoor Italian restaurant that serves a great breakfast! My mom and I went there before walking through the open air market and little shops. It looks like it would be great for dinner as well, but if you head there for breakfast, try the omelet or porridge. If you’re gluten-free, they have gluten-free bread available!
Whitewater Restaurant – Along S. Steyne are many restaurants, most of which have a “beachy” feel to them. My mom and I stumble upon this, while walking towards our hike. It’s a chic, upscale restaurant, right across from the beach, offering all sorts of great food and drink. I recommend the Truffle Waygu Beef burger (without the bun for me). I’ve also heard the vegetarian pasta is good as well! While I know they are open for all meals, my suggestion is to go there for breakfast or lunch, so you have the view of the beach.
Things to See/Do
Sydney Harbour Bridge – The very first thing I did was walk the one mile over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and into Milson’s Point. In fact, if you have never been to Sydney, make this the first thing you do. It’s a “pinch me” moment to see all of Sydney, including the Opera House!
Luna Park/Olympic Pool
Once we walked over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, we headed to Olympic Street to eat at Ripples. Along the way, we stumbled upon both the Olympic Aquatic Center (it once housed the Olympic swimming competitions), and Luna Park.
Luna Park is slightly creepy to walk through at night, but an unbelievable sight. Still in operation today, it’s their version of Coney Island in New York.
Queen Victoria Building – Built in the late ninetieth century, this mall hosts all sorts of shops, cafes, and historical clocks. The well-preserved architecture transports you back to Sydney’s early beginnings. It’s a must-see on your way to Westfield Tower.
Sydney Tower Eye – For about $30 AUD per adult, you can head up to the top of the Sydney Tower Eye for some of the most spectacular 360 views of Sydney! It’s definitely a must-do!
Darling Harbour / SEA LIFE Sea Aquarium – A short walk down Market Street (from the Sydney Tower), will land you on the foot bridge to Darling Harbor. It’s a GREAT place to shop, dine, take boat rides, and see some of their famous places, such as SEA LIFE Sea Aquarium. For $30 AUD per adult, my mom and I spent a few hours, wandering through one of the best aquariums I’ve been to (what sold me was the penguin exhibit). It’s absolutely worth the walk (and cost) to get there. My suggestion is to make day of the Harbour to enjoy all it has to offer. Since we didn’t get there until late afternoon, we didn’t do much.
Taronga Zoo – I’m still raving about this experience, because I’ve never been to a zoo quite like this! For $46 AUD per adult, we spent a full day interacting with animals in open enclosures (I’ve never been THAT close to a roo or a wallaby), as well as taking in the sights of getting very near every other species in Australia and Africa. This is an absolute must-do in Sydney, although I recommend you spend the extra money to go “behind the scenes” and pet the kangaroos, and other animals. It’s something I wish I had done.
Note: Eat at Views for lunch – it has spectacular views of Sydney, from across the water.
Manly Beach – Our final stop was to Manly Beach, which is reminiscent of almost any main beach town, with the one exception that there is a hiking path that takes you along the water, and into rain forests.
According to most, Manly beats out both Bondi and Coogee. Next time I travel here, I’ll still visit the other two for my own comparison. But, definitely put this on your list of things to see!
Visting The Rocks – One of the most historic sections of Sydney, as it’s the home to the first European settlement, it’s a charming walk for dining, shopping, and sightseeing! My mom and I walked through this section of town on our last morning in Sydney.
Almost all of the settlement buildings are still in-tact, and if you wander into any of the shops, you will see how these working-class families lived. One such shop, which had my attention for both it’s jewels (I got very large peridot earrings for $125 AUD) and its history, was Hathi Jewellery. If you see the old safe above, it’s little pieces of history, like this, that makes you want to wander into every building to see what it still has.