If you want to see what I did while I was there, which is not nearly as much as I should have, that is here. To see what I bring on all my trips that is right here. If you are interested in getting travel insurance I recommend TravelInsurance.com. They are considered one of best in the industry, you can easily compare coverages and get the right one for you.
1. Sydney Opera House
Let's start with the most obvious since the Opera House may be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about Sydney. The iconic design was submitted during an international design contest held in 1956 by Danish architect Jørn Utzon. The Opera House provides stunning views with a backdrop of Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
While watching a concert or performance would be amazing if you don't want to splurge for that you can take a tour. They are offered daily (except some days of shows) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m for about $40 AUD. The main tour takes you on a one-hour walk around the building. Another tour option is the backstage tour, which is offered at 7 a.m. and includes breakfast and a two-hour behind-the-scenes look at the property's various venues. Tickets for a show in the Opera House vary depending on the performance but expect to pay at least $50 AUD.
2. Darling Harbour
The Darling Harbour is a popular area to hang out in that is close to Sydney’s city center. There is plenty to do here like check out the Chinese Garden of Friendship, the largest film screen in the world at LG IMAX, the Carousel, and the National Maritime Museum. There is even more than that though since you can shop, check out restaurants or cafes, a Madame Tussaud, and even laser tag! Make sure to check out the district's various street performances, and on Saturdays stay for the free fireworks show at 9 p.m.!
3. Chinese Gardens of Friendship
The Chinese Garden of Friendship was built by Chinese landscape architects as a symbol of friendship between Sydney and the city of Guangzhou in China for Sydney's bicentennial in 1988.
The walled garden follows the Taoist principles of "Yin-Yang," which puts complementary and balanced forces together, and "Wu-Xing," the five elements or phases – wood, fire, earth, metal and water. As you wander around, you'll see waterfalls, lakes, exotic plants, pavilions and hidden pathways.
4. Visit Paddy’s Markets
Paddy’s is the biggest market in Sydney and has been around for over 150 years. It has over 1,000 stalls between the Haymarket and Flemington locations. This is a good place to find souvenir and tasty food!
5. Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach is one of Australia’s most famous beaches and one of the top surfing destinations in the world. This means it's always busy but not so much that you can't enjoy it. If surfing isn't your thing you can always enjoy a nice stroll, work on that tan, or swim. In the nearby neighborhoods you'll find souvenir shops, fashion boutiques and restaurants.
Get there early to make sure you get a spot. Also, take a coastal walk, either Bondi to Coogee or Bondi to Bronte for amazing views of the water!
6. Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens were founded in 1816 and spans 74-acres. They are open every day for free and are only a few minutes away from the Opera House which means they are busy and get about 5 million visitors per year. You can take a guided or self-guided tours or hop on the Choo Choo express which offers a quick way to get around the gardens.
The park is broken into multiple areas, including the Australian Rainforest Garden and the Palm Grove, which is home to the tallest tree in the gardens. Another popular area is the Palace Rose Garden, which has nearly 1,800 roses and is a well-known Sydney wedding venue. As you walk through you'll see trees, ferns, flowers, and random birds.
The gardens reminded me, on a smaller scale, of Central Park in New York City or Hyde Park in London and if you understand the history of those places it is easy to see why they are so similar.
While at the gardens you can also see Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. It's a seat carved into a stone cliff, where you can sit and look out at the harbor.
7. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Known to locals as the "coathanger" the harbour bridge is another well-known symbol of Sydney. Built in 1932 as a government employment project during the Great Depression. It took almost 10 years to complete and was the world’s largest steel arch bridge. These days, it’s down to number 6 in the world but is one of the few climbable bridges!
The climb can take two to four hours but you'll get panoramic views of the harbour. You'll be given all the health, safety essentials, and any weather-appropriate gear that you’ll need for the climb!
8. Have dinner at Circular Quay
Circular Quay is the main harbour area which has the opera house and is near the botanical gardens and The Rocks. You'll eventually run into it so don't worry about looking for it. It also has plenty of fine dining options with views of the Sydney Harbour.
So whether you opt for six or ten courses, you’ll be experiencing native ingredients while enjoying the harbour view! If you are looking for more budget options check out places like Banh You Vietnamese Street Food, burgers at City Extra or the weekly meal deals at the Ship Inn.
9. Luna Park
Luna Park may be worth the visit just for the goofy entrance by itself. But this your standard amusement park with roller coasters but with first-class dining inside a ferris wheel carriage on Sundays and a Coney Island area that is inspired by the real one in the US.
10. Cruise Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Sydney Harbour
Sydney Harbour's 150 miles of shoreline and more than 30 square miles of water make it the most beautiful natural harbor in the world! You can easily hop on a cruise and see the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and Royal Botanical Garden. Enjoying the views of the water is a great way to relax. There are several cruises available and a lot offering catering.
Pro Tip: Taking a public transportation trip from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour is under $4 and gives similar views.
11. Museum Hop
Like any big city Sydney has a lot of museum that you can check out if you'd like. You’ll find art museums, history museums, galleries, and everything in between. All the public museums in the city are free thanks to Australia’s Commonwealth.
Museums to check out in Sydney:
12. St. Mary's Cathedral
The first chapel was destroyed in a fire but a new cathedral has been in this spot since 1821. The one that is there today was built in 1868 and wasn't completed until 1928 with the spires being added in 2000. The Gothic Revival-style cathedral is home to gorgeous stained-glass windows and a crypt with a stunning mosaic floor depicting the Creation, as well as bishops' tombs and occasional special exhibits.
While it's free to visit the cathedral, there is a small fee, about $5 AUD to visit the crypt (open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday). There are free guided tours of the cathedral offered every Sunday following the 10:30 a.m. service.
13. Queen Victoria Building
The Romanesque Revival building was built in 1898 by the architect George McRae in the Sydney business district. Just click that link in the title and look at the pictures, it's pretty sweet.
15. Get Panoramic Views From Sydney Tower
The Sydney Tower Eye is the highest point in Sydney and gives you 360-degree panoramic views. The tower is open every day and costs $50 AUD. That may seem expensive but it is way cheaper than climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, has better views and that ticket gives you access to the “4-D” cinema experience, which includes in-theatre effects like wind and fire. That what we call a toofer - a two for one!
There is no wrong time to check it out but going for sunset is obviously the best!
16. Sydney Fish Market
Want to taste seafood?! You gotta check out the fish market! They have more than just fish though as you can get a behind-the-scenes tour or check out other cafes or restaurants.
17. Sydney Historic Pub Crawl
Just like the English and American, Australians love a good pub! If you are going to checking them out you might as well hear about Australian gang life, brothels, unsolved murders and more. It'll be like your own version of the TV show Drunk History.
18. Check out Koalas at Taronga Zoo
Taronga Zoo is a short ferry away from Sydney’s city center but is it's own experience! They have a high ropes adventure course, a zoo train, and you can even spend the night there in a safari-style tent!
19. Manly Beach
Located about 10 miles northeast of downtown Sydney a ferry can take you there for $12.40 AUD round-trip, $2.50 AUD on Sundays, in 30 minutes one way. The ferry ride will offer great views of the Sydney Harbour, Syndey Harbour Bridge, and Opera House.
The beach is just as crowded or active as other area beaches like Bondi and Coogee but the giant shoreline is unique. The area is known for it' surfing so if you are trying to swim you may want to check out another beach. With it's popularity you'll want to get there early to avoid the crowds and get a good spot!
There are some incredible coastal walking trails here also!
20. Cockatoo Island
Cockatoo Island is right in the middle of Sydney Harbour and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is one of 11 historical sites that form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property which are the best evidence of the convict transportation and forced labor used to build Australia as a European colony.
The island is easily accessible by ferry and has camp sites, glamping packages, apartments or heritage houses to choose from if you want to extend your stay on the island.
21. Blue Mountains
Just a 90 minute train ride away you can discover ancient sandstone that has been weathered into gorges with narrow ridges and lined with steep cliffs for free! While you are in the Blue Mountains National Park you can check out the Three Sisters, preferably at sunset, or hike paths that offer excellent views of the valley, rock walls, and waterfalls. If you want to explore more you can easily stay over night! Some of the most famous hike are:
22. Hunter Valley
The Hunter Valley is about 3 hours north of Sydney and is one of Australia’s premier wine regions and produces some of the world’s best red wine. While visiting may not be cheap it is a wonderful excuse to get out of the city and do a little day drinking in the countryside. They even have bike rentals if you are wanting to take the drinking on two wheels!
If you have a car, you can book a cabin or an Airbnb in the Newcastle or Cessnock area. Some of the vineyards even have places to stay also!
Whether you want to cruise on the water, climb a giant bridge or blue mountains, listen to some opera, relax on the beach, or deep dive into some interesting history Sydney has you covered!
If you want to see what I did while I was there, which is not nearly as much as I should have, that is here.
To see what I bring on all my trips that is right here.
If you are interested in getting travel insurance I recommend TravelInsurance.com. They are considered one of best in the industry, you can easily compare coverages and get the right one for you.
**This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you and allows me to keep the lights on around here. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
HELLO AND WELCOME!
I'm Jake, a dude interested in personal finance and travel creating the life I choose.
In 5 years I went from living in a basement with Craigslist roommates to paying off 90k of debt, backpacking 3 continents, getting a house for myself and 5 rental units.
Read my story in the about me section.
All photos on the blog are from my travels
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