My cousin, my sister, and I went to Sydney for three days at the end of December. Australia’s summertime meant high temps with medium humidity – it wasn’t as bad as Taiwan summer humidity. If you’re going to Australia and you’re a US citizen, make sure you get a visa before you go.
What to do in Sydney
Items are listed in priority order.
Most iconic building in Sydney. It’s free to walk around the outside and a little bit of the inside. Best way to access it is to walk to it from the Royal Botanical Gardens. My friend said watching an opera isn’t worth it unless you’re actually into opera.
Another Sydney icon is the bridge. Most people do the Sydney Bridgeclimb to really experience the bridge; it’s an extremely, worthwhile highly recommended “must-do.” I would have done it but my knee was injured. If you don’t feel like paying money and doing a bridge climb, you can also just walk across the bridge.
So many plant varieties all beautifully arranged into multiple gardens. You must check out all the different gardens (succulents, palm, etc.) and walk to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair for a photo op. You can take amazing photos of the opera house and bridge from all over the garden.
4. Taronga Zoo
Take a ferry from the Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo. Visiting the zoo easy but expensive ($46NZD per person). Inside the zoo, there are tons of animals from all over the world and even a gondola you can ride. Bring your own water bottles to fill unless you want to pay for expensive water.
5. The Rocks
The Rocks is a historic neighborhood in Sydney’s city center. The place of first European settlement in Australia has cobbled laneways, cozy cafes, nice eateries, art galleries, and cute shops. From The Rocks, you can go to the Pylon Lookout which costs $15/pp.
6a. Bondi Beach
Sydney’s most famous beach. It’s a beautiful beach with soft, fine-grained sand, a long and large beach face, and cool waters, making swimming and playing around in the ocean easy and fun. Make sure you eat at the nearby Speedo’s cafe (a must!). Don’t forget to drop by the Bondi Iceberg club for the iconic beach/pool shot.
Bondi Icebergs Club Pool
I love Bondi Beach
6b. Manly Beach
If it ain’t Bondi, you gotta try on the crazy popular and populated Manly Beach on for size. It is a ferry ride away from Circular Quay and when you get there, you walk down some streets filled with tourist shops, gift shops, fashion retailers, and eateries. Drop by the Doughnut Time kiosk for a doughnut.
Just like many other major city harbors, this one has tons of giant boats, ships, and yachts. Lined with classy restaurants with loads of outdoor seating, this darling seascape is home to many happy hours.
8. Luna Park
An iconic amusement park, the Luna Park entrance is a smile that can’t be missed. Walk around for the some photos as most of the old landmark is made for kids.
9. Hyde Park
Located in the city center, this park contains St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Explore this Asian melting pot neighborhood of good eats. Check out Regent Place Shopping Center for excellent snacks, super tasty eats, and mind-blowing, beautiful dessert.
11. Sydney Tower Eye
One of the tallest skyscrapers in Sydney, this shopping mall has a tall tower attached to it for 360 degree city views. Buy your fully flexible tickets online ahead of time to skip the ticket line. The shopping mall has free wi-fi so you can buy anytime and use anytime it’s open. Take the escalators up to the Sky Lobby for access. We had a horrible experience at the Sydney Tower Eye at night – bad view, crowded elevators, crowded observation deck, smelly bathrooms, and long lines; everything an overrated tourist attraction is stereotypically known to be. Shame on the Sydney Tower. I don’t really recommend.
12. Queen Victoria Building (QVB)
A beautiful late nineteenth-century building designed by the architect George McRae in central Sydney, this Romanesque Revival building is now a shopping complex.
Stained glass windows
What to Eat Sweet in Sydney
Some beautiful dessert places we had to check out after seeing all the Instagrams on them. Super tasty.
1. Zero Degrees
At this joint, their soft serve is funneled into a Japanese taiyaki. The natural yogurt is super delicious and fresh (organic milk flavor). The blue flavor reminds me of Japanese ramune drinks (marble drinks).
I love doughnuts! Eat some super tasty, well-decorated, picturesque donuts at Doughnut Time. When is it ever not doughnut time? They have tons of locations everywhere. Glorious.
What to Eat Savory in Sydney
Here are the delicious eateries we throughly researched and enjoyed voraciously. Sydney has the best eats! Seriously.
Chinese food unlike you’ve ever had! This Chinese restaurant is famous for its dim sum and super cute buns. It’s non-stop eating at this Town Hall location for me and my friends. Make sure you save room for their dessert buns (the pig is the sesame bun and the yellow ones are custard filled)! I wish I could eat here all the time – high quality food and super great menu. Delightful! There are multiple branches but go to the Town Hall one.
Me and black sesame bun
Chefs Gallery cuisine
2. Tim Ho Wan
Dim sum at all hours on a cute placement menu. Tim Ho Wan is for the foodies. You must eat here! It’s got a seasonal menu too.
3. Speedo Cafe
Fresh, healthy food and some filling ones too – Speedo Cafe offers a nice beachside dining experience with photogenic tasty eats. Yes, the food is flavorful with all the right spices and tastes as good as it looks. I got the ‘Veggie Patch’ and it was amazing. The pink pitaya bowl is incredible – like a pink smoothie in a bowl.
Me and pink pitaya bowl
Outside of Speedos Cafe
Fried chicken is a staple of Tennessee of the states but that doesn’t stop us from eating it in Sydney. Located in the posh, modern, and crazy hip Barangaroo area, you should get some Belle Hot Chicken wings. Don’t forget to add the extra $2 sauce. We also ordered the chicken ribs in peach BBQ and it was jamming.
Our 3-day Itinerary
- 9:00am: Bourke Street Bakery Barangaroo for light breakfast and snacks for the walking and hiking. Hours: 7am-3pm.
- 10:00am: Explore The Rocks.
- 11:00am: High Tea at The Cortile.
- RESERVATIONS REQUIRED.
- High Tea times: Weekdays 11am-4pm, Weekends 1pm-4:30pm across two seatings
- Address: 117 Macquarie St, Sydney
- Phone number: (02) 9240 1396
- Cost: From $60pp
- 1:00pm: Explore the Royal Botanical Gardens. Visit the palm house, fernery, and succulent garden, and walk to Mrs Macquerie Chair.
- 3:00pm: Walk to Sydney Opera House. Explore the Sydney Opera House.
- 4:00pm: Walk across the Sydney bridge (15-30mins). If you don’t feel like walking across the bridge, you can take a ferry from Circular Quay (pronounced “key”) to Luna Park (Milsons Point) from the wharfs in Circular Quay (double check the NSW ferry maps to see which wharf you need to be at). You will need to buy an Opal card and top up at the machines as needed. Opal cards work on buses, trains, and ferries.
- 4:30pm: Explore Luna Park. Take pictures, play games, and walk around Luna Park.
- 5:30pm: Catch a ferry from Luna Park to Darling Harbour.
- 6:00pm: Explore Darling Harbour and eat dinner at Belle Hot Chicken at Barangaroo.
- 8:15pm: Book ahead of time a Sydney Observatory Night Tour. RESERVATIONS REQUIRED.
- 4:30am-8:00am: Do the Sydney Bridgeclimb (need to schedule ahead of time). Return to hotel. RESERVATIONS REQUIRED.
- 8:00am-9:00am: Walk to the Pylon Lookout. Visit the Pylon Lookout. $15/pp or if you do the Sydney Bridgeclimb, you get free Pylon Lookout tickets.
- 9:00am-11:00am: Rest at the hotel.
- 11:30am: Chefs Gallery Town Hall for lunch. Don’t go to the branch at the Metcentre.
- 1:30pm: Explore Regent Place Shopping gallery.
- 2:00pm: Eat at Zero Degrees (soft serve inside taiyaki) or Aqua S. (beautifully colored soft serve) for dessert. Both dessert places are near each other and have the same hours: 12-10pm.
- 2:30pm: Walk to Circular Quay to take a ferry to the Taronga Zoo.
- 3:00pm: Arrive at Taronga Zoo. Closes at 5pm.
- 5:00pm: Leave Taronga Zoo. Take a ferry back to Circular Quay to catch a ferry to Manly Beach.
- 6:00pm: Arrive at Manly Beach. Have a snack at Doughnut Time.
- 7:00pm: Leave Manly Beach via ferry back to Circular Quay.
- 8:00pm: Take a taxi to Newtown where you can catch dinner at D’munchies. Hours: 11am-10pm.
- 10:00pm: Have dessert at C9 Chocolate & Gelato – closes at 11pm.
- 9:00am: Explore Hyde Park. Visit the St. Mary’s Cathedral.
- 10:00am: Walk to the Sydney Tower. Buy your fully flexible tickets online to go up the Sydney Tower.
- 11:30am: Go to Bondi Beach area for Speedo’s Cafe. To get to Bondi, take the bus from Circular Quay.
- 1:00pm: Arrive at Speedo’s Cafe for lunch. Hours: 6am-6pm.
- 3:00pm: Go swimming at Bondi.
- 4:00pm: Do the Bondi to Coogee 6km (3.7 mi) coastal walk. It starts behind Bondi Icebergs and should takes ~2.5 hours. You’ll see cool views of cliffs, bays, and rock pools and walk across multiple beaches.
- 7:00pm: Arrive at Coogee Beach. Take a 26min bus ride to Centennial Park.
- 7:30pm: Explore Centennial Park.
- 8:30pm: Have dinner at Milk Bar Cafe ish (burgers). Hours: 11am to 10pm.
Where to Stay
If it’s your first time to Sydney, stay near the city center. We stayed at the Amora Hotel Jamison Sydney for around ~$125/night per person and the location was perfect and excellent – quick and easy walk to Circular Quay for all the ferry rides.
To and from the airport: For 3 people, taking a taxi into the city is most price economical. Taxis rides to and from the airport to the city is around ~$50 AUD. You can pay by card.
Around the city: You should just get an Opal card that is good for the ferries, buses, and trains that get you everywhere. You can buy Opal cards in Circular Quay – we got ours at an EZ pay inside one of the wharfs. You can just get single ride tickets too but save yourself the trouble and get an Opal card. The ferry rides are the best places to take pictures of the bridge and opera house.
Map of Sydney. RED = Explore. YELLOW = Eat Sweet. AQUA = Eat Savory.
- http://www.sydney.com.au/info.htm – Super helpful information
- http://concreteplayground.com/sydney/ – Check out this site if you’re headed to Sydney!
Sydney Foodie Instagram Accounts
High Tea in Sydney