You really need more time in Sydney – and we don’t say that everywhere.
You’ve probably traveled a long way, but fortunately, Sydney is well worth the trip. Australia is open again to fully vaccinated visitors and there are few better ways to escape the northern hemisphere in winter than a trip down under. It’s also a nice break in summer from winter sun.
Full of world famous landmarks, gorgeous beaches, excellent food, chilled out vibes and lovely weather – 48 hours is better than nothing — but it’s really not enough.
Here’s how to have the best, fun, action-packed weekend possible – and if you can squeeze longer, you just won’t need to wake up so early to get in all in!
Transit And Hotels In Sydney
Getting from Sydney International Airport to the city center (CBD) is extremely easy. The train is cheap, cheerful and quick costing roughly $10 one way. If you get off at Circular Quay for a centrally located hotel, you’ll be right outside the Sydney Opera House.
Otherwise, Uber works just fine and is about 25-35 minutes and $20USD into the center depending on traffic. Generally, very friendly drivers in Sydney too!
If flights were expensive – there are excellent hotel options in Sydney using points. Staying near the Opera House or Central Business District (CBD) is great, because you’ll have direct access to most transit options, such as the Ferry from Circular Quay.
If you stay elsewhere, you’ll just spend time connecting via Circular Quay, which makes Sydney somewhat unique. Staying central actually makes sense for most trips.
For a more local feel, renting an AirBnB in Potts Point, Manly or Balmain can be stunning, where you’ll really be spoilt for choice with restaurants, coffee shops and bars. Just note, if you do this, you’ll be a two hop ferry from most spots other than the CBD.
There are so many good spots for breakfast in Sydney, you’ll be wishing you were staying weeks, not days.
Excellent coffee, pastries, muffins, eggs, granola and fresh fruits are literally everywhere – and at quality we rarely see in other major cities. It’s part Sydney, but Aussies in general are amongst the most passionate breakfast snobs on the planet. We mean that in a nice way..
A few standouts well worth a try: Bowery Lane, Cabrito, Gypsy Espresso, Berlin BAKR and Cafe d’Yvoire. But no matter which neighborhood you’re in, if you wander, you will be sure to pass some quaint, tasty looking coffee shops.
The Must’s Do Tips For Sydney
Here’s a guide of our 10 must do’s for your first trip to Sydney.
Whether you’ve been before or not, casting your eyes on the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge is always spectacular. Get the train or Uber to Circular Quay and walk all along the harbor, taking in every angle and view.
Next, stroll through the botanical gardens to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, it’s a gorgeous and peaceful walk with endless picture-worthy shots. Just hope there’s no massive cruise ship parked there that day – which generally happens on weekends, FYI!
Since you’re in the CBD, think about planning to hit the Rocks Market, which happens on weekends and is a great mix of eclectic food and goods. It’s a bit touristy, but the food certainly isn’t, and the views are dreamy.
Beaches Are Not Optional
We’ll get into the coastal walk below, but you can’t leave Sydney without setting foot in Bondi and Manly beaches. These are the creme de la creme and bring such a wow factor, it’s hard to describe. On a beautiful day, make a day out of it and bring a picnic.
The ferry ride to Manly is a must in itself, with views of the entire harbour including Double Bay, the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and so much more. It’s like a hop on hop off tour that actually leads somewhere great.
While you’re in Circular Quay, take the ferry to Balmain East. They’re cheap, at about $5USD one way and run frequently. The ferry offers a relaxing and beautiful ride, zipping passengers under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, with more cool shots of the Opera House.
You can hop off at Balmain or Balmain East which leads you shortly to Darling Street. Wander up the street where you’ll find boutiques, charming coffee shops, restaurants and a local, friendly vibe that makes you feel you could live here. Perfect for a spot of shopping and lunch.
Coastal Walk: A True Must
This is a definite must-do! Take an Uber to the famous Bondi Icebergs Club, or if you’re fit – head for Maroubra to take the walk even further, and end up at Bondi.
This gorgeous walk takes you along surf spots dotted along the jagged coast, with dedicated walk ways to make things easy. Almost every bit is a perfect photo. It’s about 6km from Bondi to Coogee, but you can turn back at anytime if you’re not feeling up to all of it. Starting in Maroubra would add a bit more, making the journey to Bondi 10k.
The scenery is spectacular and you can cool off at one of the many ocean pools along the way or in the ocean itself. There are plenty of refreshment stops along the way, and if it’s a hot day – it’s best to go in the morning or mid-late afternoon. A truly, unforgettable route.
Lunch In Sydney
If you’re on Darling Street or in Potts Point, it will be hard to choose just one spot. There are honestly so many good options. The same could be said for the CBD. Time Out keeps a fantastic list of spots, covering all geographies.
But one reasonable option you absolutely must try is Chester White Cured Diner in Potts Point – a small space with bar seating and a few tables serving up the freshest and tastiest pasta cooked literally right in front of you.
Get the carbonara, which they mix together in front of you, immediately before serving, or the truffle spaghetti served out of a parmesan wheel. It makes you wonder how so many Italian restaurants go oh-so-wrong with basic dishes. Absolutely delicious!
Though we love his work with Qantas, Neil Perry’s Rockpool Grill has in the CBD always disappoints, and is usually replete with cruise tourists.
Best Dinner Spots In Sydney
The food scene in Sydney is constantly changing, and almost always for the better.
For easy but delicious bites in the CBD area, Bórn by Tapavino is a super strong option for good views, and in the area around Born, you’ll find plenty of other choices, all with equally enviable views.
If you’ve made the smart choice to head over to Manly on the gorgeous ferry ride, Pilu at Freshwater is a great choice with absolutely stunning beach sunset views, but then again, just about anything over that way will be a treat.
Other great options include: Restaurant Hubert, Indu, Blue Ginger, and Yellow. In our opinion, though we love the lounge food – Rockpool Grille is pretty overrated these days, and caters way too much to tourists.
Sydney Cocktail Spots
For location and fun, there’s hardly a better cocktail spot in Sydney than the Butler, nestled into the hillside with epic city views and potent drinks. The picture just above is from the terrace where you can take in super high quality nibbles and watch the sun set over the harbour and skyline below.
Sydney offers a wonderfully laid back but vibrant atmosphere, and if you’re looking for some cocktails that are worth staying up for a tipple , head to one of these cool spots: The Lodge Bar, PS40, The Baxter Inn, Papa Gede’s Bar andThe Cottage Bar & Kitchen.
Check out the menus, pick one (or a few) and go for it – you can’t go wrong. Generally, they’re all in cool neighborhoods too. Cocktails and cool – they go together, right? Enjoy the night!
If you happen to be in Sydney over the weekend, head to one of their iconic open street markets. Carriageworks Farmers Market is full of fresh, local, seasonal produce – with tempting tastings galore. While there, keep your eyes peeled for some well-known chefs, known to make appearances and even occasionally, open up a food stall.
The Rocks Market also boasts charming and authentic stalls, selling things from chocolates to soap, clothes, paintings and much more, perfect for gifts to take home. Whichever market you choose, be sure to get there on the early side when they open, as crowds can build up fast.
If you don’t want to leave Australia without hanging out with some kangaroos and koalas, your best bet is to head to Featherdale Wildlife Park, a 45 minute drive from the city center. You can book different experiences to enjoy personal encounters with the animals, or just a normal day pass. Yes, you can pet kangaroos or wallabies here.
For more convenient and general animal sittings, particularly with kids, Taronga Zoo makes for a fun afternoon and is easy to reach with a direct ferry.
One tip: book any Taronga extras like animal pettings early, they sell out fast every day and are space available only.
About The Bridge Climb
A bit like going up the Empire State Building or the London Eye, it’s a cool thing to do once for some.
We passed because of the tragic looking jumpsuit and price you pay when you could just walk on the pedestrian part of the bridge for free, but the views over Sydney are spectacular, especially at night time.
It will set you back over A$250, but it’s a nifty thing to say you’ve done, if you’re into novelty and stuff.
Honestly, 48 hours is just not enough time to fit everything in. Sydney is an incredible city you’re bound to fall in love with – and instantly book a trip back to.
If you have longer, there are more beautiful beaches to visit such as Manly and Bilgola, as well as some excellent art galleries and museums. Just find the ones best suited to you. If you could only pick one extra, Manly Beach really is something special, with a vibe much like the best of Santa Monica in Los Angeles.
Don’t forget to try the world’s first rosé bar in Potts Point..: Rosè Royale.
We just left Sydney a few days ago and loved the city. It felt like everywhere you walked there were a dozen cafes waiting to serve you espresso.
The beach walk from Coogee to Bondi was awesome – we watched a storm roll in during our walk and the vistas were incredible.
We did the BridgeClimb and it was excellent. Even though it was a tad rainy on our day, the views were outstanding all the way up to the top and we got a Sydney history lesson along the way. I would recommend it for people who can afford it and don’t mind the heights.
We toured the Sydney Opera House, but I’m not sure most people would get much from it that they can’t get from outside. I was a little let down by the tour compared to some of the musical venues we visited in Spain, for example. They didn’t even play music in any of the venues to let us experience the acoustics.
The other big experience we took in was “Shark Dive Xtreme” at SeaLife Sydney Aquarium where you get to dive with grey nurse sharks and giant rays for about an hour. It was something we won’t soon forget and good practice for cage diving with great whites off of Cape Town that we want to do later this year.
We loved Sydney – we will likely return at some point, but there’s so much left of the world to see!
Shark Dive Xtreme has shown it was not in operation for months, still showing that on the website. How did you get tickets?
Good advice, though I have to encourage folks not to use AirBnB unless it’s the local’s primary residence. Many are corporate investments that upend and transform neighborhoods into tourist areas and price out locals. Disappointing to see travel blogs so often overlook this aspect of that business model.
We went sailing and were blown away by all the neighborhoods directly on the water……..the real estate of San Francisco with the weather of LA! We were there a week and it was too short……going back again in February 2020 for another week before heading to Hamilton Island.
Wife & I have traveled the world & Sydney is definitely 1 of our all time faves! Stay @ the Marriott Circular Quay & can walk everywhere downtown–even to Patty’s Market! Bondi Beach hike is a must do as well. The other must do is being ‘so close’ to NZ, a trip across the ‘ditch’ to Queenstown is another must do, THE #1 favorite spot in the world, just in front of Sydney, especially if your in to extreme sports not to mention the unbelievable beauty of the South Island. NZ/Australia–like dying & going to Heaven!
Perfect timing! I am heading there next week and will be there for just under 48 hours before getting a cruise to NZ 😊
This won’t let you down!
What about on arrival mandatory Covid testing? Do you easily get the covid tests done on arrival?
Sailing in the Bay easily our best experience! Even better than a private tour of the zoo letting you pet the koala bears.
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