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The Complete Guide to Visiting Sydney Australia

Sydney is one of the main cities in Australia and is world-famous, especially for its Opera. It attracts an increasing number of tourists each year, whether local or international. In June 2019, the number of tourists (national and international) visiting the city was around 40 million in one year. The surf culture is very strong there, and the Sydney siders – Sydney residents – are called « laid back », that is to say relaxed, with a « cool » lifestyle. Here is our complete guide to visiting Sydney, allowing you to not miss anything during your stay in Australia!

Getting to Sydney

From France or abroad, the plane remains the preferred means of transport to get to Sydney. It is a long journey, around 24 hours of flight with at least one stopover.

The holiday circle allows for attractive discounts on flights departing from France, on several companies. Otherwise, regularly consult price comparators such as Skyscanner or Kayak, and above all avoid school holiday periods.

If you come from another city in Australia, the plane or the bus remain the modes of transport to favor . The rail network is not very developed in Australia, so the train is not a good option. The plane is generally more expensive but much faster than the buses. Check the prices of the two options before making your choice, sometimes the plane can be cheaper than the bus. 

How many days to visit Sydney?

If you are in a hurry, most of Sydney can be discovered in 2 days. You will have to organize these two days well to be sure not to miss the essentials. Check out our 2-day itinerary in Sydney to get an idea.

But you will not be bored if you have more time, on the contrary! You will be able to discover the city and its many attractions but also the surroundings of Sydney… beaches, national parks and even more to impress you.

What to do in Sydney?

Visiting Sydney without seeing the Opera or Bondi Beach is a bit like visiting Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower or the Champs Elysées … Here is the list of the must-sees:

THE UNMISSABLE IN THE CITY CENTER

Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge

Known worldwide for its original form and structure, the Sydney Opera House hosts around 1,500 shows each year. Don’t miss the opportunity to have a drink with a breathtaking view of the Harbor Bridge at the Sydney Opera Bar. It is also possible to climb the Harbor Bridge to admire the view of the Opera and the tall buildings.

Royal Botanic Garden

It is a lung in the heart of the city, the park is full of flowers and very pleasant to relax, with an incredible view of the Opera. You can visit it, walk there every day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 8 p.m. depending on the season. The park also hosts many festivals and events throughout the year. 

The Rocks

Historic district, The Rocks can be visited from Circular Quay. Once there, have a drink at the Glenmore Hotel to enjoy the view. There are free guided tours to visit the neighborhood and learn all about its history.

Darling Harbor

Visiting Darling Harbor at night is incredible! If you cross the Pyrmont bridge you can admire the imposing City and its lighted buildings. By day, the ride is also very pleasant, especially going to Barangaroo on one side, and to Cockle Bay Wharf on the other side.

Paddy’s market

Located in the heart of Chinatown, Paddy’s is a must to buy souvenirs. You will be spoiled for choice at unbeatable prices. You can also buy fresh products (fruits and vegetables) in the dedicated section. Paddy’s Market is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sydney fish market

As the name suggests, this is the perfect place for fish lovers! The Fish Market will allow you to taste freshly caught fish and shellfish on the terrace at affordable prices. The market is a little out of the way but easily accessible by bus from the center.

AROUND SYDNEY

Sydney is a city rich in exceptional places. But its surroundings are full of other treasures. So do not hesitate to allow time to visit the Sydney area.

Bondi ride in Coogee

The Coastal Walk allows you to discover Bondi and all the beaches up to Coogee in 2 / 3h round trip. We cross the beaches of Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly and finally Coogee. Take the time to take this walk in the early morning to make the most of it and take in your eyes. There is only one refreshment bar in Tamarama to eat, so remember to take water and something to snack on.

Manly

Manly is a place that attracts a heterogeneous population: surfers for the main beach and its waves, hikers for the ride to Spit, strollers for its small shops and art galleries, and beach fans with Shelly Beach and its crystal clear waters.
You can take the ferry to Manly from Circular Quay. We advise you to go back to Circular for the sunset to admire the red reflections of the sun on the Opera and the buildings of the center. 

For the more intrepid, the ride from Manly to Spit lasts several hours (18km round trip) and is well worth the detour. 

Watsons Bay

You can walk to the Gap Lookout and continue on the Gapp Bluff Walking Track. Then head to Camp Cove beach for a swim. Then pass in front of Lady Bay Beach (beautiful nudist beach), to reach the Hornby Lighthouse, with a nice view of the bay.

If you are hungry when leaving the ferry at Watsons Bay, we recommend seafood from Doyles. The Beach Club is also a popular place for locals to have a drink or snack.

Taronga Zoo

Taronga is a huge zoo with great views of the city. It is accessible from Circular Quay via the ferry and allows you to discover the endemic species of Australia in a few hours. It is possible to go up / down by cable car and to do tree climbing on site.

Activities & Excursions

Activities to do in Sydney

  • Visit the trendy neighborhoods of Surry Hills, Paddington or Newtown
  • Book a surf session at Bondi Beach for example but there are many beaches to surf in Sydney!
  • Plan a BBQ on the beach. There are many barbecues available around the beaches and this for free! 
  • Doing kayak or paddle in the bay
  • Book a helicopter or seaplane flight
  • Book a whale watching tour (June to November).

For more information: Activities to do in Sydney

Excursions from Sydney

  • The Hunter Valley: There are many tours to visit the vineyards from Sydney, the journey takes around 3:30. Most will take you to the heart of the vineyards to taste the vibe, sometimes accompanied by cheese or chocolate.
  • Royal National Park: Accessible only by car, the national park allows you to discover the famous Figure 8 Pool or the Wedding Cake Rock.
  • Palm Beach: Ideal for hiking and discovering a slightly wilder beach accessible by transport, just 1h15 by car or 2h by bus.
  • The Blue Mountains are accessible by train from Central Station. There are many hikes and viewpoints. The best known is certainly the Three Sisters. 
  • Port Stephens (Anna Bay / Nelson Bay): Located two and a half hours from Sydney by car, Port Stephens Bay reveals landscapes very different from those you will see around Sydney. Don’t miss the view of Tomaree Head, a camel ride to Birubi Beach, sandboarding, Little Beach Reserve for its Pelicans at the end of the day and Stockton dunes to visit in 4 × 4.
  • Jervis Bay: Located 3 hours by car from Sydney, Jervis Bay is a breathtaking place. It is recommended to rent a car to be able to move around as you wish. White sand beaches abound there. Hyames Beach is considered the beach with the whitest sand in the world. Greenpatch, Cave Beach, and other incredible places to discover, among parrots and kangaroos. 

Accommodation in Sydney

Accommodation in Sydney is very expensive. There are different options depending on your budget and the desired comfort, here are a few:

AirBnb: You will stay with locals and will be able to share local experiences. It is a good option for the short term.

Hotels: prices increase on weekends and it is almost impossible to find a private room with bathroom less than 130 AUD in the center.

Hostels or youth hostels with dormitory rooms (mixed or by type) or individual. 

Temporary sublets: many travelers or expatriates go on short vacations and sublet their rooms, ads are flourishing on Facebook.

Roommates: if you plan to stay for several weeks, this will be the least expensive solution. You can post an ad on Flatmates or Gumtree.

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