We definitely fell in love with Australias largest, oldest and most cosmopolitan city: Sydney, home to two of the most iconic structures on this planet; the famous Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Harbour City got us with its beauty and its lively atmosphere. Sydney seems to have everything: history, culture, nature, art, fashion, cuisine, design, a busy but compact center surrounded by sprawling suburbs and countless sandy surf beaches. On top it is a culturally and ethnically diverse city. So Sydney is definitely worth a visit – and if you have never been there, put it on your list!
How to get there?
Sydney is home to Australia’s busiest airport: Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport. It is the main gateway to Australia, located around 9 km south of the City center. But of course you can also reach Sydney by car, bus or train.
We love to walk. So we got super excited when we found out that there are a couple of nice walks you can do quite close to the city. One is the Hermitage Foreshore Walk (park somewhere close to the Woollahra Sailing Club for a couple hours of free parking). This walk gives you great views of the Sydney Harbour, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. We also really enjoyed the fact of having a small national park with some pretty nice (and uncrowded beaches) right in the busy city. Bondi Beach also is close, so make sure to stop here on the way back and grab some incredibly good ice cream at Messina’s. The second walk is the Manly to Spit Bridge Walk. As the name already tells you, this walk takes you from the spit to Manly or vice versa. Make sure to bring swimwear. There are some pretty nice beaches along the way and you will also find good swimming in Manly too.
How long to stay?
As we were visiting some friends in Sydney, we decided to stay for 4 nights and we had a great time in this wonderful city. We definitely could have stayed longer, but if you want to get to know Sydney a little, we think that 2-4 nights are perfect. You will have enough time to explore the wonderful city center and of course the icons of Sydney, as well as some of the nature around. There is a lot to see and do in city and it is a lot of fun to explore the suburbs, so the longer you stay, the more you will get to know all the amazing things Sydney has to offer.
Where to stay?
As all big cities, Sydney offers good accommodation that suits every budget. We were lucky enough to be able to stay with some friends in city and we had the feeling that staying somewhere in Surry Hills (south-east of the Sydney central business district) or Coogee (south-east of the Sydney CBD, close to the sea) is just perfect. If you stay here, you will be able to enjoy what these suburbs have to offer, while still being able to get to the city center in no time. Bus connections are very good and even with some traffic it does not take long to get from A to B. If you decide to stay in Surry Hills, make sure to have some pizza at Via Napoli and some ice cream at Messina’s.
City Walks We think the best way to explore the sights of a city is on foot, so this is also what we did in Sydney. In fact there are a couple of nice walks which will take you along various points of interest. So you just need to choose which one suits you best (in fact you can do them one after the other, depending on your speed), or use the information to create you very own walk:
Tour 1 – Circular Quay to Hyde Park (Sydney Opera House, Royal Botanic Garden, Government House, Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, Art Gallery of NSW, Hyde Park Barracks, St mary’s Cathedral, Australian Museum, Hyde Park & ANZAC Memorial) – To start your journey, look for the iconic sail-sahped building right on Sydney Harbour. Then head under the forecourt stairs to the far end. Enter the Botanic Garden through the Queen Elizabeth II Gate and immerse yourself in these spectacular gardens. Follow the waterfront walkway until you see a sign for Government House Gate. Here you can take a free guided tour of the stately home before returning to the walkway. Continue until you reach the sandstone rock formation named after Governor Macquarie’s wife, Elizabeth. It is a great spot for a picnic too. Next you can wander through the vast collection of art at the Art Gallery of NSW and then head north-west through the Domain, passing The Pavilion Restaurant and crossing Hospital Road. Turn left onto Macquarie Street. Here you will find the State Library of NSW, Parliament House and the Sydney Mint. You can also visit the historic Hyde Park Barracks Museum. A short walk down College Street, St Mary’s Cathedral stand opposite Hyde Park as one of the finest English-style Gothic churches in the world. On the corner of William and College streets you will find your next cultural injection, the Australian Museum. Afterwards you will reach your final destination, Hyde Park. The park also features the Anzac War Memorial.
Tour 2 – Hyde Park to Darling Harbour (Sydney Tower Eye, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney Town Hall, Chinatown, Chinese Garden of Friendship, Powerhouse Museum, Australian National Maritime Museum, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussauds Sydney) – This walk starts at the Sydney Tower Eye. If you want to, you can enter and step out into the open air for a 45-minute SKYWALK tour or explore the Observation Deck. Afterwards, continue along Market Street to the Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Exit the QVB at the south end onto George Street and come face-to-face with Sydney Town Hall, an iconic civic and concert venue and popular local meeting spot. Just in case you are hungry by now – stop in Chinatown for a colorful mix of Asian culture and cuisine. Walk south George Street, then turn right onto Liverpool Street and left onto Dixon Street for some delicious food. Continue towards Darling Quarter on the western border of Chinatown. Here you will come across the Chinese Garden of Friendship, nestled at the end of Darling Harbour. Take some time to recharge you batteries at this idyllic spot before you head over to the other side of Darling Harbour where you will find the Powerhouse Museum. Head along Harris Street, turning right onto Allen Street and continuing along Murray until you arrive at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Last but not least walk across Pyrmont Bridge to reach some possible final stops like the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, Madama Tussauds or the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium.
Tour 3 – The Rocks to Walsh Bay (Customs House, Museum of Contemporary Art, The Rocks Discovery Museum, Pylon Lookout, Dawes Point Park, Sydney Theatre Company and Sydney Dance Company, Sydney Observatory) – This tour starts at the Customs House, where you will find a giant scale model of the city enshrined under glass. You can actually step on it. Your next stop is the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA). Once you satisfied your appetite for art, continue along George Street to uncover some of Sydney’s oldest secrets. Turn left onto Argyle Street at the Orient Hotel, then take the first right onto Kendall Lane, where you will come across The Rocks Discovery Museum. After exploring this site, loop back to Argyle Street and climb to Cumberland Street via the Argyle Stairs to your next stop. Located in the south-east of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the Pylon Lookout. Climb the bridge stairs on Cumberland Street to find one of the best landscape harbor views Sydney has to offer. On top you also get three levels of exhibits that reveal facts about the iconic bridge’s history. Once your feet are back on solid ground, walk down Cumberland Street, then right onto Lower Fort Street for a picnic in Dawes Point ‘Tar-ra’ Park, located right beneath the bridge. Following the foreshore along Hickson Road, you will come across Pier 4. From here, continue down Hickson Road, turn left to take the Windmill Steps up to Kent Street, then take another left onto Argyle Street. Climb the steps opposite Garrison Church. You will find you last stop on Watson Road: The heritage-listed Sydney Observatory, Australia’s oldest observatory. Located in Observatory Park, it offers day and night tours, exhibitions and the chance to climb into a telescope dome and explore the sky with a guide.
Harbour Bridge We have to admit, that we liked the Sydney Harbour Bridge more than the Sydney Opera House. This massive bridge and its dramatic steel presence just impressed us a lot. You can drive across it, you can climb it, you can walk over it or you can simply gaze at it from any angle. By foot the bridge is accessible from Watson Road and Cumberland Street in The Rocks. Via the pedestrian pathway you will also be able to reach the famous Pylon Lookout, which promises stunning landscape views. Royal Botanic Garden The Royal Botani Garden of Syney is just a short stroll from the city center, boasting some of the most iconic views and stunning photo opportunities across Sydney Harbour, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Almost 9000 plants are in cultivation – more than 6000 of them from other parts of the world. Take a stroll through the beautiful gardens or join a tour to learn about the area’s rich Aboriginal history. Penguins in Manly Manly is home to a colony of Little Penguins which are the only mainland breeding colony left anywhere in NSW. Made up of only about 60 breeding pairs, the little penguins are an icon of Manly and the Manly Wharf where they often come to nest every night between July and February.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service are looking for new recruits to join its Little Penguin Recovery Team as Volunteer Penguin Wardens. You can find more information and sign up for becoming a warden here.
Public Swimming Pools Sydney is beautiful, especially during nice weather. In case it gets to hot and you do not really like the beach, no worries, there are a couple of amazing public swimming pools across the city to take a dip and refresh yourself.
Icebergs You probably already saw a picture of this pool somewhere in the internet. It is located at 1 Notts Avenue, close to Bondi Beach.
Prince Alfred Park Pool This pool i sperfect for everybody in inner Sydney who cannot really make it to the coast for a swim. It is located at 105 Chalmers Street in Surry Hills.
Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool This pool is hidden away in the green expanses of The Domain, feeling a world away from the busy city center while still being in the heart of the CBD. It is located at 1C Mrs Macquaire’s Road.
Wylies Baths Just south of Coogee Beach along the coastal walk you will find this amazing pool with great panoramic views over the ocean. It is located in Neptune St.
Redleaf Pool This pool can get pretty busy on the weekends during summer. The pool comes with a boardwalk around the top of the shark net and two floating pontoons. It is located at 536 New South Head Road in Double Bay.
Dee Why Rockpools These pools are easily reached by the promenade along the beach. Weekdays or late afternoons will allow you to get the most out of this place. You find it in Oaks Avenue, Dee Why.
North Sydney Pool This pool probably might have the best location of all: Right underneath the famous Harbour Bridge. The spectacular location overlooking Sydney Harbour and Luna Park is best enjoyed at night, when you can swim and watch the lights of the city. It is located at 4 Alfred Street South, Milsons Point.
Bronte Baths These pools attract everyone from little kids to serious swimmers to old ladies. You find it at Bronte Road.
Freshwater Baths This was the first rockpool to be opened on the northern beaches and still maintains a lot of its vintage charms. It is located at Lumsdaine Drive, Freshwater.
MacCallum Pool The harborside MacCallum Pool will delight you with its unique heritage feel. You find it at Milson’s Road in Cremorne Point.
Luna Park The smiling gateway to Luna Park is a Sydney icon. It also is an entertainment precinct of many faces. These days you can visit this superbly restored fun-park to catch a concert at the Big Top, eat classy cuisine at The Deck or take in the million dollar views as you ride the Ferris Wheel, as folks have been doing since 1935. Beaches Oh how we wish we could live in a city that has beaches. Sydney indeed has a lot of nice beaches to choose from. So here you go – a list of beaches you should not miss: Balmoral Beach (a popular spot for a relaxed picnic, weekend lunch or fish and chips at sunset, you can also walk across the rocks to secluded and sheltered Chinamans Beach), Bondi Beach (Australia’s most famous beach, take a dip in the surf, enjoy the saltwater pools or go on a coastal walk), Bronte Beach (Bronte probably has one of Sydney’s best natural rock pools, great cafes and a park complete with shady pines, there is a strong surf culture, but conditions are challenging), Coogee Beach (you can walk here all the way via the coastal path from Bondi, relax at one of the many cafes or take a dip in the beautiful open-air pools), Cronulla Beach (located in the Sutherland Shire, this beach has a great choice of beaches and tidal pools catering to surfers and swimmers, many parks along the beachfront also provide shady picnic spots and escapes from the sun), Manly Beach (this beach sure is a world-famous landmark on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, enjoy the laidback beach lifestyle and the surf beach) and Palm Beach (the grassy dunes and yellow sands of this beach are a great spot to relax, take a dip in the surf or climb the trail to Barrenjoey Lighthouse for spectacular views). Blue Mountains Just in case you need a short break from the busy city, consider visiting the beautiful Blue Mountains. Approximately 120 km to the west of Sydney lies the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains region. It is a bushwalkers’ paradise with striking scenery, rainforest and spectacular wildlife. Make sure to look into the available hikes, you will find a good list on this website. We wanted to do the Grand Canyon Track, but unfortunately the condition of the track and the weather did not allow us to go. One of the most popular attractions of the Blue Mountains probably are the Three Sisters. It is lots of fun (or rather an exhausting workout?) to head to the base of the Three Sisters and tackle the Giant Stairway’s 861 gravity-defying steps.
Fun fact: The Blue Mountains are so-named for a slate-colored haze that surrounds them when seen from a distance. The vapour comes from a fine mist of oil exuded by the local eucalyptus trees.