I love Sydney. I love its double-deckered trains. I love its tree lined streets. I love its micro parks. I love its architecture that leaves you wondering if you’re in Manhattan. I just love it.
There’s so much to do and to see and it really doesn’t cost a lot. A week is the perfect amount of time to explore and take it all in.
1.) Sydney Opera House
Of course. One of the most recognisable landmarks in the world. Every time I saw it I though of the scene in Finding Nemo when Marlin and Dory pop up in the Bay (I may or may not have also recited, ‘P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney’). When the light is just right, it glistens in the bay. There were no Pelicans – which are HUGE by the way – just a lot of Seagulls (‘Mine!’).
You can walk around outside for free, stop at the many al fresco bars for a reasonably priced $12 wine, but you will have to pay to enter. For a show expect to pay over $100 AUD easy.
Whilst your there, check out the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s free and has some cool exhibitions, especially Hoda Afshar’s Remain – a documentary about the migration and quiet imprisonment of Iranians on Manus Island indefinitely.
2.) Sydney Bridge
Right next to the Opera House. You have two choices here: walk over the top for $300, or walk underneath for free. If you go underneath the walk will take around 15-20 minutes and bring you out the other side of the bay.
3.) Blue Mountains
Located about 2-2.5 hrs outside of the city these are a must for anyone keen on hiking. Park up at Echo Point and get the Kodak moment with the Three Sisters, or choose a hiking nature trail taking you to waterfalls or lush rainforests. Options of a few hours to 3 days of walking are available but bear in mind these are not easy access; steps can be slippery and steep, not to mention MANY.
4.) Watson’s Bay
Whilst everyone is queueing for the fast boat to Manly Beach, you can hop on a ferry to the underrated Watson’s Bay. With beaches and parks you’re not short of choice for relaxation, then head to buzzing Doyles for some of the finest food in Australia. Be warned: it does get busy!
Ferries to Watson’s run regularly, and again travel on Sunday’s for $2.50 in NSW.
5.) Bondi Beach
Don’t be fooled, the lifeguard tower is much smaller than it appears on TV, but Bondi Beach is amazing and one of my favourite beaches in Australia. It has so much atmosphere and even on it’s busiest days like Christmas, there’s still space to lay a towel. The waves can be strong and you may spot the occasional ‘Jelly’ but the water is clear and the sand golden. If the beach is too much, head up to the grassy verge with a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream whilst you watch the surfers, or walk down the esplanade for bars and cafes.
From Sydney, take the train to Bondi Junction the a choice of buses to Bondi Beach North.
6.) Botanical Gardens
Enjoyable to walk around and the perfect spot for a picnic: Opera House views in lush gardens. Free to enter, take a box of goon, cheese and crackers and relax on a blanket. At the opposite end you have The State Library of New South Wales or the Art Gallery of New South Wales for more culture. Remember your suncream even on a cloudy day.
7.) Sydney Eye Tower
This is a must. If you’re staying with a YHA, book through them for a discount ($19) otherwise pay full price. Queues for this are long so get there before 10am to beat the madness. After you’ve bought/shown your ticket, you will be taken through to a small 4D screening of Sydney and have a opportunity to have a few professional photos taken, before being put in a lift and shot up to the tower deck where the views are something else.
Take your time, take photos, enjoy. Snacks, tea and coffee are all served up top for a reasonable price and of course they have souvenirs. I think there’s even a bar, but I didn’t see that in our area. There’s no time limit.
On the way out you’ll be shown your photograph where they’ve superimposed various animals, but be prepared for the $40 dollar charge.
8.) The Rocks
Visit the historic Rocks of Sydney harbour, thought to be one of the oldest settlements in Sydney’s history. Explore the archeology and open plan digs then head to the lanes for boutique cafes, shops and bars. Friday – Sunday is the historic Rocks’ markets displaying gifts, food, souvenirs and live music all alfresco! Perfect for a sunny afternoon by the harbour.
9.) Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk
Another freebie, all you need is $10 on your Opal card and of course hat, sunnies, SPF and WATER. You can either do this yourself or book with your accommodation and go with a group – again hostels are good for this. The 6km walk extends along urban Sydney’s suburbs, taking in stunning views of beaches, cliffs and bays, and is approximately 2 hours to complete. Walking boots would help as it is steep in places and there are staircases dotted along the track, but you’ll find various rest stops, cafes and bars along the way to help you refuel.
This is free, all you need is money on your Opal card. Protect from the sun. It’s significantly stronger than you think it is.
10.) Free Walking Tour
Meet a guide in the city for a free 2-3 hour tour of all the best bits of Sydney. Take in everything from The Rocks to the Opera House to China town. As the title indicates this is free, but tipping your guide is encouraged if you’ve enjoyed your tour.
Before I arrived I expected Sydney to be a mini London: busy and crowded. To my surprise it was the complete opposite. Barring Brisbane, this was the only other city in Australia that was so relaxed with itself for its size. Maybe that’s all the tourists (I swear it’s 90% foreigners), yet there was always space on the pavements, buses were never overcrowded and shop and cafes were pleasantly bustling; in the peak of Christmas there was minimum madness. It truly caught me and I realised how easily I could live there. If you’re able, I’d really recommend a visit.