Sydney is the hub of Australia, nestled on the southeastern coast, and in many ways it reminds me of London. This city is bursting with gems and natural beauty. Sydney is the most populated city in Australia, for good reason. Iconic symbols of this city and country are dotted all around - from the stunning Opera House to the arched Harbour Bridge and the blue waters of Bondi Icebergs. This is a city you cannot miss.
How to Get to Sydney
Sydney, along with Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth are the major international destinations to fly in to. Hundreds of flights arrive daily from all around the world at Sydney International Airport.
Buy a SIM card at the airport - walk around and negotiate the best deal from all the different vendors. Chances are you can score up to 40GB of data for under $40!
From the airport, the Airport Link train provides quick and direct access into the city. Before boarding, buy an Opal card and top up with funds. You'll use the Opal card on all city trains, ferries and buses.
Where to Stay in Sydney
The Wake Up! Sydney Hostel is located in the heart of the city right across the street from Central Station. This makes getting everywhere - from the airport to the beach to North Sydney - a breeze. The rooms are spacious, the beds are comfortable, the WiFi is strong and the bathrooms are clean. There's a huge kitchen with loads of fridges, kitchenware to use and seating so you can keep your groceries fresh. I only wish they had breakfast included! They also offer loads of daily free activities to get you acquainted with the city like guided tours of the Bondi to Coogee Walk and plenty of social events to meet fellow travelers.
Things to See & Do in Sydney
There's enough packed into this incredible city to keep you here for at least a week, if not longer. Don't try and see it all in a day or two - it's a massive place and you'll wear yourself thin!
Bondi Beach & Bondi Icebergs
First stop, beach. Bondi Beach is quite possibly Australia's most famous - and for good reason. The pure blue ocean water runs over soft yellow sand. On a hot day, Australians flock to the beaches to lap up the sunshine, surf the waves and enjoy the summer. The crew filming Bondi Beach Rescue can often be seen on the water's edge and surfers take to the famous Bondi waves. At the right end of the beach, Bondi Icebergs dazzles in bright blue.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
From Bondi Beach, the famous Bondi to Coogee Walk is a beautiful coastal trek that takes approximately two hours to complete. The walk passes by the stunning Bondi Icebergs and some of Sydney's other well-known beaches such as Bronte Beach, Gordon's Bay, Clovelly and Tamarama. Around every corner, views that stretch to the edge of the world will take your breath away as you spot swimmers in the waves below.
Sydney Opera House
The famous icon of Australia juts out into the Sydney Harbour where ferries whiz past and tourists take in the stunning architecture. Read all about the history of the most visited place in Australia here and then buy yourself some tickets to view one of 2000 shows a year.
The arched Harbour Bridge lies proudly over the harbour connecting Sydney to North Sydney. Viewed best from the Opera House or from the water, the bridge opened in 1932 taking 53,000 tonnes of steel. It is 503 metres long and can be cycled, driven or walked across by accessing the Bridge Stairs from Cumberland Street and you can even climb up to the very top of the bridge for panoramic views of the city below!
Royal Botanical Gardens
The Royal Botanical Gardens lie next door to the Sydney Opera House. From the harbour of the gardens, you can get stunning panoramic photos of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. The gardens are free to visit and enjoy - spend some time wandering through the paths and learning about the different flowers native to Australia.
Mrs. Macquarie's Chair
Take a walk all around the cove of the Royal Botanical Gardens to reach Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, carved out of a sandstone rock ledge in 1810. Governor Macquarie had the chair commissioned for his wife Elizabeth who loved this spot for the views it offered of Sydney Harbour.
Across the harbour bridge in North Sydney lies the peaceful seaside escape of Manly. Explore the local town and harbour and head up Wentworth Street to check out Manly Beach as a starting point before tackling the Manly to Spit Coastal Walk.
Manly to Spit Coastal Walk
The 10km walk begins on the boardwalk alongside Manly Cove under the white lampposts. Follow the signs for MSW Manly to Spit all the way along the coast passing stunning hidden coves, beautiful seaside villages and breathtaking panoramic views. Check out my hiking guide here.
One of the most insta-famous restaurants on Bondi Beach has to be Speedos Cafe, well-known for its vegan eats. Chow down on healthy bites and finish off with a delicious acai bowl - be warned, it's pricey!
Grounds of Alexandria
The Grounds of Alexandria are an incredible secret tucked into the heart of Sydney. Full of delightful fresh plants and flowers, a petting farm and seasonal displays, spend an hour or two enjoying the atmosphere and a delicious bite to eat.
Royal National Park
Royal National Park is the third oldest national park in the world and first in Australia, established in 1879. It was originally named just National Park but renamed after Queen Elizabeth II traveled through it in 1954. Royal National Park is 151 square km and is full of hikes, waterfalls, beaches and ocean panoramic views. I hiked the trail to Wedding Cake Rock and on to Marley Head with sweeping views over Marley Beach. Check out my hiking guide here.
In North Sydney near Milsons Point station, Bradfield Park lies directly under the bridge offering sweeping views of the harbour and the underbelly of th bridge. The Sydney Olympic Pool is situated here also for those looking for a cool-off and a boardwalk provides great views as it wraps around the northern harbour shore.
Wendy's Secret Garden
Tucked into the embankment of Lavender Bay, Wendy Whiteley, wife of the late Australian artist Brett Whiteley, created this Secret Garden to honour her husband and later her late daughter. The gardens spring to life with colour and fragrance. There are no signs for the garden, helping to keep it 'secret'. The best way to find it is to walk along the boardwalk from Bradfield Park and then under the tunnel under the railway. The garden is on the right, free to access and open 7 days a week.
The Sydney Observatory is perched on a hill overlooking Sydney Harbour and is full of fascinating artifacts explaining the history of astrology in Sydney. Perhaps most importantly is the time ball (which is one of less than ten still in operation around the world) which was installed in 1858 as the first ever method of accurate time-keeping in Sydney. It continues to drop daily at 1:00pm. The observatory is free to explore with a paid guided tour allowing access to the planetarium.
State Library of New South Wales
The State Library of NSW is in the Royal Botanical Gardens and is a large, proud building housing a wonderful collection of books, exhibits and curated collections. Most interesting to me were the collections downstairs from the airy main room where they explained various snippets of history of Australia - from the shipped convicts to the explorers of the land.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
The Art Gallery of New South Wales is just near the library and houses a huge permanent collection of works by Australian artists and changing exhibits. The Art Gallery offers tours of some select pieces. The gallery is free to visit, with some exhibitions requiring additional entry.
Blue Mountains National Park
A UNESCO heritage site, the Blue Mountains National Park is about 2 hours by train to the west of Sydney. Home to panoramic views of the mountain ranges, there are plenty of hikes and lookouts to explore around Katoomba and Wentworth Falls. Check out my hiking guide here.
Rose Bay to Watsons Bay
An 8km coastal trail between Rose Bay and Watsons Bay provides you with panoramic views of Sydney Harbour and the Harbour Bridge. Check out the darling little seaside villages of Rose Bay and Watsons Bay on either end, and be sure to make the trek up to Hornby Lighthouse for edge-of-the-world feels! Check out my guide here.
Darling Harbour is located west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and is buzzing with restaurants, views, museums and social things to enjoy. The place comes especially alive at night when the twinkling lights light up the harbour before the fireworks take to the sky every 9m on Saturdays in summer.