Updated August 11, 2020.
Someone asked recently for itineraries for Australia, any length and any destinations within the country. Much to my surprise, I only had one itinerary: One Day in Sydney. Whoops! Steve’s and my first trip together was to Sydney and Cairns, and this is the first part of our itinerary.
Day 1: Arrive in Sydney
The thing you’ll want to know when planning your trip is that if you’re flying from the United States, it will technically take two days to get here. For example, we left from LAX on a Wednesday night and arrived in Sydney on Friday morning. We skipped Thursday! So when making your plan, don’t forget to factor that in.
Morning: Tour Sydney Opera House
I knew we’d need something to be excited for to keep us awake in the face of jet lag, but you never want to book something in advance on the first day of a trip. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you’ll miss out and probably be out the money, too! But the Sydney Opera House tour had plenty of availability for walk-ups, so this tour was perfect. It was something to look forward to, but we didn’t need to book it in advance!
More here: 10 Reasons to Visit Sydney
The Sydney Opera House is such an icon. People all over the world recognize it immediately. It was so worthwhile to take the tour and get to see a little behind the scenes! Learning about the architect and construction was amazing—there was a lot more drama involved than you might think! It was extra special because we planned to see an opera there in a couple of days. We highly recomend it!
Lunch: Circular Quay
Now that you’re on top of things from a cultural perspective, you’ll want to find something amazing to eat. There are plenty of options in and around Circular Quay, where the Opera House is located, so take your pick!
Afternoon: Taronga Zoo
Next stop: Koalas! Take the Yellow Water Taxi from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo, just across Sydney Harbor. Take in the gorgrous views on the way! Plan to spend the whole afternoon here just soaking up the sun and fighting that jet lag like a pro. And don’t miss the Koalas!
Read more: What to Know Before You Visit Sydney
Dinner: Darling Harbor
After a day of playing tourist in iconic Sydney, head over to Darling Harbor for a special dinner. Our first night in Sydney was also my birthday, and Steve wanted to make sure we celebrated right! And Darling Harbor was the perfect spot because I am his darling!
Must read: What to Know about Your Travel Buddy
Day 2: Adventures in Sydney
Sydney is undoubtedly one of my most favorite cities in the world. It’s endlessly iconic and exciting, so make sure to savor a whole day dedicated to just enjoying its amenities downtown and around the Harbor!
Morning: Sydney Tower Eye
Grab breakfast at one of the many wonderful shops at Circular Quay or downtown, and then make your way over to the iconic Sydney Tower. Hours are 9:00am-8:00pm daily, and when I last checked the cost ranged from $20-$30 AUD, depending on your preferences.
More here: What to Know Before You Visit Sydney
Mid-morning: 10:30am FREE Walking Tour
I LOVE free walking tours! Just please don’t forget to tip your tour guide! Plan to spend 2.5-3 hours on your tour, and make notes so you remember what you want to go back and explore more. Check out Sydney Free Walking Tours.
Need to know: How to Get an Australian Tourist Visa
Ask your tour guide for lunch suggestions—they always know the best and least crowded spots with the most authentic food. There are many to choose from in Sydney, that’s for sure! If you’re looking for something particularly Austrilan, look for savory pies!
Cant’ decide where to eat? Here’s What to Eat in Sydney!
Afternoon: Stroll through the Royal Botanical Gardens
You saw them from the Sydney Tower, so go for a light stroll after lunch to see them up-close! The gardens are lovely year-round, but just as stunning are the views from the Gardens. Walk around the harbor while you’re at it, and get your fill of iconic Sydney Opera House vistas across the water as well. Then head back to your accommodation—you have a date at the opera tonight!
Short on time? How to Spend 1 Day in Sydney
Dinner: Sydney Harbor, near the Opera House
I suggest dining near the Opera House because you don’t want to be late! Outdoor dining is a possibility all year round (with the help of heat lamps in winter), and if you can time your dinner right, you could catch lovely sunset colors before your show.
The Bennelong Restaurant is inside the Opera House, but can be pricey. Sydney Cove Opera Bar is great for seafood, Portobello Caffe has lovely waterfront views, and Cafe Extra has something for everyone! Just want a sweet? The Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe is the place for you!
Read on: Iconic Eats Around the World
Evening: Opera Night
I don’t know about you, but this was a dream of mine since I was a little girl! We got all dressed up and attended La Traviatta, which Steve even liked, though he wasn’t expecting to! Check the Sydney Opera House Schedule for plays, ballet, comedy, and of course, opera, well in advance: Sydney Opera House website.
Keep reading: 10 Reasons to Visit Sydney
Day 3: Farther Afield
You can walk to practically everything you want in Sydney itself, but don’t overlook the fun to be had just a short ferry or bus ride away. Get a bird’s eye view and then head out to enjoy the popular beaches and scenery nearby!
Morning: Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb
This is a fabulous experience that I wouldn’t have missed for the world! We took an early climbing time on the famous Sydney Harbor Bridge (affectionately called the “coat hanger”), and it’s one of my favorite things we’ve ever done. Check out their tour times and experiences on their website!
More here: The Secrets to Happy Couple Travel
Make this a grab-and-go lunch from a local shop or grocery store (we loved all the options at Real Peas on Pitt and Bridge Streets), then head down to Circular Quay to catch one of two transportation options: the Manly Ferry to Manly Beach or the bus to Bondi Beach for the Bondi to Coogee walk.
More here: What to Eat in Australia
Afternoon: Manly Beach or Bondi to Coogee Beach Walk
Whether summer or winter, you’ll see people swimming, surfing, and sunning at Manly Beach and along the shoreline between Bondi and Coogee Beaches! Spend an afternoon walking along the shoreline at Manly or enjoying the 3-mile walk along the coast to Coogee Beach!
Keep reading: Instagrammable Spots in Sydney
Dinner: Downtown or at Circular Quay
You could easily eat at a new restaurant every night around Sydney for months and never repeat the same restaurant twice!
Hungry for more? Check out my World Foods Page!
Day 4: One More Round of Iconic Sydney
Morning: Walk Across Sydney Harbor Bridge
Take in the views from both sides!
Keep reading: Tips for Driving on the Left
Midday: Choose a Museum
Sydney is best experienced from outdoors, but there are some amazing museums here as well! Dedicate one day to the museums. Some of the best options are the Hyde Park Barracks Museum, Australian National Maritime Museum, the Rocks Discovery Museum, the Australian Museum, and of course, the Museum of Sydney!
Evening: Dinner and a Ghost Tour
Spend your last night in Sydney getting spooked! I love ghost tours, and in fact I used to give ghost tours in the D.C. area myself! Check out the ghost tours on offer all over Sydney.
Going solo? Solo Travel Sydney
Your final day will all depend on your flight time, but for us, our flights home from Australia and New Zealand have all been at midday or early afternoon, giving us time for a leisurely morning. It’s going to be a long travel day, so you may as well try to enjoy your last morning and wear yourself out so you can sleep a bit on the flight!
Need some tips for making it through a long flight? Check out my
Guide to Surviving Long-Haul Travel!
I hope this inspires you to get yourself Down Under ASAP! This truly was the dream trip of a lifetime for me, and I hope it can be as dreamy for you!
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