Do you want to enjoy Sydney? Do you want to enjoy its beaches and visit the Blue Mountains, or stroll along Circular Quay, or relax yourself at the Royal Botanic Gardens sipping a British tea? ... Then plan a 2 weeks staying!
Unfortunately in a normal Australian road trip you won't be able to stay in Sydney more than 3/4 days! You'll have to choose basing on your priorities ... but when you'll leave you'll know that you'll have to return!
Not to miss
How to move in town
One thing's for sure, you'll have to take public transport ( Link ) in Sydney! Above all we used buses and ferries. We suggest to use the Opal Card ( Link ) that is similar to the Oyster Card in London and grants you comfort and economy. Pubic transports are efficient all day long and in the city center you can take advantage of the Free City Shuttle Bus ( Line 555 ). On Sunday you can use public transports spending just $ 2.5 for the whole day because it's Family Funday Sunday ( Link ).
Where to sleep
Since public transport is efficient, it's not necessary to sleep in the CBD, also because it's almost empty at night and during the weekend. We slept in Paddington, a residential neighborhood 5 kilometers from the Circular Quay, and we enjoyed our stay so we can suggest to do the same. Keep in mind that hotels in Sydney are expensive and Airbnb is a good alternative if you want to spare some money.
Circular Quay & The Rocks
When you arrive in Circular Quay, you really realize that you're on the other end of the world! The ultimate Sydney postcard with the Sydney Opera House on display, the Royal Botanic Gardens behind it and the Harbour Bridge behind you.
If you go east from Circular Quay, you can walk next to the Sydney Opera House up to the Royal Botanic Gardens where you can relax yourself and admire the variety of birds and plants of Southern hemisphere. Otherwise you can go west and stroll up to the Habour Bridge, reaching the Park Hyatt where you can envy its guests!
The The Rocks ( Link ) neighborhood starts from the Harbour Bridge base. The first pioneers settled down here and the buildings remind us of the first years of XIX century. There are lot of pubs and shops and we suggest to visit the The Rocks Discovery Museum ( Link ), that is free, interesting and talks about the neighborhood and city history from their origins. November is the month of The Rocks Village Bizzarre ( Link ) and the neighborhood is full of stalls and really bizzarre street performers.
Once you've visited The Rocks, you can easily reach the Harbour Bridge and walk on the bridge despite the strong wind ( at least we found a really strong wind ). You can climb the bridge ( Link ) or visit the Pylon Lookout ( Link ) for an amazing view over the Sydney Harbour.
What can we say about Manly? Just taking the ferry to Manly gives a meaning to the journey! Manly is a small town on the Ocean that closes in the North the Sydney Harbor. If you wanna reach it you have to take the ferry F1 ( Link ) from Circular Quay and enjoy the amazing view of the Sydney Harbour.
It takes half an hour to get to Manly where you'll find a cozy town in which you'd spend your summer holidays. Beaches, shops, restaurants, walks along the Ocean ... you can do almost whatever you want in a relaxed atmosphere that seems impossible if you think that you are just 30 minutes from one of the biggest cities in the world. On http://www.manlyaustralia.com.au you can find all you need to organize your Manly day trip. Having been there after 3 days of long walks, we decided to relax ourselves on Manly Beach after a kangaroo burger just in front of the ocean at Moo Gourmet Burgers ( Link ). Manly is a lively town and it's the Australian happy hour capital with 4 pubs on the harbor serving it from 5 pm when groups of guys start to meeting up enjoying the beer, the ocean and the sunset ... and you realize why the quality of life in Sydney is among the highest in the world... then you take the ferry to return to Circular Quay and you consider that commuting with such a beautiful view would not be that bad.
Bondi to Cogee Walk
6 spectacular kilometers among sea, cliffs, beaches, parks and many surfers. The Bondi to Cogee walk ( Link ) is a must see, especially if you want to do many photos. Don't forget to have a swim in Bondi Beach... probably the most famous Sydney beach.
The photo doesn't make the idea of how tasty was the Doyles fish'n'chips ( Link ), but we can grant for that. If food is not enough to convince you to go to Watsons Bay ( Link ), maybe the idea of eating it in front of crystal clear sea and Sydney skyline in the background can do the job. Watsons Bay is a nice and wealthy neighborhood in the Eastern part of Sydney, located just in front of Manly, closing the Sydney Harbour on the Southern end. Don't miss it especially if it's a nice sunny day.
Darling Harbour and the CBD
As always, the CBD contains business, shopping and political buildings. Martin Place, George Street, Pitt Street Mall, Macquarie Street and Hyde Park are the streets in which you'll walk among businessmen and the most famous brands. Don't miss the 1800s Queen Victoria Building ( Link ), the most beautiful and luxurious market in town followed by the Strand Arcade ( Link ). If you like Victorian style buildings then walk along Macquarie Street, arriving in Hyde Park where the great places of worship like St. Mary's Cathedral and the Great Synagogue are located.
Chinatown links the CBD and Darling Harbour ( Link ), once Sydney's commercial harbor, today a sort of tourist's luna park. All the cruises in the bay starts from Darling Harbor and here you'll find many restaurants ( a bit touristic and expensive ), the Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, cinemas, a zoo... you know, you could spend the whole day visiting pretty much trash attractions. The Sydney Fish Market ( Link ) is located near Darling Harbour.
Kings Cross is considered the Sydney nightlife neighborhood, while we recommend a pleasant walk in Surry Hills, a quite, residential and artistic neighborhood, and a stop at Bourke Street Bakery ( Link ) where you can enjoy a tea or a croissant, feeling like a perfect local. Spend an evening in Balmain among pubs and cafes and try the Japanese restaurant Samurai Japanese Café ( Link ).
We hadn't enough time to visit it, but the Blue Mountains NP ( Link ) surely deserves to be visited and it is located just 60 km from Sydney. If you are wine lovers then try the Hunter Valley ( Link ). Jervis Bay is a bit far, but the whitest sandy beaches in the world are worth the distance and the fatigue!
This post is so long, maybe boring, yet there are so many things to do in Sydney that I haven't mentioned ( e.g. Taronga Zoo) ... when you go to Sydney, you find out that it's almost impossibile to deeply understand the beauty of this city, because, imho, the best part of Sydney is the quality of life that its inhabitants have ... and this is something you can enjoy only living here.