If you’re visiting Sydney on a short holiday, there are a number of sites you can’t miss.
This Sydney neighborhood is home to all the hipsters. You’ll find record shops, live music venues, unique bars, and vegan food. If you’re looking for a good, vegan meal try Gigi’s Pizza (be prepared to wait!).
Newtown has a good scene, day and night. Do some light shopping at second-hand stores and then spend your night singing Karaoke or playing at the adult arcade bar, 1989 Arcade Bar and Kitchen.
Once you get off the train at St. James, you’ll find yourself right in the middle of downtown Sydney. You can go shopping at all the major stores, or take a stroll through Hyde Park. I recommend bringing a book and enjoying the joviality that often surrounds St. Mary’s Cathedral on a sunny day. If you love a good view, stop by the Westfield Tower (Sydney Tower Eye). They have a bar at the top that slowly rotates 360 degrees so you can look at Sydney from all angles.
The next train stop you should get off at is Circular Quay. Undeniably the most beautiful part of Sydney, you’ll find the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and Royal Botanic Garden. If you have money to burn, you can climb to the top of the bridge. The trip costs between $168-403. I suggest walking around the garden and coming back towards the harbor during nightfall so you can grab a drink at the Opera Bar with its stunning views. If you’re visiting around May-June, you’re in luck. You’ll be able to witness Sydney dressed up in lights for the Vivid light festival.
Head over to Glebe for a calm afternoon. I recommend eating at Gathered Kitchen, a vegan paradise with thick, sweet pancakes and bagel-sandwiches that people rave about. You can also check out their markets and enjoy local communities coming together. It’s a more laid-back neighborhood, and shouldn’t be the first on your list to visit unless
Once you cross the harbor via ferry, you’ll wind up in Manly. Over 15 million ferry trips are made each year, so it’s easy and cheap to catch one! Just use your Opal card (which you use for the train) and enjoy your leisurely 40-minute ride. Manly is a quiet area, home to great hikes and whale-watching viewpoints. If you have lots of energy, take the 10km Manly to Spit Bridge walk which takes about 3-4 hours. You’ll even pass by a few beaches where you can take a dip!
Everyone knows Bondi. You’ll find hoards of locals and tourists here during the summer, and even during winter, the famous Bondi to Coogee walk is littered with people. It’s famous for a reason. It’s
Darling Harbour is a great place for a romantic, evening stroll. You can enjoy great views from the ferris wheel here, then have a drink and head on over to one of the nightclubs this area is famous for.
Queen Victoria Building
Constructed in 1898, QVB is one of Sydney’s most beautiful buildings. It’s one of the largest as well, stretching a full block. Within it, you’ll find Town Hall station (a train stop) and hundreds of beautiful shops. If you’re feeling extra posh after a spending spree, go upstairs to the Tea Room, where you can have high tea that drips of European elegance.
Day trips from Sydney
Royal National Park
The Royal National Park is about a 45-minute drive from Sydney. It’s $12 to enter and, in some places, you’ll also have to pay to park. It’s worth the money because the park is huge and home to hundreds of incredible hiking trails. Some of the most famous
The Figure 8 Pools are underwhelming, but the hike out to them is the exciting part. You’ll be walking through the forest, across the beach, crossing over brush and climbing over rocks. Just be wary of the tides. When the waves get strong, people get washed away into the ocean unexpectedly. You’ll see plenty of warning signs so you won’t forget. (Note: On the day we went, it said this hike was closed, but it wasn’t- so maybe you can ignore that sign when you’re entering the park.)
The Wedding Cake Rock isn’t worth hiking to, in my humble opinion. This white, square rock that hangs over a cliff is now surrounded by fence so you can barely see it, much less catch a photo. In 2014, a French student fell to his death when part of the rock collapsed underneath him. Don’t be that person hopping the fence for an Instagram photo. Here’s what the park website says, “The white color is caused by iron leaching, which makes the sandstone layers dangerously soft, prone to cracking and at very high risk of collapse. For your safety, please don’t stand or sit on the rock, or venture too close to cliff edges.”
Just 1.5 hours from Sydney, you’ll find the Blue Mountains, an oasis of lush trees and vast landscapes. It looks like a Grand Canyon that’s filled with vegetation. I could stare at the at the green valley for hours. However, the valley is not the main attraction- that is the Three Sisters. These three, teetering rock formations attract millions of tourists each year. Here’s the aboriginal legend of how these rocks came to be.
“The Aboriginal dream-time legend has it that three sisters, ‘Meehni’, ‘Wimlah’ and Gunnedoo’ lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. These beautiful young ladies had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters causing a major tribal battle. As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witchdoctor from the Katoomba tribe took it upon himself to turn the three sisters into stone to protect them from any harm. While he had intended to reverse the spell when the battle was over, the witchdoctor himself was killed. As only he could reverse the spell to return the ladies to their former beauty, the sisters remain in their magnificent rock formation as a reminder of this battle for generations to come.”
My favorite hike I’ve done to date was in the Blue Mountains. We took the Grand Canyon track, which takes between 2-4 hours and is 6.3km in distance. The hike will take you right through the valley, where you will see noticeable shifts in the biome. At the deepest part of the valley, it is so lush and wet, like a rainforest. You’ll be walking among huge ferns, moss, and creeks. Once you begin to rise, it shifts to arid, conifer trees and you’ll walk under dried, clay canyons. The diversity will enthrall you the whole hike. There are quite a few stairs back to the top, so make sure you end at Evan’s lookout for a view that will leave you feeling satisfied with your climb.
Hunter Valley is a 2-hours drive from Sydney. This region is full of productive vineyards, so you can guess that it’s famous for wine tasting. Bring your beau and enjoy the local Shiraz while on a hot air balloon ride! If this isn’t your style, you can stop by the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens, spanning 130 hectares.