Visit Sydney: Tips and must-sees in Sydney

Who I am
Aina Martin

Author and references

As many of you know I have been in New Zealand for a year traveling through this beautiful country. Back in Auckland after this long journey and seeing the departure fast approaching, I thought it was time to take advantage of New Zealand's geographical location, the opposite of our dear France. Even if New Zealand is "far from everything", it is a country from which it is easy to visit certain countries such as Australia, New Caledonia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa or Vanuatu . So I decided to dedicate part of the few months that I have left in this country to discover certain places that have made me dream for years and in the first place Sydney. My journey should also take me to discover Melbourne, then New Caledonia. Discover, in this article, all my advice for visit sydney.

> Reach Sydney city center from Kingsford-Smith airport
> The essentials of a visit to Sydney
> Accommodation in Sydney
> When to visit Sydney
> My opinion on Sydney

Do we need a visa for Australia?

Yes, unlike some countries, such as New Zealand, you must obtain a Visa to stay in Australia, the visa eVisitor. A tourist visa, free of charge, which you will need to apply for online.
This visa is valid for 1 year and allows you to stay on Australian soil for up to 3 consecutive months.

Getting to Sydney city center from Kingsford-Smith Airport

Visa in hand, let's reach Sydney which is a little over 3 hours flight from Auckland. The first leg of our journey will be reach Sydney city center from Kingsford-Smith airport.
oport Kingsford-Smith

The quickest and easiest way to reach downtown Sydney from its airport is to take the train (which looks more like our subways). This is taken directly from the international terminal. It reaches the city center (Central stop) in 13 minutes. Trains depart from the international terminal approximately every 10 minutes.
Tickets can be purchased directly at the train station. The journey from or to the airport is relatively expensive, count 18$ (AUD) around 12€.
It is also possible to take a bus, line 400, which joins Bondi Junction in Burwood and passes through the international terminal of Sydney Airport.

Transfer Airport – City Center

The price of the metro being relatively high, you can opt for a shuttle that will take you from the airport – International Terminal directly to your hotel located in the city center for the same price. Very practical if you are traveling with several people or arriving in Sydney in the evening. In the event of a short stay, saving time to visit Sydney.

Book an Airport – Hotel shuttle in the city center

Opal Card
The Opal Card is none other than the sydney transport charter. Very practical and allowing you to save on your journeys, I strongly advise you to get one. This is free but you will still have to charge it with a minimum of $10.
To get an Opal Card, go to the Opal website. This card can be purchased in certain shops. You can also find it at the airport.

We have arrived in the city center. It's time to take our accommodation. We will talk, a little further down, in this article about the different solutions available to you in terms of housing and especially the neighborhoods to favor.

Where to drop off your luggage in Sydney
If you arrive early in the day, it's a safe bet that your accommodation, hotel, hostel or AirBnb, is not yet available. So that you don't have to walk around with your suitcases all day, you can drop them off at a concierge service. There are some at the airport of course, but this is not really practical if your accommodation is located in the city center. Note that it is possible to drop off your suitcases at the "Central" train stop in the heart of downtown Sydney. For example, for a relatively large suitcase (about 30kg), it will cost you $13, for a period ranging from 4 to 8 hours. What to visit Sydney a little more comfortably.

The essentials of a visit to Sydney

Let's now discover Sydney's must-sees. 14 places not to be missed when visiting Sydney. Located in the center of the city or outside, such as the blue mountains national park, these places and activities are the top things to do and see in Sydney.
Don't forget that, besides the city itself, Sydney is also the ideal starting point for a road trip along the Australian east coast. If this is your case, then a visit to Sydney will fit perfectly into this road trip. Plan between 2 and 4 days to enjoy this incredible city.

> Sydney Opera House
> The Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney
> The Rocks district
> Harbour bridge et Sydney Harbor
> Luna Park
> St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney
> La Sydney Tower
> Darling Harbour et King street wharf
> Sea Life Sydney Aquarium
> Bondi Beach
> Manly Beach
> Zoo de Sydney Sydney
> Blue Mountains National Park
> Vivid Light Festival

Now let's start our visit from sydney and its essentials.

Sydney Opera

Unsurprisingly, Sydney's number one must-have is fine they are opera. Famous throughout the world for its unusual architecture, in the shape of a sail, the opera house is indeed the emblematic monument of the city of Sydney. It is located at the end of a protrusion of land on Sydney Bay, known as Bennelong Point (Bennelong being the name of an aborigine who greatly contributed to co-habitation with Europeans).
The Sydney Opera House, one of the largest in Australia, is made up of 3 domes. One being a café-restaurant, the other two housing the concert hall and opera house. Indeed, the opera has 5 rooms, for a total capacity of 5 people. The largest room, the concert hall, can accommodate 700 people and has the largest mechanical organ in the world (nearly 2 pipes).
Completed in 1973, the construction of the Opera was initially supposed to last 3 years at a cost of 7 million dollars. Nothing came of it, it took more than 16 years of construction and a budget of 100 million dollars to complete the building.

Visit the Sydney Opera House

Want to know more about the Sydney Opera House? Take a guided tour. Tours take place three times a week in French and daily in English. It will cost you $37 for a one-hour tour through the opera house as well as the concert and opera halls.
You will also learn a lot of things about the history of the opera as well as its construction, some of which are truly amazing. For example, did you know that the architect of the opera, a Dane named Jørn Utzon never saw the finished opera with his own eyes. Indeed, after leaving Australia in 1966 during construction, he never returned (he died in 2008). Book your Sydney Opera House tour

To reach the Opera, you can take the train and get off at the Circular Quay stop.

Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens

The royal botanic gardens, located in the center of Sydney, a stone's throw from the opera house is none other than Sydney's largest park. Its exceptional location, along Sydney Bay, its surface area, approximately 30 hectares, make it one of the favorite places for tourists but also for the inhabitants of Sydney. This park was home to Sydney's first zoo in 1862, since moved to the other side of the bay.
This park will offer you a breathtaking view of the opera house, the harbor bridge and the Sydney skyline. The perfect place for a photo shoot.
The park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 17/18 or 20 p.m. depending on the time of year.
Free tours of the park take place every day, at 10:30 a.m. in summer, 13 p.m. in winter. For more information on park activities, visit the Royal Botanic Garden website.

Visit Sydney: The Rocks neighborhood

The Rocks neighborhood is Sydney's oldest. Cobbled lanes, dead ends, identical houses and sandstone cottages are part of the scenery. This is also where you find the oldest pubs in the city where you can often attend concerts while enjoying a local beer. There are museums, art galleries, markets and hotels overlooking the bay.

Harbour bridge et Sydney Harbour

L‘Harbour bridge is, just like the opera house, one of the emblematic monuments of the city of Sydney. This bridge makes it possible to connect the center of Sydney, in particular its business district, with the northern districts of Sydney. This bridge has an international reputation because it appears in the Guinness Records on different occasions. Indeed this arched bridge is the widest in the world but also one of the longest.
This allows vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, but also trains to cross the arm of the sea that separates these two districts of Sydney. Do not hesitate to take a walk there, you will have the chance to enjoy a breathtaking view of the opera. You can also, for a few dollars, climb to the top of one of the pillars of the bridge or even climb to the top of the arch of the bridge (allow nearly $300 for this activity).
On the other side of the bridge is the famous Sydney's Luna Park, unlike our European parks, entry is free, payment is made at the attraction. This shore, opposite Sydney's business district, is one of the most beautiful spots to enjoy the Sydney skyline, a real pleasure for the eyes, especially at night.
I also recommend a boat trip in Sydney Bay. This is, for me, a must that I would recommend to all visitors passing through Sydney. A cruise in the bay will offer you unique points of view on certain places in the city. You will be able to see the opera, the zoo, some beaches and neighborhoods impossible to see from the city. You will have a multitude of choices for this cruise, opting either for a guided tour in the bay or by joining one of the places in the city requiring a boat trip such as Manly (which we will talk about below), or even by offering you an outing to see the whales passing offshore.

A high-speed tour of Sydney Harbor

Do you want to combine thrills and discovery of the bay? Take a jet boat ride. These powerful boats will make you enjoy Sydney Harbor while having fun. These tours last about thirty minutes and allow you to see most of the bay. A few small stops with explanations as a bonus. Thrills guaranteed.

Book your Jet Boat trips

Luna Park

Luna Park is a huge amusement park open since 1935 in the immediate vicinity of Sydney. “The Face”, a smiling face 9 meters high, welcomes visitors to the very site of the construction site of the Sydney Harbor Bridge arch. It houses different sections such as Crystal Palace, Big Top, Coney Island or Maloney's Corner.
You can take a break at the Coney Island Cafe, the Lighthouse Cafe or the very elegant restaurant The Deck.
Luna Park is open every day (except Tuesday and Wednesday) with variable hours.

Ticket for unlimited access to Luna Park attractions

St. Mary's Cathedral, Sydney

St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney is none other than Sydney's largest cathedral. Built from 1838, its construction was not completed until 2000 with the construction of the arrows. The Gothic and Neo-Gothic cathedral is the seat of the Cardinal-Archbishop of Sydney. It is between the Hyde park and royal botanic gardens. The cathedral is open to the public every day (check the times of mass anyway).

Visiter la Sydney Tower

Since 1981, the Sydney Tower, or Centrepoint, dominates Sydney from the top of its 309 meters. 40 seconds are enough to climb 250 meters above the ground and enjoy a 360° view.
The Sydney Tower is one of the essentials of a visit to Sydney.
The entrance ticket gives access to l'Oztreck, a journey through the history, culture and geography of the continent.
On the 88th floor, you can enjoy the 360 ​​Bar and Dining which turns on itself for dining overlooking Sydney. A café welcomes you a little further down.
As for the Sydney Skywalk, it allows you to take an aerial walk at 268 meters high.
Sydney Tower is open from 9 a.m. to 22:30 p.m. and until 23:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

Sydney Tower ticket

Darling Harbour et King street wharf

Darling Harbour et King street wharf are two adjacent neighborhoods located west of downtown Sydney. These ultra-modern neighborhoods are most pleasant in sunny weather. King Street Wharf is essentially made up of residential towers with, on the ground floor, a multitude of cafes, bars and restaurants overlooking part of Sydney Bay.
Darling Harbor is the starting point for most boat tours, especially whale watching tours.

Where, when and how to see whales in Sydney?

Sydney is an exceptional place from which it is possible to contemplate different species of whales. Indeed humpback whales but also southern right whales are visible a good part of the year off the Australian coast. The whale migration period extends from May to November, a cruise to discover these giant marine mammals is a must.
Many companies offer this type of excursion at very reasonable prices, starting at around thirty dollars. Cruises depart from Darling Harbor or Circular Quay and generally last 3 to 4 hours. These whales live in their natural environment, it is not systematic to see them during a cruise. Beware of seasickness, the boats remaining in the same place for a while, the effects of the waves are quickly felt. Be sure to take a seasickness pill before boarding.

Book your whale watching cruise.

Darling Harbor brings together many activities and places of interest including a shopping center, Madame Tussauds, Sydney Aquarium, Chinese Garden, Sydney Wildlife World and various museums including the National Maritime Museum.

Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

The Sea Life Aquarium is home to over 700 species with 13 fish, sea and aquatic creatures. We cross 000 themed areas including Jurassic Seas, Discovery Rockpool, Shark Valley to have the impression of touching sharks and rays through the walls of glass tunnels or the most impressive version of the Great Barrier Reef.
Located near Darling Harbour, Sea Life opened in 1988.
It houses two cafés, a snack bar and three shops. It is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 22 p.m. and you should allow two to three hours for the visit.

Book your entry to SeaLife Aquarium Sydney

Bondi Beach

Visiting Sydney is also visiting its beaches. Bondi beach is THE beach in Sydney. Undoubtedly the most famous beach in Australia, Bondi beach is a must for a stay in Sydney. This one kilometer long beach with fine sand and turquoise water is a place particularly appreciated by tourists passing through the city but also by Sydneysiders who come to spend the end of the day or the weekend on this magnificent beach.
Lined with restaurants, bars and surf shops, it is pleasant to walk on Campbell Parade, the street running along Bondi Beach.
Take the time to cover the 6 kilometers of the Bondi to Bronte Costal Walkway, a hike from Bondi Beach to Bronte. Continue another few hundred yards to Coogee Beach. A superb walk along the beaches of Sydney. Take the opportunity to take a dip in one of the many swimming pools bordering these beaches.
Many events take place on this beach, surfing competitions, of course, but also one of the main New Year's Eve fireworks.

Getting to Bondi Beach
To reach Bondi beach from the center of Sydney, several solutions:
  • By train : Take the train, line T4, towards Bondi Junction and get off at this stop. You then have about 3 kilometers to go before reaching Bondi beach. Either on foot or by taking the 380, 381, 382 or 333 bus for around 15 minutes. You can't miss the Bondi Beach stop
  • By bus: Take bus 380 or 333 towards Bondi from Circular Quay or from any of the stops served by these buses.

Manly Beach

Manly is Sydney's other beach. Indeed after Bondi, Manly is one of the most popular beaches in the Sydney region. Located northeast of the city, you will need to take the ferry from circular quay to reach Manly beach. Allow half an hour by boat to reach the Manly district. This one will drop you near Manly Cove, the other beach in Manly, this one overlooking Sydney Bay. Manly beach is then a few hundred meters from the pier, on the other side of this small peninsula.
Manly is famous for its beach, 1,5 kilometers long, where surfers, volleyball players and even divers meet. The beach is lined with numerous cafes, bars and restaurants. You could even find the best fish&chips in Australia, the Fishmongers Manly (having tested it, I recommend it).
Manly also has a national park, Sydney Harbor national park in which is located North Head, a former military base from the Second World War.
If time permits, before heading back to Manly Wharf to take the ferry back to Sydney, take a short detour to the Manly Sea Life sanctuary to discover the region's marine fauna and flora.

sydney zoo

Unfortunately Sydney Zoo is one of Sydney's must-sees that I couldn't do. So I'll tell you about it briefly because this urban zoo, the second largest in the world, is world famous.
Indeed, this 75-hectare zoo has more than 2 animals, including some rare species, on the verge of extinction, such as platypus.
The zoo is located on the other side of the bay, northeast of downtown Sydney. The simplest solution for visit Sydney Zoo is therefore to take a boat from circular quai or from darling harbour. Some companies combine the round trip to the zoo as well as the entrance tickets.
Count 12 minutes by boat to reach the zoo, as well as a little over $40 for the entrance to the zoo.

Sydney Zoo Entrance Ticket

Ultimately Sydney, the ideal food tour in Sydney
Food tours have spread a few years ago in major cities around the world. Original way to visit the city while tasting original dishes, sometimes local. Follower of this concept, I like to do this kind of activity when I visit a city, a different way of seeing the city. This time it's a food tour a little different from what I usually do that will take us to surprising places.
Indeed, this 6-hour food tour begins with a visit to the Cannery Rosebery about ten kilometers south of the center of Sydney. This unique place, a renovated former industrial building, is home to many restaurants and shops offering refined, quality products. We enjoy a few dishes including a delicious hummus at the restaurant: Three Blue Ducks. Before leaving this atypical place, a short tour of the Archie Rose distillery with a tasting of Gin, Vodka or even Whiskey.
Back in the center of Sydney, this time near Darling Harbor to enjoy a delicious fruit juice at Joe & Juice. Still in the same district, go to Banksii where a tasting of Vermouth as well as salmon and Vermouth rillettes.
Head to Western Sydney for a visit to Tram Shed Harold Park, a fully renovated former tram warehouse. Tasting of kangaroo salami (a first for me) at Butcher the pig, accompanied by a beer, a real treat.
Penultimate stop of our food tour, Spice Alley, an atypical street entirely dedicated to Asian food. In addition to the food, it is the atmosphere of this small pedestrian street that immerses you in the heart of Asia.
Our last stop will be at HandPicked Wines for a tasting of wine, 6 in total, sparkling wine, Sauvignon blanc, Rosé, Merlot or a Pinot Noir. A real experience.
Do not hesitate to visit the Ultimately Sydney website to find out more about their different food tours.

Blue Mountains National Park

The Blue Mountains National Park is located 80 km west of Sydney. Hiking, mountain biking, canyoning or abseiling allow you to enjoy this magnificent park.
It is home to cliffs, bush, waterfalls, eucalyptus forests. It is possible to go around it by bus, stopping at 30 major points such as the famous Three Sisters.
Many trails are accessible with different levels of difficulty to get to Echo Point, Scenic Skyway, Jamison Valley, Jenolan Caves…
Restaurants and refuges are installed in the park which is always open.

Day trip to the "Blue Mountains"

Vivid Light Festival

Every year since 2009, Sydney has held the Vivid Light Festival for 23 unforgettable, unreal and fantastical nights. This festival dresses the city of lights with giant projections and light shows. The best way to enjoy it is to walk around from The Rocks area.
The Vivid Light Festival is also several hundred concerts on the stage of the Opera House, in bars, theaters and performance halls for a very varied program.
The Vivid Light Festival also celebrates innovation and creativity with over 200 events.
To avoid the crowds, it is better to go there during the week.

Accommodation in Sydney

Before booking accommodation, take a quick tour of the different areas of Sydney where you can find accommodation.

City Center – CBD

Let's start with the most central district of Sydney, the CBD or Central Business District, the business district of Sydney. This is essentially made up of buildings, offices and shops. Stretching north to Hyde Park and south to the Sydney Opera House, this district has the advantage of being the most central of all, located near the Botanical Gardens and the Opera House, this district is mostly alive during the day, during office hours.

Find a hotel in Sydney
The Rocks

The Rocks is none other than Sydney's oldest neighborhood. It faces the Sydney Opera House and is located just a few steps from the circular quay, a public transport hub, bus, metro, boat go there. The district, at the foot of Harbor Bridge, is ideally placed to make the most of Sydney, its restaurants and its bars.

Darling Harbor

As mentioned above, Darling Harbor is one of Sydney's newest neighborhoods. Ultra modern buildings, many restaurants, museums are there. This district is not lacking in activities and is one of the most pleasant in my opinion. Small problem, the area, where there are many luxury hotels, is a bit expensive to live.

Surry Hills

Surry Hills, the location of our first accommodation in Sydney, is a district located north of the CBD, it begins after Hyde Park. Formerly a disreputable district of Sydney, it is now very welcoming. Having, too, undergoes the modernization of the city with the appearance of buildings. The district offers more affordable prices than the hyper center or Darling Harbour. Reach the center very quickly thanks to the metro.

Our accommodation: Big Hostel
For a few days we stayed at the Big Hostel in Sydney. An ideally located hostel, on the outskirts of Surry Hills, approximately 400 meters from "Central", Sydney's main public transport hub with most bus and metro lines to the blue mountains, North Coast, South Coast, Central Coast or the Southern Highlands line.
The hostel offers all the necessary facilities with a large kitchen, a comfortable relaxation area and even a roof terrace.
You have the option of having rooms with private bathrooms.
More information on the Big Hostel Sydney website.

Bondi Beach

Located 30 minutes by bus from the city center, Bondi Beach, although quieter than Sydney's CBD, is an attractive area that will offer you the advantage of being able to enjoy its magnificent beaches at will. Ideal if you like to surf, Bondi is the “cool” district of Sydney.

When to visit Sydney?

Sydney enjoys an extremely favorable and pleasant climate. Sydney can be visited all year round, whatever the season, although the best period begins in late spring and ends in mid-autumn.
Summer, from December to February, temperatures in Sydney vary between 20 and 30 degrees. Despite these mild temperatures, summer is also the rainiest season with a peak in February. Count about 6 to 7 days of rain for these months and a maximum rainfall in February at 110 mm.
The beginning of Autumn, from March to April, the temperatures remain very pleasant, between 18 and 26 degrees and a rainfall which remains similar to summer with 6 to 7 days of rain per month for about 80 mm of water. The end of Autumn, from May, until early spring, September, the temperatures, although at their lowest, remain pleasant, oscillating between 10 and 19 degrees. The rainfall drops during the winter to around 60 mm of water, for only 4 to 5 days of rain per month.
In Spring temperatures, like rainfall, rise simultaneously.
Even if it is preferable to visit Sydney during the summer period in order to make the most of the beaches but also the evenings, which are longer in summer, winter is not a bad time to visit Sydney, especially if the beaches and swimming at sea do not make you dream more than that.

My opinion on Sydney

Sydney is a very big, American-style city with big avenues and buildings everywhere. Nevertheless Sydney is no less a pleasant city to visit. Its pleasant climate and the many parks and beaches near Sydney make it a city where it is good to walk. The attractions are not lacking, a multitude of places deserve to be visited. Sydney is a city that can be visited during a road trip in Australia as well as during a city trip, as I was able to do from New Zealand.

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