Sydney Travel Guide

 Sydney is a cosmopolitan city where nature weaves beautifully with the sleek city architecture. Bushes and parks gracefully interrupt the urban layout and skyscrapers.  While the grandeur of this Australian city and New South Wales state capital is best symbolized by its two world-renowned architectural icons, namely the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge, it also boasts abundant and diverse nature. Its prized alluring beaches and pristine coastlines are perfect for swimming and riding the waves. Giant trees and botanic parks in the middle of the city play host to native critters and cockatoos. Delve deeper into Sydney and you will find that there is more to the city than meets the eye. You will be initially charmed by the magical harbor with the willowy sails. Stay awhile and you will see the magic that Sydney really is.  Find out all there is to the city by checking out our Sydney travel guide below!


Best Time to Visit

Sydney’s exquisite beaches and coastline await visitors with 340 days of sunshine year round, but the best time to visit the city and many of its tourist sites are in the spring months from September to November, and autumn which occurs from March to May when the temperature is pleasant and comfortable.  Summers are hot with high humidity, while winters are relatively mild and definitely dry but with occasional heavy downpour.

Climate

Sydney has a temperate climate. Its winters are dry and mild with average temperature of 48 °F from June to August. Spring follows from September to November when temperature is warmly pleasant, there is sunshine for at least 8 hours, and it rarely rains for the rest of the season. Summers from December to February are hot and wet with temperatures hardly falling below 26°C and downpours are heavy. Daytimes are cooler and more comfortable during autumn from March to May. Rains are also heaviest during this season.

Things to Do

Sydney, inarguably, is a bit of an exhibitionist. It is a glittering playground, with sandstone coves and sun-blazed beaches skirting its prodigious harbor and the open Pacific. Beyond all its brazen beauty lies a host of eclectic pleasures, some of which are best exemplified by the activities listed below.

1) Swim, windsurf, and surf 

Bodies bronzed from the sun crowd Bondi Beach to swim and ride the surfs. Sydney has over 50 city beaches to explore. Views and parks are the pride of Watson’s Bay, where cafes and restaurants line along its walkways. Similar promenades litter along Manly Beach. It is mainly flanked by surfers chasing unforgiving waves.

2) Take a ferry ride 

Take an unforgettable 7-mile ferry ride out of Circular Quay, sidling along the world’s largest harbor with the hallmark Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. Enjoy the sights of urban structures, mansions, beaches before entering Manly Beach.

3) Watch a movie in open air

See a movie amidst the gardens, under the stars, and with the sight of the glitzy Opera House and the iron Harbor Bridge from afar. You can do this at St. George Open Air Cinema in the summer months.

4) Root for a team in the local sports scene

Sydneysiders are ardent sports supporters. If you are staying a while in the city, follow a local rugby team. The locals call the game “footy”. Crickets are also a craze and are played at the Centennial Park.

5) Explore the gardens, wildlife, and zoos

Australian wildlife is at home in Sydney. The city has allocated 30 hectares of botanic gardens to breathe life to the urban area. Explore this pleasant mockup of a jungle east of the commercial business district and sprawling the harbor area.

Top Attractions

Sydney’s harbor sits near the middle of the whole city area, and the Harbor Bridge is the demarcation. The southern half of the city is the location of the Harbor Bridge, the Darling Harbor, and the dazzling coastline. The northern part of the city is the commercial hub of Sydney interspersed with botanical gardens, zoos, shopping zones, and the ocean beaches.

1) Sydney Harbor Bridge

The bridge is a favorite venue for the New Year’s celebration. It is fondly called “the coat hanger” by the locals. You can walk to the bridge to take a magnificent view of the harbor for free. Take the stairs on Cumberland Street and follow the eastern footpath overlooking the Sydney Opera House. There is another access through the Argyle stairs but you have to pay an entry fee of US$10. This access will bring you to some exhibits along the structure, and 200 steps up to the South East Pylon with hard-to-beat scenery.  If the scenery calls the daredevil in you, you can take a Bridge Climb tour from US$268-US$403 per person (updated 2020), which will facilitate a view from 439 feet above sea level. The experience will definitely and literally give you a new perspective of this iron bridge and its harbor.

Location: The Rocks

2) Sydney Harbor National Park

Sydney is a grand network of bushes, rain forests, beaches, aboriginal and historic sites. Miles of walking tracks interlace with this congregation of natural and historic sanctuaries and allow residents and tourists an opportunity to walk leisurely. This is a priceless experience. It is also free for those who wish to explore this part of the harbor.

Location: Harbor area

3) Sydney Opera House

The dazzling Sydney Opera House with the svelte sails was designed by Architect Joern Utzon. In 2007, it was declared a World Heritage Site. World-class performances hold operas and dances in any of the Opera House’s five theaters and halls. Everyone is free to explore the interior of the building, but there are also guided tours available with fees. A One-hour General Tour costs US$42, while a Two-Hour Backstage Tour (with full breakfast) costs US$175 (updated 2020).

Address: 2 Macquarie Street, Circular Quay

4) Royal Botanic Gardens

Thirty hectares sprawling the harbor area are teeming with landscaped and natural forests, pagodas, streams and ponds. The gardens invite every visitor to take time to feel the grass, touch and smell the flowers, and feel the green sweeping space. There are more than 45,000 species of plants and trees which make for cool haven for birds and ducks. The garden is also the location of the residence of the governor, the Government House. The interior of this Gothic revival structure can be seen when joining a tour. The exterior and its gardens, however, can be explored free. Take a map for your self-guided tour.

Address: Mrs. Macquaries Road, The Domain

5) The Beaches 

The beaches of Sydney are among its bragged-about natural resources within the city’s arm length. There is the quiet Palm Beach with its opulent neighborhood. Manly is often called the Surfers’ Mecca with its magnificent waves and picturesque coastline. Bondi showcases the bronzed bodies of swimmers, skaters, sun-worshippers, surfers, and bodybuilders – the scene that tells you that you have arrived to Australia’s commercial and carnival-like beach.

Address: all within urban Sydney

6) Taronga Zoo

Locals call this the Ultimate Zoo. It is located in a bush land on the northern shore of the harbor with daily shows and resident animals that visitors look forward to seeing. Animals are housed in large enclosures which are faithful replications of the animals’ natural habitat. The admission fee is US$48 (updated 2020)which includes the daily prey shows. A Zoo Pass can also be bought at US$45.50 from Sydney Ferries at Circular Quay. This will cover the ferry ride and the admission ticket. The Zoo has some activities which might appeal to you. Instead of indulging on your 5-star bed in the city, you can spend a one-of-a-kind zoo slumber with luxurious tent accommodations, with zoo tours, drinks, dinner and breakfast at US$240 per person per night.

Address: Bradleys Head Road, Mosman

7) Koala Park Sanctuary 

You will never get enough of Australian mammals and marsupials – there’s just too many of them. Spend another half day with them at the private Koala Park Sanctuary.  Cuddly the koalas, feed the kangaroos, shear the sheep, and see more of the wallaroos, wombats, dingoes, and emus. Entry fee is US$28 (updated).

Address: 84 Castle Hill Road, West Pennant Hills

8) Sydney Aquarium

Drown with the sight of giant aquariums and a kaleidoscope of underwater life in the Sydney Aquarium. It is a huge display of sea turtles, colorful fish, sharks, stingrays, and saltwater crocodiles. Its exhibits on the Great Barrier Reef and Murray-Darling River showcase the biodiversity of Sydney’s underwater life. Admission is at US$36.80  if bought online per adult (updated 2020).

Address: Aquarium Pier, 1-5 Wheat Road, Darling Harbor

9) Garden Palace Gates

The gates are the stately remnant of the fire that shocked the city and razed the 19th century Garden Palace constructed for the Sydney International Exhibition, along with hundreds of paintings and important city records.

Address: Macquarie St.-Bent St., The Domain

10) Australian Museum

This is a natural-history museum that exhibits notable collections of flora and fauna, geological specimens and artifacts from the aborigines of Australia and Papua New Guinea. It exhibits 10 complete skeletons of dinosaurs.  Admission is US$11. Tours can be availed from US$101 per person. Cafes and shop are nearby.

Closed until mid-2020 due to renovations (updated March 2020).

Address: 6 College Street (near William St. Hyde Park)

Where to Eat

Sydney is the melting pot of cultures as it is of cuisines. It might be difficult to find the local food, because Sydney gourmands are unceasingly adapting to international palates. Modern Australia (Mod-Oz) has a repertoire of Mediterranean, Asian and European dishes. To find that Sydney distinction in the dining scene, spot the local produce of Sydney rock oysters, mud crabs, barramundi, and the freshwater lobsters called marrons. The list of restaurants below will get you started.

1) Rockpool

Get a taste of Sydney’s Mod Oz culinary individuality. Over 22 years of serving Mod Oz skillfully merging with Thai, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Chinese influences, this dining place will completely bowl you over. You will travel the world with its four-course menu. You can request it to include Muscovy duck, leaf-wrapped chicken, date tarts, and broccolini. Be passionate with the house tradition, passion fruit soufflé. A four-course meal starts at US$120. Rockpool closes on Sundays and Mondays.

Address: 107 George Street, The rocks

2) Buon Ricordo 

Dine Italian with Chef Armando Percuoco at Buon Ricordo. This is a happy place you’d keep returning to for the truffled egg pasta, snapper on zucchini flower bed, and homey Tuscan flavors. A six-course meal starts at US$150 (updated 2020).Like most business establishments, Buon Ricordo closes on Sundays and Mondays.

Address: 108 Boundary Street, Paddington

3) Icebergs Dining Room and Bar

This is a favorite dining place, even among celebrities. It throbs with the festive atmosphere of Bondi Beach and is much sought-after for its exceptional food and superb view. Shift to party mode and order a whole suckling pig roasted with bay leaves and pepper, salted Sicilian anchovies, buffalo mozzarella, fried artichoke hearts, and bruschetta. An 8-course meal costs around US$120. Tuesdays and Thursdays are a sensation because of the US$60 a la carte menu served on those days only. The Icebergs is closed on Mondays.

Address: 1 Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach

4) Bill’s

Try Sydney’s creamiest scrambled eggs and ricotta hotcakes at Bill’s Café. Find comfort in the three locations of Bill’s. It serves breakfast in all three nooks, but serves gourmet dinner in its Surry Hills address only. Named after celebrity chef Bill Granger, it has become a favorite of tourists and Sydneysiders from all walks of life. Price for a breakfast starts from US$19.50.

Addresses of the 3 locations: 

  • 433 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst
  • 352 Crown Street, Surry Hills
  • 118 Queen Street, Woollahra

5) Tetsuya’s

If you wonder where the east and the west meet in Sydney, it is in Tetsuya’s. Sample how uniquely and deftly Chef Tetsuya Wakuda blends the Western and Japanese flavors and techniques so that each influence brings out the best of the other. A dazzling eleven-course dinner starts at US$240 (updated 2020) plus US$92 for wines. The bonsai and waterfall landscape complete the theme. The establishment is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Address: 529 Kent Street, City Center

Where to Stay

Sydney offers countless options for your stay.  You can choose from the swankiest hotels with 5-star amenities along the harbor side. Or you may take the historic buildings turned boutique hotels in The Rocks. The city fringes and the suburbs are dotted with hotels and apartments that offer excellent views and comfortable rooms. And don’t forget, the tent accommodations in the zoo are quite an experience.

1) The Langham

Check out the facilities and rooms in this old-fashioned Venetian- inspired hotel, with frescoed ceilings and marbled surroundings. It has a bar for your night cap, a restaurant named Galileo, free Wi-Fi access, and an indoor pool. Room rate starts at US$265 (updated 2020).

Address: 89-113 Kent Street, The Rocks

2) Wake Up!

Wake Up! comes in the shape and design of most modern, sleek, functional, and economical hotels promoted by local tourisms worldwide. It is designed to provide the basic necessities of the regular traveler right where the action is. Wake Up provides laundry facilities, Wi-Fi connectivity, tour assistance, cheap meals, and even free beer or coffee. Dorm-type accommodations range from US$27 to  US$80 per person. A private room, single accommodation costs US$98 and a double room costs US$13 per night (updated 2020).

Address: 509 Pitt Street (across Sydney Central Station)

3) Simpsons of Potts Point

This boutique hotel spells luxury in Victorian terms. Every room is uniquely constructed. One suite has a double Jacuzzi tub, and one family room has its own courtyard. Draperies and furnishings regally dress up the rooms. Continental breakfast is included with the room rate that starts at US$215.

Address: 8 Challis Avenue, Potts Point

4) The Russell

This Victorian mansion is a character of its own. No two rooms are the same, but get any of those double rooms facing the Circular Quay. If you’ve had enough of the quay, you can also choose the one opening to the courtyard. The rooftop with turrets and gardens turns magical at night. Room rates start at US$259 per night with accommodations and breakfast for two people.

Address: 143A George Street, The Rocks

5) Arts Hotel Sydney

You might wish to stay where shopping is just a few strides away. This charming hotel has large rooms facing the courtyard, pool and garden. The Arts Hotel provides a quiet space in the midst of a busy business area. Use of bicycles around the city, in-house movies and Wi-Fi are available, all free of charge. The room rate starts at US$230.

Address: 21 Oxford Street, Paddington

Go beyond Sydney’s harbor, the iron coat-hanger, and famous concrete sails. Glide with the sun-worshippers in the commercial beaches, but go farther to the quiet coastlines where dunes are undisturbed and views of the quay are incomparable. Visit the zoo collections, but take time to gaze at cockatoos freely walking and hopping when they can easily fly. The cockatoos are telling you to stop and take time to enjoy and linger on the natural green carpets. Linger more in one of the world’s most beautiful cities and Australia’s cultural capital. Sydney deserves more than just a cursory scanning.

Marv Perez