Sydney Travel Guide

Taking in the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House in Australia
Sydney is a cosmopolitan city surrounded by iconic beaches, world heritage sites, and acclaimed wine regions. Besides being Australia’s largest city, Sydney is also its most visited. (And, contrary to popular belief, not the country’s capital!) With an incredible variety of attractions and sights to see, including the very famous Bondi and Manly beaches, it’s easy to see why people come here and stay a while—try to stay at least a week if you can. As you will see from this travel guide, there is a lot to do in Sydney. It’s worth a long stay.

Typical Costs

Hostel Prices – Hostels range from $27-34 USD for a dorm room while private rooms cost around $80 USD per night. Wake Up! in central Sydney is home to one of my favorite Australian hostels.

Budget Hotel Prices – Hotel prices vary greatly in the city. If you want to stay in the center, you’re better off getting a private room at a hostel. Most budget hotels begin around $70 USD and get more expensive the closer you get downtown. Check out Airbnb to rent from a local and get better value for a great location.

Average Cost of Food – Cheap meals like sandwiches, burgers, and sushi can be found for under $10 USD. Most restaurant meals will cost between $20-30 USD. Meals on the harbor will cost a bit more because of all the tourists and great views. If you cook you own food, you can spend between $50-80 USD per week.

Transportation Costs – Sydney’s transport system is made up of trains, buses, and ferries. Bus fares depend on the number of zones you travel with adult fares beginning at $1 USD. Fares also vary slightly based on the time of day and the number of passengers. Taxi’s are fairly easy to flag down and inexpensive if you’re in a pinch or aren’t in the mood to navigate public transport. There are taxi ranks at major points throughout the city.

More information on the cost of traveling Australia.

Money Saving Tips

Check the tourist office — There are often deals on tourist attractions or special festivities going on in the area. Also make sure to inquire about discount coupons to some of the most popular places in the city.

Free local events — “What’s On Sydney” has a list of free and cheap current events.

Walk the bridge for free —  Taking a Bridgeclimb is $150 USD but you can walk across this icon for free.

Top Things to See and Do in Sydney

The Rocks — The Rocks are one of the most historic parts of town with narrow lanes, fine colonial buildings, sandstone churches, and Australia’s oldest pubs. With weekend markets and street entertainment, there is never a dull moment, not to mention lack of photo ops!

Hang out at the beach — Go surfing, swimming, paddling, walking, or simply laze in the sun. From Palm Beach in the north to the famous Bondi to Cronulla in the south, Sydney is jeweled with white sandy beaches. A little something for everyone.

Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs. Macquarie Chair — One of the finest walks in the city starts at the lively Circular Quay (where the ferries come in), heads towards the Opera House and into the Royal Botanic Gardens where you’ll find Australia’s first vegetable garden and now a treasure trove of trees, ferns, flowers, and lawn. On a sunny day, you’ll find locals sprawled out all over the gardens soaking up the sun.

Ferry to Manly Beach — Manly is one of the better known beaches in the city. Walk the pedestrian Corso to the main area where you can swim, sun bake, eat ice-cream, and simply people watch. There is a superb walk along the coastline to the tiny and protected Shelly Beach, with cute marine sculptures and a tidal pool. The ferry ride back offers great views of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House. Plan your journey around sunset for a fantastic photo op.

Sydney Harbor Bridge — The bridge was built in 1932 as a government employment project during the Great Depression. While tours to climb the bridge are expensive, it is free to walk across the bridge and see great panoramic views of the harbor and Opera House.

Sydney Opera House — Just as iconic as the harbor bridge, the Opera House is famous for its white shelled roof. As an architectural feat, guided tours give you a whole new appreciation for just how challenging the building was to design. Tickets for a show in the opera house are surprisingly affordable, so try to take one in if you can.

The Blue Mountains — Over the millennia, the ancient sandstone of this national park has been weathered into gorges lined by steep cliffs and separated by narrow ridges. Some activities in this area include seeing the magnificent rock formation of the Three Sisters (particularly stunning at sunset and under evening floodlight) or hiking along paths offering excellent views of the valley, sheer rock walls, tumbling waterfalls, and magnificent forests. The park is free to visit.

The museums — Like most cities, Sydney has a wide variety of museums. There’s free entry to the Art Gallery of New South Wales (home to aboriginal art), the Museum of Contemporary Art at The Rocks, Nicholson Museum, and the National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbor. The historic ship, military vessels and a seaworthy replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour that was used to discover Australia in 1770,are also popular attractions.

Learn to surf — Sydney is a great place to bite the bullet and learn the art of the famous national sport. There are many companies here that offer lessons. While Bondi is the most popular beach, the surfing up in Manly on the north shore of Sydney is better.

Visit the Hunter Valley — North of town is one of Australia’s premier wine regions. The Hunter Valley has amazing wineries and produces great reds. While it’s not as easy on the budget, it is an excuse to get out of the city and see the countryside. Want even more fun? Bike tours here are great (and allow you to drink a little more!). Day tours are offered from Sydney, but it’s best to stay for at least a night.

The Tower Sky Walk — As tall as the Eiffel Tower and twice as high as the harbor bridge, the Sky Walk offers amazing panoramic views of the city. It is cheaper and easier than climbing the bridge, and the views are actually far better. Also included with your purchase of a Sky Walk ticket is access to the OzTrek, a 3-D cinema experience.

Take the trike way — Another fun way to explore the northern beaches is by renting a motorized trike. This day long trip can take you beyond Palm Beach, the furthest point on the peninsula, into the Ku-ring-gai National Park, past Church point to Akuna Bay.

Wildlife World — One of the newest additions to Darling Harbor, the Wildlife World is set up with highly detailed, ‘natural’ environments for birds, wallabies, reptiles, and more. There are various guided tours and animal feedings all day.