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Sydney is Australia’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, most famous for being home to iconic buildings, beautiful beaches, award-winning restaurants, and a vibrant culture.

Boasting some of the most photographed landmarks in the world, a wonderland of national parks, forest mountains, and historic riverside towns, Sydney is also a bit of an exhibitionist – sun-blazed beaches stretching the length of the famous harbor opening up into the Pacific, and glittering views of an impressive city skyline once the sun goes down.

Darling Harbor Sydney

Photo by Prasad Pillai

There is so much to see and do in this magnificent city, that it’s almost overwhelming trying to cram it all in to one trip!

Here is how to make the best out of 5 days in Australia’s favorite city. If you’re planning on exploring the greater surrounds, car hire in Sydney is easy to organize, and you can compare prices and book via companies like VroomVroomVroom.

Day 1 – Walking tour

Spend your first day taking a walking tour of the city.  Starting at Circular Quay where you can inspect the great steel arc of the Harbor bridge up close, make your way through Sydney’s historic Rocks District, marvel at the splendid sails of the Opera House, walk through Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, enter Sydney’s city centre, and finish your tour in Darling Harbor.

There are a number of museums along your way, including Museum of Contemporary Art, the Sydney Museum, and the Police and Justice Museum in the Circular Quay area. At Darling Harbour you’ll find the Powerhouse Museum and the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Spend the evening in Darling Harbor – Sydney’s hub of entertainment.  Enjoy a delicious harbor side meal for dinner and experience Sydney’s energetic night life. Darling Harbor is home to Sydney’s IMAX Theatre, Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife Sydney Zoo and Madam Tussads.

For those not keen on walking, also an option is the Red Explorer Bus, focused on city sightseeing.

Pro Tip: For tickets to attractions, monuments, museums and a Sydney CityPass, find the best deals on things to do in Sydney on Ceetiz – click here to view all discounts now

Sydney Opera House

The splendid sales of the Sydney Opera House.

Day 2 – Cruise the Harbor

Taking a cruise on Sydney Harbor should be an essential part of any Australian itinerary – Sydney is, after all, a harbor city.  Numerous cruises are available and travelers can choose between sightseeing cruises, a dinner cruise, a dance cruise, or choose from the multitude of ferries which operate out of Circular Quay to a number of destinations within greater Sydney.

Cross the harbour to Manly or head to Watsons Bay for phenomenal seafood. A ferry to Manly is a great way to spend your day – home to Shelly Beach which is one of Sydneys best spots for snorkeling.

You can also Navigate to Cockatoo Island – a historic island now a haunted naval storage facility.  The island provides stunning views overlooking Sydney Harbour and is home to the Island bar, famous for its tropical cocktails and wood-fired pizza.

Circular Quay Ferry, Sydney

Ferries operate from Circular Quay.

Day 3 – View Sydney

Spend your day taking in breathtaking views of the city.  Head to the summit of ‘Sydney Tower Eye’ which offers views across the city to the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Blue Mountains in the west.  For those feeling daring, the Sydney Skywalk experience is a moving, glass-floored viewing platform which sits at the top of the Tower.

Book in to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge – not only is the climb incredibly adventurous and will keep your adrenalin pumping, but you’re greeted with spectacular views over Sydney once at the top.

The bridge climb is relatively expensive – for those traveling on a budget, crossing the bridge on foot is free and offers just as spectacular views and photo opportunities.

Sydney Harbor bridge climb

View at night from the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb

Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb.

Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb.

Day 4 – Australian Wildlife

Australia is known for having unusual wildlife, and Australian animals are unlike any found elsewhere in the world! From kangaroos and koalas, to platypi (platypus), Tasmanian devils and wombats – Australia has a huge range of wonderful wildlife and exotic species which provoke a sense of wonder and awe throughout the rest of the world.  Make sure you get to see them up close!

Taronga Zoo is just a short ferry ride across the harbour from Circular Quay.  Australia’s most famous zoo, visitors may marvel at thousands of exotic and native Australian animals.  An adult ZooPass (includes the fare of the ferry from Circular Quay) is $45 – and those who don’t want to leave can sleep over! Luxury safari tents with after-hour adventures start at $225 for the night.

Visit Featherdale wildlife park in Sydney’s west or Wild Life Sydney at Darling Harbour for other Australian wildlife encounters.

Experience Australia’s amazing wildlife.

Day 5 – Go to the beach

Spend your last day relaxing on Sydney’s most iconic beaches. Particularly in the warmer months, from November – March, Sydney’s beaches are the place to be.  Opportunities to partake in water sports are ample – go swimming, surfing, water skiing or simply laze in the sun and tan.

Bondi Beach is Sydney’s most famous – glittering sapphire water, fabulous waves, golden sand; Bondi epitomizes sun, sand and surf. After a 2 hour surf lesson why not take in the spectacular views of Bondi’s sandstone cliffs and coves and complete the Bondi-Bronte walk.  This walk is a 1 hour, 2.5km stroll.

Bondi Beach, Sydney.

Bondi Beach, Sydney.

Decided to miss your flight home? There’s more to do!  For travelers with more time to spare in Sydney, great daytrip options are available to the north, south and west of the city.  Try the Blue Mountains in the West or the Hunter Valley wine region in the North.

How to Get There

Find the cheapest flights to Sydney by downloading the free Skyscanner app. Click here.

 About Megan Claire

Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

Photo credits: Featured photo by Jason James

    52 Comments

  1. Excellent article on what to see in Sydney Megan, and almost regard Sydney as our second home. It is a beautiful city with so much to see and do, and as you know we were in Australia and in Sydney on Australia Day, when the Aussies certainly know how to celebrate and put on a party all over the city. This is the way it should be as Australia is a beautiful country and they have much to celebrate.

    • Thanks Murray! Yes, if there’s one thing we Australian’s know how to do it’s celebrate – and we come out in full force for Australia Day! I imagine Sydney would have been a great place to be this year – they always go all out!

      Not a bad introduction to Australia for tourists and travelers!!
      Megan Claire recently posted…Take A Walk On The Historic Side: Visit GuernseyMy Profile

  2. Great tips Megan, you’ve peaked my curiousity about the “Luxery” tents at the zoo. I’ve never heard of that before. I’ll be keeping this post in my Pintrest bucket list for future reference.

    • We have the overnight Toronga Experience on our bucket list as well! We gave the experience to friends for their anniversary and they’ve been raving about it ever since!

      I hope you get to go!
      Megan Claire recently posted…Tunisia – Where Shopping is a Sport. My Profile

  3. Hey Megan,
    Another good article, I guess growing up in Australia its easy to forget how expensive it can be….it really hits home however when you travel. But as you’ve pointed out there are heaps of things to do here on a budget 🙂

    Gotta love Sydney!

    Jamie
    Jamie @ The Inspired Globetrotter recently posted…Why it’s important to be spontaneousMy Profile

    • It really can be – I didn’t realise how expensive Australia truly was until I started to travel! But there are always budget friendly alternatives to be found in every town and State 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the post!
      Megan Claire recently posted…Take A Walk On The Historic Side: Visit GuernseyMy Profile

  4. It was tough to leave Sydney a couple of days ago. It is clean, it is organized, it is scenic. The only thing I don’t miss is the prices.

    But it’s not impossible to enjoy Sydney on a shoestring, either. There’s a twice-daily free walking tour. The return ferry to Watsons Bay is a low-cost scenic option to cruises. The free walk across the Harbour Bridge that you mention is also awesome. I saw assorted wildlife in the natural environment outside of Sydney, including in Blue Mountains, which are spectacular, you’re right. Beaches near Jervis Bay are pretty great if you skip Bondi. The Botanic Garden is also free, as are the Museums of Modern Art, of New South Wales, and of The Rocks. As a fan of microbrews, I really enjoyed craft beers at Lord Nelson (not free, but surprisingly cheaper compared to most places downtown).

    The great thing is, all of this doesn’t even scratch the surface of things to do in this wonderful city! A reason to come back…
    Peter Korchnak @ Where Is Your Toothbrush? recently posted…Two Toothbrushes: An interview with The Journey ItselfMy Profile

    • I definitely don’t miss the prices either – Australia is expensive, but as you mentioned, there is still a lot of opportunity to experience the city on a budget.

      It sounds like you had an absolutely phenomenal trip! Love the Blue Mountains – I don’t know which I love more – Sydney or it’s surrounds! NSW definitely has a lot going for it!

      I lived in Canberra, 3 hours out of Sydney, for 10 years and I still haven’t scratched the surface either – you could spend a lifetime!!
      Megan Claire recently posted…Top Attractions in Maramureș, RomaniaMy Profile

  5. Cruising the harbor is my favorite! I missed out on the wild life which I will see the next time I visit Sydney. It is an exciting city!
    Renuka recently posted…My Experiences In MelbourneMy Profile

    • We loved the harbor cruises – did a lunch cruise and it was a really fun way to spend the afternoon 🙂

      You’ll definitely have to head back to see the wildlife – sounds like a great excuse for another holiday to me!
      Megan Claire recently posted…Taiwan – A Beautiful Island Blending East and WestMy Profile

  6. I want to spend 5 days in Sydney
    tell me hw can I get visa

    • Hi there – it depends which country you are from. Australia has an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) visa which is available for citizens of 30 countries where you can apply online for a tourist visa.

      If you are not from one of the countries which fall under this agreement you will need to apply for a tourism visa at the closest Australian embassy.

      More information here: http://www.evisaasia.com/australia-visa
      Megan Claire recently posted…Taiwan – A Beautiful Island Blending East and WestMy Profile

  7. Although I’ve been to Sydney but I have done only a few things like the Blue Mountain, Manly beach and yes, I woke up at ungodly hour for the boxing day sale! Madness~ :p I am kinda planning for a trip to Sydney to celebrate the new year. Looks like there are plenty more things I can do without repeating myself. Thanks for the tips! 🙂
    Pamela recently posted…Breakfast in Hong Kong: Australian Dairy Company v.s YeeShun Milk CompanyMy Profile

    • Boxing day sales are the equivalent to America’s Black Friday sales – lol I’m glad you survived!! Sydney over New Years is equally as mad, but it’s absolutely amazing and there’s no better place to be. The fireworks Sydney puts on every NY’s is spectacular and one you’ll never forget!

      Definitely enough going on to not have to repeat 🙂 Happy travels!
      Megan Claire recently posted…How To Create & Sell Digital Travel GuidesMy Profile

    • Glad you enjoyed it John – Sydney really is so diverse, there’s just so much to see and do; 5 days is even cramming it all in lol! Will head over and check out your site – looks like you’ve got a lot of great photos there!

    • I’m from Canberra so a weekend trip to Sydney is close to my heart too! Glad we could remind you of home, I’m heading back in July after 2 years so can’t wait to rediscover everything again! Happy Travels 🙂

  8. Oh cool! I didn’t know Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb opens at night. I thought they only open during the day for tourists. I have been in Sydney for a few times and every time I was there, I always visited Darling Harbor. They have firework every Saturday night. Beautiful restaurants around and great walk to Chinese Garden and China town nearby.
    Liem @ Holiday Bays recently posted…Amazing Jeju Island! Top 12 Attractions in South Korea’s Holiday IslandMy Profile

    • Absolutely – seriously wicked views of the harbor all lit up when you climb at night too 🙂 I do love the fireworks in Darling Harbor on Saturday nights – have spent a few weekends in that area and absolutely love it 🙂

      If you get back to Sydney I highly recommend the bridge climb at night…and if you climb on a Saturday maybe you can combine the skyline view with some of those fireworks!!

  9. Hi!

    I love this post! It gave me some great ideas on how to explore sydney on a budget!

    • Hi Katie, glad we could set you up with some fab Sydney budget ideas 🙂 Enjoy!

  10. Hey! I absolutely love this!

    My favourite place you mentioned is definitely Bondi Beach – I live there!

    Thanks for the advice – can’t wait to revisit Sydney again soon!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Sasha! Bondi beach is definitely a favorite, we personally love the Bondi – Bronte walk. What a fab location to have as your backyard!

      Happy travels – hope you have the opportunity to get into Sydney again soon 🙂

  11. Thanks for the great post. Really interesting. Just wanna say, Out of all tours One of the best tour i had in sydney is bridge climb.

    • You’re welcome Oliver – so happy to hear you enjoyed the bridge climb. I agree – one of the best experiences the city has to offer 🙂 Merry Christmas!

    • Hi Nguyen – happy to hear that we could help you plan your trip to Sydney. Happy travels! Have a wonderful time 🙂

  12. Sydney has a 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. There is a lot to do in Sydney. It’s worth a long stay. Thanks Megan!

    • Totally agree with that re trying to stay for at least a week. We’re lucky to live closeby in Canberra (only 3 hours drive), and we still haven’t seen everything there is to offer … so much to do :D!

  13. I completely agree with your thought. Sydney has a huge places to sightseeing and it’s worth a long stay.
    Oris recently posted…The Mercedes – Benz SprinterMy Profile

    • Absolutely – many places to see that sometimes it’s hard to fit everything into even 5 days!

    • Great tips re adding Luna Park and St Mary’s Cathedral Sarah … would you believe, I haven’t actually been to Luna Park Sydney yet! Have taken in the park in Melbourne before, so will have to make sure it’s on the itinerary for our next Sydney trip 🙂

  14. The prices that you give us are they the exact price or an estimation?

    • Hi Kaka, the prices were exact when the post was published, though can quickly pull them up online to double check just in case. I think the only prices I gave in this post were for Toronga Zoo; you can check out their most current pricing on their website here: https://taronga.org.au/taronga-zoo

      Hope that helps!

  15. Hi Megan, beautiful experienced you had.
    I also post about How to do vacation in Perth, Australia with Free.
    I think Australia is very sweet country 🙂

  16. I am im awe of the magnificense and grandness of Australia, specifically Sydney. I’m very much interested in experiencing Australian wildlife. I’ve always wanted to see an actual Tasmanian Devil, and a kangaroo, of course.

    • Hope you have the chance to visit Australia soon Bong – Sydney really does leave quite the impression after visiting for the first time. Lives up to it’s hype and expectations 🙂

      If you’re wanting to go beyond the zoo and see animals in the wild, you can organzie pretty cheap flights from Sydney to other parts of the country like Tasmania too 🙂
      Meg Jerrard recently posted…5 Websites Which Will Save You Money While TravellingMy Profile

  17. Super article Megan. Can vouch for Taronga Zoo – stunning views of Sydney and a great way to see some of the harbour!

  18. Nice Article !!! Some Cool places mentioned in this article to visit in Sydney

  19. Great

  20. I dream of visiting Australia – and Sydney in special. They look simply amazing – and we have some friends who moved there and they can’t stop praising everything there 😉 Great itinerary!
    Loredana recently posted…A local’s travel guide to Zagreb, CroatiaMy Profile

  21. Sydney has one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world. First timers in the city should make it a point to ad in their itinerary to schedule to cruise the harbour to have a glimpse of the beautiful city on water.

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