Sydney is Australia’s largest and most cosmopolitan city. It boasts some of the most photographed landmarks in the world, a wonderland of national parks, forest mountains, and historic riverside towns, and is also a bit of an exhibitionist.
Sun-blazed beaches stretch the length of the famous harbor opening up into the Pacific, and glittering views of an impressive city skyline once the sun goes down.
The following is a 5 day itinerary for making the best out of Australia’s favorite city. To explore the surrounds, car hire in Sydney is easy to organize, and you can compare prices and book via companies like VroomVroomVroom. A guide to the top hotels in Sydney can be found at LuxuryHotelsGuides.com.
How To Spend 5 Days in Sydney, Australia
Day 1 – Walking Tour
Kick off your first day in Sydney with a self guided walking tour starting at Circular Quay. Here you can inspect the iconic Harbor bridge up close, and stroll through the historic Rocks District towards the Opera House.
Follow this up with a walk through Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, enter Sydney’s city centre, and finish your day in Darling Harbor, home to Sydney’s IMAX Theatre, Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife Sydney Zoo and Madam Tussads.
There are a number of museums along your way, including Museum of Contemporary Art, the Sydney Museum, and once you reach Darling Harbor, the Powerhouse Museum and Australian National Maritime Museum.
Sydney is full of incredible walks and hikes beyond the city center, so if you’re interested in getting off the beaten track, and taking an overnight walking adventure, check out Overnight Adventures.
Overnight Adventures are a local small business who give you e-guides for self guided walking tours through the best parts of surrounding Sydney (check out their Blue Mountains Hiking Tours) and also provide equipment (ie backpacks, tents, food packs, sleeping mats etc).
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.
How to do it: To make the most of your visit, you can set sail on an authentic sailing boat to enjoy a dinner cruise in an exceptional atmospere! Departing from the quay of The Rocks, enjoy a 2-hour cruise in Sydney Harbour, and admire a magnificent sunset over the city and its famous sights such as the Sydney Opera House. You can book in here!
Cross the harbor 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.
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.
Hotels Near Sydney Harbor Bridge
Sydney Harbour YHA
Sydney Harbour YHA is situated in Sydney and offers complimentary Wi-Fi. With views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, the hostel also provides exclusive amenities and services, including a rooftop terrace.
The Australian Heritage Hotel
Situated close to Wynyard Railway Station, this historic bed and breakfast is a convenient base for those wanting to discover Sydney and its surrounds. It is set in the area’s popular nightlife district, about a five-minute walk from The Rocks.
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.
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.
Hotels Near Sydney’s Best Beaches
Mad Monkey Hostel Coogee Beach
You can’t get closer to the beach than by staying at Mad Monkey Hostel Coogee Beach. This is the first Mad Monkey hostel in Australia, located steps from Coogee Beach, and is the perfect location for the famous Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk.
They offer apartment style dorms and private rooms, with amenities which include an onsite bar and restaurant, shared kitchen facilities, live events, and surf equipment rentals.
QT Bondi provides a comfortable setting when in Sydney. A short walk from Sculpture by the Sea, it offers comfortable rooms equipped with luxury linen, a coffee maker and a kitchenette.
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 hiking tours in the West or the Hunter Valley wine region in the North.
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!!
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!
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!
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!
What great tips – a best of! :) I can’t wait to visit.
You’ll have an absolute blast – Sydney is an amazing city! You’ll never want to leave!
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…
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!!
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!
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!
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
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! :)
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!
Great summary of the fun things to do in Sydney! You hit on the wide range of fun to be had from urban landscapes to outdoor wildlife. I had a lot of there too!
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!
This makes me want to go home so badly! I’m from Melbourne but always loved a weekend (or longer!) in Sydney. Great tips! I’ll have to refer back to this when I’m home again!
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 :)
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.
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!!
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!
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 :)
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 Meg jerrard, I want to travel to Sydney Autralia, and i found your post in this blog. Thank so much. It help me a lots
Hi Nguyen – happy to hear that we could help you plan your trip to Sydney. Happy travels! Have a wonderful time :)
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!
I completely agree with your thought. Sydney has a huge places to sightseeing and it’s worth a long stay.
Absolutely – many places to see that sometimes it’s hard to fit everything into even 5 days!
Definitely the best things to do in Sydney if you only have a few days. Luna Park and St Mary’s Cathedral can be added to the list.
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 :)
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!
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 :)
Glad you enjoyed the post … we have heard wonderful things about Perth too, so hope to travel very soon :)
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 :)
Super article Megan. Can vouch for Taronga Zoo – stunning views of Sydney and a great way to see some of the harbour!
Thanks Greg! Taronga Zoo is one of our favorites too … if not for the wildlife experience, but also for the views!
Happy holidays :)
Nice Article !!! Some Cool places mentioned in this article to visit in Sydney
Glad you enjoyed it! Sydney has some fabulous spots indeed!
Glad you enjoyed the post :)
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!
Hope you have the chance to travel soon! Visiting friends is a fantastic excuse :D And means you have a local tour guide all set!
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.
Agree with you John :) Thanks for stopping by!
Some great suggestions here. For families with young children, Darling Harbour is a must. There’s a great playground, with lots of room to run around, and looking at the boats is always fun. Best of all, there are plenty of cafes in the area, so Mum and Dad can grab a coffee while the little ones burn off all that energy.
Thanks Melanie … absolutely agree on Darling Harbour for families – they’ve done a brilliant job at making it age friendly for all :)
Interesting tours Meg you shared in your post. For 5 days, you can go around the Sydney. How much more if you explore the whole country. I wonder how many weeks or months it needed to visit atleast the top 2o tourist spots in Australia by a car. It would be interesting idea.
Hi Steven, I expect you could spend a lifetime if you were to explore the whole country! :) If exploring by car and wanting to take in the whole of Australia I would definitely set aside at least a year :)
I am very afraid with the heights, but the walking tours I don’t want to miss. We are heading out to Sydney this coming early July by a car. Touring Sydney cannot complete with out cruising around the harbor.
Have a wonderful time in Sydney Shirley – walking tours and cruising are definitely great options if you don’t want to get up high :)
We all love Sydney’s view.
That’s our country neighbors, We are Indonesia.
Glad you’re a Sydney fan too!
Such a great post to share.It is a complete travel guide to how to spend 5 complete days in sydney.It can be great help for those who are planning to visit sydney and all the whereabouts when is best for gong there and all stuff.it may also influence some to share their experiences and write them about it
Thanks Hamraj – I’m glad that the post was helpful for you :) Hope you have the chance to visit Sydney soon!
thanks for all the suggestions Megan! Definitely want to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge once I’ll be in Sydney!!
You’re welcome Nancy, glad you enjoyed the post! Definitively make sure you organize the Harbor Bridge Climb – it’s one of the most memorable experiences Sydney has to offer :)
If you’re looking for high-quality Airbnb properties in Sydney, look out for Cushie properties listed in Airbnb. Cushie manage heaps of properties around Sydney and have a high-standard of cleanliness and service!
Thanks for the tip Trev :)
What a nice Blog! I really enjoyed reading it. I am looking forward of your next blogs :)
Thanks Christian – glad you’re enjoying our posts :)
Loved your post! Cool Photos!!
This is first time I am visiting your website and I find this post very very useful thanks for giving such a great information..
Thanks Nathan, hope you have the chance to visit Sydney soon :)
You just got me super excited planning my trip to Sydney! !!
Thanks for sharing!
Awesome Mick, glad we could help with the planning and excitement! Have an awesome time in Sydney – safe travels :)
Hi Megan. Thanks for sharing these tips. I’m from Brisbane and often we think it is too pricey to really explore Sydney. Love the tips and the photos that you’ve shared. You’ve inspired me for my next holiday :)
You’re welcome Neil, glad we could help out with tips for your next trip! It’s one of those cities where it can be as expensive as you want it to be, but there are some fabulous things to do for free, for pretty cheap too :)
Have a great trip!
There are some really cool beaches in this country. You can learn to surf, kiteboard or scuba dive. The best place for water activity! Great article, simple and easy to follow!
Absolutely Eva, there are some fabulous beaches in Sydney in particular, and great opportunities for water-spots. Bondi being the most iconic of course :)
Glad you enjoyed the itinerary!
Thank for posting this online, really helpful. I will be visiting Sydney in May and will include some visit to the many street markets, farmers market, etc. that usually happen over the weekend. Do you have recommendation on which one would be best to visit. I love trinkets, knick-knacks, and local produce.
Thank you again.
Hi Julia, thanks for reaching out :) Paddy’s Markets is one of the best in Sydney – there are two locations, one in Haymarket and one in Flemington (check out the opening times for each here: https://paddysmarket.com.au/opening-times/) and it’s been running for 150 years, so definitely the most historic.
You’ve got food, fashion, knock-offs, and tourist souvenirs – literally everything here – it’s Sydney’s biggest, and has an awesome market atmosphere.
Have a fabulous trip!
Agreed! I followed this along with this post and it was helpful. Looking forward to my next trip to Australia to experience it like a local and following your travels!
Fabulous Jesse, I’m so glad our recommendations were helpful for you. Wishing you a wonderful time in Australia :)
really helpful artical.
I’m glad it was helpful Joseph :) Have a wonderful time in Sydney!
Amazing Sydney! Thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome – enjoy your time in Sydney!
A really great article, so much information about the interesting must-see spots in the city. I’m planning on staying in the CBD area but your article, helped me out a lot with my plans.
Thanks Molly, I’m glad it was helpful for you. Have an amazing upcoming trip!
Very useful tips Meg. I can’t wait to visit.
Thanks Arisha, I hope you enjoy your time in Sydney!
I’m currently in Sydney and folliwng some steps of your recommendations. It’s really usefull!!! Thanks Megan.
There is only one thing I like to say. Don’t book any tour through CEETIZ as advertisement pop-up in your blog. I booked an Excursion to the Blue Moutains & Visit to the Jenolan Caves departing from Sydney day tour on 2019/2/16. The confirmation said the meeting point was King Street Wharf -Lime St. and actually was Sydney Aquarium – 1 Wheat Rd. Fortunately I managed to catch the bus the last minute. The tour though is fatastic for lazy visitors like us.
Keep on writing, Megan!
Hi Teh, welcome to Australia! So glad to hear that you’re enjoying your time in Sydney; glad too that the post has been helpful for you :)
I would definitely provide feedback to CEETIZ about the incorrect address, because that’s something they would for sure want to fix. Who knows, maybe the pick up point recently changed and there’s been an oversight in not having updated it or something like that. But I would give them the heads up so it doesn’t happen to other people :)
So glad you did make your tour though! The Blue Moutains & Jenolan Caves is an incredible region!
Happy travels :)
I love this post! I am really happy to read this blog and it is very nice information
Thanks Priya! So glad the itinerary suggestions were helpful for you :) Happy travels.
Sydney is one of the global landmark of Australia; the view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge along with Opera House is bliss. Though it is a big city; it has lot of amazing things to do and lot of delicious eateries to hangout with friends. It has been more than 30 years I am living in Sydney and still can’t get of it.
Every time I read blogs on Sydney; it is a good feel. I am a migration agent in Australia and helps people in moving in and out of this country.
I will be glad to help anyone who comes here reading this.
Always great to hear from a Sydney local Kim, thanks for sharing your love of the city!
Thank you for sharing!! My husband and I are planning a trip to the Philippines and just discovered that adding 4 days in Sydney will make the flights $600 cheaper. I’ve never been to Australia and don’t by any means think that 4 days would be enough time to see everything, but do you think it would be a reasonable amount of time to see Sydney? We would be there in July, so winter. We love any opportunity to see wildlife but don’t really love zoos. We prefer to see animals in their natural habitat. We also love scuba diving, but I worry that it wouldn’t be warm enough – and Sydney isn’t really known for awesome diving anyway. What do you think?
You’re welcome Heather, I’m glad we could help :) I think 4 days is a really good introduction to Sydney – it won’t be warm enough for scuba diving, so maybe just stick to exploring the city and its surrounds. There’s more than enough to do so you definitely won’t be bored!
If you enjoy wildlife, being a big city, Sydney is largely zoos and wildlife parks as opposed to having a great deal of opportunity to see them in their natural habitat but you can try your luck with Euroka Clearing at Glenbrook, which is in the Blue Mountains and often sees eastern grey kangaroos. That’s about a 2.5 hour drive, so you would incorporate it into a day trip to the Blue Mountains. Featherdale Wildlife Park is only 45 minutes out, but still pretty much a zoo.
There’s a fabulous place south of Canberra called Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, but that’s a 3.5 hour drive from Sydney, so it’d be a day trip, and I would recommend renting your own car instead of trying do catch Sydney – Canberra buses because they take even longer and only drop you in the center of the city, which is a good 45 minutes out. Tidbinbilla is an incredible spot to see Kangaroos, emus, koalas, wallabies, kookaburras. It’s a long day trip from Sydney though, especially during winter when the days are shorter (you have from around 6.30 am – 6 pm of daylight), so you could consider spending an overnight in Canberra if that was something you wanted to do. Canberra is a much better destination than Sydney for authentic Australian wildlife viewing that’s not in a zoo, as it’s essentially a city built into the bush :)
I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions :)
Megan Claire, any idea why there are so many red roofs in Sydney?
Hi Don, not actually sure on that one, I expect it’s based on the materials that were available at the time. For most of the 19th century timber shingle, corrugated iron and slate roofs were more common, though they were often topped with a terracotta chimney pot :)
Thanks for reading!
Sydney is one of our favourite cities in the world! Just wandering through the parks, CBD, coastal walks, it’s all pretty amazing. We loved Geocaching in the city. It takes you through all these beautiful spots and shows you places you might have missed otherwise.
Having a picnic at the tip of the Royal Botanic Gardens (with a view of the Opera House and Bridge) was definitely one of our highlights. We did this on Australia Day and stuck around for the fireworks over the Opera House. Just perfect! Most importantly there is something or the other to see from any student accommodation Sydney.
Thats awesome Emma, so glad to hear you had an incredible time in Sydney! You’re right, the opportunities for just simply wandering around are incredible – I haven’t experienced the world of geocaching yet though, so will have to check it out when I get back to Sydney :)
Great tip on having a picnic at the tip of the Royal Botanic Gardens – especially on New Years!
Happy travels, and thanks for reading!
Hello, Meg Jerrard. Your Blog is very beautiful… Thank you for giving information regarding Sydney travel Spots. Sydney is one of the most beautiful places in the World.
Thank you Allen! So glad you enjoyed the post, totally agree that Sydney is a special place on the world stage :)