For me Sydney Australia was THE bucket list destination. A family friend had climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and as a kid I thought it was the coolest thing ever! I knew I had to do it too! Well what I thought was going to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip, has since turned into THREE trips to Australia and I still get excited every time I see Sydney Harbour! On my last visit, it rained nearly EVERY day I was in Sydney, so I’ve come up with 2 different Sydney Itineraries, a 3 day itinerary for sunny weather and one for rainy day activities!
Sydney Itinerary 3 Days – Sunny Day Itinerary
Of course I hope your trip to Sydney has the typical Australian warm and sunny weather so here are some of my favourite outdoor things to do in the city!
Of course you HAVE to check out Sydney Harbour/Circular Quay! It’s home to the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera house, it wouldn’t be a trip to Sydney without seeing them! Some people say it’s expensive and overrated, but I love the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, I’ve done it twice now!
If you don’t want to do the original full 3hr 30 climb (1332 steps), they do offer a sampler climb which is shorter and only goes up the lower arch (556 steps). Or you can do an express climb which literally goes the fastest way to the top (1002 steps). Climbs can be done during the day or the night, I wouldn’t say one is better than the other, they are both good in their own way.
In the day time you obviously get the full view of the harbour but at night everything is lit up so that’s cool to see as well (I did my night climb during Vivid Sydney and they had a retro dance floor at the very top!). You are continually connected to the bridge at all times and it’s a fairly easy going pace which isn’t too strenuous.
The climbs do go in any type of weather except thunderstorms (yep I had a climb cancelled because of it, if it’s something you really want to do I’d recommend booking for the start of the trip because if it does get cancelled they’ll rebook you on another day free of charge or you’ll receive a refund). They’ll equip you accordingly for the weather, with sun hats, winter hats, gloves, rain jackets, waterproof trousers, fleeces etc. If you do the full tour, participants receive a free hat, a certificate, a group photo (individual photos cost extra) and a voucher for free entry to the Pylon Lookout.
The Pylon Lookout has an exhibition about the history of the bridge, but you can also climb to the top of one of the ‘towers’ to give you a different perspective of the bridge. If you don’t want to climb the full bridge, this is definitely a more budget friendly option at $15 for an adult.
Another option is to walk across the bridge! There’s a special fenced off section for pedestrian traffic, keeping you completely separate from the vehicle traffic and trains. It’s popular with joggers and there were security guards dotted along the bridge in various places. I actually think some of the best views of Sydney Harbour can be found from ‘the other side’ of the bridge looking back at the Sydney Opera House (it took until my 3rd trip to realise this!). When you exit the bridge via the steps, there’s a nice coffee shop at the bottom!
While you’re on this side of the harbour, Luna Park is an historic theme park which opened in 1935 and was based on Coney Island amusement park in the USA. You can wander around for free but the rides and attractions are ticketed. The big clown face thing at the entrance is creepy but it’s very much part of the Luna Park ‘look’! Make sure you check the Luna Park website for opening times.
Rather than walk back across the bridge or get the train, a ferry runs from right outside Luna Park from Milsons Point to Circular Quay. The journey takes like 10 seconds (not accurate) and costs $7.40 for a one way ticket but it’s a fun experience! Jetboating around Sydney Harbour is fun too!
I love walking around the Royal Botanical Gardens that are right next to the Sydney Opera House and are FREE (yay free stuff!). There’s a land train that will give you a tour for a fee. It’s also one of only a handful of places where you can get both the bridge and the Opera House in the same shot! I’ve seen giant fruit bats in the park and cockatoos, so make sure you look up in the trees!
Getting from Sydney to Bondi Beach
Sydney is huge and I think a lot of people get caught out by how long it actually takes to get to Bondi Beach…it’s a bit of a trek! I found the best way is to go to Museum station at the south side of Hyde Park and then take the 380 bus to Bondi, it takes around 30 minutes.
Between 7am – 7pm, Monday – Friday some of the buses are pre pay only so you’ll need to buy an Opal transport card (similar to an Oyster Card in London). If travelling from Museum, the 7-11 opposite sell the cards, they’ll ask how much you want to put on it, I had no idea (I hadn’t done my research…it had changed from 10 years previously!) but $10 covered the return journey and gave us a little left over. Simply ‘tap in’ when you get on the bus and then ‘tap off’ when you get off and the fare is calculated and deducted off the card. Check the TransportNSW website for more information on fares and timetables.
I had my very first surf lesson EVER while at Bondi Beach (back in 2008). I used ‘Let’s Go Surfing‘ and had a 2 hour lesson ($95 correct at time of writing in 2018). The groups are small and I was standing up on the board within the 2 hour lesson!
Enjoy a walk past the Bondi Beach mural wall, towards the Bondi Icebergs swimming pool to begin the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. The full walk is 6km (just over 3 miles) which takes around 3 hours. I only walked the Bondi to Bronte section which is only 2km but still took nearly 2 hours with photo stops and a fish and chip break once we reached Bronte! This walk was one of my Sydney highlights! We carried on a little past Bronte to see Waverley Cemetery, a HUGE cemetery on top of a cliff overlooking the sea but double backed to Bronte rather than continuing on to Coogee.
From Bronte we took bus 440 to Bondi JUNCTION (not back to the beach) and then got the train from there back into the centre of Sydney.
OK so the Blue Mountains aren’t IN Sydney but they are easily reached from the city. Apparently the train goes there, some people drive, but when I visited I opted for a Blue Mountains day tour to make sure I saw all the highlights and didn’t have the worry of getting lost!
The mountains are actually blue! It’s to do with the Eucalyptus trees! Our tour stopped at several different lookout points, at one stop we had the opportunity to walk a short distance along the rim of the canyon. We had lunch at a little village called Leura before continuing on to see the ‘Three Sisters‘ rock formation which has an aboriginal legend attached to it, which says why the rocks are in that particular shape.
The Scenic World attraction is a really fun way to experience the Blue Mountains. There are various cable cars including one that has a glass floor (plus a ‘solid’ option for those that don’t want the floor to ‘disappear’ under their feet)! And my personal favourite was the Scenic Railway, the steepest scenic railway in the world with a 128% (52 degree) incline! The railway goes through a tunnel in the cliff, down to the rainforest floor. Since I visited, passengers now have the chance to change their seat position on the train, they can have it in the original position, leaning further forward (to a 64 degree incline) or ‘lay it back’ which is a cool addition!
Sydney Itinerary 3 Days – Rainy Day Itinerary
Rain happens, so it’s always nice to have a plan B! This Sydney itinerary has some ideas for indoor activities!
I love Darling Harbour. It was kind of our go to place on all of my stays just because it was closer than Circular Quay to our accommodation. As well as being a nice place on a sunny day, lots of play areas, places to sit etc, it has lots of indoor attractions! The Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe has good breakfasts and amazing hot chocolate!
The Harbourside Shopping Centre has lots of shops (including places to buy souvenirs!), restaurants (such as Hard Rock Cafe which overlooks the harbour and has an outside deck for outdoor dining) and a bowling alley, 9D cinema, laser tag, a flight experience and more.
The main building of the Australian National Maritime Museum is FREE to visit, yay! If you want to visit the battleships docked in the harbour or the special exhibits, you have to pay a separate fee ($32 for an adult if you choose the ‘big ticket’ which includes everything). The Kay Cottee exhibit in the free area was really interesting, she was the first woman to circumnavigate the world solo and we were able to have a look around her boat.
On the opposite side of the harbour is Wild Life zoo, Sea Life aquarium and Madam Tussauds. I have been to both Wild Life and Sea Life and they are great rainy day activities. Don’t plan on holding a koala, apparently it’s illegal in New South Wales, so for that experience you’ll have to cross the border into Queensland. I find Madam Tussauds around the world to be a bit hit and miss…I’m not great on my celebrities so I spend half of the time being like ‘who’s that?!?!’ I mention them altogether, because tickets can be bought as part of a package, saving some cash. For example one attraction (purchased online) is $35, 2 attractions are $50, 3 are $60 and a package of 4 is $70.
The 4th attraction isn’t actually located in Darling Harbour, is the Sydney Tower Eye, an 11 minute walk away. I went up in the rain but then the weather cleared in time for sunset, however if you do experience BAD weather (heavy rain, white out, thunderstorms, strong wind…determined by the management) then you get to return for free within 7 days! Tickets include entry to the observation deck 250m above the streets and entrance to the 4D cinema.
Paddy’s Market & The Powerhouse Museum
Paddy’s Market is THE place to go if you want to pick up cheap Sydney souvenirs! It’s crazy, huge and quite overwhelming but it’s a great place to hide from the rain. At the far back of the market is a fruit, vegetable and fish market and if you go back out on to the street and then go ABOVE the market, there is a large shopping centre with ‘proper’ shops, restaurants and an arcade complete with bumper cars and laser tag!
We spent HOURS inside the Powerhouse Museum which is located just down the street from Paddy’s Market. At $15 for adult admission, we thought the price was a bargain considering how long we spent inside. It’s a museum all about applied arts and sciences. The hands on science experiment area was fun, kids will love The Wiggles exhibit (read as…’I loved The Wiggles exhibit’…), the interactive digital ‘Lab’ was cool, the ‘Interface: people, machine, design’ exhibit was interesting…all about things like the evolution of computers, iPods etc. Other exhibitions include space, steam, transport, Locomotive No. 1 (New South Wales’ very first steam train) and EgoLogic: climate change to name a few. Some exhibitions do have an additional fee but we just stuck to the ones included with the main entrance fee.
Rain or no rain, you can’t miss out on The Rocks area of Sydney, this is where the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb is located but it’s a really nice area with cobbled streets and little buildings, it was the first European settlement in Australia!
We stumbled into The Rocks Discovery Museum literally just to escape the rain and I thought it was really interesting and a bargain, it’s FREE! There are old artefacts from the area and lots of displays are interactive information. I found myself being hooked to the video documentaries that are played on a loop upstairs. There’s over an hour’s worth of footage on various topics, it’s great to see how the area has changed over the years!
We hid for hours in The Tea Cosy tearoom. Now being English I like to think I’m a pro when it comes to cream teas and I’m pretty sure The Tea Cosy had the best homemade scones I’ve ever tasted! For $15 you can have a Devonshire Tea which comes with 2 homemade (WARM) scones, a choice of jam (with amazing flavours such as ‘rhubarb, raspberry and vanilla’ and ‘pawpaw, lime and passionfruit’) and a drink of your choice, just like the jam the list of teas is impressive, both black and herbal tea in flavours such as ‘Australian chamomile and lavender’ and ‘Nana’s apple pie’. Each tea pot is ‘dressed’ with a cute tea cosy! Thank you to Helen from Differentville for the recommendation!
Where To Stay in Sydney
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Being a major city, there are accommodation options for all different budgets. Now my budget isn’t huge. On my first trip I stayed at Wake Up! Sydney in a 4 person dorm room with a shared bathroom (from $39 per person). As a group of 3 travellers we had the room to ourselves. On my 2nd trip we stayed at the same hostel but in a twin room with a shared bathroom ($69 per ROOM). They have various dorms up to 10 beds ($35 per person) as well as private ensuite rooms ($154 per room). It’s around a 45 – 50 minute walk to Sydney Harbour, Darling Harbour is more like a 15 minutes walk. It is right opposite the ‘Central’ train station.
On my 3rd trip, I stayed at The Capsule Hotel which is a similar style to the Japanese pod hotels. These were around $55 per person per night but you had the luxury of your own mini private space with keycard access. The pods were complete with private power outlets and a mini safe. You can read my full review of the experience in the post below! The Capsule Hotel is a 7 minute walk from Darling Harbour and 30 minutes from Sydney Harbour…that 20 minutes makes all the difference after a long day of sight seeing!
Getting from Sydney International Airport to Sydney city centre
After my annoyance of what happened on my last trip when we got stuck in traffic and ended up paying $90AUD for a taxi from Sydney Airport to the city centre, I no longer recommend getting a taxi, even if there are a few of you travelling (the taxi used to work out cheaper than the train for a group of 3).
The train is so much cheaper and really easy to navigate. A one way adult fare is $18.70 and it stops at various stops in the city centre. The train runs every 15 minutes. It does work in a U shaped loop, the last stop being Town Hall before it double backs.
If possible, my advice would be to make a note of where the stations are around you. We were closest to Town Hall Station but saved 10 minutes on the train by just walking an extra 1 minute to Museum which is one of the first stops. The Airport Link website is really helpful.
Sydney is a great base for visiting other places in Australia or New Zealand, whether you want to road trip between Brisbane and Sydney, fly to Queenstown NZ for a few days of adrenaline filled fun or head into the centre of Australia to see the mighty Uluru!
Hopefully I have given you some ideas on how to spend 3 days in Sydney! Obviously these itineraries could be joined together or mixed and matched for longer trips, whether you are travelling to Sydney for 5 days or 7! I have done some of the rainy day activities on sunny days, so you really don’t have to wait for bad weather! Have any questions? Let me know!
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Disclosure: Please note some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking and it comes at no extra cost to you! As always, opinions are my own.