Last Updated on October 20, 2023
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! What I thought was going to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip, has since turned into THREE trips to Australia. I still get excited every time I see Sydney Harbour! Here’s my 7 day Sydney itinerary!
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7 Day Sydney Itinerary
Day 1 – Sydney Harbour
Day 2 – Bondi Beach
Day 3 – Blue Mountains
Day 4 – Darling Harbour
Day 5 – Ultimo
Day 6 – The Rocks
Day 7 – North Sydney or Northern Beaches
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. This 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. It’s a fairly easy going pace which isn’t too strenuous.
The climbs do go in any type of weather except thunderstorms. I had a climb cancelled because of a thunderstorm. If it’s something you really want to do I’d recommend booking for the start of the trip. That way 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
The Pylon Lookout has an exhibition about the history of the bridge. You can also climb to the top of one of the ‘towers’. It 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.
Royal Botanical Gardens
I love walking around the Royal Botanical Gardens. They located are right next to the Sydney Opera House and are FREE. 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!
How to get from Sydney to Bondi Beach
Sydney is huge. 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. Then take the 380 bus to Bondi, it takes around 30 minutes.
You can to buy an Opal transport card (available from 7/11) or use contactless payment. Simply ‘tap in’ when you get on the bus. 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 ($85 correct at time of writing). The groups are small and I was standing up on the board within the 2 hour lesson!
Bondi To Coogee Coastal Walk
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 it 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 then double backed to Bronte rather than continuing on to Coogee.
From Bronte we took bus 440 to Bondi JUNCTION (not back to the beach). 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 and are a popular day trip. Apparently the train goes there and some people drive. When I visited I opted for a Blue Mountains day tour to make sure I saw all the highlights. And I 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)!
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!
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), a bowling alley, 9D cinema, laser tag, a flight experience and more.
Australian National Maritime Museum
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.
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.
Wild Life, Sea Life & Madam Tussauds
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. 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.
Sydney Tower Eye
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 on a rainy day.
At the far back of the market is a fruit, vegetable and fish market. 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, and is FREE to visit.
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 free ones.
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!
The Rocks Discovery Museum
We stumbled into The Rocks Discovery Museum literally just to escape the rain. 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!
The Tea Cosy
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.
I’m pretty sure The Tea Cosy had the best homemade scones I’ve ever tasted! For $17 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!
If you didn’t want the expense of the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, another free 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 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. It 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 is pretty quick but t’s a fun experience! Jetboating around Sydney Harbour is fun too!
Another popular beach to visit is Manly Beach. I personally haven’t been to Manly, instead, I spent some time at Palm Beach in the Northern Beaches region of Sydney. It is around a 50 minute drive from the city centre.
Palm Beach is the filming location for the Australian soap opera ‘Home and Away’. However, even if you aren’t a fan of the show, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk has some cool views from the top.
Where To Stay in Sydney
Wake Up! Sydney
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. 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. They have various dorms up to 10 beds as well as private ensuite rooms. 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.
The Capsule Hotel
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: What It’s Like To Stay In A Capsule Hotel – Sydney, Australia! 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!
How to get from Sydney International Airport to Sydney city centre
After my annoyance of what happened on my last trip, 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!