Located on Australia’s east coast, Sydney offers sunny beaches, vibrant cultural scene, contemporary architecture, world heritage sites, acclaimed wine regions, and plenty of outdoor adventure opportunities. Besides being Australia’s largest city, Sydney is also its most visited. Sydney is a true metropolitan city of the 21st Century, with a blend of different cultures. The once colony of British exiles, Sydney has become the vibrant city it was destined to be over the past century, with its major attractions such as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The megacity is humble with its visitors yet offers them a glimpse of a perfect tomorrow’s world.
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror – The wide brown land for me!
Sandy beaches and sunny harbours have made Sydney a true holiday destination. It is also referred to as ‘The Harbour City’ and ‘The Emerald City’ for being a coastal metropolis. Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Tower Eye and the city’s many museums have created high regard in the minds of people all around the world. With contemporary architecture, love for art, palatable seafood, courteous hospitality, and hip culture, Sydney is a city that offers so much. We are excited to share the details of our trip and our recommendations with you!
What to see?
- Sydney Harbour Bridge — The Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks. Not only is it the largest steel arch bridge on the planet, but it also spans one of the globe’s finest natural harbours. Affectionately named the Coathanger by locals, it’s an intrinsic part of the city; you can walk or cycle across it and even climb to its peak for incredible views. The iconic bridge took eight years to build and opened in 1932. It’s made of 53,000 tonnes of steel and six million hand-driven rivets.The arch spans 503 meters, and the top is 134 meters above the water.
- Sydney Opera House, Botanic Garden, Mrs. Macquarie Chair and the Domain — Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, Sydney Opera house is Australia’s most famous landmark. Visually referencing a yacht’s sails, and located on the banks of the gorgeous Sydney Harbour, it opened in 1973, and comprises of multiple performance spaces for dance, concerts, opera and theatre. The unique architecture depicts huge shells or billowing sails and attracts visitors from all over the globe. The Sydney Opera house is your place to discover the best of performing arts and culture. Very close to the opera house is the enchanting Royal Botanic Garden, which is a tranquil oasis that sits on the edge of one of the world’s great natural harbours. You can also visit the Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, a seat carved into a stone cliff, where you can sit and gaze out at the harbor. You’ll enjoy spectacular views of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge from here.
- Visit Blue Mountains — As much as we love exploring Sydney, we also enjoy taking road trips and visiting areas outside the big city, so the Blue Mountains was the perfect getaway for us. The Blue Mountains are located ~90 minutes outside of Sydney, and they are known for dramatic scenery, steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests and waterfalls. The best way to get to Blue Mountains is to drive or visit by train. Sydney has the BEST public transportation, so we took the ferry from our hotel to Circular Quay, and the train from Central station to Katoomba station. The 1.5 hour train ride was convenient and beautiful.
The Blue Mountains get their unique color when the Eucalyptus oil droplets emitted from the forests combine with dust particles and water vapor, scattering short wavelength rays of light which are predominantly blue in color. The view of three Sisters sandstone formation from Echo point is spectacular. The legend says that the sisters rock formation represents three sisters who were turned to stone. You should definitely experience the Blue Mountains via the skyway, the cableway, the scenic walkway, as well as the hop-on hop-off bus. The cableway and skyway give you 360° views of the Blue Mountains, Katoomba Falls, Three Sisters, and Jamison Valley. It was amazing to glide between cliff tops and look through the glass floor of the skyway!
When is the best time to visit?
Sydney enjoys warm summers and mild winters, with even the record lows not dropping below freezing and summer highs regularly over 80 degrees. Cold season is from June until August while warm season is November until February. The seasons in Australia are completely opposite to North America. So if you are looking for a perfect vacation during the winter months in the United States, you don’t have to look any further.
- Spring months are from September to November, and it would be ideal to time your trip towards the end of Spring, so it is warm. This let’s you visit during the off peak season where you can get great deals on airfare and hotels and fewer tourists. We chose to visit in November during the Thansgiving break in the US, and we highly recommend this time of the year.
- Summer months are from December to February and the temperatures are in the mid-70’s F, but it is also the busiest time due to the holidays and warm weather, so expect a lot of tourists!
- Autumn months are from March to May and you’ll find fewer tourists and it is beautiful this time of the year, but it can be a bit cold.
- Winter months are from June to August, and it gets really cold, so definitely don’t recommend this time if you are planning on experiencing these beautiful places.
How to save money?
Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world, so travel to this destination needs to be planned well, so you can stay within your budget.
- Buy the OPAL card — First thing you want to get as soon as you land is an OPAL card. THis card allows you to use multiple forms of transportation — buses, light-rail, ferries and trains. You can buy an Opal card at most train stations, as well as newsagents and convenience stores. When putting money on them, don’t put too much – maybe $20 if you’re here for a few days. You can always add money as need to the card, but it is really hard to get your balance refunded if you don’t use it.
- Walk the bridge, don’t climb — If climbing the bridge is a bucket list item, go for it. There are several options to do this. BridgeClimb takes you on the top arch to the summit, where as the BridgeClimb Insider takes you on the inner arch to the top giving you the opportunity to climb through the heart of the Bridge for some really unique views within the Coathanger. The climb will cost you anywhere from $250-400. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars to climb, you can take a stroll across the Harbour Bridge, and you’ll see identical views for a fraction of the price! Less than halfway across the bridge you will reach Pylon Lookout. Here you can spend $13 and climb to the observation area 87 meters above sea level, were you’ll find the most amazing views of Sydney.
- Explore the streets with self-guided or free walking tours — Sydney’s streets are amusing as its major attractions and free walking tours are one way to traverse them to discover the city centre, Circular Quay and The Rocks.
- Weekend Transport Discounts — On Saturdays and Sundays, all-day travel on public transport will only cost $8.15, no matter how much you travel. This is a great day to head out the Blue Mountains or the beachside town of Port Stephens or take the ferry to Manly or Watsons Bay. On Sundays all travel is capped at just $2.70 no matter where you visit! That’s on all trains, buses, ferries and light rail. If you have a long trip planned, why not wait to do it on a Sunday?
“There’s an ease that I have living in Australia. The best things about Sydney are free: the sunshine’s free, and the harbour’s free, and the beach is free.” — Russell Crowe
Sydney is a cosmopolitan city surrounded by iconic beaches, world heritage sites, and acclaimed wine regions. With a unique blend of impressive skyline, picturesque harbour, iconic architecture and stretches of golden shores, it’s no wonder that Sydney’s been hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful cities. A vibrant destination that is both buzzing with high energy and effortlessly chilled out, you’ll have an unforgettable time discovering the different sides of the city. We were in Sydney only for 2 days on our way to New Zealand, but this city always something to see, do, and explore. So what are you waiting for?
Always remember… Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!