I recently went to Sydney for a short trip to see a concert at the Opera House. This was my third time traveling to Sydney and while I had previously done a lot of the common touristy things, there is so much to see and do in this city that we were able to fill three days with mostly new adventures. My last trip was back in 2012 too, so there had been a lot of new development over the past seven years.
We decided to do a lot of walking and sight-seeing, and avoid any expensive paid attractions so it ended up being a pretty good example of how you can enjoy your time in Sydney without spending heaps of money on things to do.
We arrived late on Saturday evening from Perth and went straight to our hotel to check in. We stayed near Darling Harbour as it is within walking distance to most things and provides easy access to the ferry network. After dropping off our luggage we went for a walk around the harbour and over to the Harbourside Shopping Centre which is open until 9pm. After a long day of flying we wanted a quick and filling meal, which we found at the food courts (I got a beef and salad wrap for $11). We also walked around the shopping centre noting that not much has changed since our last visit.
Darling Harbour puts on fireworks every Saturday over summer, so we walked up to the Pyrmont Bridge for a good view. There were so many people lined up along the waterfront I couldn’t believe how busy it was! When the fireworks started we thought we had the best view from the bridge however the wind started blowing all the smoke in our direction. If you are wanting to enjoy the fireworks I would suggest checking wind direction and using that to base your viewing location.
We had breakfast at the Darling Harbour Pancakes on the Rocks (there is also a restaurant actually at The Rocks).
We then walked over to the Chinese Garden of Friendship which only costs $6 to enter and the ticket allows re-entry all day long. The gardens are very beautiful, although there were spiderwebs everywhere so watch out above your head. These gardens were opened in 1988 and symbolise the bond between China and Australia.
We then walked from there to Paddy’s Markets which is just over the tram line in Haymarket. The items on sale are your usual market goods – t-shirts, sheepskin items, jewellery, phone accessories and cheap beauty products. However what was unique about it is how it kept going and going! There was aisle after aisle until you reach the back of the markets where there are fresh food grocers. We also used the bathrooms here and it looks like they are newly constructed.
As we were leaving we realised that there is actually a whole shopping mall above the markets called Market City. We walked up there to have a quick look, and they have a food court and some shops like a Converse Outlet.
We then left the markets and walked towards our hotel via George Street. They are currently doing a lot of roadworks in Sydney so most of the street was blocked off and it was rather noisy. We walked to World Square where we stopped in to see what was there. I brought some pyjamas from the Peter Alexander store and we saw the mardi gras steps and the chinese new year pig statue. There were some really nice looking bars but we decided to keep moving.
We stopped for lunch at the Westfield store where I got sushi from the food court (two rolls and water for $10). We then stopped in at the Kings Comics comic book store, before heading back to the hotel to drop off our shopping. After a quick break we walked to Barangaroo and went into Title book store and then the Bourke Street Bakery for hot chocolates.
When then walked to the Barangaroo Reserve which I mistakenly thought was just a short stroll up the waterfront. They are still constructing the Crown resort and the rest of the Barangaroo area, so you have to walk through construction zones and fenced off areas. It was really hot with not a lot of shade so it was sort of a bad idea, but the reserve is really pretty once you get there! There are heaps of little areas to take a seat or have a picnic and we even saw a few people taking a nap. There are some nice views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Goat Island and Balmain East. Maybe in a few more years it will be nice to walk all the way from King Street to the reserve.
We walked back to the restaurants near the wharf and stopped at All Hands Brewing House for some drinks before getting dinner at Belle’s Hot Chicken. If anyone has been to Hattie B’s in Nashville or any other hot chicken restaurant in America then you will find this place very familiar, however I think it was almost better than any place I ate at in the US. The tenders are soft and juicy and the mac and cheese is so tasty. They also do crinkle cut fries (the best type!) in huge portions.
On the walk back to the hotel we checked out Barangaroo House (it has really cool bowl shaped balconies) and Beer DeLuxe. I did over 17,000 steps this day.. so much walking.
We got breakfast at Caffe Amici, which was one of the few breakfast places I could find that was open nearby. It is a cute little Italian cafe and they serve very high quality food (I recommend the scrambled eggs and sausages). We then walked to Mrs Macquarie’s Point via Martin Place and the Botanic Gardens. For those who don’t know, the Channel 7 studios are located on Martin Place and the morning tv shows are filmed in front of a window looking out onto the street. On this morning I got to see the presenters reading their scripts!
The Botanic Gardens are quite pretty, however I think I am spoiled having recently visited some amazing gardens like the Denver Botanic Gardens, and so while it was a nice walk I wouldn’t put the gardens on the top of my must-do list. It was cool to go all the way around to the lookout where you can see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge and we also saw a navy ship in Woolloomooloo Bay.
We then walked back to the Westfield again for lunch this time getting a falafel wrap from Jimmy Grants and then we walked through the underground walkway to the Queen Victoria Building. This is a building I can’t believe I missed on my previous trips! Take the escalators all the way to the top and then look down over the balconies for the best view. Also check out the detail in the stained glass windows.
We then made it back to Darling Harbour and got ready for our concert (Death Cab for Cutie) at the Opera House. We took the ferry from Barangaroo to Circular Quay and waked around to the Opera Bar. This is one of our favourite places in Sydney, as it is a nice relaxed bar that looks out over Circular Quay. We shared a pepperoni pizza and the aranchini balls which were so tasty and were served quite quickly for a busy bar.
We then walked all the way around the Opera House which I think in previous years was all roped off. It is actually really interesting to look at the building close up as the roof is made from heaps of little tiles which you can’t tell from a distance. The show was really great, and the sound was amazing as you would expect from the specially designed venue! I would highly recommend either seeing a show that is on, or doing the tour so that you can see all around the inside of the building.
We took the ferry back after the show to Barangaroo which is really simple to get to (I think would be a lot easier than taking a taxi or an uber) plus you get to see the bridge and Luna Park all lit up at night. Overall I ended up doing 20,000 steps that day!
We were so impressed by our drinks from Bourke Street Bakery the first day, we decided to walk down there to get breakfast. I got a pain au raisin and a little dark chocolate and raspberry muffin to go with my cappuccino.
We then took the Fast Ferry to Manly. There is a fast ferry that leaves from Barangaroo however this was a bit confusing to work out online and by the time we got to the wharf the next ferry wasn’t leaving for over an hour. We ended up catching a normal ferry around to Circular Quay and then taking a different fast ferry which leaves every 20 mins. If you are planning on taking the ferry I recommend double checking in advance exactly what time and which wharf your ferry leaves from.
When we arrived we walked down the ‘Corso’ to Manly Beach and walked along Marine Parade which can take you all the way to Shelley Beach. There were heaps of people going for a swim as well as folks sitting on the benches enjoying the sunshine. We then walked back near the wharf to the 4 Pines Brewpub. It was lovely and breezy we sat here for an hour or so relaxing and had lunch which was so delicious!
We then caught the ferry back to Circular Quay and got an Uber out to Batch Brewing in Marrickville. This is the factory where they brew their beers and also have a small bar. It was really interesting to see a brewery in action (you have to walk past the machinery to go to the bathrooms) but it was also super warm. I recommend going when the weather is a bit cooler.
We then came back to Darling Harbour and did a final loop over Pyrmont Bridge before going to Beer DeLuxe for dinner. We shared a pizza again and I didn’t think it was possible but it was almost better than the one at the Opera Bar.
It was nice to have a somewhat more relaxed day where I only did 12,700 steps. We then had to pack up ready for a 6am wake up call and our flight home. We ended up timing the trip really well as the day we left it was starting to rain and for the rest of the week there were huge thunderstorms and flight cancellations, so we were very grateful about that!
What are your favourite things to do in Sydney?
Categories: Australia, New South Wales, Sydney
Manly is one of my favourite spots in Sydney, also the bars around the opera house. Looks like you had fun
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I’m visiting Sydney in November so love all the shopping and restaurant recommendations! Would you recommend Darling Harbour as an area to stay for a first timer?