Sydney is such an expansive city that seeing all of it in two days is virtually impossible. With so much to see and so much to do, you probably won’t be able to experience Sydney in all it’s glory but you can get a glimpse of some of the staples that the metropolis has to offer without getting overwhelmed. Dive into this two-day itinerary if you’re planning a quick trip to the city. Be prepared for a lot of walking and a lot of coffee though.
You’ll find most of the spots below (Royal Botanic Garden, The Rocks, Darling Harbour and Circular Quay) in the city center which means they’re all walking distance from each other and easily accessible via public transport. Here’s everything you can pack into Day 1.
1. Head to the Royal Botanic Garden
Start your day with a stroll around the Royal Botanic Garden and take in the diversity of nature. An amalgam of nature and science, you’ll find a stunning variety of flowers, plants, trees and everything in between in the heritage-listed 30-hectare botanical garden. As you meander through the gardens you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Sydney Harbour and Opera House.
2. Have coffee and breakfast with a view
Best cafes in the city for coffee and breakfast:
- The Grounds in the City
- Paramount Coffee Project
- Single O
- Creperie Suzette
- MCA Cafe
- Gumption by Coffee Alchemy
- Skittle Lane
3. Walk along the harbour for stunning city views
Best lookout spots in the CBD:
- Observatory Hill Lookout
- Cahill Walk Lookout
- Pylon Lookout
- Copes Lookout
- Berrys Bay Lookout
- Campbells Cove
4. Explore the Art Gallery of New South Wales
Museums and galleries in the CBD:
- Powerhouse Museum
- Museum of Sydney
- Australian Museum
- Justice and Police Museum
- Hyde Park Barracks
- The Rocks Discovery Museum
- Sydney Jewish Museum
5. Take a walk along The Rocks
The Rocks is a neighbourhood of historic laneways on the footsteps of Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s also where you’ll find most of the city’s food, shopping and pubs.
Things to do in The Rocks
- Shop local at The Rocks Market
- Hire a bike for a tour around the harbour
- Head to the iconic Glenmore Hotel for 180 degree city views
- Indulge your sweet tooth at Pancake on The Rocks
- Discover hidden laneways
6. Take in all the views at Darling Harbour
Attractions in Darling Harbour:
- SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
- Australian National Maritime Museum
- WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo
- Madame Tussauds Sydney
7. Have lunch at Aria
Other recommended harbourside restaurants:
- Quay Restaurant
- Bar Patrón
- Cafe Sydney
- Saké Restaurant
- Eastbank Cafe, Bar and Pizzeria
8. Hop on the Ferry to Manly
Taking the ferry to a beach is non negotiable. It’s a Sydney rite of passage that never gets old. One of the best ways to explore Sydney’s coastline up close, it’s hard to beat the views from the deck of a ferry. Here are a few quick trips from Circular Quay for a taste of the action.
Quick ferry trips from Circular Quay:
- Circular Quay to Manly — 30 minutes
- Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island — 30 minutes
- Circular Quay to Parramatta — 30 minutes
- Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo — 12 minutes
- Circular Quay to Cremorne Point — 10 minutes
9. Check out other beaches in the vicinity
Beaches near Manly:
- Shelly Beach — 15 minutes walk
- Little Manly Beach — 18 minutes walk
- Freshwater Beach — 13 minutes walk
- Collins Flat Beach — 34 minutes
10. Take a dip in the iconic Bondi Icebergs pool
Chances are you already know about the iconic Bondi beach. Locals either love it or love to hate it but it’s certainly a Sydney staple to be visited. If you can spare some time, dip your toes in the Bondi Icebergs pool. The view is unmatched and a true bucket list experience.
11. Do a short coastal walk
Sydney is famous for its coastal walks and there are so many options around the city to relax your mind and soak up the sun. You’ll be hard pressed to find another major city in the world that offers this kind of proximity and accessibility to nature.
Head to the Fairfax Track for an 18 minute walk loop or the Queenscliff to South Curl Curl Beach which would take about an hour. If you’re up for something more challenging, the 3-hour Manly to Spit walk will take you through the gorgeous Sydney Harbour National park and past some of Sydney’s most scenic beaches.
A bit further away from the city but still very accessible via public transport, you’ll find a number of exciting spots to hit around Darling Square and further ahead in Alexandria. Find all the souvenirs and Aussie goods for cheap at Paddy’s Markets and grab delicious dumplings, ramen and more in Chinatown. For a moment of pause, head to the Chinese Garden of Friendship and be amazed by all the picturesque views.
11. Wake up early and get all the furry cuddles at Taronga Zoo
Taronga Zoo is easily accessible by the ferry at Circular Quay and a great spot to visit with family. Once there, you can catch the free sky safari, see giraffes, chimps and koalas up close, see the bird show, buy a souvenir and take lots of pictures.
12. Discover Paddy’s Markets
Paddy’s Market is the city is the spot to go to for Aussie gifts and souvenirs. With over 1000 stalls on-site you’re likely to go back with more than you came looking for. From clothes to cosmetics, footwear to fruit and vegetables, music to jewellery, gadgets and more, it’s the one-stop shop for all your needs.
13. Explore Chinatown
Right around the corner from Paddy’s Market, you’ll find the beloved Chinatown. Grab all the Asian treats you want or head to the entertainment complex for some fun. You can also grab traditional Chinese medicines and herbs or stay over for their night markets decked up with lanterns and a dizzying variety of food stalls.
14. Visit Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden
Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden is one of the city’s worst kept secrets but an indelible part of Sydney’s overall firmament. The ‘hidden’ spot in Lavender Bay offers exceptional views of the city and is the perfect spot for a lazy picnic in the sun. The story behind the garden gives it an added layer of beauty. Following the passing of her husband, artist Brett Whiteley, a grief-stricken Wendy began clearing and creating a garden which resembled a giant painting. It’s since become one of the most beautiful public areas in Sydney and a must-visit all year round.
15. Check out the iconic State Theatre
Sydney is home to many incredibly theatres. If you enjoy theatre we highly recommend catching a show here, but if you can’t spare the time, it’s still worth having a walk around to take in the history behind these incredible spaces. Some you can visit in the vicinity include:
- Opera House
- Capitol Theatre
- Sydney Lyric Theatre
- Theatre Royal
- Enmore Theatre
16. Grab lunch at The Grounds
We’re huge fans of The Grounds here at Secret Sydney. It’s a cafe, roastery, garden, market and restaurant all rolled into one industrial space. It’s also one of Australia’s most Instagrammable spots and breathtaking day or night. They also do exciting themes every few months which make for a picture-perfect snapshot.
Read all about it here.
17. Watch a sunset from the Sydney Tower Eye
Best sunset spots:
- Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Royal Botanic Garden
- Observatory Hill, Millers Point
- Bradley’s Head, Mosman
- Jeffrey St. Wharf, Kirribilli
- Dudley Page Reserve, Dover Heights
18. Have a drink at the Opera Bar
The Opera Bar possibly has the most envied spot of all bars in the city. Located on the footsteps of the Opera House with the Harbour Bridge in full view, it’s the spot to go to for a drink and bite. There’s also live entertainment on the venue and heaters to warm up around when the weather is colder.
19. Head to Kings Cross for a taste of Sydney’s nightlife
You’ll probably hear a lot about Sydney’s nightlife once you’re in the city in that it doesn’t exist and it’s a major gripe for the younger folks who want to head out and paint the town red. But if you know where to go, there’s surprisingly a lot going on.
Best pubs in Kings Cross:
- Chester White
- Crane Bar
- Kings Cross Hotel
20. Enjoy free fireworks at Darling Harbour on Saturday nights
21. Finish your day with a walk by the harbour
After two days of exploring and walking around, there’s no better way to finish off your trip than a quick stroll around the harbour. All the icons lit up at night and the crowds at bay just give the place a different vibe that’s worth experiencing. Little tip: Head to Luna Park for a 360 degree view of the city at night. Thank us later.
For transportation options click here.