Having lived in this harbourside oasis before making The Big Move 🇬🇧, I spent six years exploring Sydney’s postcard destinations as well as uncovering hidden gems 💎
The life of a Sydneysider can leave you feeling both excited and overwhelmed by the endless options of things to see and do. You can imagine the pressure one feels to deliver when your mates visit from out of town!
Here are my favourite hubs to explore that will offer a truly memorable experience for visitors, as well as newcomers and locals 💙
Circular Quay epitomises a Sydney postcard and is the world renowned host to spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks.
You’ve got the Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanical Gardens to the left, the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the right, and the iconic green and yellow ferries calling port from all the harbour’s hotspots. You might even spot a seal sun baking on the Opera House steps!
A day in Circular Quay will keep you busy, but it’s certainly achievable. Food options on the doorstep of the wharves are overpriced and average in quality, so I recommend branching out a bit to nearby The Rocks for a meal, or relax in the Royal Botanical Gardens around the corner for a picturesque picnic.
🚆 Circular Quay
⏲️ If you only do one thing: sip a drink by the water and watch the sunset at Opera Bar
🤯 Sydney Cove is the founding place for the European settlement of Australia where the First Fleet landed in Port Jackson on 26 January 1788.
Just a short stroll from Circular Quay and at the doorstep of Sydney Harbour Bridge is a European pocket from the settlement days. Wander through this time capsule’s cobbled lanes by day and enjoy Australia’s oldest pubs by night.
For such a compact spot, there’s plenty to explore including modern art and museums. A personal favourite are The Rocks Foodies Market on Fridays and The Rocks Markets every weekend – this is where you’ll find the perfect souvenir!
With a favourable climate year round, any time is a good time to visit. But if you’re after something special, check out Vivid Sydney in May and June when central Sydney becomes a playground festival of light and sound where art meets technology.
🚆 Circular Quay
⏲️ If you only do one thing: indulge your sweet tooth at Pancakes On The Rocks
🤯 The Rocks has come a long way since its days of being home to rowdy, raucous settlements of convicts, soldiers, sailors and street gangs!
It’s time to cross the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Lower North Shore 🐨
Easily spend a whole day or entire weekend exploring this pocket of paradise. Start with the Lavender Bay to Milson’s Point Circuit Walk, then get your adrenaline rush at Luna Park’s harbourside amusement rides, and swim by sunset at the North Sydney Olympic Pool. If you have the energy left, definitely consider your trip back to the city via the pedestrian walk across the bridge.
Another favourite haunt are the Kirribilli Markets happening every other weekend. Here you can enjoy international food stalls, live music, and pick up fashion, art and antique bargains that the cashed up locals wear once and sell here.
🚆 Milson’s Point
⏲️ If you only do one thing: explore Wendy’s Secret Garden
🤯 A plaque on Olympic Drive commemorates a convict transport ship’s arrival in 1814 after an outbreak of typhus, of which the epidemic killed 36 convicts, including the surgeon, First and Second Mates, boatswain, two seamen and four of the guard.
Anyone will tell you that Balmoral Beach is one of Sydney’s best beaches. Outside of what you’d expect from a typical Aussie beach – i.e. surfing – here you’ll find little to no waves at all.
Being one of the city’s cleanest and idyllic harbour beaches, you’re more likely to find people leisurely swimming, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling or simply wandering down the boardwalk in the sun gelato in hand.
Rocky Point Island is the perfect picnic spot, but there’s plenty more grassy areas behind the beach, as well as plenty of eateries to choose from. A personal favourite is getting coffee from The Boathouse Balmoral and fish ‘n’ chips from Bottom of the Harbour.
🚍 from Wynyard or Taronga Zoo
⏲️ If you only do one thing: jump into the enclosed swimming area from the wharf
🤯 The beach was named in honour of Balmoral Castle, a large estate house in Scotland known as Royal Deeside and a favourite summer royal residence.
The Spit to Manly walk
This scenic coastal hike offers views and sites worth drooling over – at least, that’s my take on the name! 💦
In only 3.5hrs, or a leisurely 5hrs, covering 10km (6.2 miles) you’ll discover ancient Aboriginal rock carvings, sub-tropical bushland, secret beaches and more. The path itself consists of paved walkways, boardwalks, bush trails as well as stretches of sand and is easy for any level of fitness to undertake, despite some steep sections.
En route ‘To Manly’, as it’s helpfully signposted, there are several points of interest for a stop, picnic or a swim along the way. Some of my favourites are Ellery’s Punt Reserve, Clontarf Reserve, Castle Rock Beach, Grotto Point Aboriginal Engraving Site, and views from Crater Cove and Dobroyd Head.
🚍 from Wynyard
⏲️ If you only do one thing: pack swimmers!
🤯 The Spit Bridge was completed in 1958, replacing an old wooden bridge, and is a ‘bascule bridge’ which allows its middle section to raise to let ships to pass through.
When asked about Sydney’s beaches, Bondi will most likely come to mind but Manly will be close behind. You can easily spend a day here, but a few hours is also achievable if all you want to do is look around.
The first things you’ll notice is the sheer size of this stretch of sand, the tree-lined promenade, volleyballers in summer, surfers in the swell all year round, and people milling about the pedestrianised centre of the Corso.
Some of my favourite things to do on weekends are to enjoy the ferry ride from Circular Quay, browse the Manly Market Place and local boutiques for something unique, as well as spend half a day swimming and snorkelling at Shelley Beach (no waves!) just a 10min walk away.
⛴️ from Circular Quay
⏲️ If you only do one thing: sign up for a lesson at Manly Surf School
🤯 Manly is the birthplace of surfing in Australia with early forms of the sport emerging as early as 1908, and the inaugural World Championships were hosted here in 1964.
Also known by its famous alter ego ‘Summer Bay’ from Home and Away, Palm Beach is situated at the farthest flung reaches of the Northern Beaches and its quiet privacy attracts local and international celebrities for their choice of Sydney getaway.
Palm Beach’s other claim to fame is the stunning birds-eye view of the beach and Broken Bay from the top of Barrenjoey Headland. No stay in Sydney is complete without a snap taken from this Instaworthy spot, as well as in front of the lighthouse.
There’s two paths to the top – one longer and more winding, the other shorter and steeper. It doesn’t really matter which way you go up, as long as you take the other path on the way down to get both perspectives 👌
🚍 from Wynyard
⏲️ If you only do one thing: catch the ferry across the water to the next region north of Sydney – the Central Coast!
🤯 Palm Beach gets its name in the 1790s due to the cabbage tree palms growing in the area.
No Sydney listicle would be complete without a nod to Bondi, Sydney’s – if not Australia’s – most iconic beach.
Here is where you’ll indulge your ‘Aussie beach getaway’ bucket list – gelato in one hand, a cocktail in the other, sand between your toes and dried saltwater in your hair.
Once you’ve got that out of your system, remember to check out the graffiti wall, Bondi Icebergs ocean pool, weekend markets, open air cinema in summer, and Sculptures by the Sea outdoor exhibition during every October.
🚆 Bondi Junction
⏲️ If you only do one thing: branch out and attempt the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk
🤯 Bondi Beach’s busiest summer days expect to attract up to 40,000 beach goers.