Ultimate Sydney Itinerary for 2 to 5 Days

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Australia’s oldest city was founded by the British in the late 18th century as a penal colony, but trust us, a lot has changed since then! We’re here to help you nail out your Sydney itinerary with the best the city has to offer.

Sydney is Australia’s most iconic travel destination. The capital of New South Wales is bustling, busy, and full of famous tourist attractions, museums, and beaches.

There’s so much to fit into a Sydney itinerary, especially if it’s your first time in the city.

Our Sydney trip plan gives you three full days to explore, starting with the popular Sydney Harbor and moving out to the beaches and coastline.

Of course, you can spend much longer than three days, so we’ve added a few of our favorite day trips too!

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Australia (Travel Guide)

Ultimate Sydney Itinerary

Sydney Australia photographed by a helicopter.

If it’s your first time in the city, then the first day of your Sydney itinerary has to begin in the most famous area.

If you’ve flown in from anywhere (yes, Sydney is remote!), you’ll probably have spent your first day in bed.

Get your first proper morning in the city off to a good start with a substantial Aussie breakfast and some coffee in Circular Quays.  

Sydney Explorer HOHO Bus

Sydney Explorer HOHO bus Sydney Australia

This has always been one of my favorite ways to see a city. Although not always the cheapest option, you get to stay above ground and on the top of the double-decker buses you get a perspective of the city you cannot find elsewhere.

They take you to the best places the city has to offer and I have some amazing city visits by utilizing these buses in many cities in Europe and the United States.

Take advantage of the Ultimate Sydney Arrival Package or the Big Bus Sydney and Bondi Hop-on Hop-off Tour to maximize your time in the city.

Day 1: Sydney Trip Plan

Explore the Harbor Area

Sydney Opera House - Harbour Area.

Once you’re fueled up on smashed avocados and flat whites, it’s time to explore the Harbor Area.

Many people don’t know that Sydney Harbour is actually a naturally occurring landmark and boasts being the most beautiful natural harbor in the world.

Although there are over 150 miles of shoreline the most popular areas are the landmarks of the Royal Botanical Gardens and the beautiful Sydney Opera House.

Furthermore, you may take a ferry ride across the harbor to enjoy some great restaurants that are situated right on the beach.

This is an efficient way of navigating the harbor because it contains more than 30 mi.² of water and is much more convenient than trying to walk around the shoreline.

With so many spots to stop and visit around the harbor, make sure to give yourself ample time to explore.

Top recommended tours:

Royal Botanic Gardens

The view from the Royal Botanic Gardens with the Sydney Opera House in it.

While it’s still morning (that means before it gets hot!), take the chance to stroll through the fresh air and open spaces of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Located right on the edge of the water, next to the Opera House, it’s a lovely place to take in the city’s skyline and admire plants from around the world.

The 74 acre Royal Botanical Gardens were founded in 1816 and house some of Sydney’s most beautiful green spaces.

The park is grouped into 18 different spaces that include spectacular flora such as the Succulent Garden, and Palace Rose Garden, to name a few.

The park hosts several events throughout the year and the gardens are very popular as a wedding venue. You can pack a picnic just watch out for the birds.

The local foul have been helping themselves to picnic food for years and are not wary of people. Even at that though, it’s a lot of fun, especially for kids, to see these beautiful birds come so close and act so spry.

The park that holds the gardens is free and has many trails and walking paths that take you some amazing displays of flowers and plants.

To top it all off, you get some pretty amazing views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge from the various lookouts in the garden. This was a highlight for us and it shouldn’t be missed.

Top recommended tours:

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Walking on the path that leads beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia. Cityscape of Sydney behind.

Sydney Harbor Bridge is one of the most impressive feats of engineering you’ll find in Sydney.

You can walk all the way across this iron and steel monster from the harbor to the other side of the river in around 20 minutes.

A better option though, is a Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure and a thrill, join a tour that takes you right up into the high supports of the bridge for epic views over the harbor.

You are harnessed up and led to the top of the bridge, so it’s not great if you’re scared of heights, of course. Book in advance for the best time slots.

Top recommended tours:

Pylon Lookout

Sydney Harbour Bridge seen up close from the top of the Pylon Lookout.

Of course, the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re scared of heights or traveling on a tight budget (it’s not cheap).

Another less expensive option is to head to the top of Pylon Lookout, which is found at the harbor side end of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Pylon Lookout offers incredible views over the harbor, and for a much more modest entrance fee.

Top recommended tours:

Sydney Observatory

Sydney Observatory

While you’re by the bridge, it’s always worth taking a look around the intriguing Sydney Observatory, located on the hilltop next to the bridge.

The observatory is now a science museum, but it dates back to the mid 19th century. The grassy areas around the observatory offer fantastic views over the Sydney Harbor Bridge too.

Top recommended tours:

The Rocks

The Rocks Sydney Australia

The narrow streets and historic buildings clustered around the harbor and the bridge are known as The Rocks. For a first time Sydney itinerary, this area is a must-visit.

For starters, it’s one of the oldest areas in the city, and much of the architecture is very Victorian in design.

Secondly, it’s home to The Rocks Market, an open-air market packed with local craft stalls and fantastic food stands where you can fuel up after a long morning.

Top recommended tours:

Spooky Night Tour of The Rocks

The Rocks Sydney Cadmans Cottage
The famed Cadman’s Cottage

The Rocks is made up of the original city center that was colonized by the British that first arrived in 1788. The area is known for its dark past as it was built specifically for the convicts being sent over from Britain.

If you messed up in Britain, you were put on a boat to a far off place to pay your penance. People were sent to Australia for crimes as petty as stealing a loaf of bread.

We decided that a wander on our own wouldn’t give us the atmosphere we were looking for so we joined up with I’m Free Walking Tours for a night tour of The Rocks.

We started at the famous Cadman’s cottage, the home of the man that guarded the port. Today his house sits inland, but when the colony was first established, it sat right on the water.

From there we spent a solid hour and a half touring the most famous and not so famous areas of The Rocks district.

She told us the history, shared the stories of how it grew and then declined. She told us stories about some of the people that lived here which gave a fascinating insight into what it was like for these people to arrive in a new land.

We were not spared the gruesome stories of murders, lynchings and ghosts that accompany the area either.

Lastly, we were told of the efforts to preserve the area, how it was almost demolished to build high rise apartments and then how it became a protected area of Sydney.

The area has a lot of charm and most of the buildings are preserved in their original appearances.

Museum of Sydney

Museum of Sydney

Spend your afternoon learning more about the city’s history and culture by visiting the excellent Museum of Sydney.

This is the premier museum in the city, so take your time browsing through the exhibits and galleries inside.

Top recommended tours:

Sydney Opera House

Lina Stock of the Divergent Travelers Adventure Travel Blog at the Sydney Opera House.

This structure is by far the most recognizable, featured on travel sites, postcards, and magazines. It is the icon of Sydney and Australia.

We recommend the 90-minute tour where you will not only learn about the soaring roof peaks and how the building was made, but also the individual venues that house much of the entertainment that visits Sydney.

You won’t have to wait to see a show in order to appreciate the wonderful Sydney Opera House. If you can, try and coincide your visit to Sydney with a trip to a performance at the Sydney Opera House.

There is also a five-star restaurant attached to the opera house that is rated as one of the world’s best for its cuisine offerings. Just be sure to get your reservation in early and try to make it at sunset if you can.

That way you are guaranteed to have one of the most breathtaking views that Sydney has to offer.

There are shows and events all through the year here, but of course, you will need to try and secure tickets in advance.

Grab dinner and a few drinks in the harbor area before enjoying a performance at the iconic Opera House to round off the first day of your Sydney trip plan.

Top recommended tours:

Paddy’s Market

Paddy's Market Sydney Australia

In an attempt to beat the rain, we hopped on the metro and made our way towards one of Sydney’s most popular markets, Paddy’s.

This market reminded us of a lot of the markets you can find in Asia and Mexico with stall after stall of vendors. You can buy just about anything you may or may not need here.

The market is generally open Wednesday – Sunday from 10am to 6pm.

Day 2: What to Do in Sydney

Lina Stock of the Divergent Travelers Adventure Travel Blog at Bondi Beach in Sydney.

Start the day with a classic Aussie breakfast again; today is going to be another action-packed addition to your Sydney trip plan.

On day two of your Sydney itinerary, you’ll be heading towards the coast, where you’ll be exploring the famed Bondi Beach.

Get to know Sydney on this 1/2 day tour: Sydney Half Day Luxury Private Tour – Morning or Afternoon Avail

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach one of the best beaches in Sydney, Australia.

Sydney is known for being a coastal city, so there’s no way you can plan a Sydney itinerary without a visit to Bondi Beach, the most famous beach of them all.

The great thing is, it’s less than half an hour by public transport from the harbor area to Bondi. Get here in the morning so you can see the surfers out on the waves.

This is one of the most legendary surfing beaches in Australia. If you’re a surfer, you might want to spend the day riding the waves at Bondi Beach instead of continuing the rest of the second day of the Sydney trip plan!

Bondi Beach can be compared to South Beach in Miami. It is all glitz and glamor and according to the bus tour, the place to see and be seen in Sydney.

The beach itself is quite beautiful though and it felt really nice to walk on the beach in the sunshine and then browse through the various shops that lined the main drive.

Top recommended tours:

Bronte Baths

Bronte beach swimming pool, view from helicopter

Enjoy Bondi Beach and visit the nearby Bondi Markets to grab a few snacks or drinks before walking along the coast towards Bronte Beach.

You can find the beautiful Bronte Baths, a public swimming pool carved from the rocks that’s kept topped up by the ocean.

Top recommended tours:

Coogee Beach

Top view of full of people Coogee beach in Sydney NSW Australia

From Bronte Beach, continue walking along the coast to reach Coogee Beach. This is the end of the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Pathway, which you will have been following.

Coogee Beach is by far the most popular place to spend a lazy day in Sydney. The beautiful sand and placid water make the perfect stress free outing for everyone, young and old.

Coogee Beach is a short ferry ride from Sydney Harbour and is very visitor friendly.

One of its biggest draws is the sprawling boardwalk that houses many beach themed shops and has some of the most delicious cafe food to be found in all of Sydney.

You’ll be able to sit and enjoy a drink or a meal while you look out over the beautiful beach. It doesn’t get more relaxing than that.

Coogee can be quieter than Bondi (it’s not quite as famous), so take some time to relax on the beach, Aussie style.

Top recommended tours:

Darling Harbor

Sydney's city center with the Sydney Opera House

Catch the bus back to Sydney’s city center, and you can freshen up before enjoying a relaxed evening at Darling Harbor.

At this waterfront area, you’ll find plenty of places for drinks, cocktails, and great food, for a great end to day two of your Sydney trip plan.

Top recommended tours:

Sydney Fish Market

You may a bit apprehensive because of all the talk about it being a tourist trap, but the Sydney Fish Market is a must during your time in the city.

It’s exciting to go in and be able to choose from a vast selection of fresh fish and the prices were very reasonable.

You can opt to buy the fish and take it home to prepare yourself if you’d like, or you can have it prepared for you on-site and enjoy it the way the fishmongers cook it.

We recommend you do both to fully experience the fish market.

Day 3: Things to do in Sydney

Sydney opera house with ferrys in foregournd.

It’s the third day of the Sydney itinerary, and again, it’s good to get a big breakfast and an early start.

Today, you’ll be exploring the northern coastline of the city with a visit to Manly Beach!

Top recommended tours:

Take the Ferry to Manly Beach

View of Harbour bridge with ferry boat, Sydney

Manly Beach is located on the northern shoreline of the city; it’s another of Australia’s most iconic beaches.

Getting here is all part of the experience because you can take a ferry ride along the river. Jump on the ferry at the harbor and cruise downriver in style.

The ferries are fantastic: they’re cheap, yet offer excellent views of the city (who needs an expensive river cruise?).

Top recommended tours:

Manly Beach

Beautiful Nature of Manly Beach in Australia.

Once you’ve reached Manly, head straight to the beach. Soak up the magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean, take a swim to cool off, or just sit back and relax.

Locals claim that Manly is where Australian surfing began, so yes, you can surf here too!

Top recommended tours:

North Head Sanctuary Loop

Shelley Beach, in West Cape Howe National Park, near the towns of Albany and Denmark in Western Australia.

From the beach, you can take a stroll along the coast. First, head south to Shelley Beach. From here, you can join the North Head Sanctuary Loop.

It’s a lovely walk around the peninsula that forms the northern head of the entrance to Sydney Harbor. The views are beautiful; you can see right out across the Pacific and back towards the city.

Top recommended tours:

The Rocks Pub Crawl

The Rocks in Sydney at night.

Take the ferry back to Sydney Harbor when you’ve explored Manly, and get ready for your last night out in Sydney.

A great place to spend your last evening will be The Rocks, the area you already explored on day one. This time, though, you can visit all the pubs and bars the area is known for – for a great end to your Sydney itinerary.

Top recommended tours:

Days 4 and 5: Day Trips From Sydney

While you will need more than 3 days to see the best of Sydney and the surrounding area, it is worth planning at least one day for day trips.

Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains a day trip from Sydney.

If you have only one extra day in Sydney, you have to visit the Blue Mountains. Located just an hour inland from the city, this is one of Australia’s most spectacular outdoor areas.

Head to the Three Sisters Lookout, where you’ll see the deep gorges below you and the iconic rock formations that give the area its name.

You can ride the Scenic Skyway across the canyon or take the scenic train into the valley.

Top recommended tours:

Hawkesbury River

Looking towards the Hawkesbury River in Pittwater

Escape the city by taking a trip to the Hawkesbury River, a worthy addition to any Sydney trip plan.

This beautiful area is surrounded by peaceful, outdoor scenery and is bordered by a national park on one bank.

Take a boat ride, drive from one small town to the next, or enjoy some great hiking!

Top recommended tours:

Jervis Bay

Take the highway south from Sydney, and your first stop will be Jervis Bay. This beautiful seaside community is home to what the locals claim is one of Australia’s best beaches.

That’s a huge claim, but when you see the beach for the first time, you might just agree. Spend your day relaxing on the soft sands or get active and enjoy the snorkeling because the water here is crystal clear.

Top 5 tours in Jervis Bay:

Where to Stay in Sydney

When it comes to accommodation in Sydney, your options are really endless. You can find a place to stay on any budget, but of course there are a few that stand out above the crowd.

If You Have a Campervan…

Lane Cove River Tourist Park Sydney Highlights

If you are driving a campervan around Australia, like we did, and would rather stay in your van than a hotel, this is the best option for you.

We wanted to stay in our van, but we needed to make sure we were close enough to public transportation so we wouldn’t have to worry about driving our van into the city and paying loads of money for parking.

This wasn’t an easy task. Luckily, I stumbled on a website that touted the Lane Cove River Tourist Park is the place to camp within the city limits of Sydney.

After some research, I learned that the campsite is literally in the suburbs of Sydney, near North Ryde.

The subway stop was a 10-minute walk from the campground and would have you smack dab in the CBD in 30 minutes.  Metro tickets cost us $6 each for a return that lasted all day. You can’t really beat that.

The campground itself was set in a nice area with plenty of wildlife roaming in, out and around the grounds. The amenities were good and for a $39AUD per night powered camping site, you couldn’t go wrong.

We enjoyed our time at the campground and would recommend it to other camper vanners looking for a place to stay and park in Sydney.

Enjoy Your Trip to Sydney!

Sydney is one of the most enjoyable cities in the world. It is easy to navigate and there are many options for getting from point A to point B.

With so much to do in one place, it’s not hard to fill your itinerary. The food is amazing and the locals are very friendly. The atmosphere is truly wonderful.

There is plenty to see and do in the heart of the city and so much more to do on the outskirts of town that Sydney is definitely a vacationer’s dream destination.

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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