Sydney, Australias most famous city without a doubt. Home to the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge landmarks that are well known all over the world. Travellers flock in every day to catch a glimpse of these sights for themselves. I can assure you that they don’t disappoint. After living in Sydney for six months I can tell you confidently that three days just won’t be enough to experience all this city has to offer. That said with a well planned out 3-day itinerary to Sydney you can explore a lot of this bright and wondrous city. To jump to any section of this guide just click through the links below!
The History of Sydney
Before I dive into this perfect 3-day itinerary to Sydney. Let me share some history into this city built on the harbour. We call those who live in Sydney a ‘Sydney Sider’ but the first real Sydney Siders were the Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal people who lived in Sydney were the Gadigal people who still lived and hunted in Sydney long after the Europeans came in 1788. There are still Aboriginal people living in Sydney today. Australia was put on the map by a British Explorer name James Cook the first European to explore Australia and it’s East Coast on one of his three Voyages. He also explored New Zealand mapping out his every move along the way. It is Captain who first came into contact with the Aboriginal people here in Australia in 1770.
It was James Cook who claimed the Eastern Coastline for Britain and then some years later in 1788 Sydney Captain Arthur Phillip led the first British Fleet to Port Jackson in Sydney. With 11 vessels they used Sydney as a prison settlement for British convicts. But over the years as more people learnt about Sydney the more they came. Settlers came and the British convicts stopped arriving in 1840. Over the years the population of the Sydney as did the popularity of the harbour, remaining one of the most famous in the world today. To learn more about the history of Sydney follow this link or make sure you visit one of the many museums on your visit!
3 Day Itinerary to Sydney – What’s Inside
This 3 Day Itinerary to Sydney is perfect for first timers visits to Sydney! When I visited Sydney on my first trip to Australia in 2018 I too was a first timer. After six months I can call myself a slight Sydney expert! Sydney is a city that keeps on giving to all that visit. If you’re a foodie on the hunt for culinary delights, a history buff or a tourist after a glimpse of the famous sights, you can do it all here in Sydney.
My mission is to make travel easy for first timers and share my advice so you can make the most out of the places you travel to! I’ve been disappointed by many a trip I’ve taken usually down to bad advice and untruthful tips! Hint: overly edited Instagram photographs that look nothing like the real deal!
Getting to Sydney from the Airport
Distance: 8 km, 8.4 miles
Time: 25 minutes
There are multiple options available when getting into the city from the Airport. With only 3 days in Sydney, you don’t want to be wasting time so no dilly-dallying in the airport! Get yourself straight to baggage collection and on your way into the city! The main transportation options to get into Sydney from the airport are, train, bus, taxi and shuttle. Each comes with a different price so it depends on your budget!
Bus – Getting the bus will be the cheapest option by far but equally the most difficult. There isn’t a public bus running straight from the city centre to the Airport. So you’ll need to research which buses you need to reach your accommodation. Use the New South Wales Travel Planner instead of Google Maps. It keeps all its times updated so you can see when your bus is running late.
Download the App or Take a look at the website here.
Train: When getting into Sydney I would always opt for the train. It’s easy and goes straight to the city centre just follow the signs and most other people! It isn’t cheap but you’ll come to learn that not much in Sydney is (sorry to break it to you) a one way trip to the city and back to the Airport will cost you $17-20.
Be warned: the transport service in NSW will advertise that the train takes 15 minutes to the CBD, it doesn’t. It will take at least 25 minutes.
Taxi: Taxis are available from each terminal with a taxi rank located out the front. Taxi is the most expensive way to get into the city setting you back at least $40-60. It should only take 20 minutes but traffic is often against you here in Sydney so it will more often than not take a lot longer, especially as you get closer to the city.
Shuttle: The other option is to get to the city via shuttle bus. The two companies the airport use are Ready2Go and Mozio both have information desks in both terminals inside the airport. The cost of the shuttle bus varies depending on how what time you land and where your accommodation is based. Follow the links above which will take you to the websites required for a price estimation.
Opal Cards: To travel on public transport in Sydney you’ll need an Opal Card. Opal Cards are the equivalent of a GoCard in Brisbane or Oyster Card in London. Top them up via a pay station or via the Opal App and tap on and off on each journey. You’ll be able to use these cards on all transport in Sydney. You can still pay on some buses and trains but the expectation is that you have an Opal card – your fare will be cheaper with one too! You can purchase from the airport, newsagents, supermarkets so you won’t have trouble getting hold of one! It’s $10 to buy one which you can get back if you return it at the end of your trip!Sydney Travel Tip: On Sundays, public transport is capped at $2.70! Perfect for those expensive ferry journeys! #Sydney Click To Tweet
Be Savy: Weigh your options up wisely when it comes to transport into the city. What is going to be the cheapest and fastest option? It’s more than likely going to be the train which is the mode of transport I always suggest and opt for myself! But if your travelling in a large group a shuttle or taxi split between you all may be cheaper so make sure you think outside the box! Do you have a friend, relative in Sydney with a car? Could they pick you up!
For more Information on public transport from the airport in Sydney go here!
Getting Around Sydney
Sydney is a big city and with only a 3-day itinerary there’s going to be some walking and public transport involved. Get your Opal Card as mentioned above, a robust pair of shoes and your phone fully charged, you will need Google Maps!
The easiest way to navigate the city circle is via walking or the trains.
The Ferry’s to the bay’s surrounding the city, basically, if you cross water you can catch a ferry there BUT they are expensive!
Buses are very regular and go to most places in Sydney.
Where to Stay in Sydney – 3-Day Itinerary to Sydney
In Sydney when it comes to finding some accommodation you’ll be overwhelmed with choice. From backpackers hostels to swanky hotels boasting spectacular views of the Harbour. It all really depends if you’re in town to save or splurge!
No matter where in the world I am I usually book my accommodation through either booking.com or Air BnB! We are budget travellers so always looking for the best offer! With booking.com you almost always have to the option to cancel up to 48 hours before. So top tip? Book through booking.com and keep searching if you find a cheaper deal you can always cancel and rebook other accommodation on booking.com or elsewhere. I did this for my trip to New York as the prices were constantly fluctuating and I stumbled on a corker of a deal giving me an upgraded room for a quarter of the price!
Location of Accommodation
Sydney is one huge place that can be overwhelming. There’s Air BnB’s and hostels everywhere you turn so it can be tricky to know where to base yourself. For the purpose of this 3-Day Itinerary to Sydney, I’m going to be sharing places to stay in the city centre. Over these 3-days you’ll be exploring the city, some beaches and some areas North of the Harbour Bridge so being in the city places you right in the middle. This means you’ll have easy transport links throughout your stay in Sydney.
If you do want to stay on the beach then I’d recommend staying in either Bondi or Manly.
To save money on your accommodation in Sydney then I would recommend either staying in a hostel or an Air BnB. With only a 3-day itinerary to Sydney, a hostel in a shared room or room in an Air BnB will be perfect. You’re not there for long and you’ll be saving a lot of dollars to spend elsewhere! Like the bar?
Hostels in Sydney
YHA Sydney Harbour: One of the most popular Hostels in Sydney make sure you book in advance. The Sydney Harbour Hostel is a great place to stay during your visit. It’s got all the facilities you need and gorgeous views of the harbour for cheap prices! Travel Blogger Mollie Bylett recently hosted one of her Where’s Mollie Global Travellers Tours here which you can check out on her blog here! Dorm rooms start from AUD 35 per night = GBP 16.80 Per Person Per Night.
The YHA even has a rooftop terrace!
The POD Pitt Street: The Pod Hostel on Pitt Street is another great city centre option. Hot with backpackers as one of the coolest hostels in Sydney you’ll be close to everything you need in the city. With multiple dorm options available its a great choice for those not bothered about sharing rooms. A night at The POD again starts at approx 40 AUD = 21 GBP
Air BnB Air BnB is by far my favourite way to find great places to stay for a great price! We’ve stayed in loads of rooms found on Air BnB since arriving in Australia and haven’t been disappointed with any of them! The hosts have all been great and often given us tips and tricks that go beyond the guidebook! I love being able to chat with the locals and get their take on the city!
If you’d like any recommendations on which suburbs to stay in on your trip to Sydney then please email me at [email protected], leave a comment below or send me a direct message over on Instagram and I would love to help you out!
Hotels in Sydney – Splurge!
Okay if you’ve got the cash to spare then I’m going to recommend a hotel that I’ve heard some really great things about. The Shang Ri La Hotel located on Circular Quay towers over the city offering some magnificent views of both, The Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. It’s an extremely popular choice with holidaymakers, businessmen/women and Instagrammers! The famous shot of people looking through the window out onto the harbour? You can find that here!
But all that luxury is going to cost and prices start at 200 AUD Per night = 100 GBP
Take a look at available accommodation in Sydney below using the interactive map!
For more information on how to book the best accommodation for your stay in Sydney then head over to this guide by AllTheRooms.com This guide travel guide to Australia goes into the best places to stay in the land down under. It also goes into the price/availability of accommodation over the year, which I know will be helpful to some of your budget travellers! Check it out here!
Now we’ve got all the logistics out of the way lets get onto the good stuff, how to spend 3 days in Sydney!
3 Day Itinerary to Sydney – Day one
Visit Circular Quay
Circular Quay is the Sydney tourism hub, you may love or hate that fact. But it’s true. Circular Quay is filled with busy tourists from all over the world all with one mission. To visit The Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s the busiest place in the city and probably the most extraordinary. Once stood before these famous landmarks you’ll have to pinch yourself that you’re really living that moment.
Spend some time taking in the views, enjoying the scenes of both the Bridge and Opera House. You can see both the famous sights for free. If you want to go inside the Opera House but don’t have time to watch a show, which with just 3 short days you won’t, you can take a tour inside for just 40 AUD/20 GBP. Tours run daily lasting around one hour. Always book in advance for an extra discount. The tours are available in English, French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean.
If the views enough for you then make sure you grab a drink at Opera Bar and enjoy it even more! A beer with views like this, who can complain? Alcohol starts off at AUD 10/6 GBP upwards per drink in Sydney. Beer is cheapest then wine and then cocktails. I wouldn’t order a cocktail at Opera Bar as they take an age to be made! – Just being honest.
Visit the Botanical Gardens
As you walk past the Sydney Opera House you’ll see the Royal Botanical Gardens. A scenic haven filled with lush green lawns, beautiful flowers and far cry from the madness of the city. Take a picnic and a stroll around the gardens. My favourite place to enjoy life in the gardens is at Busbys Bar, a little bar that sits in a shipping container. Grab a deck chair and watch the world go by. There’s also usually exhibits on in the gardens if sitting around isn’t your thing!
As you walk past Busbys at the far side of the Botanical Gardens keep walking to Mrs Maquiries Chair. Here you’ll find the epic postcard view of the harbour! This is also a brilliant place to watch the sunset over the city, I haven’t included it in this 3-day Itinerary to Sydney but if you’d prefer it over Darling Harbour then head back here! The gardens lock the gates at 8 pm November-February during the summer but it does vary at other times of the year. Keep updated here. But you can still access Mrs Maquiraires Chair via the road.
Visit The Art Gallery of New South Wales
The Art Gallery of New South Wales is located at the other side of the Botanical Gardens to Mrs Maquiraires chair and is completely free to enjoy. If you enjoy art then you’ll love the four levels of art located at the gallery with different exhibitions from all over the world! You can keep up to date on what’s going to be on when you visit through their website.
Sydney Tower Eye
For 360 degree views of the city beneath you, it’s time to head to the Sydney Tower Eye! The Sydney Tower Eye is located inside the famous sphere building you see in the photographs. It’s a view you don’t want to miss! Buy tickets online for the cheapest option starting at 23 AUD per person/12.50 GBP.
Dine at Darling Harbour
Check what time sunset is during your visit and head to Darling Harbour for an evening of great food, drinks and an amazing sunset. The weather is usually uncredible in Sydney so the chances of you getting a good sunset are high! Darling Harbour is filled with over 100 places to dine and drink making you spoilt for choice! If you are watching the cash then get there early as everywhere has an early bird option!
Top Tip: if you’re visiting on a Saturday then you can enjoy free fireworks every Saturday from 9 pm at Darling Harbour Sydney.
Day Two – 3 Day Itinerary to Sydney
Bondi – Coogee Coastal Walk
Coastal Walks are Sydney’s thing! I can think of six straight of the bat without even thinking about it. So trying to decide which one to include in this guide was so hard! I’ve gone for the Bondi-Coogee coastal walk because it’s one of the most famous and also one of the most beautiful. On my first trip to Sydney, we tackled this walk on one of our first days and it took my breath away. The views of the coast are epic along with great beaches and snorkelling spots throughout. You’re going to want your swimmers for this one!
The Bondi-Coogee walk stretches along beaches, cliff tops and amazing footpaths winding along the coast. The walk itself is 6 km, just over 3 miles. It takes around two hours but I’d spend the majority of the day exploring the walk, lounging on the beaches and swimming in the ocean and various free swimming pools Sydney has to offer! I’d say the walk is easy-medium in difficulty. There are a few steep hills and stairs to climb on the way. It isn’t really wheelchair friendly and taking a pram/stroller would be difficult.
For more in-depth information about the trail then head to this website!
Start at Bondi Beach
To get to Bondi Beach from the city you need to get the train to Bondi Junction and then the 333 bus to Bondi Beach. Don’t be alarmed if the bus doesn’t stop. The 333 is full to brim with eager beach goes every day and won’t stop when it’s full just be patient and wait for the next one. They run every 6 minutes so you’re never waiting for long.
Get off the bus where everybody else does or as soon as you see the beach. I have a feeling you’ll be surprised by how beautiful Bondi is. I expected it to be trashy and full of tourists, whilst the latter is true everybody is there to have a great time. Spend some time on the beach and taking in the cool street art that lines the broad walk just above the sand. Pick up some snacks from the shops and then walk towards the iconic Bondi Icebergs which is where the coastal walk begins. There are signs throughout on which way to go but if in doubt follow the crowds! You can swim at the Bondi Icebergs but you do have to pay and there’s a tonne of other swimming holes on this walk so I’d sit tight on that one!
Bondi – Tamarama
As walk past Australias most famous beach, past the Icebergs and onto the footpath that weaves around the coastline. The distance to Tamarama is 1.2km taking half an hour. There’s an aboriginal rock engraving on the way around and great spots to get that beautiful photo! The beach at Tamarama is one of the smallest on this walk and though not as popular as Bondi or Bronte it’s one my person favourites. We have plenty of memories here including Christmas Day 2018! The beach is good and surf even better!
Tamarama – Bronte
This is the shortest distance during the walk taking only minutes from one beach onto the next! Bronte is one of a kind. The beach is golden in colour and has some special swimming spots! Where the ocean meets the shore on the right-hand side of the beach is the Rock Pool where you can swim in if you don’t fancy taking a dip in the open water! A little further on you’ll find the Bogey hole which is a free public swimming pool and my favourite one in Sydney. Sydney is full of free swimming holes like this you’ll find at most of the beaches so make sure you have a little look around!
Bronte is a great place to grab some lunch if you didn’t pack a picnic. There’s a short strip of cafes and restaurants as you walk away from the beach on the left. We ate at Jenny’s Cafe the first time we took on this walk filling up with Eggs Benedict to get us around the rest of it!
Bronte – ClovellyOkay, since meeting a Welsh girl out here in Australia I can't say the word 'Clovelly' without putting a Welsh accent, anyone else? PS DO IT RIGHT NOW! Click To Tweet
Clovelly is a popular place to snorkel in Sydney so if you’ve got on then bring it along! The walk to Clovelly is fairly easy and takes 40 minutes to about an hour at 2.2 km or 1.3 miles, depending on how fast you walk. You’ll enjoy the scenic views of the ocean and can look back on Bondi Beach from a distance! Walk past the historic Waverley Cemetary and down onto Clovelly beach before embarking on the final leg of the walk.
Clovelly – Coogee
The final few miles! Again taking up to an hour at 1.8 km or 1.1 miles this stretch is the most difficult. Your walking on steep cliff tops, up some very steep slopes and up a lot of stairs! They save the best til last right? But that soft white sand and ocean waves crashing against the Coogee are well worth it! When you arrive in Coogee you can pull out your towel and head to the beach, giving yourself a well-deserved rest. There’s plenty of bars and ice cream stands nearby so treat yourself after all that walking! If you’re looking for more swimming then head to Wylie Baths, another free swimming pool!
You can see from these photographs how beautiful this walk really is and it’s better in person. Coastal walks are around every corner in Sydney but this is one of if not the best! The only one that I think comes in close is the Watsons Bay lighthouse walk because there you get amazing views of the city from afar, but only one beach! It’s definitely swings and roundabouts with most things in Sydney.
Dine at The Rocks
After all that walking it’s time to explore historic Sydney and chill out at The Rocks. The Rocks are what I like to call a slice of England in Sydney. It reminds of The Shambles in York, I think because of it’s cobbled streets! The Rocks are amazing to see at night because it’s all strung together by fairy lights looking all pretty and magical!
If your budget is tight then go back to your accommodation to cook a meal if you have the option but The Rocks have some fantastic options for food! For you pub lovers out there this is where you’ll find your traditional pubs in Sydney rather than bars. Visit Sydney’s oldest pub The Fortune of War in The Rocks! I’d also recommend visiting the Glenmore Hotel for an awesome view of the city with your drink in hand!
For a full list of other places to eat and drink take a look at what’s on at The Rocks here.
Final Day – 3 Day Itinerary to Sydney
Queen Victoria Building
With so much fun to be had in and amongst this city, it was hard trying to narrow it down for the final day but I managed it! The final day of this itinerary is all about taking in the heart and culture of the city. And of course, catching more views of that all impressive Sydney Harbour. On your last day make sure you’re up bright and early to start the day in the city. Head over to the Queen Victoria Building which is impressive from head to toe, inside and out.
The architecture of the outside is phenomenal and the detail inside is just as inspiring. You’ve got to visit the top floor and to experience The Royal Clock which you can see photographed below, it is really quite something! The QVB building is now a shopping centre where you can find more upmarket buys if you wish – personally I just love looking around the building.
Walk the Harbour Bridge
It’s not really possible to visit Sydney and not get close to the Harbour Bridge! There are few options when it comes to this grand piece of Sydney from climbing, walking and cycling. Hire a cycle and cycle over the Harbour Bridge taking in the views whilst having a laugh at the same time.
The second most popular option is to tackle the bridge climb! You’ll be guaranteed picture-perfect views of this majestic city when you reach the top but it isn’t for the faint-hearted! It’s also expensive around 200 AUD that’s around 100 GBP to climb the bridge! If your heart is set on conquering this climb then you can find out more here. For a cheaper option and one with less adrenaline, you can go up Pylon lookout for just 50 AUD or 25 GBP which might be more up your street.
But if you prefer to have two feet firmly on the ground at all times simply walk the bridge. You’ll get the same views just a little lower down. The bridge takes around 30-60 minutes to walk across depending on how fast you are and how many times you stop for photographs on the way!
The best views of Sydney are from Milsons point. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, I adore the views from Milsons point. You get the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and City Skyline all in one! There are lovely little walking tracks that go along the front of the water down here. It’s a wonderful spot for a picnic and home to Sydney Harbours Olympic swimming pool. If you’ve got little ones or are still a big kid yourself you’ll find the Luna Park here too even if just for a photograph. It’s free entry but you do have to pay to go on the rides.
Once you’ve finished exploring Milsons Point jump on the ferry back to Circular Quay. It does cost $7 but the views from the water are worth it, especially on the final day of this 3 day itinerary to Sydney.
I hope you enjoyed this 3 Day Itinerary to Sydney! If you want to print out this guide and take it on your travels you can download the PDF here! (It would make me so freaking happy so if you do be sure to take a picture with it and tag me!) This is definitely not the only way to spend 3 days in Sydney but for first-timers, it’s a great way to get all the major sights in. Of course, there are heaps more things to do like, going to Manly, Taronga Zoo, Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal Walk, Watsons Bay and not to mention all the suburbs there are to explore! I can’t wait to dive into some more guides and help make your travel time in Sydney easier!
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