Sydney kicked off the start of my month-long solo trip, and it was the best beginning of a trip I could imagined. From meeting the absolute friendliest and fun people in my hostel to exhausting myself walking 12+ miles a day to see gorgeous, iconic sites of Sydney (hi, Opera House and gorgeous beach cliffs) and eating ALL THE DELICIOUS THINGS…I had a great time, and you definitely will too if you ever go.
I wanted to share what I did in Sydney to shed some insight on how I spent my solo time there and perhaps provide inspiration if you ever plan to go! This is obviously not a comprehensive three-day itinerary of all the things to do in Sydney, just a little glimpse into what I did and what I hope to do when I go back someday. (Yes, my to-eat list is a mile-long…but like really, what did you expect?)
do | what I did in three days in Sydney (in chronological order)
- Sydney Harbour Bridge: I opted to just walk the bridge rather than climb it. The 30-minute walk gives a gorgeous view of the harbour and it was a nice activity to do right after arriving from the airport early in the morning, but this wouldn’t be a must-do activity for me.
- The Rocks: Breezed through this historic neighborhood after the bridge walk. If I had been smart, I would have stopped to eat somewhere around here.
- Royal Botanic Gardens: I wish I’d had about a week longer in Sydney to just laze around the lush garden grounds with a book and people watch. Everyone and their coworkers seems to go out for a jog around the paths lining the harbour or picnic in the Rose Garden during their lunch hour! Talk about a dream lunch break.
- State Library of New South Wales: The World Press Photo 2016 exhibit was on display when I went and it was fantastic! I also got a really cool mini tour of the Shakespeare room by a lovely docent. Worth stopping by if you’re near the Botanic Gardens anyway.
- Star Casino in Darling Harbour: We were able to get free tickets to We Will Rock You through my hostel (thanks Bounce Sydney!) which was put on at the Lyric Theatre in The Star Casino, and this was a great night out. We grabbed two for $5 hand rolls at Little Star (insanely cheap sushi abounds everywhere during happy hour, one of my favorite things about Australia) and a beer at King Street Brewhouse (which has an excellent $6 pint happy hour) beforehand.
- Bondi to Coogee Beach walk: one of my favorite things I did. It’s a little annoying to get there (a train to Bondi Junction and then a bus is the quickest way), but the incredibly scenic walk is worth it. There are little food shops at certain beaches along the way and a really cute cafe/cafeteria area at Coogee Beach. I ended up lazing around on the grassy hills by Bondi (it was too cold for the water!) after walking from Bondi to Coogee and back, and then stopped to shop around Bondi Junction on the way back since I had to transfer there anyway.
- Walked around Potts Point/Kings Cross: Met friends for dinner at Busshari, an adorable Japanese spot with fantastic grilled miso eggplant, then went out to a little uni bar near my hostel.
- Sydney Greeters: This is a fantastic volunteer service that pairs visitors with a native Sydney citizen to help visitors better experience Sydney. I spent the day with the lovely Evelyn who showed me around the following spots:
- Sydney Fish Market: The city of Sydney does a roaring trade in seafood if the fish market is any indication. Perusing the stalls on stalls of fresh seafood is fascinating, but the best part is being able to select your lunch from a vast selection of sasmini, sushi, raw oysters, grilled and fried seafood, and a myriad of other options. Highly recommend and would definitely go back.
- Barangaroo Reserve: A really beautiful, recently renovated reserve lining the water. Very tranquil and scenic, another place to which I would have liked to bring a book and hang out.
- Sydney Opera House tour: I liked this behind-the-scenes tour of the famous landmark, though you can also experience the Opera House with a concert instead of a tour. There are several tours available; I did the basic one for $37 and recommend booking online ahead of time.
- ivy: A massive dining, entertainment/retail center. It turns into a superclub at night (the likes of which I have never seen in Houston) and has free entry on Thursdays (I hear the entry fees on Fridays and Saturdays are quite pricey). Definitely recommend if you’re looking to go out in Sydney on a Thursday.
do | other things I would have done had I had time:
- Ferry from Sydney to Manly or Watson’s Bay
- Blue Mountains Tour
- Free walking tour: I’m sure there are many out there, but I was looking at tours of The Rocks or Sydney Sights by I’m Free Walking Tours
- Eat/drink at Icebergs, the gorgeous dining facility overlooking Bondi Beach–it was closed for renovations when I went!
eat | morning
- Blacksmith: I ate a really incredible smoked salmon/scrambled egg-topped baguette here that was meant for takeaway, but the kind waiter let me order it in anyway. For $9.50, it was a generous portion, super fresh-tasting and delicious (my friend ordered some kind of breakfast chilaquiles thing that she loved).
- Haven: This adorable cafe was almost literally right next to my hostel. In addition to being THE MOST CONVENIENT, it also had insane-looking Hong Kong-style bubble waffles that my food expert companion of the morning (the cutest Shez from One Bite More!!!) had been eyeing for ages. My body was in a delicate state, so I went with the smoked salmon brekkie roll, but next time I am DEF going for a bubble waffle with black sesame cream mochi, black sesame sauce, sesame chips, mint and vanilla ice cream. Ugh.
eat | dessert
- Flour and Stone: Evelyn and I trekked across the city to make it here before they closed so I could try their panna cotta lamington and let me tell you: it is (1) MAMMOTH and (2) very delicious. But so was their chocolate tart that Evelyn ordered. Probably safe to say everything here is epic.
- Good Times Ice Cream: This soft serve is good, but what really makes it epic is the toppings. I split a sundae with brownie chunks, caramel sauce, etc and also drooled over their ice cream sandwiches. Delicious, but if I went back, I’d definitely try Messina first over returning here.
- Lorraine’s Patisserie: Recommended to me by Yu-Ching, this bakery has a “small selection of really good quality cakes and pastries. [Lorraine is] very fussy about ingredients etc, and only puts out items at certain times of the day so that they are as fresh as possible,” according to Yu-Ching. Even though I had intended to feed my body something nutritious after the 15-hour plane ride, I ended up inhaling a substantial wedge of poached pear frangipane tart in the Royal Botanic Garden Domain and it felt like exactly what my body needed most. Expensive, but worth it for the occasional splurge.
eat | on my list for next time (Full credit for this list goes to the WONDERFUL and talented Yu-Ching, who kindly sent me the following suggestions after she found out I was going to Sydney through Instagram! The wonder of the internet. These are nearly all Central or located in the inner-city since that’s where I was located.)
- Devon Cafe (in Surry Hills)
- Reuben Hills
- Boon Cafe: Thai-inspired food. I know the owner, and occasionally supply them with cakes.
- The Cross Eatery: caters mostly to the business crowd – has delicious selection of salads, sandwiches etc – quinoa, kale, cold pressed juice, that sort of thing.
- Edition Coffee Roasters
- The Grounds of Alexandria
- Acme: Italian-inspired small share plates – get the baloney sandwich, and any of their pasta dishes.
- Ester: Wood-fired, modern Australian food. The cheddar pie and cauliflower dishes are both worth ordering
- 10 William St: Small Italian wine bar with great food. Get the pretzel with whipped bottarga, gnoccho fritto…also known for their tiramisu.
- “Cured & Cultured” Bar at Bennelong: Contemporary Australian, located inside the Opera House. The exec chef here is the same one as for Quay (one of Sydney’s best fine dining restaurants; just across the water from the Opera House). Bennelong restaurant itself only serves set menus, so I prefer to eat at the bar, where the menu is slightly different but still really good. It’s also a really nice place to eat in especially during the day when the weather is good. One of the signature dishes on their dessert menu is a modern take on the lamington.
- Sydney also does some Asian food really well. eg. Chat Thai (various branches around the city; go to the one in Thai Town, on Campbell St) for Thai, Moon Park and Kim for contemporary Korean. Golden Century and Mr. Wong for Chinese.
- Black Star Pastry (the two main stores are not in the CBD but there’s a small outpost in the Kinokuniya book store in the Galeries, CBD): Famous for their strawberry watermelon cake
- Bourke St Bakery: This used to be the best bakery in Sydney. They’ve expanded a little too much (only in my personal opinion) and their product has suffered. Still, if you’re near Bourke Street (where the original store is located), it’s worth checking out. Get the ginger brulee tart.
- Koi Dessert Bar: Dessert bar by night (bookings required), small patisserie by day. Very recently opened. Owned by a guy who was on last season’s Masterchef. His cakes (French, entremet-style) are actually pretty good.
- Gelato Messina: [Erika note: Literally everyone raves about this. Why I didn’t make it there is a still a mystery.]