Sydney 5 Day Itinerary
One of our featured writers - Sally Taylor is currently on a 3 month round the world trip and her second stop was Sydney.
Here she shares her top itinerary tips and recommendations for how to spend 5 days in Sydney including seeing the tourist sights the city has to offer.
Sightseeing in Sydney
I was going to be spending my gap year in New Zealand, and with the long flight from Europe I definately wanted to stop in Australia.
I arranged flights so I had 5 days in Sydney, and this was our my only Australian stop. I think 5 days is a great amount of time to get over jetlag and see all the most of the main attractions.
But 5 days definitely left me hungry for more and if you do have more time you can really see more places at a relaxed pace.
Where to Stay
We stayed on Elizabeth Street, which was easy to find as it was about 3 blocks away from Central Station. You can get a quick and easy train directly from the airport terminal to Central for about $15.
It was unexpectedly rainy when we arrived - not exactly how we pictured summer in Australia!
But after dumping our bags we headed straight for Circular Quay and the big sights - the Opera House and Harbour Bridge - which definitely don't disappoint, even in the rain!
We jumped straight on the free 555 tourist shuttle bus which runs in a loop from Central to the harbour until 3pm every day (9.30pm on Thursdays).
It goes straight up George Street, the main shopping street in the city, and goes past a few of the main sights like the town hall and Queen Victoria Buildings, this is one of the best ways to get around Sydney.
This area is great way to introduce yourself to the city and see the main famous tourist attractions.
Our first full day we got the 555 back down to the harbour and took the ferry across to Tongariro Zoo.
The ferry is an inexpensive way to get out on the water and you get some fantastic views of the Opera House and skyline - especially now the sun was out! The zoo was a little pricey at around $40 per person, but it was absolutely worth the money! It's beautifully laid out and easy to walk around, and you can get really up close and personal with the wildlife.
There's a few walk-through enclosures where we found ourselves a few feet from the kangaroos and wallabys, and if you want to be really touristy (which we of course did!) you can pay $20 to have your own Koala Encounter.
While it is now illegal to hold koalas in New South Wales, you get time alone with these adorably grumpy critters and their keepers to ask questions and of course, get a snap for your mante piece. I'd also recommend the seal show to indulge your inner child!
My one warning would be to take your own food in as it's very expensive to eat there.
You have to wander up the Opera House steps - this is another must-have Aussie photo and one of the top things to do on the east coast of Australia. You can't go into the actual auditoriums uses you book on to a tour, but the bar is open to everyone!
We saved some cash for a drink there on our last night - a must for the stunning views of the illuminated bridge. Then we met up with some Sydneysider friends who took us for a picnic in the Botanical Gardens, to the east of the harbour. The harbour really is the heart of Sydney, and you (again!)
Get gorgeous views, particularly if like us you go at sunset. This is also where a lot of locals gather for the world famous New Year's Eve fireworks, so we knew it would be good! We were also introduced to two unmissable Aussie delicacies - Anzac biscuits and Tim Tams. Yum!!
There are lots of beaches in Sydney, be sure do see Mandy and Bondi.
The jet lag meant I didn't discover any of the city's nightlife until the second evening, when we did something I hugely recommend - crab racing!
It happens every Monday night at Scubar, a real "backpackers" bar just off George Street and is exactly what it says on the tin, 20 hermit crabs racing across a stage. Get ready to think of a good crab name and place your bets!
There are lots of places located only an hour or two away from Sydney, so are perfect if you've done the main city centre sightseeing activities and want a fun way to spend a day.
Trips can be arranged independently or via organised tour which is sometimes easier.
Everyone had warned us how expensive Sydney was going to be, but - perhaps because we were comparing it to London - we really didn't find it too bad!
Being a big city, there are always options for a range of budgets if you're prepared to look for them, as well as things to do for free. One of these was the Rocks Discovery Museum.
The Rocks is the area of the harbour marking where the European settlers first landed, and has a really quirky and old-fashioned feel that's not to be missed. The museum itself gives a fascinating insight into the arrival and settlement of the Europeans as well as their (sometimes fractious) relationship with the Aborigines.
Something most definitely not free, but worth pushing the boat out for, is the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb... yep, I did it! It cost just under £200 (see - not cheap), but this was serious Bucket List stuff, and I booked before I left the UK to make sure I could get the Twilight time slot. This departs at 6.30 to ensure you're on the summit as the sun goes down.
Watching the thousands of lights come on across the city was just beautiful, and it's strangely peaceful up there! Our guide was also full of interesting facts and anecdotes about landmarks we could see. Such as - did you know? There's a "black rainbow" only visible from the summit, caused by the shadow thrown as the bridge is lit up from below. Pretty cool!
Plan a Trip to Sydney
It is easy to see why so many people going to work in Australia move to Sydney, the city was a sunny, spacious and stunning snippet of Australia, and I was sad to say goodbye.
I felt at home in the city within seconds, and I think it's a very good sign that you truly love a city if you fall in love with it even in the rain!
So whether you want a dream holiday or like the idea of backpacking/a gap year in Australia, go see Sydney for yourself. If you want to also travel north and see more places this Sydney to Cairns overland itinerary is recommended.