Three Days in Sydney: A Beginner’s Guide

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Three Days in Sydney: A Beginner’s Guide

I often get emails, Tweets, or Facebook messages from people asking me for my tips on what to do in Sydney. While I’ve written about it in the past, I thought I’d condense that into how I’d recommend spending three days in Sydney for a first-timer.

Money not being an option, I’d love to visit Sydney without being a burden to the couches of my many wonderful friends in the city. There is an abundance of serviced apartments in Sydney that I’d love to check out.

Quick Tip: If you’re visiting Sydney as part of a trip to Australia and want to save money on data and airtime, you should check GoSim for an international prepaid Sim card.

harbour bridge climb

Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge at Sunset

One of my most cherished memories of Sydney has to be the evening my friends and I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge at sunset. Bridge Climb runs climbs up and down the Harbour Bridge at a variety of times, but to me, the best way to take in Sydney Harbour is as the sun is setting and the city’s lights begin to twinkle into life.

At $363 – $393 per climber, it’s a pricey way to take in the city skyline, but I can’t imagine a better way to start a dream weekend in Sydney than with one of the best views you’ll ever find.

Of course, if you get into Sydney a little earlier, you can take advantage of the more affordable $298 – $323 rate for day climbs or, save yourself a wad of cash by going after dark for just $258 – $283 per person.

My friends and I atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2010.
My friends and I atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2010.

An Asian Experience for Dinner

Once you’ve completed the three hour round trip, you’ll doubtless have worked up quite a hunger. Not being a particularly fancy guy, I’m going to suggest heading into the city to try out some of Sydney’s amazing Asian cuisine. Chinatown boasts both authentic and ‘Aussie style’ Chinese food, but my personal preference would be for some Korean BBQ. BBQ City on Liverpool Street does great, authentic Korean galbi and seomgyeopsal.

Saturday Morning

A Day in Manly

Get up bright and early on Saturday morning to get as much out of your day as possible. Take the train or walk down to Circular Quay to grab the ferry across to Manly.

Far from being a simple means of transportation, I’m of the belief that the Manly ferry is an experience all of its own. As the wind whips through your hair and you take in one of the most iconic views in the world, you can’t help but get energized for the day ahead.

The ferry across to Manly offers a unique perspective of the Opera House.
The ferry across to Manly offers a unique perspective of the Opera House.

Once in Manly, you’ve got plenty of options. The Manly Sea Life Sanctuary is a good choice if you’ve got kids, but I’d rather head straight down ‘The Corso’ to grab some supplies and hit the beach.

Whether you pick up breakfast at one of the many cafes and takeaways on the street or decide to grab supplies from Coles for your own breakfast BBQ, head on down to Manly Beach to stake out your spot on the popular Sydney beach.

If you’re looking to learn to surf in Sydney, there are plenty of options in this area as well. I took my first surf lessons on Dee Why beach and had a great time.

If you opted to pick up some BBQ supplies, nearby Shelly Beach is my absolute favourite place in Sydney for a little quiet time. The calmer waters and shady beach are great for families or people just wanting to unwind with a good book.

Shelly Beach is a quite corner of the city, and a real gem.
Shelly Beach is a quiet corner of the city, and a real gem.

With the sun starting to get hot overhead, it’s time to avoid a nasty sunburn and seek shelter. There are plenty of great places to grab a bite on this side of the Sydney Harbour, but my favourite would be the 4 Pines Brewery – which is conveniently located adjacent to the ferry terminal. With a menu of delicious burgers and plenty of locally brewed beers, it’s a great place to rehydrate and refuel before returning to the city.

Saturday Afternoon-Evening

An Afternoon in Sydney

After taking the ferry back to Circular Quay, you’ve got quite a few options as to how you’d like to spend your afternoon.

Head left and you can wander past the Sydney Opera House (with a pit stop, perhaps, at the wonderfully situated Opera Bar) and then continue on with a walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens. Once you’ve completed your tour of this popular Sydney location, you’re right in the heart of the city. Do you want to wander the shady paths of Hyde Park or do a little shopping in the city?

Head right from the ferry terminal and you’re headed into the historic Rocks district of Sydney, full of old world charm and some of the city’s best bars and restaurants. A personal favourite of mine in this area is Hart’s Pub, which has an abundance of locally brewed beers as well as some of the best food you’ll find in a Sydney bar.

A longer walk will take you around to Darling Harbour, one of my favourite places in Sydney. With the IMAX cinema, plenty of restaurants, and the nearby Tumbalong Park at your fingertips – there’s plenty to keep you occupied for the afternoon.

Dinner in Newtown

You’ve seen Manly and you’ve seen the hustle and bustle of the CBD, so why not hop a train out to the city’s inner-west to see the vibrant, hipster haven that is Newtown? King Street boasts more restaurants and pubs than you can poke a stick at – and walking along the street is like participating in Sydney’s largest buffet. Whether your tastes are for Thai or Mexican, Vegan or Greek, or just a humble pub meal – the alt set in Newtown have you covered.

If you’re not completely worn out, grab a few quiet beverages at one of the local bars or – if you’re feeling brave – head over to Kelly’s on King Street to belt out some karaoke tunes.

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Spend Your Sunday in the Blue Mountains

I guess it’s not technically Sydney, but the Blue Mountains are close enough that you’d be crazy not to see them while you were in Sydney. Taking a train out to the region is affordable, and once you’re out there amid the clean mountain air and the stunning views, you’re going to forget that the train ride was just a tad tedious.

A day in the Blue Mountains can be whatever you want it to be. Hikers are going to be spoiled for choice, obviously; but shutterbugs will find there’s plenty of inspiration to be found as well. The quaint towns of Leura and Katoomba boast countless cafes, boutiques, and galleries to entertain the quieter set – and adrenaline junkies might want to try the face first plummet that is the Scenic Railway.

I’ve written before about exploring the Blue Mountains, so head on over and see what makes this such a vital day trip when spending a weekend in Sydney.

Need some help planning your Sydney trip? has some great tours and activities!

Your Say

How would you spend your dream weekend in Sydney? With 48 hours and money not being an object, how would you best ‘sell’ Sydney to a first timer?

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