Surrounded by fabulous beaches and rugged green mountains, Sydney is one of the world’s most iconic cities.
Most holidays to Sydney are a mix of nature and urban delights, the attractions ranging from days on the coast to world famous landmarks.
Day 1: Famous attractions along the Parramatta River
Sydney is dissected by the Parramatta River, a curving expanse of blue that spills into the Tasman Sea. Two unforgettable landmarks tower above the water. Resplendent in white, the sails of Sydney Opera House make for a timeless photo of innovation. Just across the bay, the immense steel arches of Sydney Harbour Bridge provide a harmonious contrast. Consider lunch with a view around Circular Quays, Sydney’s two most famous sights available in one glistening panorama.
With the city’s easy to use subway and public ferries, it’s easy to enjoy all the history along the Parramatta River in just one day. Furthermore, most hotels in Sydney are within five stops of Circular Quays on the subway. After lunch, explore the charming cobblestoned streets of The Rocks, Australia’s oldest settlement and the continued heartbeat of the city. More odes to the past can be found at the opulent Queen Victoria Building and the shopping precincts of George and Pitt streets. Finish the day in Darling Harbour, the lights reflecting off the water as you tuck in at one of the city’s fine seafood restaurants.
Cruising along the Parramatta River. It’s the classic way to enjoy the visual splendour of central Sydney. From Darling Harbour, the boats swoop under the bridge, past the Opera House, and then alongside suburbs built upon precipitous cliffs. A variety of companies offer tourist cruises, including a commentary on the sites and a choice of meal and drink packages. The public commuter boats aren’t as luxurious, but they follow the same route and are a more economical alternative.
Off the beaten track
Almost all holidays to Sydney include a peek at the Sydney Opera House. But to really experience the beauty of the building, enjoy a performance at one of the four different theatre spaces inside. While the sails are always impressive, the Opera House comes alive when it’s filled with the sound of music and drama.
Day 2: Enjoying the beach suburbs on a holiday to Sydney
Sydney’s confident exuberance immediately impresses all visitors. This is a city that makes everyone feel young, the easygoing ambiance quickly putting a spring in every step. The mix of sunshine and leisurely days is best found on the beaches. Most of them are pristine sandy bays, connected by coastal walkways that wind up and down cliffs with dramatic views. There are over a dozen beaches to choose from and on a holiday to Sydney, the main choice is whether to go north or south of the river.
Closest to the city and packed with fine dining restaurants, the beaches between Bondi to Coogee are the most popular. A gorgeous walkway connects five different beaches – Bondi, Cloverly, Bronte, Coogee, Tamarama – and their close proximity means it’s easy to get a glimpse of the coast by walking less than one mile between any two of them. To the north, sun umbrellas guard bronzed bodies on Manly Beach, a long strip of sand on the north of the Parramatta River. From here, a beautiful coastal walk goes to Spit Bridge, but note that this is more challenging than Bondi to Coogee.
You don’t need to be a surfer to enjoy the atmosphere at Bondi Beach, Australia’s most famous strip of sand. Up to 100 surfers crowd the waves, each of them looking to impress those who watch on from elegant café and restaurant terraces. Easily reached by subway from central Sydney, Bondi is as Australian as kangaroos or koalas.
Off the beaten track
If you’re looking for the quietest sand and quaintest seaside suburbs, head to the Southern Beaches. In particular, Cronulla is a serene neighbourhood with a very local feel. This is also where you can find good value beachside hotels in Sydney.
Day 3: Exploring the Sydney surroundings
Leaving the cityscape behind, the landscape becomes dominated by evocative mountains and lush green valleys. Three easy to reach destinations ensure that holidays to Sydney also provide a glimpse at the wild indigenous centre of Australia. Many local tour companies offer day trips to these destinations with pickups from most hotels in Sydney. It’s also possible to hire a car for the day.
A shimmering blue haze soars through the green eucalyptus valleys of the Blue Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site barely an hour from Sydney. Sandstone pinnacles stand like sentinels above the forested undergrowth and a cable car offers some glorious natural panoramas. Most tours will take you to half a dozen viewpoints.
Halfway between Sydney and the mountains, Featherdale Wildlife Sanctuary fulfils all preconceptions about Australian wildlife. Kangaroos and wallabies hop around, koalas tranquilly cling to their branches, and there’s even an emu making everyone laugh. While this isn’t animals in the wild, Featherdale is spacious and some cheeky marsupials are found exploring outside their pens.
One of Australia’s most famous wine regions, the Hunter Valley is full of both boutique cellars and well-known international exporters. Dozens of farms offer wine tasting and restaurants here offer exclusive tasting menus. Some Hunter Valley tour companies specifically cater for the over 50’s, taking you to exquisite wine farms and retreats.
While central Sydney is modern and colourful, the surrounding areas radiate tradition and old-world charm. This is epitomized by the local farm stores and restaurants dotted along the country roads. Stopping for an early dinner on your return to Sydney is a chance to experience the Australian hospitality and tradition of yesteryear.
Off the beaten track
Far less popular than the Blue Mountains, the rolling hills of the Southern Highlands offer an alternative escape from the city. A series of well-marked hiking trails weave between the peaks, but there are also some stunning picnic spots within a couple of hundred metres of the Highland’s car parks.
More Sydney itinerary ideas
Three days provides a great overview of Sydney’s diverse attractions. But longer holidays to Sydney are an opportunity to really indulge in the beauty of the city. Devote more days to the coast, spend a couple of nights at a spa retreat in the Hunter Valley, or explore aboriginal art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Like in most of Australia, you’re never short of options in Sydney.