Sparkling turquoise beaches, ferries jetting across the harbour, the iconic Opera House, and rich history- the possibilities are endless in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is a place with diverse culture, a safe and welcoming atmosphere, and enough natural beauty to fill your spirit long after you’ve left.
There’s never enough time to soak up all the delights of Sydney, and that’s coming from someone who has lived here quite a while, but if you only have 48 hours, you can still make the most of your adventure.
Where To Stay
Basing yourself in a central location, such as Sydney’s Central Business District (referred to as the CBD), or the Rocks will give you convenient access to the city’s public transportation and ferries. For a weekend of complete luxury, look no further than the Park Hyatt Sydney, with harbourside views, modern design and elegance, and picture-perfect views of the city and the Opera House. Other great options include the Harbour Rocks Hotel, the Four Seasons Sydney, The Grace Hotel, or the Sydney Harbour YHA – the Rocks, perfect choices for all budgets.
Wherever you stay, pick up an Opal Card on arrival in Sydney- these reusable cards are your key to public transportation across the city, tapping on and off as you go. You can top up the balance at most convenience stores or train stations, or online via your account.
The Rocks and Circular Quay
Spend your first morning strolling through the Rocks, Sydney’s oldest settlement and learn about the city’s convict past at the Rocks Museum, or browse the delectable treats and local crafts at the Rocks Markets, held every weekend. Pop into the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Cafe for a bite to eat and to browse their stunning collection of modern art. After you’ve had your fill of art and croissants, meander across the harbour to check out the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, as well as Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden. Sydneysiders, as the locals are known, have a massive love for coffee and cafe culture, so order a flat white and take your time to explore the cafes as you stroll around- there are so many hidden gems to be found.
If you have time, hour-long guided tours of the Opera House operate throughout a day, a fun way to learn more about the architectural marvel, and how the building came to occupy the edge of Sydney’s Bennelong Point. Gelato Messina in Circular Quay makes for a refreshing stop after the Opera House for a sweet treat- pear & rhubarb or apple pie gelato can’t be missed.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
If the weather is nice, use your Opal Card to take the train to Bondi Junction, then catch a bus down to Bondi Beach. The 6km walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee is stunning, with sandstone cliffs, crashing waves, and photo opp after photo opp. Don’t miss Bondi Icebergs, offering fine dining, poolside yoga, and, of course, Sydney’s most Instagrammable vistas.
On a rainy afternoon, consider exploring the NSW Gallery of Art or the Australian Museum, both easily accessible by public transportation.
After a long day of sightseeing, consider an evening cocktail at the Shangri-La’s famous Blu Bar on 36, offering stunning view from the 36th floor, followed by a relaxed dinner at one of the historical pubs in the Rocks, such as the Glenmore or Australian Hotel. Or, splurge for Japanese in the Rocks at Sake or Nakashima.
Ferry to Manly
Head back to Circular Quay the next morning to catch the ferry to Manly, for what must be one of Sydney’s most scenic commutes. Find an outdoor seat on one of Sydney’s iconic yellow and green ferries, and cruise past the Opera House, Watsons Bay, and out past the headlands over to Manly Beach, on Sydney’s north. Take in the relaxed beach vibes under Manly’s iconic pine trees, enjoy a fish and chips on the beach, check out the surf shops, or try a surfing lesson. Or, a short walk down the Esplanade from Manly Beach is Shelly Beach, a protected marine alcove and a perfect spot for diving and snorkeling.
After your day at Manly, considering popping over to the trendy Inner West, a short train ride from the city. The neighbourhoods of Newtown, Surry Hills, and Glebe offer bountiful locally owned boutique shops, cafes, and hole-in-the-wall speakeasy-style bars.
Moonlight Dining at the Opera House
Finish your epic Sydney weekend off with a dinner at the Opera House’s Bennelong, for a true taste of modern Australian cuisine, or dine under the stars with a glass of wine at the Opera House Bar, a popular alfresco spot, offering harbour views and a relaxed, social atmosphere.
If you can stretch your time a bit longer in Sydney, consider also spending some time in the nearby Blue Mountains, South Coast, Palm Beach, or even Canberra. There is so much to see and do in Sydney, depending on your interests, but hopefully this guide will provide some inspiration when planning your next trip!