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Recommended itinerary:

Last updated: 02 March, 2023
Expert travel writer: Mark Chipperfield

Where to go and what to see in Sydney to get the most from your trip – a 5-day itinerary from destination expert and travel writer Mark Chipperfield.

Editor note – Mark has not included specific recommendations of where to stay each day unless it’s necessary. Instead, see the ‘Where to stay’ section in our Sydney destination guide.

Kick off your trip to the Harbour City by visiting some of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Begin with an early morning backstage tour of Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House.

Enjoy a quick breakfast at House Canteen before wandering around the foreshore to the Royal Botanic Garden. A gentle downhill stroll brings you to Finger Wharf at Woolloomooloo.

Pause for a leisurely lunch at OTTO, a local institution. Take a cab to The Rocks. End your day by climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge – book a twilight spot if possible.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Magnetic, enchanting and still remarkably modern, this iconic Opera House is a must-see. Walk around the outside or book in for a guided tour or performance.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

A unique and unforgettable adventure offering breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour and fascinating historical insights; the city’s ultimate must-do. One of the world’s great bucket list experiences.

Best for ages: 8+ | £110 | 2- 3 hours

Delve into Sydney’s colonial history with a Rocks Walking Tour, stopping later for a gin tasting at Hickson House Distilling.

Stop at the Lord Nelson for a pub lunch before hopping onto the Ferry at Circular Quay to enjoy a bracing cruise across the harbour.

One option would be the ferry to Manly to frolic on the sand – or follow the coastal path around to Shelly Beach, a lovely swimming lagoon. Hugos Manly is ideal for a refreshing cocktail or an early dinner – and handy for the return ferry trip to Circular Quay.

Animal enthusiasts could instead take the ferry to the world-famous Taronga Zoo to see some unique Australian wildlife.


The Rocks

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

The Rocks – the birthplace of European settlement in Australia – is atmospheric, quaint, vibrant and packed with great things to taste, see, buy and explore.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

Manly Beach

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

A good all-round beach, famed for its reliable surf break, and best accessed by a scenic 20-minute ferry ride from the city.

Best for ages: Any | Free

Taronga Zoo

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

A world-class zoo overlooking the city and harbour – the ideal place to see your first kangaroo, koala or platypus.

Best for ages: 4+ | £25

Blow away the cobwebs by doing a few laps at the Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool in The Domain.

Grab a quick coffee or tasty breakfast in the cafe upstairs, before joining an Ozpaddle kayak tour of the harbour.

Catch a 380 bus from Elizabeth Street to Bondi Beach, Australia’s most famous surf beach.

Get some take-away from the outlets around Campbell Parade, then join the locals on the beach or in the park overlooking the ocean.

Then it’s time to tackle the superb Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, stopping in Bronte for a smoothie and perhaps a swim at the beach.

Finish with dinner at the always-buzzing Coogee Pavilion, at the end of the walk.

An outdoor pool on the edge of the harbour in front of Sydney's skyline.

Boy Charlton Pool

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Sydney is famed for its ocean and harbourside pools and this stunning harbourside pool is a stand-out. The Botanic Gardens are on one side, harbour views on the other. Great swim and sunbathing; there’s a fine cafe on site too.

Best for ages: 4+ | £12

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Kayaking on Sydney Harbour

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

See some of Sydney’s most famous landmarks – including the Opera House – from the water, with a kayak tour around the world’s most beautiful natural harbour.

Best for ages: 4+ | £70 | 2 hours

Bondi Beach

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

One of the world’s most famous beaches, with spectacular surfing and a vibrant restaurant and shopping scene.

Best for ages: Any | Free

Bondi to Coogee Walk

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Sydney’s best clifftop walk: a superb 6m trail along the headlands and beaches of this picturesque coastline, with plenty of swimming and eating options en route.

Best for ages: 6+ | Free | 2-3 hours

Pull on your comfortable shoes and walk down to the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), a fine gallery dedicated to modern art. Refuel at the gallery’s popular rooftop café.

Follow Circular Quay to the quirkier Justice & Police Museum before heading over to the newly revamped Art Gallery of NSW.

Break for lunch at the bustling gallery restaurant before a leisurely walk to Darling Harbour for fascinating history at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

From there, take the footbridge to Barangaroo, and enjoy an alfresco dinner at Lotus, a slick Chinese diner.

Australian National Maritime Museum

Australian National Maritime Museum

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Anyone interested in Australian history should head to this fascinating museum that showcases and explores Australia’s naval war history, Aboriginal history and its white settler history. Don’t miss the fully-restored, 19th-century tall ship the James Craig.

Best for ages: 8+ | £12

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The Blue Mountains is a vast swathe of wilderness right on Sydney’s doorstep. You can self-drive for more independence from the tourist crowds, or if you prefer everything arranged, book on a guided tour.

First stop is the Three Sisters, a dramatic rock formation at Echo Point, just outside Katoomba.

Then get the heart pumping with a high-speed trip on the historic Scenic Railway, which drops 310m into the Jamison Valley.

Lunch is at the Boiler Room Restaurant which offers panoramic views and fine regional cuisine.

End the day by tackling the cliff-top walk between Govetts Leap and Evans lookout – a gentle 6km hike.