What to Do and See in Sydney, Australia

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I waited to vacation in Sydney until I was 27 years old for a reason: I knew that once I stepped foot in the city, I’d never want to leave. Upon touching down there last summer, my suspicions were quickly confirmed.

My flight to Sydney arrived at 7am, and as tired as I was after 12 hours overnight in a plane, I checked into my hotel room and got moving: I only had two full days in this glorious city and didn’t want to waste a moment.

I had been to Australia once before, about a year and a half prior for the launch of the Best Job in the World campaign in Queensland, but this was my first brush with New South Wales. And oh what a beauty she is.

What to Do in Sydney

Sydney is a mathematician’s dream: a dazzling display of geometry where patterns, architecture, and people collide in a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes. Nowhere better showcases these motifs than Circular Quay, the hub of Sydney Harbor. At Sydney Opera House, millions of diamond-shaped tiles make up much larger, concentric sails that jut out over the water’s edge, reinforcing the city’s nautical core. Nearby, the steely arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge provides a thoroughfare between Milsons Point and the Rocks—a favorite climb for adventuresome souls. Outside the harbor, what could be a suburban sprawl is blissfully interrupted by the city’s serpentine coastline. Visit hot spots like Bondi Beach or traverse the Great Coastal Walk. Whatever your tourist appetite, this playground is Australia’s answer to the Land of Opportunity.

Sydney has a reputation as a bustling beach town, but that’s not all it has going for it. In fact, due to the inclement weather, I never so much as saw a stretch of sand. (Bondi Beach and Manly Island, I’ll be back for you, my friends.) That was fine—we have enough beaches in California after all. It just gave me more of an excuse to explore Sydney’s other offerings.

I was staying in the trendy neighborhood, the Rocks, so much of my time was spent wandering the waterfront area of Circular Quay.

I can’t help it: I’m a sucker for geometry, a subject in which the Opera House scored an A+.

While I stepped foot inside the impressive edifice briefly, one thing on the to do list for my next trip to Sydney will be actually observing a concert.

I know I wasn’t there long enough to form a lasting relationship, but if I were to have a formal list of Cities I Have Loved, Sydney would hover around the top regardless.

When to Go to Sydney

Cloudy days in Sydney are few and far between; after all, the city enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year. But summer—from October through February—is arguably the most pleasant time to visit. Increased daylight means long afternoons spent soaking up the city’s coastal ambience and even longer nights making the most of the cosmopolitan nightlife. The beaches are teeming with sunbathers and surfers alike during this period.

Kicking off the summer months is Crave, the city’s international food festival that runs throughout October. Participants can taste the freshest fare Sydney has to offer, watch celebrity chefs in action, attend the night noodle markets, and even have breakfast on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

But perhaps one of its finest celebrations takes place on the last day of the year: The city’s liveliest party envelops Sydney each New Year’s Eve as the harbor is set ablaze by one of the biggest fireworks displays in the world. An estimated 1.5 million spectators come down to the waterfront for the annual Harbour of Light Parade and the pyrotechnics show of a lifetime.

March through May is the shoulder season. Days tend to boast clear skies and warm temps, with cooler nights. Bring a sweater for evenings out. The upside is that most of the crowds have cleared and the attractions are more accessible.

Crisp winter mornings from around June to August are punctuated by bright, clear, blue skies. Temperatures are cool but certainly not cold, lingering around 50 degrees, with an average of ten wet days per month. The Alpine Winter Festival runs in four Australian cities, hitting Sydney around late July or early August. Snow is brought in to form an outdoor ice-skating rink for dance performances, hockey games, and free skating with the family.

In my mind, Sydney is the total package: amazing cuisine, bustling waterfront areas, beach scene, architectural marvels. Who wouldn’t want to live in Australia’s most vibrant city?

I even did a little house-hunting while there. Because what I’m really missing in my life is a wrought-iron balcony. Add that to the equation, and I’ll be a happy girl.

 

 

COMMENTS
  • March 25, 2011

    the opera house is so cool- it looks like a spaceship that landed on the water

  • March 25, 2011

    Take meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee next time.

  • March 25, 2011
    Mister Sister

    I wanna go to Australia 🙁 semester at sea could have easily made a quick stop in!

  • March 25, 2011

    I’ve never been to Australia. 🙁 Seems I’m really missing something. I think I’ll have to change that.

  • March 25, 2011

    It was definitely not a good idea to look at this post at around 5 pm on a Friday afternoon at work!
    Ahh. I want to go now.

    • March 25, 2011
      Kristin

      That would be a benefit of living in Asia, I guess…you could book a last minute jaunt to Sydney for the weekend!

  • March 25, 2011

    Thank you for the tour of Sydney…it was great!!

  • March 25, 2011
    Joan van Velsor

    I have always wanted to visit Australia, and Sydney has been the top of my list for stops. Your photos make it just come alive

  • March 25, 2011

    I really like the balconys and the Opera House is exquisite. But I think I’d want to run into the bush for further exploration.

  • March 25, 2011

    The Sydney Opera House kind of reminds me of the Lotus Temple in India. Sooooooo pretty! I wish I lived in a house that was half that awesome. 🙂

  • March 25, 2011
    elizabeth van velsor

    The opera house at Sydney is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. I will have to “google” around to find the architect and see what other buildings he designed. I wonder if the acoustics match up with the brilliance of the building. On your next trip, you should schedule a concert

  • March 25, 2011
    elizabeth

    I wonder if the acoustics are as stunning as the architecture?

  • March 25, 2011

    I really enjoyed the unique perspectives of your photos. Thanks for sharing.

  • March 25, 2011

    How did you like staying at The Rocks? I loved that neighborhood. A little expensive, but the bars were nice. I think one of my favorite areas in Sydney was Bondi Beach.

    • March 29, 2011
      Kristin

      I thought it was great! So conveniently located and a lot to see and do in the area. Sadly, I was only there for two days and it was pouring most of the time, so Bondi was out. But next trip Bondi and Manly Island are a priority!

      • April 2, 2011

        I loved Manly beach. Especially just walking to where the cliffs are and exploring them. Can’t beat all the beautiful topless sunbathers too, lol.

      • April 20, 2011

        Manly is lovely but it’s not on an island!

  • March 26, 2011

    Did you go to Bondi Beach?

  • March 26, 2011

    Nice shots! Hm maybe I will visit Sydney next year when I’m 27 too 🙂

    • March 27, 2011
      Kristin

      I hope you get to–you won’t regret it!

  • March 27, 2011

    There’s something kind-of California and kind-of European about those pictures. It would be so fascinating to visit a place that is in some ways so similar to home, but in many ways so very, very different.

    • March 27, 2011
      Kristin

      Totally! I love the meshing of the California, European and beach cultures. Australia is such a phenomenal country in all its diversity.

  • March 27, 2011

    Those little houses were some of the most addictive visuals I found in Sydney. There’s a lot of Australian architecture adapted from the British Raj, and I love the ironwork on these houses. Thanks for sharing.

    • March 27, 2011
      Kristin

      Yes! Me, too. I could have spent my entire time wandering the residential streets of Paddington. If I didn’t have family and obligations in the States, I would move to Australia in a heartbeat–such an amazing, amazing country, as you well know.

      • March 27, 2011

        Have you been to Adelaide? Absolutely stunning high Victorian architecture, and gorgeous ironwork bungalows. The fascinating thing about Australian architecture is, because all the States started off as independent colonial entities (as, I think, was the case for most US states, too), there are very distinctive styles for each state. Queenslander houses, obviously, stilts and clapboard to withstand extreme weather…

        • March 27, 2011
          Kristin

          Sadly no, I have SO much Australian traveling left to do. Thus far, I’ve only been to Tasmania, Sydney, Brisbane and Queensland (Cairns briefly; Hamilton, Lizard and Fitzroy Islands; the Whitsundays). I’m DYING to see Melbourne, Adelaide, Lord Howe Island and so much more!

          • March 28, 2011

            Oh i’m going to Adelaide, Sydney & Melbourne in about 1.5 weeks. Anyone with advice of food/fun, etc, start giving it! 🙂

        • March 28, 2011
          SVV

          That’s fascinating about the architecture. It makes a lot of sense given the diversity of people that populated Australia back when it was being settled by Westerners. And ironwork? Man I’m bummed we don’t live in an era that values scrollwork like that anymore..

  • March 28, 2011
    Nicola

    “Who wouldn’t want to live in Australia’s most vibrant city?” Melburnians! Hurry up and come here!

    • March 28, 2011
      Liv

      Nicola – couldn’t agree more! EVERYONE knows that Melbourne is Australia’s best city 😉

  • March 28, 2011

    I want go, I want to go, beautifull photos, the way u go about is magic! Sorry, if I appear to be excited………………….Marwan

  • March 28, 2011

    I loooooove Sydney, but Melbs is still my favorite of the 2. Awesome pics!

  • March 28, 2011
    CJ

    I used to live in Sydney– it is still one of my very favorite cities in the world! I loved the pictures, reminds me of one of the best times of my life. Random bit of info about the Opera House- the architect was inspired while eating an orange!

  • March 28, 2011
    Brandy

    I loved Sydney so much. I’ll definitely be back. My pictures didn’t turn out nearly as well as yours did, though!

  • March 29, 2011

    great photos, i must go there to see how it is

  • March 29, 2011

    It’s definitely on my list. I’m desperate to go there someday!

  • April 7, 2011

    Sydney is never as good as Melbourne… I’m sure you heard all about our little rivalry while you were there?? 🙂

    • April 19, 2011

      Probably not if she didn’t go to Melbourne. Melbournites are obsessed with the apparent rivalry; Sydneysiders rarely give it a thought.

  • September 4, 2015

    Beautiful photos & Sydney is one of the most visited cities in the world. Opera house & Sydney Harbour Bridge is well known attractions. I will defiantly visit some of the places on my next trip to Sydney.

  • January 4, 2016

    I wanna go to Australia it’s really amazing place thanks for sharing….

  • March 30, 2017

    Beautiful… Really beautiful pictures of Australia. Well Australia is my favorite country to travel & these amazing pictures makes me more happy to see these great pictures.

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