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Suitable for: 1 week

Sydney, the lively capital of Australia, has tons to do and explore. Not only does Sydney boast many renowned places of interest, the food scene in the capital is growing tremendously as well, partly due to the sprout of hipster cafes in the various districts. Be it the famous attractions near Darling Harbour, or the beautiful sights and natural wonders seen around the peripheries of the city, this vibrant location is a must-visit if you’re planning to come Down Under. I hope that this guide will, at least, give you some insights into how to travel Sydney. 

Getting to Sydney 

Flying into Sydney would probably be easiest for most people to get to the capital city. Unless you’re somewhere in Australia at that time (in which you can take a cheap train to Sydney), most budget airlines will serve the surrounding cities/countries like New Zealand, Bangkok and Singapore.

Airline: Scoot
Costs & Durations: 

Singapore to Sydney [ hours direct]
Departure Timing from Singapore : 0145
Airline
: TR2

Sydney to Singapore [7 hours direct]
Departure Timing from Singapore : 2155
Airline
: TR13

Total: SGD 479/ person (I booked this flight pretty late, thus the prices were elevated. I think you can book the same flight a few months in advance for around SGD 300/ person)

You can also take note of Scoot’s Take Off Tuesday’s sale.

*Prices do not include check-in luggage, seat allocations or in-flight meals, all of which will incur extra charges 

SIM card

You can get a SIM card immediately after exiting the airport. I got mine from Vodafone for 20 AUD (usual price 40 AUD) that gave me 12.5 GB of data, with unlimited Standard National Calls and Text. 

It was so much more worth it compared to the plans offered by neighbouring competitor Optus. It was probably due to the fact that the starter pack was discounted. 

Details

Company: Vodafone
Pack 1: AUD 20, 12.5 GB
Pack 2: AUD 50, 15.5 GB
Pack 3: AUD 60 , 18.5 GB

Duration: 35 day expiry

Accommodation

I stayed in Mercure Sydney Hotel which was pretty great. It was located just beside Central Train station, which allowed easy access to all the train lines serving Sydney. The amenities were wonderful, the room was sparky clean and they had a hot heated pool at the top of the hotel.  The only thing that I would nitpick at would be the dim lighting in the rooms at night. It seems to be a common thing among accommodations in Australia.

Besides the brilliant location of being near the train station, it is also located just next to a major bus stop, near a shopping belt, and in close proximity to bustling Asian eateries (which happens to be one of the only places open after 9-10pm at night, just in case you want to grab some food). Just to let you know, they were a lifesaver. 

Links

Websitehere
Accorhotels link: here 
Booking.com
linkhere 

Price: USD 183 / night (without breakfast) [Deluxe King Room]

Activities

Do the typical attractions

See the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House from various vantages in the city, whether it be from under the Harbour Bridge, on a boat cruising along the river, or one of the nearby parks on the opposite side of the river. They still look somewhat dazzling, even if they are the city’s most viewed attractions.

Find out whats going on daily at the Opera House here

Darling Harbour is also another iconic place to visit in Sydney. You will definitely enter this precinct at some point, either to visit Paddy’s Markets, or to visit Madame Tussauds, or Sydney’s Aquarium.

Tips

  • Travelling on Sundays will give you a AUD$2 cap on your transport fare, use that to your advantage to travel on trains / ferries around Sydney.

TripAdvisor Reviews

Harbour Bridgehere
Sydney Opera Househere 
Paddy’s Marketshere 
Sydney Aquariumhere
Madame Tussaudshere 

Visit the various districts of Sydney

Sydney boasts a whole lot of districts that will interest you. Here are some of the more common ones described in words and phrases. Some of these require day trips out, either by train or by ferry.

  1. Surry Hills: hipster cafes, hipster walls, creative hub
  2. The Rocks : A more olden, and grandiose feel
  3. Paddington: stylish, modern and cosmopolitan
  4. Manly: beach, surf, laid-back, chill, backpacker friendly
  5. Bundeena: quiet, calm, beautiful beaches, cliffside views
  6. Bondi: beach, surf, popular,  (sometimes) rich & famous
  7. Chatswood: Asian, shopping, more happening

Do the Bondi-Coogee coastal walk

Route: Bondi -> Tamarama -> Bronte -> Clovelly -> Coogee

A lovely way to spend a half-day, starting either from Coogee Beach (backpacker paradise), or Bondi Beach, you will walk from either end via a stunning coastal walk that provides great views throughout this hike. Do allow for a minimum of 2 hours for this 6km coastal walk. Its an easy hike, with proper walkways, you could do it in slippers.

While at Bondi beach, I visited IceBergs (the famed swimming pool which appears in almost all Instagram photos tagging Bondi Beach), which looked nice (just for a photo). On weekends, this place will be packed. So definitely try to aim for a weekday (and away from the Australian school holidays if possible).

You could venture down to the rocks along the coastal walk, like we did. They make for great photoshoot locations, with the orange of the rock contrasting against the blue sea. Tread carefully, and you’ll be rewarded. Try not to slip on algae near the edge of the waters though.

 

Getting to Bondi

  1. Take the train to Bondi Junction
  2. From there, hop onto bus 380, 381, 382 or 333 which will bring you to the beach (use Google Maps for navigation if you’re unclear about where to stop). The beach will be on your right.

Tips

  • The nearest public toilet when you drop off will be at Mcdonalds, if you guys want to change.
  • There are also bathing/changing boxes at Bondi Beach itself, you will have to walk to the rightmost end of the beach (its a white building.)

Visit Bundeena

A little piece of heaven, Bundeena is the perfect nature spot for anyone visiting Sydney. Bushwalking, or trekking in general, is popular here, and there is no public transport to bring you around. Make sure that you have comfortable footwear, and get rollin.

Do visit the Balconies, which are a geological formation near the coast, composed of numerous cliffs which take some semblance of many balconies stacked together. I met a group of friends who had walked all the way to the Wedding Cake Rock, they said it wasn’t anything spectacular and looked similar to the Balconies, but its up to you 🙂

Most day trippers, if not doing the trek, laze around on Horderns Beach, the most easily accessible one from the port. Its a beautiful place to spend a day with family or friends, unlike busy Bondi / Bronte, this place provided more quiet, and privacy.

If you’ve enough time, some people do the entire coastal trek through the Royal National Park starting from the Balconies. You’ll pass by amazing sandstone cliff views, quiet untouched beaches, and of course the Figure 8 Pools, which have recently shot to fame. You’ll need to research how to access it, as its best visited at low tide, and the path to get that is a tad unique. It will require a minimum of 2 nights. 

Getting to Bundeena

  1. Take the train to Cronulla, the last stop.
  2. From there, follow the directions for the ferry terminal towards Bundeena.

Schedule

Please take a look at the ferry timings in advance here 

Tips

  • Do try to hitch a ride from anyone traveling from Bundeena’s port to the start of the coastal walk (or back) which will bring you to the Balconies. It took us an hour to walk there, it took us 5 minutes to return via hitching a ride from a friendly couple. I’m so grateful to them, honestly, we would have missed the nearest ferry back to Cronolla otherwise.
  • Don comfortable shoes, slab on sunscreen and other essentials for a hot, mostly outdoors, adventure.

Go sand boarding at Stockton Sand Dunes

The nearest Sand Dunes to Sydney are the Stockton Dunes located at Nelson Bay, approximately 2 hours away via car, and the journey is hands down worth it.

Rent a 4WD to get you across the sand dunes easily. Walking by foot is just a disastrous idea. It will allow you to access more remote parts of the dunes & far-away beaches [e.g.: Samurai beach] (those are the locations you want to be in for perfect Instagrammable shots 🙂 with the vast dunes as the background)

Otherwise, you could also opt for sandboarding, in which you slide down the sand dunes on boards provided by the operator (who also transports you to the sandboarding location). You stay for as long as you want, and tell the operator whenever you want to return. Its a lot of fun, especially if you’re in a group and you race each other. It might be tiresome to walk back up the dune after, but that’s about all I can lament about.

Just a heads up, if the winds are strong that day, you will definitely be buffeted by the sand at the tips of the dunes (that is, the highest points), and it will be a one-of-a-kind experience, but not one that I’ll redo any time soon!

The sandboarding package also brought us to a more remote location in which we could snap gorgeous dune pictures easily. We spent half of our time there on photography 😛 After all, how often do you get to experience white, pristine never-ending dunes ?

Other activities you can partake in include camel riding, many tour groups had actually included this as part of their tour package. Those poor camels though…

It’s good to travel here by yourself (if you have the means of transport), rather than joining a group. As I usually say, tour groups are always on a tight schedule, and with such a large group, there will inevitably be some delays on the way, and the actual fun time is reduced.

 

TripAdvisor Reviewhere 

Getting to Stockton Sand Dunes

  1. If you’re driving, I used Google Maps for handy directions.
  2. Just a tip, do not put in “Stockton Sand Dunes” as your destination in the GPS. That will bring you to the Sand Dunes Adventures Company (they offer ATVs, and other fun adventures in the dunes, but do not allow you to actually access the dunes themselves. Lock in the location “Anna Bay”, that will bring you to the Sand Dunes themselves.

Prices25 AUD (sandboarding / person), 15 AUD (observer, you get to travel there but not sandboard – might be worth it just for the photography location), 10 / 30 AUD (3d / 1 year permit for the 4WD vehicle, bought at the service station)

Tips

  • If you’re doing sand boarding, its advisable not to wear shoes as sand will most probably get in, and ruin it. I wore my trusty slippers.
  • Toilets are only available at the cafe near the parking area, no toilets whatsoever in the dunes, so let loose before you travel out into the dunes.
  • The cafe food is a tad overpriced, grab some bites or takeaways from convenience stalls at petrol kiosks before you arrive to save some money.

Explore Luna Park

Choosing to go to this theme park was one of the best decisions I made during the trip. I had expected the theme park to be small and insignificant. How wrong I was! The rides were exhilarating and the builders definitely made good use of the small space they had.

You could easily spend the whole day here, like I did. Taking the pass that allows you unlimited rides was a worthy investment, as I remember myself re-riding the Bumper Cars ride a million times.

 

Coney Island is an area in Luna Park that requires separate payment to enter. It boasts some wonky slides, a mirror maze and some cool contraceptions to defy gravity, but that’s about it, I wouldn’t recommend paying the extra money to enter Coney Island. 

The kiddy rides were actually quite enjoyable to play on, especially since there was literally just us on the ride.

The cool thing about Luna Park is the fact that its a permanent “open” theme park. That is, there are no entrance fees, there are only fees for going on the rides. Photo enthusiasts will be thrilled 🙂 There is actually a brilliant photo spot just outside the park as well, it gives you a brilliant backdrop of Lavender Bay and the Harbour Bridge.

TripAdvisor Reviewhere 

Getting to Luna Park

  1. Take the train to Milson’s Point.
  2. A 5-10 min walk will bring you to the entrance of Luna Park.

Priceshere

Tips

  • Visit on a Weekday! That’s when you’re most likely to get the whole park to yourself, as its the time when they have the least number of visitors. Luna Park is open on all days mostly from 11am-4pm, with weekend timings differing

Day Trip to the Blue Mountains

classic day trip, but it retains its beauty nonetheless.

The Blue Mountains is a mountainous range near Sydney that makes for an enjoyable day trip. The scenery was great, but what I felt was the most fulfilling part of this trip was the peacefulness as you do some bushwalking along the paths.

No doubt, there will be tourists, and busloads of them who are following package tours. However, these will be concentrated on certain areas like Echo Point, the rest of the mountain range and its nearby districts will still remain tranquil and peaceful.

 Walking along a quiet district to Echo Point

In fact, a friendly farmer stopped his work to show us around his beautiful farm, and the various fruits that he grew. He explained his troubles regarding certain pests, and the difficulties in harvesting some fruits.  These little stories are what you’ll remember as well.

I used the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus to get me around the area and it was fantastic. A one-way hop-on-hop-off concept, this bus brings you to numerous destinations in the Blue Mountains. Its a convenient and reasonably inexpensive method of exploring the region. You also get an enthusiastic bus driver cum guide on board who will gladly introduce you to the Blue Mountains region, and its various attractions.

Recommended places to visit:  Katoomba Falls, Scenic World, Echo Point, Leura Cascades, Leura Village

Scenic World composes of 3 main rides, the Scenic Cableway (takes you along the mountain edges), the Scenic Skyway(takes you across a valley where you can view the Katoomba Falls from above) & the Scenic Railway (an inclined descent down the mountain via a rail). The entrance fee to these rides are included in the Lyrebird Pass.

Verdict for Scenic World: skip itIts cramped, the views of the sights (3 Sisters, Katoomba Falls) pale in comparison to what you see when you are actually there.  Too many people, too much chatter, and overall not worth your buck.

Echo Point is just amazing though. You get to see the 3 Sisters, and even watch down a narrow bridge that links the main mountain range to one of the Sisters. It makes for wondrous photo opportunities. We actually watched from Scenic World to Echo Point, enjoying the scenery and tranquility along the way.

TripAdvisor Reviewhere 

Getting to the Blue Mountains

  1. Take the train to Katoomba. (Be sure to check the train schedules from Central beforehand as each train towards Katoomba departs in long 1-hour intervals, you don’t want to miss it.)
  2. The Blue Mountains Explorer Bus kiosk is right outside the station. You can purchase your passes there.

Prices:

Explorer Pass (day pass allowing access on board the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus): AUD 44
LyreBird Pass (Adds on entrance tickets for Scenic World: AUD 83
Cockatoo Pass (Adds on tickets for Waradah Aboriginal Centre):  AUD 100

Tips

  • If you have the ability to do so, attempt at least one walk/trek in the Blue Mountains instead of hitching a ride from the Explorer Bus. It will give you a different perspective of life in the distant district of Katoomba.

Visit a festival in Sydney

There was a Wine & Food festival ongoing (Vino Paradiso) during the time we were in Sydney. The Australian capital has many carnivals and festivals that occur, especially during the summer months. You could essentially sample as many wines as you wanted for a mere  AUD 5 (for the glass bottle). 

There was a minimum credit of AUD 30, which you also use for other interesting foodstuff and desserts which they sold there. It’s also interesting to visit a festival overseas as the culture is so different from what you experience back home. 

You can look for the different festivals occurring in Sydney here

Visit the various markets in Sydney

The Australian capital also boasts one of the best markets in the country. Here are some recommendations.

  1. Surry Hills Market (1st Saturday of each month, 7am-4pm)
    • fashion, vintage, design, accessories
  2. Bondi Markets (every Sunday, 10am-4pm)
    • cute, beach-related, bustling
  3. Balmain Markets (every Saturday, 8.30am-4pm)
    • arts & crafts, vegetables, other edibles
  4. Paddington Markets (every Saturday, 10am-4pm)
    • new, exciting, hipster, fashion
  5. Glebe Markets (every Saturday, 10am-4pm)
    • vintage, Vintage, VINTAGE

There are plenty of other markets, but I have narrowed down these few that seem most appealing in terms of variety and popularity.

TripAdvisor Reviews

Bondi Marketshere 
Balmain Marketshere 
Paddington Marketshere
Glebe Marketshere

Other possible Day Trips

  1. Hunter Valley: a stellar wine-producing regions with gorgeous views along the way (do the limestone Jenolan Caves along the way too!)
  2. Jervis Bay: Boasting the whitest sand in the world, according to Guinness, its perfect for snorkelling, diving and other water activities. Hyams Bay is a must-do. You will also cruise along the Grand Pacific Drive on the way to Jervis, its flooded with spectacular views, so get ready your camera!
  3. Berry: Suitable for history buffs, this quaint town is filled with intriguing art pieces, grazing horses and an overall charming vibe.
  4. The Entrance: Situated near the coast, this location beats Jervis Bay in its array of watersports. The Entrance’s Ocean Baths must be visited.
  5. Royal National Park: As mentioned above, the RNP can be visited via Bundeena or other areas and the Figure 8 Pools are a must.

TripAdvisor Reviews

Hunter Valleyhere 
Jervis Bayhere 
Berryhere 
The Entrancehere 
Royal National Parkhere 

Transport

Train 

The train is, to me, the easiest way to get around Sydney. Central Station connects all the lines within the city, as well as other cities in Australia. They usually have empty seats.

Timetableshere 

Light Rail

Something like the tram in European cities, the Light Rail works mainly around the CBD in Sydney. Its a great way to get to Chinatown, just drop off at Paddy’s Market. 

Websitehere 

Bus

Buses in Sydney are pretty comprehensive as well. They are on time, and usually have seats. 

Websitehere

Taxi/Uber

Trust me, Ubers are way cheaper than the metered taxi in Sydney. If you really have to get somewhere fast, take an Uber. 

All the transport methods (even the common ferry) except Taxi / Uber uses the Opal card, which is a transport card which can be topped up in every train station. You can purchase an Opal card from every train station, and most get them at Sydney’s airport when they arrive. 

Another thing, transport in Sydney caps at AUD 2 on Sundays, this is the time to make those long or expensive train / ferry rides. 

Food

The Grounds of Alexandria

This cafe was a sight to behold. Located in a residential? district, the Grounds is essentially a gigantic garden-themed compound comprising of a few different shops/cafes. It was a fresh concept that brought a whole new definition to cafe dining. Quintessentially an Instagrammer’s paradise,  the garden theme was well-thought of and the architecture was carefully designed to allow a cool interior in spite of the burning sun. We dined at the Pottery Shed, which served mostly mains and some dessert. I loved the little farm they had at the side, which had a pig named Kevin Bacon (apt.) and other cute animals. 

Besides the Pottery Shed, the Grounds offers a coffee roaster, bakery, bar, kitchen garden, weekend market and even a florist for your needs. 

We tried the desserts offered at the Pottery as the bakery was unfortunately closed. Their presentations was gorgeous, however, the portions were a tad small for the price that we paid. I loved the cool atmosphere and chill vibes though. 

Overall, quite a nice place to visit, the only downside being the slightly long walk from the station, which can get dreary in the hot sun. 

Websitehere 
TripAdvisor Review
here 

Prices

• AUD 15 (Mango and Macadamia Crème)
• AUD 15
(Strawberry, Peaches & Cream Cheesecake)

Getting there

  1. Take the train to Green Square.
  2. Use the GPS to navigate. It is a 10-15 minutes walk from the station.  

Their website also has directions here 

Pancakes on the Rocks

Pancakes on the Rocks has a few outlets across Sydney. They serve really delicious buttermilk pancakes that melt in your mouth as you bite into them. I ordered the Bananarama, which was so good. It is also quite a popular cafe for Asian tourists, so be prepared to queue a little.

Each of their pancake orders comes in 2 pieces. The portions are also reasonably large for my stomach (which might be quite small). The ambience was cosy, but there was not a great view, perhaps because the outlet I was in had their cafe in the basement. Their service was also prompt and polite, which definitely makes your experience much more enjoyable. 

Eating a warm fluffy pancake on a rainy day was absolutely one of the best things you could do!

Website: here 
TripAdvisor Review
here 

Prices

AUD 13.95 (Bananarama)

Getting there

  1. Take the train to Circular Quay.
  2. Use the GPS to navigate. It is a 5 minutes walk from the station.  

 

Pompidou

Pompidou was a homely cafe that we discovered on our way to Luna Park. Situated in the first floor of an office building, I was yearning for some good coffee and TripAdvisor gave me Pompidou as one of the best cafes around the area.

Needless to say, it did not disappoint at all. The croissant was soft and fluffy, the cake was just the right sweetness, and of course, my latte was perfect. It wasn’t too expensive as well, which made for a good deal. Its a good option to grab some brunch / coffee if you’re heading to Luna Park on the way. 

It is quite a small cafe, so there might be busy times with no seats. I went around 10am in the morning, so I might have missed the busy crowds during lunchtime. 

TripAdvisor Reviewhere 

Prices

AUD 6 (Latte)
AUD 4.50 (Ham & Cheese Croissant)
AUD 5 (Lemon Cheesecake)

Getting there

  1. Take the train to Milson’s Point.
  2. Use the GPS to navigate. You should pass by it on the right if you’re walking to Luna Park.

Asian Food

Din Tai Fung

This needs no explanation. Everyone should know what Din Tai Fung is. Serving a myriad of Asian dishes, the chain of restaurants in Australia essentially serve the same items as in Singapore, but add around SGD 3-4 extra for every item as they are significantly more expensive that the same equivalent dish in Singapore.

However, the quality of the dishes were surpassingly equally good. We ordered the Fried Rice with Pork Chop (one of the best valued items on the menu, learnt it from a dear friend), as well as the signature Xiao Long Bao dish. Each was splendid and similar to what we have back in Singapore. 

Many of the native Australians were also dining at the same outlet. Goes to show the decent quality of the food 🙂

Prices

AUD 16 (Fried Rice with Pork Chop)
• AUD 13
(Platter of 8 Xiao Long Baos)

Getting there

  1. Take the train to Central.
  2. The Din Tai Fung outlet is located in Central Park Mall, on the 3rd floor. 

Yummy One Restaurant 

This formed the staple of our diet in Sydney. The Asian dishes served here were so good. It was simple, but so delicious. We frequented the place until the lady owner had our orders memorised. 

Every dish you ordered comes with a drink of your choice. I would highly recommend the Hong Kong Milk Tea. It was so good, almost as tasty as bubble tea. We took the Pork with Rice , as well as the Chicken with Rice. These two dishes came with lots of assorted vegetables, which was really what we needed for some “detoxification”  after eating fried, unhealthy food during the day. Their portions were also huge, one dish was enough for 2 people. 

Another great thing about this shop was the fact that it opened until 11pm everyday, last orders are at 10.30pm. It was located close to our hotel (Mercure), and was so convenient to get to if we had the hunger pangs at night.  I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who stays near Central Station. 

TripAdvisor Review: here 

Prices

AUD 13 (Pork/Beef/Chicken, & Assorted Vegetables with Rice) 

Getting there

  1. Take the train to Central.
  2. Navigate using the GPS. You will have to cross a major junction. 

Supermarkets

There are 2 main supermarket chains in Sydney, from what I have experienced. They are Coles, and Woolsworth.  The first would be Coles, which is bigger than Woolsworth and generally sells cheaper goods. You can literally find alsmot everything in the supermarkets, and they are very wallet-friendly so be sure to visit them, especially during the start of your trip when you’re purchasing groceries to last you!

Both the supermarkets have weekly sales in which they try to clear their stock of items by slashing prices. These are generally value offers which you should take advantage of. 

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