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.
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.
Costs & Durations:
Singapore to Sydney [ 7 hours direct]
Departure Timing from Singapore : 0145
Sydney to Singapore [7 hours direct]
Departure Timing from Singapore : 2155
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Please take a look at the ferry timings in advance here
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 Review: here
Getting to Stockton Sand Dunes
Prices: 25 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)
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 Review: here
Getting to Luna Park
A 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 it. Its 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 Review: here
Getting to the Blue Mountains
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
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.
The Australian capital also boasts one of the best markets in the country. Here are some recommendations.
There are plenty of other markets, but I have narrowed down these few that seem most appealing in terms of variety and popularity.
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.
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.
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!
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 Review: here
• AUD 6 (Latte)
• AUD 4.50 (Ham & Cheese Croissant)
• AUD 5 (Lemon Cheesecake)
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 🙂
• AUD 16 (Fried Rice with Pork Chop)
• AUD 13 (Platter of 8 Xiao Long Baos)
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.
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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