I lived in Sydney for about 4 months, but before hand I visited for a week when a friend of mine was in Australia and I met up with them from New Zealand during their time in Sydney. After I got home, about a year ago, a friend of mine emailed me for tips on what she should do with 4 days in town and below is the recap I gave her. I am also going to leave in all the little details I gave her as she grew up in LA and rarely travels and before this trip for 3 weeks on a tour of New Zealand and a few days layover in Sydney, had only been out of the US once before.
-Morning: Tour and/or walk around Opera House and Circular Quay (pronounced Key)
-Afternoon: Boat ride from Circular Quay to Toranga Zoo (Bring your student ID if you still have it!)
-Night: Darling Harbour (kind of overrated, as it’s just a bunch of restaurants, kind of reminded me of Universal Citywalk)
–Harbour Bridge Climb or just walk across it. The climb is pricey, but I loved it. The walk across is great too, I did it a few times.
-Wonder around The Rocks. If you are there on the weekend, they have a great artist market. I got some super cute salt and pepper shakers and a really interesting wine holder.
-Go on my favorite walk from the Opera House to Harry de Wheels, a pie cart which I am drooling just thinking of it. I have attached a map of my favorite walk there. There are some hidden stairs where indicated and it takes you on a short cut. Also, when I say pies, I don’t mean like desert pies. In both NZ and Australia, they eat small meat pies as snacks. It’s their version of drunk fastfood. And these are soooo good!!! The cart in Woolloomooloo is the classic cart. Do not be turned off by the pictures. So good! I highly recommend the Tiger (or curry Tiger, if you are feeling spicy). They also have a cart in town, if for some reason you don’t make it to this one. But you must try a pie at some point!!
–Bondi Beach or boat ride to Manly Beach. Bondi has the name (and is lovely) but I liked Manly more because it is a little out of town and more of a suburb in its own right. Plus you have to take a boat, so you get to see more of the harbour! Both places are great if you want to do a surf lesson.
-The most popular one-day get out of town spot is to go to the Blue Mountains. You see kangaroo’s in the wild, go on some hikes and see some nature stuff that is in guide books. It is killing me that I can’t remember the name of the tour that I went on because it was more nature based instead of hitting like all the typical tourist spots. I probably have the flier at home. The most important thing when booking this tour is seeing how many people they pack onto the bus. Ideally, you want a group of like 10-20 people on a mini-bus because you don’t want to spend half your day driving around town and picking everyone up. Stay away from large 30+ people tours. **Edit: I went back and looked through all the brochures and papers I saved from my two years (!!) and found the tour I went on. It was with a company called Wild Frame and they were great. My friends and I were on the “older” end of our day and we were only 26, 27 and 31!! We originally opted for the Q26 tour with the two shorter walks, but once we picked everyone up, and realized everyone else was doing the Q25 walk with the one, really long walk, we changed our minds. I didn’t mind the longer walk, but by the end, the 4 of us were dying while the rest of the group seemed fine. Just to give you an idea! But the company was great.**
–Maritime Museum. It’s in Darling Harbour and I think I liked it a lot because it was free. But it’s also a great intro to the peoples of Australia as well.
–The Aquarium in Darling Harbour. A bit pricey, but they have a really cool shark tank where it seems like the sharks are swimming all around you.
-You can’t hold a Koala in NSW. Lots of stuff in Australia is divided by states and for some reason, they don’t allow this in Sydney’s state. Lots of places advertise “cuddle up to a Koala” and it’s just getting your picture taken next to one. Cute, but not the picture you picture yourself with when you come to Australia.
–Paddy’s Market, which is sort of between Chinatown and Darling Harbour is a great place to stock up on cheap crap for people back home.
Moral: This list just includes my favorite things to do as a tourist in town, if you are short on time. No way even a partial list. Even when I was living there, when I was bored, I did half this stuff in my spare time, especially the walk from Harry de Wheels to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. This always cheered me up.