ULTIMATE Guide to 48 Hours in Sydney

Whatever anyone has told you about Sydney, Australia or whatever expectations you already have – prepare to wipe that slate clean and form your own opinion. 

Going to Sydney feels like something you just *have* to do if you visit Australia and I’m here to argue that it’s something you should WANT to do, not just a place to check off the list. 

I had pretty low expectations as I had heard from others that it’s “just another city” and I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m American and we just don’t have cities like that, but to me it ranks really high up there as one of my favorite cities in the world. 

For one, it’s iconic. The Sydney Opera House is actually really cool, but there is SO MUCH MORE than just the Opera House. 

Second, the food scene here is incredible. And when I can eat the majority of my meals with amazing views, I’m sold. Eating and drinking outside with views is one of my favorite things to do. 

If you’re convinced about Sydney (and chances are if you’re reading this you are already planning a visit there) read on for the ultimate guide to spending 48 hours in this golden city. 

How to get to Sydney

Most people will likely be flying into Sydney. Even if you’re already in Australia, flying is the fastest way to get around because the country is so big. 

Getting from the Airport to the city is also really easy and quick. There are plenty of Uber and Lyft drivers around, but the public transit in Sydney is also fairly easy to navigate and takes only about 35-40 minutes to get from the airport to the Central Business District via public transit versus maybe 20-30 minutes by car. Sydney’s airport is well marked for where to find public transit and ride share as well. 

How to get around Sydney

Public transportation is well connected and fairly easy to navigate (if you have used a metro before, you can figure this one out too). As always, google maps is your best friend when it comes to navigating public transportation. 

Uber and Lyft drivers are also plentiful in Sydney and I used this option to get over to Bondi and to the airport on my way out of the city. 

If you stay in the CBD (Central Business District) you will be able to get around to most things by walking!

Where to stay in Sydney

I would highly recommend staying anywhere in the Central Business District, and even better if you are within walking distance of the Sydney Harbor. This area has pretty much everything you will need for a great short stay in Sydney! Restaurants, shops, and a multitude of things to do. 

I stayed at the Grace Hotel, which was a great spot for me. I liked being about a 10-15 minutes walk from the harbor so I could get a feel for the rest of the city on my walks. Your girl loves a good city walk, so it was a great excuse to take a different route every day and find fun coffee shops and cafes to try along the way. 

The Rocks area would also be a fun place to stay. These hotels are typically more expensive due to the proximity to the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House, and a lot of them have views of the harbor. That is the only thing I didn’t like about the Grace hotel is that it was missing a fun view (I’m a real sucker for accommodation with a view). 

What to do in Sydney

Upon dropping your bags I highly recommend that your first activity be to just walk down by the harbor area to get the lay of the land. Truly, one of my favorite activities is walking around a new city and this area is just so much fun to explore. 

Walk the harbor area: From the Harbor Bridge to the Sydney Opera House, this area “The Rocks” is where all of the action is. Countless restaurants and cafes, views on end, and this is also where the Ferry terminal is to take a Ferry out to one of the beach towns on the other side of the bay. Get a drink on the water with views of the Harbor Bridge at WhaleBridge, or eat a fancier meal with a view of the Opera House at Luna Lu. 

There are also plenty of tour options to kayak or boat around the harbor! 

Visit the Sydney Opera House: You can actually attend a show here if you want to! I think just walking around the grounds is incredible though. You get to see such an iconic structure up close and see all of the angles, and nooks and crannies that you could never see or experience through a photo or video. You can see what shows are on here. 

The Bridge Climb: I didn’t actually do this and I don’t feel like I missed out. BUT if you love adrenaline inducing activities and have always wanted to do the bridge climb, you should! It is not cheap though ($300 or so) so make sure you budget enough for this activity if it is a must on your list. 

Take the ferry to Manly: To see a different side of the Sydney metro area, and get a little bit out of the city, take the ferry from the CBD over to Manly. It’s a 30 minute ferry ride for USD$10 each way with amazing views of the opera house and the harbor bridge. Once you get to Manly, it’s really easy to make your way from the ferry building to the main beach area. 

It’s a classic beach town, so your time here is all yours to enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and ocean view patios. Grab a drink or a coffee, then find your beach spot and relax. You can make your way here very easily or you can book a tour if you’d rather not do the planning! 

Visit Bondi Beach and Bondi Icebergs: Bondi might just seem like a nice pool to look at, but anyone can actually swim here! If you don’t want to swim but you still want to enjoy the view, you can also just go inside and have a coffee at the on-site cafe. There is a check in counter right when you walk in, which is where you can pay the $10 to use the pool and facilities (which includes a sauna and a gym) or you can let them know you’re just going to the cafe. Excellent coffee and pastries and also there is a smaller pool to the side of the big lap pool for more relaxed swimming if that is your pace (it was mine)! 

Bondi Beach is just around the corner from the pool and the pure white sand stretches across a giant bay. Lovely for a walk on the beach or a quick swim in the ocean. Surfers love this beach as well so it’s a great place to surf (if that’s your thing) or just watch the surfers do their thing. 

Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk: In the opposite direction from Bondi Beach is a lovely coastal walk to Bronte Beach, which is about a mile away. You can also walk even farther to Coogee Beach which is about 4 miles from Bondi Icebergs. This walk is so very scenic and beautiful, the pathway is paved and you can choose your adventure and turn around wherever you so choose. If I had more time, I would have spent a whole day exploring more of this area and popping into one of the beach towns along this stretch of coastline. 

This part of Sydney is not super close to the Sydney Harbor or the Central Business District, so getting there can be a little trickier. I used an Uber since I was short on time, but public transportation does go between the two areas of the city. Even though it’s a bit farther out, I would definitely recommend hitting this spot on your Sydney itinerary. 

Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens: The Royal Botanic Gardens are in the shadow of the Sydney Opera House. They are super accessible, free, and full of greenery and life. If you’re looking for a place to have a quiet stroll or a picnic lunch, this is a great option.

Whatever you do, if you are going to Australia – don’t sleep on Sydney! You are already probably traveling across the world to get here, might as well see one of the most famous cities in the world (for good reason!) while you’re there.

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