Traveling to Sydney, Australia for the first time this year was one of the most exciting trips of my life. I had heard from everyone about how much I would like Sydney (and that I may never want to leave!), and it’s easy to see why this was a Jetset Christina city match made in heaven. Spectacular harbor and skyline? Check. Beaches? Check. Sophisticated, yet laid back, lifestyle? Check. Awesome food, local wines, and epic sunsets? Check, check, check. Sydney is safe, clean, stunning, and (very importantly) a ton of fun.
Between famous beaches, buzzy food scenes, and cultural attractions all around the city, it’s hard to believe there is any place in the world quite like Sydney, which is why if you’re planning a trip there – I want to make sure you have the BEST time.
Here are my quick tips of some of my favorite things to do in the city and all the places I went when I was there! As always, let me know in the comments (or DM me on instagram!) if you have any questions about the city!
Table of Contents
Where to Eat in Sydney
This buzzing restaurant in Sydney’s hip Surry Hills neighborhood is a must on any trip to Sydney. I loved their housemade ricotta appetizer, their steak frites, and above all (you guys know me) their crazy-good Australian wine list.
When a friend who graduated from Napa’s culinary academy (one of the very top in the world) recommended I eat at Pony Dining above any other spot while in Sydney, I knew this place had to be good. This adorable bistro in the Rocks area of Sydney was by far my favorite dinner in the city. The menu is farm-to-table and meat driven – do not miss out on their steaks or brisket. It was hands down the best brisket I’ve ever had!!!!
Located just a ten-minute walk off of Manly Beach is the little inlet of Shelly Beach. It’s here you’ll find great snorkeling, a wonderfully white-sand beach, and the adorable Boathouse – a perfect spot for lunch, brunch, or a cocktail. Order the boathouse salad, a glass of australian sauv and any of their delicious flatbreads. The best!!!
1 Marine Parade, Manly, NSW, Australia. Check out the menu here
This beautiful and lively restaurant features everything from lobster rolls to pizzas, burgers, a raw bar, and mediterranean fare, all in a modern 3-story pavillion with a beautiful rooftop terrace. Coogee Pavillion makes for a perfect spot to satiate your starving appetite you’ve worked up on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk.
For my acai addicts out there like me, this was hands down the best Acai bowl in Sydney- and one of my favorites in the world! (Don’t worry, Nalu Bowls Bali. still love you). There is an Acai Bros superfood bar location in Bondi Beach, one in Manly, and one in Neutral Bay.
I LIVED off this gelato shop in Sydney. (hey, when you walk 20K+ steps on the Bondi to Coogee walk, you don’t feel bad about a couple scoops of to-die-for chocolate gelato!) there are a few Gelato Messina’s scattered around Sydney, and one conveniently located just off the ferry landing at Circular Quay. BTW – in case you’re doubting my gelato knowledge, it was not only voted the best gelato in Sydney by Jetset Christina, but also by Aussie Food Guide.
If a casual, affordable, DELICIOUS, no fuss breakfast is what you crave, this is your heaven. Located in the heart of The Rocks, it’s open 24 hours a day, and yes, they have other food besides pancakes. The menu includes breakfast, salads and starters, savoury crepes, gourmet pizzas, seafood, ribs, steaks and, of course, their famous pancakes. There’s also a menu for children 10 years and under. Order one of their many world-famous buttermilk pancakes (or the crepes), you won’t be sorry.
Another great breakfast spot in The Rocks is the Rocks Cafe, this Sydney staple is one of my favorites for avocado toast and their to-die-for banana bread. The menu features modern european and australian options and the unique vibe is a mix between traditional classic english pub and bohemian diner.
My Top Must-Sees and Must-Dos in Sydney
Sydney Opera House
Yes, you’ve seen it in postcards and in instagrams, but until you’ve laid eyes on one of the world’s most impressive architectural feats – The Sydney Opera House- you can’t understand just how beautiful it is. See it in the day, at sunset, at night. Trust me, you won’t get tired of this beautiful view.
Sydney Harbor Bridge
The gorgeous steel-arch bridge that makes up Sydney’s spectacular harbour is a must-see when you’re in the city (and you won’t be able to miss it!). Head to the base of the bridge and walk across for a great view of the city, or… if you’re feeling daring enough, go ahead and do
The Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb
With a slogan of “360 Degrees of Unforgettable”, the Sydney Harbour Bridgeclimb has long cemented its reputation as a must-do for tourists and locals alike. Harnessed in, you’ll ascend the arches of the Bridge, eventually reaching the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, 134m above sea level, with a complete panorama of the entire city and harbor. It’s one of the most spectacular experiences you’ll ever have. Afraid of heights? They claim to have helped thousands of people challenge their fear of heights by climbing to the top of the Bridge. If you are apprehensive, their te
am specializes in supporting and enabling you to overcome your fears to climb to the top of Bridge. You can read more about their tips and techniques here.
Bondi Beach & Bondi Icebergs
Bondi Beach is one of my favorite areas of all of Sydney. The adorable suburb is a local favorite hangout for great restaurants, cafes, and, of course, the beautiful beach. Make sure to see the Bondi Icebergs ocean pool – which is a gorgeous 50M pool built right up onto the rocks of the ocean. Apparently to become a member of this exclusive beach club and be able to work out at this pool, you have to not miss a single sunday swim practice for FIVE years. Dedication pays off, because this pool and beach club is perfection.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
Doing the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk was by far my favorite day in Sydney! Take a bus (the hop on hop off bus goes there) to Bondi, and get off at North Bondi, pick up the coastal walk right at Bondi Icebergs and make your trek south. This cliff-top coastal walk extends about 6KM throughout Sydney’s suburbs, offering spectacular views the whole way. You’ll pass by many beaches (and beach pools!) and little inlets of towns, where you can stop to rest, swim, or snack at the many cafes, hotels and restaurants along the way. Most beaches along the route offer picnic tables, play areas, kiosks, toilets and change-rooms, and Tamarama, Bronte, Coogee and Maroubra have complimentary electric barbecues. It takes about two hours to complete the entire Bondi to Coogee Beach section of the walk and another hour and a half if you choose to continue even further onto Maroubra. Although it’s not a tough hike, it is a long one. Make sure you wear some comfy shoes, bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and water.
Manly Beach is one of Australia’s most famous surfing beaches – the very first world surfing championship was held here in 1964! Manly’s tree-lined promenade and long stretch of beautiful white sand make it one of the most popular destinations for beaching in Sydney. To get to Manly, you can take one of the ferries from Circular Quay (the fast ferry gets you there in 20 minutes, the slow ferry 40). From the drop off at Manly Wharf, follow the crowds and continue walking up to the Corso, a lively shopping and pedestrian boulevard, until you hit Manly Beach.
Snorkel Shelly Beach
A quick 20 minute stroll from Manly Beach is a little inlet called Shelly Beach, home to crystal-clear waters and a ton of diverse Australian wildlife. It’s here you can snorkel the reef, relax on the beach, or head to the Boat House for some oysters and a glass of rosé.
Located a quick 15-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay, The Taronga Sydney Zoo is easily one of the wildest (pun intended) and best attractions in the city and will be a hit for the whole family. Over 4000 animals roam around this sprawling sanctuary, and you can get up close and personal with aussie favorites like dingoes, koalas and kangaroos!
Where to Have Sunset Cocktails in Sydney
Unless you’re new around here, or don’t follow closely to my instagram stories, you should know I’m obsessed with a good sunset. I chase them every destination I go to and finding the perfect spot to watch the sun set with good glass of wine (0r margarita) is a serious vacation hobby of mine. In Sydney, it was EASY. There are so many beautiful cocktail bars and sunset spots that it was hard to choose from! But these were my favorites:
The best recommendation I got in Sydney was to take the ferry from Circular Quay (The Rocks) to Watson’s Bay, and walk straight off the ferry drop to the adorable Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel for a drink. This casual, chic Hamptons-in-Australia-vibe restaurant and bar is the perfect spot to watch the sunset on the beach with a view of the Sydney skyline in the background.
This swanky bar, 36 floors above the Rocks, serves up delicious views and drinks. You’ll sip on artisan crafted cocktails overlooking Sydney’s prized trifecta – the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House,and the Harbour Lights.
There are few places as picturesque in the world as the Sydney Opera House, but the Sydney Opera House OPERA BAR may be one of them. Watch chefs shuck oysters and slice charcuterie, enjoy al fresco wine and cocktails on the water, or indulge in the lamb rump or (Sydney’s famous) fish & chips from the Opera Bar menu. There’s live music in the evenings, and stellar sunsets.
Where to Stay in Sydney
This posh harbourside five-star hotel is Sydney luxury at its best. It’s stunning location – just across from the Sydney Opera House and at the foot of the Harbour Bridge – is impossible to beat in the city. You can walk easily from there to most of Sydney’s main attractions, yet it feels tucked away in an oasis all its own. Did I mention they have a year-round rooftop pool?
Yes – these could be the views from your room at the Four Seasons Sydney. This luxe 5-star hotel is known for being in the best location of all of Sydney. Steps away from Circular Quay and the ferry terminal, in the heart of the hopping Rocks district, and surrounded by shopping and restaurants, it will be a perfect home base for your vacation.
In the same neighborhood as the Four Seasons lies the Sydney Harbour Marriott, a beautiful city hotel with a gorgeous lobby that underwent a huge remodel just a few years ago. This 595-room, 5-star hotel has 2 restaurants, an indoor pool, and a health club. I loved its convenience and thought the service was outstanding- not to mention its just a short walk from the Sydney Opera House, and within steps of the ferry and bus terminals that will get you anywhere you want to go in the city.
This contemporary city hotel stands high in the historic Rocks district, surrounded by cobblestone lanes and designer boutique, and just a couple blocks away from Sydney’s central business district, shopping, and Sydney Harbor, as well as all the ferries and trains.
Know before you go : Some quick Jetset tips for your trip
Getting around Sydney
One of the first things you should do upon arriving in Sydney is get an Opal Card. Opal makes getting around the city so much easier for tourists. The Opal network covers all of Sydney, north to Newcastle, west to the Blue Mountains and south to Wollongong and the Southern Highlands. If you are taking more than one trip on public transport, using an Opal Card is the most convenient and affordable way to pay for your fares. Simply pre-pay for one, and tap on and off as you go (you can always add more to your card in any of the public transportation terminals). Also – on Sundays, the maximum any public transportation will cost you is $2.60 for the entire day! So take advantage and use your Opal card to ferry on over to Manly Wharf, or all over the city!
How do I get to the city of Sydney from the airport?
When flying into SYD international airport, you can get an Opal Card and take the train from the airport directly to Circular Quay – it’s quite easy, and costs $18 AUD. Or you can take a cab for about $65 AUD.
How expensive is Sydney?
I’m not going to lie, coming to Sydney after living for a few months in Bali, I was pretty shocked by how expensive this city is. It’s more expensive than my home city of San Francisco, or even New York, but everything is super clean, the people are so nice, the food is amazing, and getting around the city is seamless and easy. So, remember that you get what you pay for!! That being said, be prepared for a more expensive trip than most destinations. A single beer could set you back as much as $10 USD, but when you’re busy enjoying the beauty and culture of Sydney, you won’t complain.
What time of year is best to visit Sydney?
Sydney is located in Australia’s New South Wales state. Summer in Sydney (December through February) has a habit of scorching hot days while winter (June to August) brings with it some icy-cold mornings and evenings. So, the best time to visit in my opinion is the shoulder seasons – September through November and March through May. It’s in these months you’ll find comfortable, nice temperature, and fewer tourist crowds.
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