What to Do in Sydney Over a 3-Day Long Weekend
Let’s be honest: Sydney is a show-off.
With its sparkling harbour, beautiful beaches, and a bustling foodie and cultural scene, it’s no wonder why the city attracts millions of visitors from around the world each year. If you have only three days, here are the best things to do in Sydney to make the most of the Harbour City.
Our advice? You’re going to want to charge your digital camera – the city is full of photo opps!
Famous for its cobblestoned streets and grand, colonial buildings, The Rocks is the oldest part of the city – and one of the most charming neighbourhoods to this day. Tuck into an almond croissant at La Renaissance Patisserie (they sell over 1,000 a week!), and then take a trip back in time with a stroll through The Rocks Square, Gloucester Walk and Campbell’s Cove. If you’re a history buff, the Rocks Discovery Museum is a must, and if you’re in the area on the weekend, head to The Rocks Market. From 10am to 5pm, you can stock up on clothes, jewellery, and artisanal goods.Wander through the Royal Botanic Garden
From The Rocks, walk over to the Royal Botanic Garden, a Sydney landmark. It’s a wildlife photographer’s dream. Pack a zoom lens, because chances are you’ll spot native Australian fauna, such as possums, cockatoos and lizards, and flora, like waratahs (the NSW state flower). Before you go, don’t forget to go to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to snap the money shot: a panoramic view of the harbour.Visit the Chinese Garden of Friendship
To go down the path less travelled, so to say, Sydney Chic suggests a visit to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Modelled after the private gardens of the Ming Dynasty, the garden is secluded and serene - you’d never guess it was in the middle of chaotic Chinatown! It features cascading waterfalls, lakes, pavilions and winding pathways, so a tripod will come in handy for those landscape shots.
Climb the Harbour Bridge
The harbour is the jewel of Sydney, and the best place to soak it up is from a perch on top of the Harbour Bridge. The Bridge Climb is an incredible experience. It takes a little over three hours to walk across, but you can opt for an express tour, which clocks in at an hour and a half.
Sip on sunset drinks at Opera Bar
Sitting underneath the pearly shells of the Opera House, this bar has a front seat view of the harbour. If you haven’t eaten yet, order a seafood platter from the Raw Bar (the oysters are a must) or a cheese and charcuterie board. Then, sip on a Sydney Sling as you watch the sun dips below the horizon. There’s plenty more to do at the Opera House. You could head inside for a tour, or dress up to catch a show. The venue hosts theatre, dance, music and opera performances every night, so check the calendar to see what’s on when you’re in town.
Go all the way up to the Shangri-La
Round out your first day with dinner at Shangri-La’s Altitude Restaurant, or cocktails at Blu Bar. Both spots are on level 36 of the building, and boast 360-degree views of the city. If you have the time and energy, start with the vanilla espresso martini at Blu Bar, and then make your way next door to Altitude to try the ‘epicurious menu’ – which is a fine dining menu designed for adventurous eaters.
Hop on the ferry to Manly
The ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly is a quintessentially Sydney experience. For those who travel from the Northern Beaches to the city every day, it’s one of the most scenic commutes in the world! On the 30-minute trip, you’ll sail past the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Kirribilli House (where the Prime Minister lives), North Head, and Balmoral Beach.
Bring a wide-angle lens to capture those landscape shots! When you get to Manly, follow the palm trees down the Corso to the beach. From there, you can start your day with a dip, or stroll over to Shelly Beach for brunch at The Boathouse – a brunch institution. After brunch, snorkel at Shelly Beach (it’s teeming with marine life), or try stand-up paddleboarding at Little Manly Beach. If you’re new to the sport, Manly Kayak Centre offers SUP lessons. Alternatively, head to Manly Wharf Bar for a beer on the pier.
Tick Taronga Zoo off your bucket list
Another Sydney must-do is Taronga Zoo. It’s in Mosman, and the quickest way to get there from Manly is via the ferry. When you arrive, scan the schedule to find out when the wildlife shows are on, and put your name down to snap a picture with a koala (there’s usually a bit of a wait). Then, spend your time getting up close to exotic animals like elephants, chimps and giraffes, as well as native animals like kangaroos, koalas and platypus. If you love animals and glamping, you might want to sign up for Roar and Snore, which includes dinner, a night tour with a zookeeper, and an overnight stay in a safari tent.
Get a culture fix at the Museum of Contemporary Art
If you’re keen to explore more of Sydney, catch the ferry back to Circular Quay and check out the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). The Art Deco building hosts a range of exhibitions every year in mediums like paint, photography and film, and entry is free – though some big-time exhibitions are ticketed.
Grab dinner and watch a show at Walsh Bay
Perched on the pier, Hickson Road in Walsh Bay is a hub of bars, restaurants and theatres. Some of Sydney’s most talented performers take the stage with the Sydney Dance Company, Sydney Theatre Company and Sydney Philharmonic Choir every night. Sit down to dinner at The Gantry or Ventuno, and then catch a show at any of those venues – you won’t be disappointed.
Do the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk
On day three, go east – to Bondi in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Fuel up with the ricotta pancakes at Bill’s, then tackle the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk, a 2.5-kilometre stretch of coastline that will prove – or remind you – just how stunning this city truly is.
The walk begins at Icebergs, the most famous ocean pool in the country, and winds its way through various parks, cliffs and beaches before finishing at Bronte Beach. You can keep going until you reach Coogee Beach, or stop to play lawn bowls at Clovelly Bowls. Otherwise, turn around when you get to Bronte and make your way back to Bondi. When you get there, buy a day pass to Icebergs and spend the rest of the day soaking up the sun by the saltwater pool.
Dig into fish n’ chips at Watsons Bay
At the very tip of the eastern suburbs lies Watsons Bay. Do what the locals do and feast on fish n’ chips at Doyle’s takeaway kiosk while admiring the harbour views (pro tip: ask for extra chilli plum sauce). When you’re ready, pop into the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel for rose or a sit-down meal under the blue-and-white striped umbrellas. Ask any local and they’ll tell you: this is the perfect Sydney afternoon. If you feel like walking, stroll the South Head Heritage Trail nearby. You’ll be rewarded with a picture-perfect view of the harbour and city skyline.
Finish your trip in Surry Hills
Lined with restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries, Surry Hills is the epicentre of cool. End your trip on a high note with dinner at Nomad, Chin Chin or Don’t Tell Aunty, and then grab a nightcap at one of the lively pubs in the area. You can’t go wrong with The Dolphin or The Clock.
Visit us before exploring Sydney
With the right camera, lens and tripod, you’ll be able to capture your adventures and leave your trip with photographic memories to last a lifetime. Pop into your local Ted’s Camera store for expert advice about the best travel photography gear.
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