They say you can’t go past the Opera House for its architectural mastery or scale the heights of the Harbour Bridge for a 360-degree glimpse of the harbour, yet it is what’s behind these iconic sights that truly delivers the essential Sydney experience. As gifted with natural wonders as it is audacious, the cultural capital of Australia hums with vitality. Follow our insider’s guide to make the most of your three-day stay in Sydney, Australia.
An ideal day in Sydney begins with a 7am backstage tour of the Opera House. From pulleys to props, sequins to sound-checks, guides will take you through what really happens behind the curtain. Meeting a small group at the stage door, you will get a glimpse into the dramatic world of our performers and a first-hand experience of what it’s like inside the orchestra pit. A quintessential breakfast served in the Green Room completes the show.After breakfast, follow the fringe of the harbour from the Opera House to the gates of the Royal Botanical Gardens. From the ‘fizz n pop’ of the glowing native violet to the daisy rockstar hybrids, the gardens are a space where nature, art and design converge to provide sanctuary from the city bustle.
From the Farm Cove gates, we continue on to The Old Fitzroy at Woolloomooloo for lunch and indulge in Aussie favourites of rissole sandwiches and dory and chips. For simpler fare, you can’t go wrong with one of Harry’s Café de Wheels’ pies with mushy peas and gravy. This iconic pie cart is a Sydney institution located near the Cowper Finger Wharf.Our next stop is QT Sydney. This boutique hotel, known for its swing and proximity to the QVB, is a crafty blend of gothic, art deco, and Italianate within the historic Gowings and State Theatre buildings. Most rooms offer an indulgent, oversized soaking tub along with the regular creature comforts, and any stay should include lunch or dinner at the Gowings Bar and Grill.
For music with a twist, visit Yerrabingin Sounds in the Sky, an evening of original live music on the rooftop of Australia’s first Aboriginal rooftop farm. This urban oasis in South Eveleigh is one-of-a-kind, as well as the perfect place to unwind, listen to some music, yarn (Aussie slang for chat) with some friends, and watch the sun go down. Only available on some Fridays and offering a limited number of tickets, plan ahead for this.New kid in town Reign Champagne Parlour and Bar at the Queen Victoria Building offers supper tipples and a smorgasbord of cocktails and champagne alongside an Italian-infused menu, while champagne brunches are reserved for the weekends.For food-loving enthusiasts with a taste for adventure, you can’t go past Secret Foodies. Designed for people who love great food and discovering new places, these monthly foodie extravaganzas are not to be missed. All you have to do is book the date and receive the secret location via SMS two hours prior to the event.
A visit to Sydney is not complete without spending time on the crystal-blue waters of the city harbour. For the early birds, a sunrise kayak and coffee with Sydney Kayak provides a serene morning paddle on the foreshores of Lavender Bay and Blues Point. If later in the day is more your style, try their short but sweet paddle to Luna Park with your choice of gelato. Launching from Lavender Bay, these kayak tours are perfect for those who are fairly new to kayaking, as well as the more experienced.But it’s our beaches that capture the heart of travellers. Most head to the sweeping white-sands of Bondi Beach for a brisk coastal headland walk to Coogee. On the other side of the harbour, the Spit Bridge to Manly walk hugs the 10-kilometre coastline offering an abundance of harbour views and Aboriginal rock carvings.
For a stay with a waterfront view in the middle of the harbour, Cockatoo Island is the seminal glamping experience. The island pairs Sydneysiders’ cosmopolitan style with their love of the laidback with a night under the stars in a fully-serviced tent. All you have to do is bring yourself, sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.
A 1.5-hour drive from the city, the Blue Mountains is a rugged region west of Sydney, comprising steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests, waterfalls. Home to the Three Sisters, a three-pillared sandstone rock formation with an Indigenous story, you can trek through the trails wrapped around Echo Point or ride the nearby scenic railway to capture a glimpse of the sisters and dream time tales.Spending time in the mountains is all about being in nature. The Wentworth Falls track, a short but steep walk from Jamison and Wentworth lookouts, rewards bushwalkers with spectacular valley panoramas before reaching the top of the plunging falls.
And no visit to the mountains would be complete without a stay at the landmark Hydro Majestic Hotel. Sparkling with newly-revived old-world charm, you can opt for the lunch at the Boiler House Café with its majestic views of Megalong Valley, or dine at the multi-award-winning Darley’s Restaurant & Bar located at its sister property, Lilianfels Resort and Spa in Katoomba.