This is a guest article contributed by Naomi Beemsigne Williams from Eat Love Explore.
Are you finally going on your bucket list trip to Australia but only have 2 days to spend in Sydney?
Well, you’re in luck! This is the Ultimate 1 to 2 Day Itinerary for Sydney, Australia with an interactive map to help you get your bearings!
Keep in mind, Sydney isn’t a small city, therefore, you won’t be able to see everything that this incredible city has to offer but with this two-day guide, you’ll cover a lot of ground!
Sydney is one of the biggest cities in Australia and likely where you’ll be starting your Australian adventure down under. Made famous by its Architectural masterpiece, the Opera House, Sydney is a thriving city that has SO much to offer travellers – amazing weather, laid back lifestyle, beaches, nature, fantastic cafe culture and a vibrant nightlife.
Sydney Interactive Map and Guide
Below is a live map of the places we discuss below. Day 1 is Sydney and Bondi. Day 2, Primarily Manly.
How to Get Around Sydney
Everything on this itinerary is relatively close together, so put your walking shoes on and see the sights mentioned below by foot. Walking also allows you to take in the sights and sounds of local Australian city life at a pace not possible in a vehicle. Sydney also has a decent public transportation system with the use of buses, trains and ferries. See here for extensive information about transportation in Sydney as well as how to reach the city from the airport.
Note: The itinerary for day one is very fast-paced. I did this purposefully for people who only have 1 day in Sydney. However, if you have 2 days feel free to slow it down and spread it out between your two days in the city.
The Ultimate Guide for 2-Days in Sydney
The overview of our itinerary is as follows:
- Visit Royal Botanical Gardens and walk to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair Viewpoint
- Take in the Iconic Sites on a walk from the Royal Botanic Gardens to the Sydney Opera House
- Explore The Rocks (Historic Neighbourhood)
- Walk Up or Across the Sydney Harbour Bridge
- Grab Lunch at the Rocks or in the CBD
- Walk to the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) & Explore Inside
- Visit the Iconic & Beautiful Bondi Beach
- Do the Bondi to Coogee Walk
- Dinner & Drinks in the CBD
- Option A) Do the Spit to Manly Coastal Walk
- Option B) Museums, Circular Quay and Ferry to Manly
- Manly Beach
- Stroll to Shelley Beach (from Manly Beach)
- Sunset Dinner at Opera Bar
OR see the alternate day trip options at the end of this post.
Day 1: Morning
1. Royal Botanical Gardens to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair Viewpoint
Rise and shine! Get an early start for your first day in beautiful Sydney. To make sure you have enough time to do everything on this itinerary, I recommend arriving here around 8:00 am. Make your way to Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens located just east of the CBD (Central Business District).
You can easily spend hours here, enjoying the view and having a picnic in the park. However, since you’re short on time, you’ll only have time to enjoy a leisurely scenic walk through the gardens so continue through the gardens to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair Viewpoint (shown below).
Despite the name, there’s not actually a chair here. From this spot, you can get some amazing photos with the stunning classic Australian skyline including the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge directly behind you.
2. Take in Iconic Sites on a walk from the Royal Botanic Gardens to the Sydney Opera House
From the gardens, you’ll walk directly to the Sydney Opera House. Whether you do it for the ‘gram or not, you can’t go all the way to Sydney and NOT take photos at the iconic Opera House.
Spend some time getting the perfect shot, then take a break and people watch on the stairs. If you want to explore the inside, there are 1-hour walking tours that take place every 30 minutes throughout the day.
TIP: If watching a show at the Sydney Opera House is on your bucket list, check out Groupon to see if there are any deals available.
3. Explore The Rocks (Historic Neighbourhood)
From the Opera House, follow the path along the harbour and walk around Circular Quay until you get to The Rocks. The Rocks is a historic neighbourhood located near the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Walking along the cobblestone streets you’ll find many cafes, restaurants and bars, including what they claim is Sydney’s oldest pub (Lord Nelson Brewery). On Saturdays, the Rocks Market is open and is a great place to buy beautiful handcrafted items and try different street foods.
The area is filled with many historic buildings like the Australian Heritage Hotel. They’re famous for their coat of arms pizza. Can you guess what it’s topped with? That’s right. The two animals from the Australian coat of arms, the kangaroo and emu. If you’re feeling adventurous you should definitely give it a try! Kangaroo meat isn’t too bad…
4. Walk-Up or Across the Sydney Harbour Bridge
From here you can walk up to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you are doing the 1-day in Sydney itinerary, you can skip walking along the bridge but I do suggest at least going up the Pylon Lookout for the view.
If you have the money, the famous Harbour Bridge Climb will set you back about $270. Some say it’s worth it, others wouldn’t. Instead, you can save your money by walking along the bridge for free! There is a staircase near the corner of Longs Lane and Cumberland St where you can access the pedestrian walkway that runs along the Harbour bridge.
If you’ve walked all the way across the bridge, catch the train from Milsons Point station and it will take you back into the city.
Sydney Harbour Tours:
5. Grab Lunch at the Rocks or in the CBD
If you stayed in the area, I recommend going to one of the many restaurants in The Rocks.
- The Glenmore Hotel – A beautiful rooftop patio with good views of the Harbour and Opera House. Great food.
- The Argyle – Multi-level establishment with a great beer garden
- El Camino Cantina – Located very close to the Argyle, where you can get $2 Tacos on Tuesdays!
- Endeavour Tap Rooms – Great beer flights!
- Munich Brauhaus – Amazing DIY salad and also some pretty delicious sausages. They have an outdoor patio area as well as a HUGE restaurant inside.
We’ll be continuing into the heart of the CBD, so you could also grab lunch there instead.
For lunch in the CBD I recommend:
- $: Hunters Connection, this is a food court where you can get lunch for less than $10. Crazy cheap for Sydney.
- $$: The Establishment Bar or The IVY are both beautiful restaurants where you can enjoy good food at a reasonable price. Ryan’s Bar will give you a true sense of Australian work culture, it’s an always-packed bar with a huge outdoor area.
- $$$: Mr.Wongs, located in the back alleys of Sydney’s streets (where many cool bars and restaurants are), you’ll have a mini-adventure just finding it. The food and service are impeccable, expensive but worth it! *Make reservations ahead of time because they’re always booked.
Skip coffee and dessert because we’ll get that next!
6. Walk to the Queen Victoria Building (QVB)
The QVB is a beautiful European style building which has lots of shopping, cafes and restaurants inside. Seeing this beautiful building juxtaposed with the Sydney skyscrapers is something to be seen. The inside itself is so beautiful. Take a walk through and window shop on your way to grab a coffee and dessert at one of the most beautiful cafes in the CBD, The Grounds of the City.
If you don’t feel like having coffee or dessert, head to Hyde Park and chill out in this beautiful park right in the centre of the bustling city.
7. Visit the Iconic & Beautiful Bondi Beach
Now that you’re caffeinated and re-energized, grab an Uber or a cab or if you’re feeling adventurous, a bus and head to the world-famous Bondi Beach, just 30 minutes from the city centre. Bondi Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Sydney and millions of tourists flock here every year. The beach itself is only about 1 km long, but Bondi is more than just the beach, it’s a lifestyle (and there is lots of eye candy to be seen, no seriously).
Walk along the beach and set up your spot on the beautiful white sand. If you feel like having a drink, there are many bars available such as The Bucket List, or you can head to the famous Icebergs with views overlooking the beach.
8. Bondi to Coogee Walk
When you’re ready, head along the boardwalk to start the Bondi to Coogee walk. One of the easiest and most beautiful coastal walks in Sydney. The entire walk is 6km long (12km round trip) so if you don’t have the time, I recommend doing just the Bondi to Bronte walk – it’s the same walk but you’ll just stop earlier. It’s a really easy, flat walk that you can enjoy at any pace. You’ll pass several beaches and bays along this pathed coastal walk and you can get transportation back to your hotel from one of the main points along the walk.
9. Dinner & Drinks in the CBD
In my opinion, everyone needs to see the beautiful Grounds of Alexandria so if it’s not too far out of the way from your hotel, head there for dinner. There are a few restaurants you can choose from there and it’s simply the most creative and beautifully decorated place I’ve ever been to. Bring your camera and look cute – trust me. You’ll definitely want to do an Instagram shoot here. Other dinner options include Chat Thai or any restaurant in the trendy, Spice Alley.
After dinner, head for drinks at The Soda Factory. It has a secret entrance hidden behind a fake Fifties-style coke machine. Once you step inside, you’ll be transported to another world and understand why this place has become a popular place to enjoy some tasty cocktails!
Wherever you end up, be sure to have an espresso martini! It’s one of Sydney-siders (what locals call themselves) favourite drinks.
Day 2: Morning
Today, you should do anything you didn’t get to do from yesterday’s itinerary. If you did it all, WOW! Congrats!
Option 1A) Do the Spit to Manly Coastal Walk
If you’re into hiking, I recommend the Spit to Manly coastal walk. It’s a beautiful 10km coastal walk that goes through forested areas, beaches and bays. It’s well signed and should take 3-4 hours to complete depending on your pace.
Note: If you’re doing the hike, don’t worry about missing option B because you’ll see the sights on the ferry back.
Option 1B) Museums, Circular Quay and Ferry to Manly
If you’re not up for such a long hike then spend the morning in the city. Enjoy breakfast at the MCA cafe with views of the Harbour. Afterwards, check out the free museum exhibits and then head to Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Manly. While on the ferry you’ll get some beautiful views of Sydney Harbour (shown below) and the full skyline including the Opera House, Botanical Gardens and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
2. Manly Beach
Manly Beach is Sydney’s second most popular beach. Once you arrive here, you’ll automatically feel transported to a different place. Manly’s vibe is very different from the city. Once you get off the ferry, you’ll walk to the main street, also known as the Corso, an area lined with beautiful, towering palm trees, shops (especially surf shops), restaurants, bars, and cafes. If you continue straight down this main road, you’ll reach the stunning beach.
Walk around the town, have ice cream from Mövenpick (world’s best ice cream), get lunch at Manly Wine or enjoy fish and chips on the beach. After the hustle and bustle of yesterday’s fast-paced itinerary, sit back, relax and soak in the Australian sun.
3. Stroll to Shelley Beach (from Manly Beach)
If you have snorkel gear, bring it with you and head to Shelley beach. You can get to Shelley beach by following the boardwalk path joining Manly Beach, it’s clearly marked and if you are unsure just ask a local and they’ll point you in the right direction. The walk is only about 15 minutes.
Shelley Beach is perfectly named because the sand there is literally made up of millions of broken shells. It’s not the softest, so if soft white sand is what you’re after, stay on the main beach.
4. Sunset Dinner at Opera Bar
Jump back on the ferry by the afternoon and head back to the city in time for sunset dinner and drinks at Opera Bar, located near the Opera House. Seeing the sunset behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge is absolutely stunning and definitely worth seeing!
Alternative options for Day 2
If the beach isn’t your thing, here are some alternative options for Day 2:
- Take a day trip to the Blue Mountains (shown above) or the Royal National Park for some incredible hikes
- Rent bikes and ride through Centennial Park
- Check out Taronga Zoo – this zoo is huge and really fun. Fun fact, you can get admission for $1 on your birthday!
- Go on a wine tour at Hunter Valley (3hrs from Sydney). There are lots of one day tours available on Groupon
- Have a koala encounter at Featherdale Wildlife Park
- Check out theme park, Luna Park
- Have an adventure at Cockatoo Island
Top Tours in Sydney
If organized tours are your thing, see these recommended tours from GetMyGuide:
I tried to include as much as possible, so you can get a taste of the amazing things Sydney has to offer. While 2 days is not nearly enough time, this should help you get a good idea of why Sydney is one of the best cities in the world.
If it helped, leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you.