Hey! With the power and reach of the Internet, it has dawned on me that I have an International Audience! Der..…..So I’ve found myself constantly talking lovingly about our great city of Sydney Australia, but for you International Reader, unfortunately you can’t interact with 50% of the things we explore on this blog. Unless……. Unless you come out and visit us here in Sydney!
In our travels around North America we’ve met many nice people along the way, and oftentimes when they hear that we’re from Australia (specifically Sydney….. they don’t care for Queensland….. jokes, jokes), they often tell us that they have Sydney on a bucket list of places to visit! Then I proceed to talk their ears off on all the great things they can see and experience when/if they come out here
So if you’re fortunate enough to be heading Down Under (or just need a hard enough push to help you decide to book the tickets) here is a suggested itinerary of what you can see and do in Sydney if you’re planning a four night stay in our fair city! **Note 1: I had planned this itinerary for our American relos who were thinking of visiting us Down Under, but they haven’t had a chance to come-out here yet, so you’ll be the beneficiary of our research.
**Note 2: This post will be divided over 4 posts, one post representing each of the 4 days in Sydney!
So here goes! Buckle up your virtual seat-belts, it’s going to be a bumpy….I mean, an awesome ride!
Exchange rate: $1 US buys $1.41 Australian Dollars (AUD)
To get to Sydney, we always fly our national carrier, the good-old Flying Kangaroo! I’m making broad assumptions here, but if you’re departing the West coast of the United States, here are some flight details to give you a sense of how long it takes to reach our shores:
Flight time: 14H 35M (Non-stop). From $945 (AUD) round trip per person, including all taxes and charges).
Depart: San Francisco 8.35pm Monday evening
And after a few airline meals, a couple of movies and a snooze, you’ll be descending into Sydney. **Comment: I think 3 weekdays and a Saturday in Sydney is just about the right amount of time to experience all the big-ticket attractions in town.
Day 1: Arrive: Sydney 6.10am Wednesday morning
Morning: Arrival and orientation
Afternoon: Lunch at Sydney Tower and check-in to accommodation
Evening: Explore Chinatown and dinner in Chinatown
So you’ve collected all your bags and successfully made it through customs, now it’s off to Sydney CBD!
Airport (Kingsford-Smith) to Sydney CBD:
By taxi is the most stress-free option, the door-to-door ride will take around 20 mins, cost may range between $45 and $55 (AUD). **Note: Unfortunately at the moment there isn’t a designated pick-up zone for Rideshare operators at the airport.
A popular alternative is to catch the train (Airport Link), the actual ride will take only 13 mins, but this only takes you to Central station and it is highly likely that you’ll need to catch another suburban train to get closer to your end destination- then wheel your suitcases the rest of the way. The approximate cost per adult is $16.77 (AUD), this is dependent on how far you need to go.
**Comment: Regardless of your end choice, at your first opportunity purchase an Opal card, the SMART payment system which will enable you to travel on all forms of public transportation in metropolitan Sydney. The Opal card can be purchased at any convenience store or newsagent- minimum value of $10 per adult card and $5 for each child/youth card. The initial value on the card can be used immediately on your first trip. Top-up value on the card can be made at most convenience stores and newsagents, or at top-up kiosks at select public transport stations.
Accommodation: Fraser Suites-
488 Kent Street
Studios from $209 AUD per night or 1 bedroom suites from $234 AUD per night (including all taxes and charges)
My personal opinion for first time visitors to Sydney is to base yourselves in the heart of the city (unless you’re staying with relatives of course). A reasonably priced and prime located hotel is Fraser Suites- walking distance from all the main attractions and in a safe and not too busy street. By the time you arrive in the CBD it’ll be around 8am, so too early to check-in but leave your luggage with the concierge and grab yourselves a real cup of coffee!
Ground Level, Galleries Victoria, 500 George Street
And a short walk from your hotel (2.5 blocks away) is a well renowned café who are known for their quality Single Origin coffees, and you can also grab breakfast if the airline meals didn’t hit the spot.
And as the city gears up for another working day, just spend your first morning in Sydney orientating yourself to your surrounds. Downtown Sydney (to use a more familiar term) is quite walkable, it’s geographically flat and the sidewalks are pathed and wide enough (if you stay on the major streets). And for most of the year, Sydney’s weather is usually quite temperate and comfortable, so going for a morning walk will be quite enjoyable. (However, be sure to use sunscreen when outdoors as the Australian sun’s UV rays is harsher to what you’re probably used to). Depending on how you feel after your long flight (and if the caffeine did the trick), you can elect a shorter or a longer walk.
**Note: The best time to visit Sydney is either in late Summer to Autumn (Feb-May) or late Winter to Spring (Aug-Nov).
For a longer walk, from Galleries Victoria you can walk straight down George Street (the main street in downtown) and end up at Circular Quay- where the Opera House is located, and where you can get a perfect view of the Harbour Bridge! The walk from Galleries Victoria to the Harbour front will take at least 20-30 minutes. Unfortunately George Street- once was the main artery of downtown – is currently not a pretty sight due to Light Rail construction; but when you do get to the harbour front, you’ll agree it was well worth it! From here you can go to the left and explore ‘The Rocks’, a historic suburb where the first British settlers set-up their dwellings, and get closer to the foot of the Harbour Bridge (make this visit brief- as we’ll be back here a few more times in the next days). Then head back to Circular Quay and further east where you can walk right up to the white sails of the Opera House and take some selfies, sharing the moment with friends and family on your various social media platforms.
And when you’re done for now (as I mentioned before, you’ll be back a few more times in the next few days), you can put your Opal card to the test and catch the train from Circular Quay station, so you’re back at the centre of town.
Corner of George and Druitt Streets, Sydney
Stay on the train for only 2 stops till you reach Town Hall station, and after finding your way out of the station, re-surface back onto the street level. The Town Hall station is named after the Town Hall which it resides under- a historic sandstone Neoclassical building used for large functions, but better known to Sydney-siders as the choice meeting point for groups (an ideal spot to sit on the steps and people watch if you have the time). Across Druitt St is the historical Queen Victoria Building (locals refer to it as the QVB), a former marketplace which was slated for demolition, until it was lovingly refurbished and turned into a world class shopping mall in the 1980s. Cross the street and feel free to stroll through the building on the ground floor en route to our next destination, or if you’re not in a hurry you can spend some time exploring the Romanesque revival style building where you’ll find a number of interesting (and photo worthy) features and displays (there are 3 levels above ground and 2 levels below).
If you haven’t gotten lost inside the QVB, you should emerge from the other side at a street called Market Street (which is aptly named as you’ll soon see), turn right here and continue until you reach Pitt Street. When you’ve reached the intersection between Market and Pitt, you’ll see why Market Street is the perfect name for this precinct as there are shops in all four directions! (Although I think the street was named before all the shops moved in).
12 noon Pitt Street Mall
Intersection of Market and Pitt Streets
Pitt Street Mall is Sydney’s retail mecca! With many brands housing their flag-ship stores along this pedestrianised city block- at most times of the day there’s crowds of people walking up and down the foot mall, serenaded by street performers. If you’re in the mindset for it, feel free to window shop, walk down one side of the mall and come back up the other side. But the main purpose of bringing you here this afternoon is to show you Sydney from 879 feet up (268m).
12.30pm Sydney Tower
Accessed via Westfields Sydney- entrance near Corner of Pitt and Market Streets
Enter the large shopping mall (Westfield Sydney) and follow signage and make your way to the service counters where you can purchase tickets to the observation level (Sydney Tower Eye), or you may elect to have lunch here at the highest dining room in Sydney! (Reservations will be required).
For entrance to Sydney Tower Eye and to 3 other Sydney attractions, purchase a Sydney 2 Attractions Pass (Purchase online for a discount: $50 per adult, $35 per child/ or purchase in person $73 adults and $50 for children).
**Note: The 3 other attractions you can choose from with your 2 attractions pass are: Sea Life Sydney Aquarium; Wild Life Sydney Zoo; and Madame Tussauds Sydney. All three locations are located only a 10 minute walk from Sydney Tower.
Once the high-speed lift (elevator) has deposited you at the second highest man-made point in the Southern Hemisphere, you have an uninterrupted 360 degree view of Sydney. See as far as the Blue Mountains in the distance (westwards) or out to the Pacific Ocean, on a clear day you can even see New Zealand…… Jks, Jks, you can’t, it’s almost a 3 hour flight away. If you elected the observation deck option, there are other attractions which you can try (for an additional fee) – a 4D screening or step out onto the Skywalk!
If you chose the alternate (which will require some pre-planning) you would have reserved a table at either the buffet style restaurant or at the à la carte restaurant. Both restaurants and observation deck have the same uninterrupted 360 views, the restaurants are both revolving restaurants, and the cost of entry to Sydney Tower has been incorporated into the cost of the meal (which justifies the higher price). The dining options are:
Sydney Tower Buffet Restaurant- If you like choice and trying many things, reserve a table at the self-service buffet restaurant for a wide selection of fresh seafood, hot dishes and desserts (approx. $115 for 2 people after drinks). **Note: Tables are limited to a dining duration of 90 minutes (one rotation of the revolving restaurant takes 80 mins).
360 Bar and Dining– for a more premium experience, book a table at the 360 Bar and dining, a restaurant which serves a Modern Australian menu featuring the freshest seasonal produce on offer and a selection of Australia’s best wines. The cost of the meal is charged by the amount of courses you choose: $35 1 course, $60 2 courses, $75 3 courses, $85 4 courses (all amounts are charged per person).
Or alternatively you can just have a cocktail drink at 360’s bar. But either way, after enjoying the views of Sydney at 879 feet, perhaps tummy filled with good Australian food (or just bloodstream coursing with alcohol) it’s finally time to check in to your hotel! **Note: If you elected the observation level only, you can still grab lunch back down at Westfield’s, they have a large food court with many options, I’m confident that there will be a cuisine to please all tastes.
And after back-tracking to your hotel, check-in and settle yourselves in and ease back a bit. I’ll give you the rest of the afternoon off to unpack and chill-out before hitting the streets and exploring the other end of the city (South CBD).
And hopefully you’re well rested now, and ready to eat again? Yes? Yes? No! I won’t put you through another meal just yet, we will first spend some time exploring the neighbourhood your hotel is located in- CHINATOWN!
Sydney’s Chinatown is a sprawling (12 block- 3 by 4) city-scape of inter-connecting streets, lined with countless East and South-east Asian restaurants, the centre of which is the Dixon Street foot mall with the quintessential Dragon gates on either end, or a number of Asian shopping malls (Sussex Centre and Market City, to name the two largest). You can easily spend an hour just walking around and checking out all the unfamiliar (or they might be familiar) sights, sounds, and smells. And after you’ve done exploring, re-group for dinner.
And I’m sure after walking around and seeing all the different restaurants on offer you have some ideas in what you’d like to eat? Will it be Dumplings? Hotpot? Sushi? Korean BBQ? Viet Pho? Malaysian Rendang and Roti? Fiery Tom Yum Goong? Etc. etc. But if you want the traditional Chinatown experience you can’t go past Golden Century, for the freshest seafood Sydney has to offer!
393-399 Sussex Street, Sydney
Golden Century is a large Cantonese seafood restaurant famous for its wide variety of fresh live seafood and equally famous for opening till 4am 7 nights a week! You can elect from their Chefs’ recommendations which include premium produce like abalone, lobster, king crab and mud crab- all live and brought to your table ‘kicking and screaming’, for your nod of approval before they’re immediately cooked for you. There is also always the ‘lower tier’ seafoods like live fish, prawns, scallops, oysters, muscles, pippis etc., and they serve other meats if you’re not so much into seafood, and of course they have veg dishes for those who are repulsed by the thought of eating something which was still alive 30 minutes before. If you order the premium seafoods you’re looking at an approx. Cost for 2 at $145. **Note: In Australia there is NOT an expectation for tipping/gratuities so don’t worry about that. Unless you really really want to, in that case a couple of bucks (or rounding to the nearest $10 will do).
Okay, you’ve probably flown half way around the world today, seen much, walked a whole heap, and eaten your fair share so I’ll bid you a good-night and we’ll pick-up where we’ve left off tomorrow! Have a good night’s rest- as we have another big day installed for you….. kicking-off in less than 10 hours time!