Last year I was able to spend an amazing week with my wife in Sydney, Australia. It was the culmination of a life-long dream that I had to visit Australia – MASSIVE bucket list crossed off – and I got to visit with my best friend. It was doubly amazing as work paid for the majority of it as I was able to parlay the trip with some meetings. Score!
I reached out to a friend from Sydney who gave me a list of things to visit. The premise was I wanted it to be the stuff that those in Sydney actually do, not the stuff on blogs and tourist websites (though there is some cross over). We did all of what he gave us and more so I thought I would share the itinerary with you in case you happen to find yourself in the same spot of visiting Sydney with your significant other and just have a week to soak it all in.
Day 1: Arrival
We landed in Sydney early (seems like all the flights from the US get in rather early) so we had some time to kill before our hotel was ready. We decided to stay at the Pier One Sydney Harbour, Autograph Collection, which is right down by the main docks (or Quay as it’s called) where all the ferries are, as well as being in the heart of downtown. Such a great decision and awesome hotel. We could walk to a number of great restaurants or to the ferries or even quickly Uber around. The view was one of a kind.
We had to wait a bit that day for our room so ended up going for a long walk along the water (Circular Quay), then actually went to a movie and wasted some time – we were pretty jet lagged from the trip but really wanted to stay awake. Eventually we got our room and took the most amazing, life-restoring nap of our lives!
That night we went to dinner by the main harbor and it was great. Getting to walk along the boardwalk with the Opera House in the background was pretty special.
Day 2: Bondi Beach and Royal National Park
Woke up feeling surprisingly refreshed and hopped in the rental car to head to Bondi Beach as a first stop. A couple of notes on driving in Australia from the US perspective:
1) driving on the opposite side takes some getting used to, but was a fun challenge,
2) if you speed in tunnels they will mail you a ticket – I didn’t really figure this one out until I was home for a week and got 2 different tickets for over $100 each, and
3) Sydney is amazing for using the passing lanes – the left lane actually matters!
So we headed to Bondi Beach first. Being that we visited in August is was actually quite cool outside so we didn’t really have plans of playing in sand/water, we just wanted to check the place out. Bondi is a pretty cool little beach town and fun to just stroll along the coast. If you head north you’ll hit a cool place where you can swim some laps (I wish I would have known, could have been a fun thing to do even though the water was super cold as the ocean water splashes into it) called Bondi Icebergs. Either way, great views and stuff to see.
Next we drove to/through the Royal National Park. It took about an hour to get to the main information area where we stopped for shopping, lunch and taking some fun pictures with the birds. There are a ton of different routes to take once inside the park. We weren’t really planning on much hiking since we were just doing a day trip, but found a couple of great spots to walk around a bit. You could spend a number of days here but we just drove around to get as much in as we could.
We kept driving south and made it all the way to Wollongong. Not entirely sure it was worth the drive, but we were glad to get out and have some dinner by the harbor and walk a bit. Then we drove the few hours back to Sydney and enjoyed a great night of sleep after all that.
Day 3: Ferry to Watson Bay and Manly Beach
This ended up being a GREAT decision. After flying Day 1 and driving pretty much all of Day 2, we were ready to get out and about around Sydney proper. Just taking the ferries around Sydney harbor is pretty awesome if just for the view. Sydney truly is exceptionally beautiful (and that’s coming from a guy who lives in San Diego).
First stop was Manly Beach. We actually didn’t go straight to the beach. We took a bus up to North Head Sanctuary and did some serious walking around. You get such a spectacular view of downtown Sydney as well as the coast line. So beautiful. Lots of great paths for walking around. We ended up taking an Uber back to the main part of town. Once there, we grabbed some lunch at 4 Pines Brewing Company – so good. Then we walked over to the actual beach and took some pictures, shopped, snagged some souvenirs, ice cream, etc.
Next stop on the ferry for us was Watsons Bay. Really cute little place. There is a very famous Fish & Chips place there called Doyle’s (local tip: order at the pub next door – same food, no wait). We had just eaten and I’m not a big fish fan, so went for a walk instead. There is a great spot you can walk to called “The Gap”. It’s a decent walk up the hill but the view is great. I guess it’s known locally as a place where a lot of folks commit suicide so we saw lots of signs about getting help, etc. That aside, it was really pretty.
We then waited for the ferry to take us back to Sydney as it was already a pretty long day. After getting back we had a quick nap to get ready for the evening. That night we went to Sake at the Rocks for sushi. I’m not a sushi fan, but it’s my wife’s favorite so there you go! I even enjoyed it, mainly because the restaurant is really cool and the food I did have was spectacular. Highly recommend, and it was just a short walk from our hotel so that was great!
Day 4: Drive to Blue Mountains
We heard we should go to the Katoomba and the Blue Mountains a few hours away (and stay there for a couple of days). So we headed out, ready to get our romance on and some serious hiking! Think Grand Canyon with trees. Truly beautiful.
On the way out we stopped at Featherdale Wildlife Park and got to hang with some kangaroos, koalas and a bunch of other local favorites. Such a fun experience. Definitely a highlight for us both.
We made it to Katoomba and checked in at Lilianfels Resort & Spa. Such a cool, romantic spot. Felt very old world British to me. Went for a walk that night, saw The Three Sisters rock formation (what Katoomba is most famous for) and then had dinner at the Darley’s (attached to the hotel). Really nice dinner, great night overall. Went to bed early as we had some big hiking plans the next day.
Day 5: Hiking!
My wife loves hiking so this was the pinnacle of the trip for her, something she had really been looking forward to. We headed out to Echo Point, then down the crazy staircase to the bottom of the valley, along the path to the Katoomba Falls. Took a couple of hours and was a great workout as well. Took a ton of pictures along the way. Again, being that it was August the weather was perfect (for me – not hot at all!) There is then a train you can take that goes up the face of the mountain! That got us back up the mountain closer to the Falls. We actually then took the tram back down to see the mining village and explore a bit more. All in all, great day hiking around. So much beauty all around (not just talking about my wife!)
Day 6: Jenolan Caves and back to Sydney
Even though the Jenolan Caves are in the opposite direction of Sydney we figured we should make the trek. Took a couple of hours from Katoomba, but was really worth it. These are old caves of limestone crystal and there are a number of tours you can take. We did 2 tours (maybe 1 more than we needed as you sort of “get it” after the first one) and really enjoyed it. Didn’t really stick around too long as we wanted to head back to Sydney before it got too late. On the way back up the mountain from the caves we pulled over as there were a few kangaroos just hanging out! Total highlight for us as they just came up to the car and then ran off. Not a big deal for the locals, but we were over the moon. Finished the day out driving back to Sydney.
Day 7: Sydney
Woke up back in Sydney and decided to walk across the Sydney Harbor bridge as well as did the climb up to the Pylon Lookout. There is a Bridge Climb you can do where you go across the top of the bridge, but we weren’t really interested because 1) you are in a cage the whole time, 2) can’t take your own pictures, 3) have to take safety training and all that and 4) was quite expensive. The Pylon Lookout was a few dollars and was perfect for us. We then headed back for some walking around to Mrs Macquarie’s Point and Sydney Opera House. Did some souvenir shopping, packing, resting and then that night went to the Sydney Tower and had dinner at the revolving restaurant at the top. Really romantic and a great way to cap off the trip!
All in all, we had a spectacular time. To be honest, 7 days was just long enough for just Sydney. You could definitely do more, but what I probably would have done if we had more time is visit other cities as well. I’ve been back since then and found Melbourne and Perth to be quite amazing as well. If you get to go with your significant other, I highly recommend!