Thursday, January 4, 2018

Top 10 Things to Do in Sydney Australia

If you follow me on Instagram (get over there if you aren't yet), you'll know that I recently went on vacation to Sydney and Tokyo! I am so excited to share with you my experiences starting off with some of my favorite things in Sydney!

top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

I did a lot of research by cross referencing Trip Advisor with Wiki Travel and Destination NSW for attractions. Then I used Zomato to research food (as recommend by local Australians). This list will be a blend of must sees and hidden gems but hopefully gives you tips to fully explore Sydney! There will be a combination of attractions, food, and of course places to take cute photos!



#1 Views for Days
Bondi to Bronte Walk

bondi beach top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

Time Required: 2 Hours
Cost: None
Location: Bondi

Can you say you went to Sydney if you don't go to Bondi Beach? It is a world class beach for surfing and very busy as the day picks up. We decided to go early in the morning (8am) to avoid the crowds and was rewarded with a beach all to ourselves! The water is still very cold though (Early December) and I believe the rip tide risk makes it not an ideal place for swimming. However, it's perfect for taking a walk around and it's the starting point of the Bondi to Bronte Walk.

bondi iceberg top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

The actual Bondi to Bronte walk is very short, just 2km. But it takes a long time because the beautiful scenery will have you stoping to admire the landscape and in our case, taking many photos! You can extend the walk by 4km if you keep going to Coogee. To start the walk, just walk to the south end of Bondi Beach towards Bondi Iceberg (it's the rock pool pictured above, you can't miss it), and it will be easy to see the path.

Bondi to Bronte walk map

bondi to bronte coastal walk top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

It's not a difficult walk at all with most of the way very flat. I really enjoyed the gorgeous cliffs and ocean waves. On the day that we went, there were extremely large waves (uncharacteristically large I think as all the rock pools were pretty much submerged) and you can really feel the power of the ocean. We also found Tamarama Beach to be completely empty when we went! It would be amazing if we brought a beach towel and sat for a while.

bondi to bronte coastal walk top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

On the way, we also saw a lady meditating on a rock close to giant waves. A very spirtual experiences even though we weren't the ones meditating. Although this is a very popular tourist attraction, I wanted to make sure that if you are thinking of skipping out on a "hike" or "walk", DON'T. This is one of the best highlights of our time in Sydney and I would highly recommend spending the morning on the walk!


#2 Load up on Fresh Seafood
Sydney Fish Market
Tripadvisor

peter's sydney fish market top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

Time Required: 1- 2 Hour
Cost: Expect to spend $40 per person to fully enjoy the fish market
Location: Pyrmont

We almost left this out of our itinerary based on the mixed reviews on Tripadvisor. But my aunt who lived in Australia really recommended coming for seafood so we did! I think the biggest reason people did not enjoy the experience was because the fish market was crowded and there was no seating. We went at 8am and the seafood was fresh with hardly any other tourists to compete with. Inside the market, there's really only seating for about 60-80 people. So I can imagine that if you are coming here any time after 11am, it would be extremely crowded.

fresh oysters sydney fish market top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

The Sydney fish market isn't actually set up like a tourist attraction. We walked through the parking lot which was full of industry workers and clearly wholesale seafood orders. The fish market itself is actually quite small as well with just four main retailers: Christie's Seafoods, De Costi Seafoods, Nicholas Seafoods, and Peter's. Outside of the main fish market is Musumeci Seafoods and Caludios Quality Seafoods. See the full list of retailers here.

We bought 2 dozens of oysters from Christie's Seafoods for $19.99 AUD each. The Pacific Rock oysters were so buttery and delicious!

food sydney fish market top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

We also enjoyed some cooked food options from Fish Market Cafe. We got these cheese baked scallops 3 for $10 and a lobster tail for $25. The scallops were DELICIOUS except a bit too cheesy, and the lobster tail was too rubbery. 

baked scallop cheap seafood top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

The seafood isn't necessary cheap but it is very fresh and there are TONs of variety! I would have definitely gotten more but more than 12 oysters at 9am don't sit so well. Other items that tempted me were sashimi, sushi doughnut, and uni on oysters.  If I was a local, I would definitely also get items to cook at home such as shrimps, razor clams.

#3 Best Workplace Award
Streets of Barangaroo
Official Webpage

barangaroo cool neighbourhood top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

Time Required: 2-3 Hours
Cost: Depends on restaurant/shopping
Location: Barangaroo

We have never heard of Streets of Barangaroo and it definitely wasn't on our itinerary but we stumbled on this as we were looking for food options walking from Darling Harbour. If you like hipster stuff, this is the place to be. There were several boutiques to shop in although the selection was limited but we had a ton of  fun browsing. The best part however was the huge choice of restaurants/cafes!

It feels like this area convinced Sydney's best restaurants to open a second outlet here at Streets of Barangaroo. The restaurants include Devon Cafe, Tapavino, and Muum Maam. I also really liked this area as KPMG/PWC were in the towers and it totally felt like somewhere I could work at. If you are looking for a quick bite to eat for lunch, there is also The Canteen which is the best food court!

rabbit hole tea hipster top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

I also found a delicious tea company called The Rabbit Hole. They had the coolest disposable cups that allows you to drink loose leaf tea and then push it to the bottom when you no longer want to steep it!

#4 Michelin Star Food in a Mall
Westfield Sydney
Tripadvisor

westfield shopping mall top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

Time Required: 4 Hours if shopping
Cost: Depends on restaurant/shopping
Location: CBD

For the 3 days we were in Sydney, it was unfortunately raining a lot as we were on the edge of a storm. Thus, we spent a lot of time inside Westfield Mall which was close by to our hotel, Westin Sydney. There's a huge selection of luxury and higher end casual stores, but the best part was their food court. Both Tim Ho Wan and Din Tai Fung were in there! *hallelujah* (if you don't know, both of these chains have Michelin star rated restaurants in Asia)

din tai fung top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese chain that serves dumplings but also other classic Chinese dishes. Their most famous is the Xiao Long Bao which is a pork bun with thin skin but tons of soup inside. I thought the price was super reasonable considering there's no tax and tip, and only a normal food court line up! We ate here twice while we stayed in Sydney!

din tai fung menu westfield top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

Here is the menu if you are interested in seeing the selection and prices. Pictured below are the Xiao Long Bao, Spicy Vegetable Wontons, and the Vegetable Wonton Soup.

din tai fung xiao long bao spicy dumplings won ton soup top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

#5 People Watch by the Harbour
Opera bar
Tripadvisor

opera house top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

Time Required: 1-2 Hours
Cost: ~$12 for a glass of wine, $20 for cocktails (see menu)
Location: Darling Harbour

I love drinks but I love drinks with a view more! Opera Bar was probably one of the places I was most excited to go in my trip and it did not disappoint! The drinks are pricey but the atmosphere is so worth it! I also find if you just go for a glass of wine, the price is quite comparable to other restaurants. Even the cheapest wines they offered were quite delicious!

I personally liked the benches along the water the best but there are more shaded seating under the umbrella as well as under the upper walkway. We only ordered drinks but you can actually order food as well and the place is open pretty much all day (10am-midnight)

opera bar wine top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

I love that you can get two completely contrasting views and both iconic to Sydney. If you are seated on the benches, behind you is the Sydney Opera House. Once you stand up and walk over to the water, the Harbour Bridge is now behind you. It was just an amazing way to spend an afternoon and definitely recommend if you like beautiful views and relaxing with a drink!

opera bar view wine top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

#6 Once is Never Enough
Opera House
Tripadvisor

Time Required: 2 Hours
Cost: Free
Location: Circular Quay

I'm sure visiting the Sydney Opera House is on everyone's to do list if they visit here. But my tip is that you should come here twice: once in the morning and once in the evening. The atmosphere is completely different and even the scenary is different too! Especially on camera.

couple photos opera house top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

Again we came out for an early morning (using our jetlag to our advantage) and we were at the Opera House by about 8am. There was absolutely no one around! So we actually set up our tripod and took a bunch of cheesy couple photos like this one.

If you wake up early and beat the tourist crowd, the entire Opera House stairs can be to yourself! We thought there was construction or that it may be off limits. But there just wasn't anyone around! I would say though because I've seen so many photos of this structure online, it wasn't as impressive in person as I thought. But when I look back at my photos, it is a gorgeous design.

opera house stairs top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary


We came back in the evening and I love that the lights were on and it gave it a more romantic and lively feel. There was louder music, more people, and it felt like an amazing outdoor party.

#7 Urban Oasis
Royal Botanic Gardens
Tripadvisor

royal botanic gardens top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

Time Required: 3 Hours
Cost: Free
Location: CBD

Another very popular attraction is the Royal Botanic Gardens. We almost skipped out on this as we weren't really interested in flora/fauna and there are tons of greenery here in Canada. But I would actually really recommend this as it was such a unique juxtapose of tall skyscrapers and the majestic Sydney Opera House

royal botanic gardens city view top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary
royal botanic garden harbour view top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

The Garden itself has many trails inside so there's no set way of walking around it. The most scenic walk would be starting at the Opera House and following the black outline right around the "seawall" of Farm Cove. Of course, if you keep walking, you'll get to Mrs. Macquaries Chair which is a look out point.

royal botanic garden map top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

This photo was taken just around Mrs.Macquaries Chair and I was really intrigued by the rock formation in the water. The area did get dumps of tourists in busses but they usually only stay for 15-20 minutes. If you are caught up in one and don't want to fight them for the photo, just wait around for a while and they'll be back to board the bus in no time.

royal botanic garden mrs macquarie's chair top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

#8 I Came Here for Instagram
Grounds of Alexandria
Tripadvisor

grounds of alexandria photo spots top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

Time Required: 3 Hours
Cost: ~$20 for food, ~$10 for smoothies
Location: Alexandria

I have to admit, I saw this place on Instagram, and I came here for the gram. The grounds are beautifully kept and there are so many flowers and plants everywhere. I wanted to eat something light and we ordered the Coconut Lychee and Pink Cactus smoothies! These were super delicious and I love the unique ingredients.

grounds of alexandria smoothie top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

The foundation is a classic place for a photo but make sure you explore all the hidden corners as well. It is a little bit out of the way but we got here with a rental car. If you are not driving, you can consider using Uber as transit might be. Alternatively if you don't care for the scenery but do like the sound of their food, they now have an outlet right in downtown called Grounds of the City.

grounds of alexandria shed

#9 Breakfast is the Most Important Meal
Tripadvisor: Trio Cafe

trio cafe bondi beach flat white top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

I heard breakfast was good in Australia but oh boy people really take it seriously! I would say some of our best meals were from Brunch! If you are in Sydney you also must try Flat Whites and Affogatos. One of the most highly rated is Trio Cafe at Bondi Beach. It's at an unbeatable location right across the street from the beach and the food was delicious! They were also super friendly and offered to remake me a flat white when I wanted to take my cold one to go.

brunch 5 little pigs top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

The two other brunches we tried were south of Sydney in the Shoalhaven area. I'll be doing a separate post on my road trip, but if you are going down that area, definitely put Hungry Monkey and 5 Little Pigs on your list!
 flat white coffee top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

For coffee, some of the best ones in the city includes Single O, Paramount, and Skittle Lane. But you really can't go wrong! I usually take my coffee to go but it's nice on vacation to relax for a little while while enjoying coffee, clean latte art in a nice big mug.

brunch top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

#10 Thai Influence

Lastly, as Australia is so close to SE Asia, you'll notice that there are lots of Asian food outlets. Take advantage of authentic Thai food in a cool setting at the multiple Chat Thai locations in the city. We tried it in our first night and loved it so much we went to a different location the next day!

top 10 things to do in sydney travel guide diary

We also found a huge steal for Thai massage as we were getting very tired from walking. If you check Groupon, you'll find there are many deals for massages and specifically Thai massages. However, the place we went to will honor the Groupon deal even if you didn't buy the Groupon as long as you pay them in cash. It was $75 for a one hour couple massage! With no tax or tip in Sydney, this was a steal! The place is located at #106-375 George Street between McDonalds and Apple. It is definitely sketchy walking in but I'm happy to say the treatment room was surprisingly clean and our masseuses were very good and professional!

The last thing I have to recommend is to rent a car and drive down to Jervis Bay! But that will be a whole different post! I hope this helped your travel planning and definitely comment with any questions!

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