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How to Spend a Weekend in Sydney, Australia!

How to Spend a Weekend in Sydney, Australia!

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Heading to Sydney for a weekend getaway? You’re in for an exciting trip! However, a couple of days isn’t long in one of the most famous cities in the world, so you’re probably wondering how to use that time wisely.

Daniel is from Australia and I used to live in Sydney, so we have tried all of the top things to do. There are a handful of can’t-miss activities (like the Opera House, duh!) but some of my favorite activities are actually outside the city.

To let you in on the best way to spend a weekend in Sydney, we carefully crafted this itinerary – follow it exactly, or pick and choose to fit your travel style!

Day 1 – Blue Mountains Day Trip

Scenic Skyway in Blue Mountain National Park, Australia
Scenic Skyway in Blue Mountains National Park, Australia
The Three Sisters in Blue Mountain National Park, Australia
The Three Sisters in Blue Mountains National Park, Australia

For your first day in Sydney, we are actually having you go on a day trip outside of the city! Seems a bit strange, I know, but it is totally worth it because you can’t miss visiting the Blue Mountains. This stunning national park is just one hour outside of Sydney, and here you’ll find a blue haze that lingers over the forest from the eucalyptus trees!

I couldn’t believe how beautiful the Blue Mountains were, not only for the blue haze but also for the landscape! There are staggering cliffs, intricate rock formations, and Aboriginal rock art. We stopped at about a million viewpoints along the way, and we also found a wildlife park with rides highlighting the scenery. 

You could definitely make this day trip from Sydney on your own, but with only one weekend in the city, I think taking an organized tour is much easier. 

We loved going on this small group tour to the Blue Mountains! Our guide was amazing, telling us interesting stories and facts the whole day. Best of all, we didn’t have to drive or plan any logistics, so we simply enjoyed the day. Isn’t that what a weekend getaway is all about?

This is about a 10-hour day, so it starts bright and early at 7 am and immediately hits the road. We stopped by the Three Sisters in Katoomba, which is a really beautiful natural rock formation. Our guide explained how it has a lot of cultural significance to Aboriginal Australians, so it was just as fascinating to learn about. 

In Katoomba, we also stopped by Scenic World, which is a fun way to interact with nature. We rode on the cableway, skyway, and railway, which all had impeccable viewpoints. It was a thrilling way to see the landscape. Honestly, I’d never experienced such a gorgeous ride!

Scenic Skyway in Blue Mountains National Park, Australia

The highlight of the day for us was exploring the Blue Mountains themselves. We stopped at a lot of scenic viewpoints and had commentary from our guide the whole way, but just driving around gave us such a good look at this landscape. 

We stopped for lunch up in the mountains, and while tours often include some sort of buffet or sack lunch, this one was something to write home about. It’s a chef-prepared spread that had more food than I knew what to do with! They had options to accommodate all dietary restrictions, and it kept us fueled for the rest of the day. 

Next up, we visited the Featherdale Wildlife Park to see koalas (they love eucalyptus, you know!). We also saw other local Aussie animals like kangaroos and quokkas, it was so much fun! The last bit of this day was a boat ride back to Sydney Harbour, which was a relaxing activity and continued on our theme of awesome views for the day. 

I loved how inclusive this tour was, we truly didn’t have to worry about a thing. Plus, visiting Sydney isn’t all about city life, so we appreciated the chance to explore the greater outdoor areas, such as the Blue Mountains. This full-day tour is $265 AUD and includes all entrance fees, transportation, and lunch! They also offer free cancellation 24 hours before your tour departs, just in case plans change. 

Related Read: Itching to explore the Blue Mountains? Check out our favorite Blue Mountain tours from Sydney to see all the options!

Day 2 – Explore Sydney

Morning – Go for brunch

Meal at Rolling Penny Newtown Cafe in Sydney
Meal at Rolling Penny Newtown in Sydney
Two coffee at Rolling Penny Newtown in Sydney
Mmm, coffee!

Today, we are going to spend the day exploring the city! My favorite way to fuel up is with a big, tasty brunch. 

We love heading to the trendy neighborhood of Newtown, as there are an outrageous amount of brunch spots. You can get to the Newton Station train stop by a 13-minute Wynyard Station ride in the CBD and a 16-minute ride from Circular Quay.

Newtown has a young, cool vibe with a lot of artists and students around. We love strolling around the streets as there are a lot of independently owned businesses, full of quirky concepts or vintage boutiques. This is a great way to let the food settle after you eat or kill some time if you have to wait for a table. 

Okay – let’s get to the brunch options. If you love savory dishes, you’ll swoon over the Rolling Penny Cafe! We had smoked duck breast with poached eggs on focaccia toast, and also the halloumi and egg ciabatta – woah baby were they good! Rolling Penny is located on King St. and is open every day.

For those who love cakes and baked goods with their spread of breakfast dishes, Flour Drum is another popular spot! They are open for breakfast and brunch every day except Wednesday and are also right on King St

If you don’t fancy taking the train to Newtown before you’ve had a cup of coffee, there are a lot of amazing restaurants more central. Two Good Eggs Cafe is right down the road from your next stop. They have giant portions and amazingly fluffy pancakes. Near Circular Quay, Edes is a simple and relaxed spot that serves breakfast until 11 and Italian dishes the rest of the day. 

Late morning – Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

Bailey enjoys the view from Mrs Macquarie's Chair in Sydney of the opera house and harbour bridge
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney Australia
Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney Australia

Now it’s time to start exploring. Sydney is full of gorgeous sites and viewpoints, but perhaps the most popular viewpoint is Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

This viewpoint is at the end of the Royal Botanic Gardens, so spend some time enjoying this lush area. It’s really beautiful and we love walking through here on a sunny day. This is also the oldest botanical garden in the country, and best of all it’s free to enter!

You won’t have to walk for long until you reach Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, you’ll naturally wander in that direction because the landscape is so enticing. From this viewpoint, you can see the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, some of the most iconic views in the city. 

This viewpoint is called Mrs Macquarie’s Chair because there is actually a rock bench carved back in 1810 for the Governor’s wife, Elizabeth Macquarie. She loved coming to this viewpoint and it became widely popular over time!

Once you’re done taking in the views, start heading towards the Opera House, which will only take about 20 minutes to walk there.

Midday – Tour the Sydney Opera House

Bailey on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia
Bailey on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia
Daniel poses for a photo inside the Sydney Opera House on a tour
I loved the tour!

For the quintessential Sydney activity, you must tour the Sydney Opera House! This world-famous building is worth the hype, and an essential addition to a weekend in Sydney itinerary. 

To get the full experience, we took this guided tour that took us all around the Opera House, even to some behind-the-scenes places that are usually closed off to the public. Our guide gave us the full scoop on how they make these shows and performances go off without a hitch, and the logistics that are involved are very impressive!

We also enjoyed just wandering around, taking in the gorgeous architecture and history that makes up the Opera House! This tour is only $45 AUD, which we thought was a good price for how in-depth it was. Plus, it’s only an hour, so it was really easy to squeeze into our jam-packed weekend itinerary! There are multiple departure times available, but I recommend booking your tour in advance so it doesn’t fill up. 

Lunch

Bailey enjoys a drink at the House Canteen at the Sydney opera House
Cheers!
A meal and drink from the House Canteen at the Sydney Opera House
A meal and drink from the House Canteen at the Sydney Opera House

With only one weekend in Sydney, you have to take in those stellar views as often as possible, so lunch overlooking the Opera House is the best way to do it. We recommend looking around Circular Quay, which stretches between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. There are views no matter which way you turn!

For an upscale option, Q Dining is our top choice for food and the giant glass walls that overlook the water! The restaurant is huge, the natural light and airy design make it a luxurious experience. I can’t forget to mention the food, which is gourmet modern Australian cuisine, plated so beautifully you won’t want to eat it (just kidding – it tastes incredible too). Lunch is from 12-3 pm on Wednesday to Sunday.  

There is also an option to add lunch to your Sydney Opera House tour, making your experience there even longer! The tour and lunch combo is $85 AUD and includes lunch and a drink. You can choose to dine at the House Canteen or the Opera Bar. 

The House Canteen has Asian Fusion cuisine, but like the restaurant mentioned above, the highlight is the views of Sydney Harbour from the restaurant. The Opera Bar is another great option, which serves refreshing cocktails and amazing dishes. Best of all, you can sit on the edge of the water overlooking the stunning Harbour Bridge!

Early afternoon – Go on a scenic cruise

Daniel and Bailey pose for a photo on the Journey Beyond the Cruise Sydney lunch cruise
The best views are from the water!
Our Sydney Harbour cruise sails towards the Sydney Opera House
Oh Sydney you are beautiful!

We love scenic cruises, and taking one along Sydney Harbour was perhaps our most memorable activity during our weekend here! It’s a fantastic way to see the sites, and we felt pretty fancy cruising around. It was a great way to unwind, enjoy the landscape, and still experience the city. 

There are a handful of scenic cruises in Sydney (check out our guide to Sydney’s best cruises here!) but we highly recommend this harbour cruise! This one was a stand out for us because it provided onboard commentary, so we could learn all about the places we were sailing by like the Harbour Bridge, Luna Park, and Fort Denison. 

But the cool part was that the commentary was through an app on your mobile, so the experience felt more self-paced and we weren’t subjected to low-quality PA speakers.

This experience lasts for 1.5 hours and is only $49 AUD for the cruise, or they offer an upgraded experience that includes a cheeseboard and a welcome drink for $69 AUD. It departs at 2 pm from the wharf, so it easily fits into today’s activities. 

Views of the Sydney harbour Bridge from a Sydney harbour cruise in Sydney, Australia
You get plenty of amazing views!

For a bit more of a luxury experience, we loved this Journey Beyond Cruise in Sydney (yes, we tried multiple cruises in Sydney, we enjoyed them that much!). This cruise is 2.5 hours and includes lunch – a gourmet lunch! Plus complimentary beer and wine, so who’s not to love about this cruise!?

If you opt for this cruise, then you’ll want to skip lunch ahead of time because this one is sooo good. They have offerings from steak to freshly caught seafood and a wide array of wine options! 

This cruise is $152 AUD per person, so while it is more expensive than the previous tour mentioned, you won’t be spending money on lunch and this one includes a lot of drinks (we made up for the cost in what we drank!). We also really enjoyed having an extra hour on the boat – it truly made a difference. 

The exact days available change, but it’s always running on the weekends, so it should fit perfectly into your itinerary. The cruise departs at 11:55 am, so be sure to hit the Opera House early enough to fit both activities into your schedule. This tour is really popular, so I highly recommend booking it in advance!

Afternoon – Walk Darling Harbour

Bailey poses for a photo while on a walking tour through Darling Harbour, Sydney
Darling Harbour!
Walkway in Darling Harbour Sydney, Australia
Walkway in Darling Harbour Sydney, Australia

Darling Harbour is another beautiful part of the city that you can’t miss. With a name like Darling, you can only imagine how cute it is! (Although it’s technically named after a previous governor). When I lived in Sydney, strolling along the harbour was a regular activity of mine and I think it’s a great way to spend your last afternoon in the city.

There are a lot of family-friendly things to do, and many of them are free, so it’s a good budget activity as well. I simply enjoy watching the boats in the harbor, it’s really relaxing!

As far as unique things to do, visiting Madame Tussauds is definitely up there! It’s a waxwork museum where you can take pictures of iconic Aussie celebrities like the Hemsworth brothers and Nicole Kidman, or even Spiderman and Superman (who are not Australian, unfortunately). Even though it’s a bit corny, the wax sculptures are quite impressive and kids really love it here. You can purchase tickets in advance for $38 AUD and the afternoon entrance times are 1 pm to 4 pm.

Sydney has an impressive aquarium located right on Darling Harbour. You can see king penguins, jellyfish, sharks, and hundreds of tropical fish! This is also a great chance to see and learn about the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. We try to visit for the daily feedings! Tickets are available from 1 pm to 4 pm for $41 – $51 AUD, depending on the day. You can purchase tickets in advance here and skip the queue. 

You can’t spend a weekend in Sydney without seeing some iconic Australian wildlife! Wild Life Sydney is your chance to see kangaroos, koalas, and crocodiles. There’s a chance to learn about Indigenous Australian culture too, and I really love the butterfly exhibit! Afternoon tickets are available between 1 pm and 4 pm for $39 – $48 AUD.

Sunset/dinner – Head up the Sydney Tower Eye

Sydney CBD as seen from the Sydney Tower Eye, Sydney, Australia
Sydney CBD!

While you’ve seen plenty of Sydney Harbour, have you seen it from above? Heading to the top of the Sydney Tower Eye is my favorite way to end a weekend in Sydney, you have to squeeze in all of those epic views while you can! This is not only a fun activity, but it’s also your dinner spot. 

As you can probably guess from the name, the Sydney Tower Eye is an indoor observation deck with panoramic city views. This is perhaps the best vantage point of the Harbour Bridge, but unfortunately, you can’t see the Opera House from there (as we found out on our first visit!). If you visit on a clear day, you can see the Blue Mountains though, which you’ll be very familiar with after yesterday’s adventure!

We booked our entrance tickets for the tower in advance, which let us skip the long queues (especially long on the weekends). I highly recommend doing this! Weekend tickets are $38 AUD, which is actually very affordable for observation towers. You can choose between morning or afternoon entry times, but we suggest the latter option so you can have dinner here too!

Speaking of dinner, make your way to level 2 of the Tower Eye and enjoy the Skyfeast – dinner with a view! This rotating restaurant shows you all of Sydney while you dine, and the giant windows showcase everything.

This is a gourmet buffet, and let me tell you, it’s way tastier than your average buffet! They offer seafood and antipasto stations for starters, a variety of international cuisines for mains, and cheeses and desserts too. One alcoholic drink is included, and the bar is available for more. We were stuffed after going back for seconds (and thirds, but who’s counting?). 

The buffet lasts 1.5 hours, leaving plenty of time to eat and enjoy the views. This dining experience is $120 AUD on the weekends ($105 AUD on weekdays). It’s important to know that the Skyfest ticket does not include admission to the Sydney Tower Eye, so you have to purchase both tickets separately. But, we loved this experience and thought it was the perfect end to a weekend in Sydney!

Related Read: Have one more day to spare? Go wine tasting! Here are our favorite Hunter Valley wine tours from Sydney that make for the perfect day trip.

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

Other Things to do While You’re in Sydney

View out the front of a helicopter looking down at the coastline of Sydney, Australia
Keep an eye out for whales!
Bailey walks down a row of vines in The Hunter valley
Just checking on the grapes!

If you can squeeze a few more items into your weekend itinerary – or ideally, you can stay longer – you’re in luck. There are truly so many fun things to do in Sydney! To help you narrow it down, we’ve detailed some of our favorite options below.

  • Helicopter Ride – Sydney is a beautiful city, there is just no doubt about it! And one way to take in all the sights is on a helicopter tour! We did this helicopter ride the last time we were in the city, and it was incredible! We got the most amazing views of the bridge and Opera House, not to mention the beautiful coastline. And to top it off, we even saw whales!
  • Go on a historic pub crawl – Sydney is home to plenty of historic pubs and taverns that date back to European settlement times. Some include the Fortune of War, Harts Pub, and the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, all of which can be found in the Rocks neighborhood. Explore on your own or join a pub tour to meet fellow travelers and hear interesting historical facts and stories from your guide. 
  • Enjoy the Art Gallery of NSW – The Art Gallery of NSW is one of the best art galleries in the city and also one of the best free things you can do in Sydney! It’s located a 15-minute walk from the CBD and houses a huge collection of international artwork along with Australian art, including one of the biggest collections of Aboriginal art in the country.
  • Go skydiving – Tandem skydiving is available for both first-time jumpers and experienced skydivers, and you’ll get amazing views of the city alongside a huge adrenaline rush. We recommend this skydiving experience over Wollongong beach which gives you about 60 seconds of freefall before your parachute is deployed. What a way to see the city!
  • Take a wine tour – The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s most famous wine regions, and it’s just a 3-hour drive from the city. I absolutely love the Riesling and White Burgundy from this area – and you can try both on this wine-tasting tour. It includes wine tastings, distillery visits, and a gourmet lunch. You won’t need to worry about driving, so you can enjoy the scenery all the way there.

Where to Stay in Sydney

Get the best views of Sydney at Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, Australia
Photo credit: Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

You’re going to need somewhere nice to stay for your weekend getaway! Luckily, Sydney has a huge variety of accommodations to fit every budget. If you’re overwhelmed with where to start, check out our top picks for places to stay, from luxury rooms to budget-friendly hostels. We’ve got you covered!

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney – $$$

For stunning views of Sydney Harbour and the iconic Opera House, book a room at the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney. You’ll have unobstructed views of the city from the comfort of your room. The hotel is located in the city center within the historic Rocks neighborhood – nice and close to lots of activities and restaurants.

Rooms here start at $400-$500 AUD per night and can be reserved with Booking.com.

Meriton Suites Kent Street Sydney – $$

Stay right in the heart of Sydney in a modern luxury apartment at Meriton Suites Kent Street. The suites are air-conditioned and have laundry facilities and either a kitchenette or full kitchen to make longer stays more comfortable. You’ll also have access to an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, and hot tub.

These full apartments are $230 AUD nightly when booked in advance with Booking.com.

Sydney Harbour YHA – $

For a hostel with a view, head to the rooftop terrace at the Sydney Harbour YHA. Located in the historic Rocks district, you’ll have amazing views of the harbor and be within walking distance of all the major sights. You can opt for a shared dorm room or a private room here. There’s a communal kitchen, TV lounge, billiards, and a 24/7 reception desk.

Dorm rooms are around $70 AUD nightly and private rooms are more around the $180 AUD mark. You can check for the best rates and book on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.com.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie while on the Journey Beyond the Cruise Sydney Harbour Australia
Thanks for reading!

We hope you had a blast spending a weekend in Sydney. Really, if you can swing it and enjoy this city for a few more days, there’s even more to explore! But, we followed this similar itinerary on our last weekend trip to the city and felt that it hit all the highlights and maximized our time.

Thanks for reading! If you found this article helpful, check out our other Australia blogs here. Or if you need some further travel inspiration, browse our New Zealand or Fiji blogs. We love traveling through this area and are excited to share our expertise with you. Here are a few to get you started:

12 BEST Tours in Sydney, Australia – To Get the Most of Your Visit!

15 FUN Things to do in Manly Beach, Sydney (more than just swimming and beaching!)

15 Things to KNOW Before Booking a Helicopter Tour in Sydney, Australia