What To Do In Sydney, Australia With Only Six Hours

Earlier this year I had a long layover in Sydney, nine hours to be exact. I could have taken a different route or a shorter layover but I’d never been to Australia and loved the idea of adding it to my trip, even just for a short time. I figured I’d find enough to do in Sydney during that short time. I’m so glad I did. I had an amazing time running around the city and it increased my urge to get back to Australia and explore more.

If you’re looking at doing a quick trip to Sydney soon take a look at my tips for planning your trip and some of the top things to do in Sydney to try during your visit.Best things to do in Sydney for a long layover. Must do activities in Sydney, Australia.

Note: You’ll find affiliate links in this post which allow me to continue to improve Traveling Nine to Fiver. I hope this article on what to do in Sydney is useful for you. 

Plan Your Logistics

Long layovers do need a little more planning, especially when you’re adding an additional country to your trip. Make sure to do some of your planning ahead of time so you’re ready to get out and go as soon as you land.

Secure a Visa

In Australia, if you are staying longer than 8 hours you need to gain a visitor visa. This is the case even if you don’t leave the airport, so you might as well take advantage of it. The process to get a visa for most countries is a simple form and paying a fee. You can learn more about getting an Australian visa here.Best things to do in Sydney for a long layover. Must do activities in Sydney, Australia.

Securing Your Luggage

You won’t want to run around Sydney with your luggage, even if it’s just a carry-on. Thankfully, there is an affordable bag check option in the airport. For my six hour trip out of the airport, it cost me $11 AUD to leave a carry-on. It was well worth the freedom of running around without my giant backpack.

Planning Your Transportation

The easiest way to get from the airport in Sydney to downtown or the Opera House is the Airport Link, a light rail line. From the international terminal to the Opera House it costs only $36 AUD and will take about 25 minutes each way. If you’re crunched for time you can also hire a car ahead of time to pick  you up or use a ride-sharing app. The airport has great information on its transit options here.

Pre-Book Your Hotel Room If You’re Staying Overnight

If you have an overnight layover make sure to book your hotel ahead of time. You might want to look into an airport hotel that offers a shuttle. This way you can easily get to or from the airport. You can also find hotels along the Airport Link route, allowing you to continue to stick to public transit. Take a look at some options at Priceline.

Where To Go & What To Do In Sydney

Tour the Sydney Opera House

Visiting one of the most iconic buildings in the world should be on the top of your list. If you’re sticking around for an evening take a look at what performance are taking place and get yourself a ticket. If you aren’t, taking the tour is a great way to see the inside of the space and learn more about its history. While the $37 AUD price isn’t cheap, it’s worth a chance to experience this amazing building.Best things to do in Sydney for a long layover. Must do activities in Sydney, Australia.

Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens

After a long flight, I wanted nothing more than a beautiful walk outdoors. The Royal Botanical Gardens was the perfect place to stretch my legs. Wander through the Palace Rose Garden, Rain Forest Walk or the Succulent Garden to get a taste for what it has to offer. The garden is free to visit and you can even hop onto one of the free tours that take place each day. You’ll also find unique birds all across the gardens including parrots and ibises.Best things to do in Sydney for a long layover. Must do activities in Sydney, Australia.

Explore the Architecture

Sydney was founded in 1788 and you can feel it in the architecture that surrounds you as you walk around. Walk to Hyde Park where you can see many of the old buildings including St. James Church. As you wander, you’ll come across beautiful post-war buildings that take you back in time juxtaposed to brand new skyscrapers.  Head over to the Rocks area on the waterfront where you will find what became a major trade port in the mid-1800s and now serves as a place of boutique stores, bars and restaurants and a regular market. They even have a free walking tour app you can download. If you’re looking for a guide, you can even join an organized walk to explore more of the city.Best things to do in Sydney for a long layover. Must do activities in Sydney, Australia.

Take a Ferry Ride to Manly Beach

To get the best view of Sydney you have to get out on the water. An ideal way to do just that is grabbing a ferry over to Manly Beach. About a 30-minute ride each way, gives you a chance to view the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from the water. Once you arrive at Manly, you can grab a bite to eat and wander over to the beach. A short walk down the main drag and you can put your toes in the Pacific Ocean. For us Californians, you have a chance to look across from the opposite side of the Pacific.Best things to do in Sydney for a long layover. Must do activities in Sydney, Australia.

Get a Taste of What Sydney Has to Offer

On top of seeing the sights, make sure to stop and talk to folks along the way, grab a bite to eat and even a beer in a pub. Try not to run too quickly and taken in everything around you on your short visit. These things to do in Sydney will get you a feeling of the city and make you want to plan a separate trip to come back and explore.

If you’re lucky enough to stay longer in Australia, check out these posts for more reading: 

– Our Favorite Lesser Known Spots in Australia

Have you visited before? If so, what are you top items to do in Sydney for a short stay? Leave a comment below. Best things to do in Sydney for a long layover. Must do activities in Sydney, Australia.Best things to do in Sydney for a long layover. Must do activities in Sydney, Australia.

About Megan

Megan MacNee is the founder of Traveling Nine to Fiver. From nine to five she works in the political world in California, but on evening and weekends spends time exploring the West Coast and more. All while encouraging others to join in on the adventures.

  • Elaine J Masters

    Loved visiting Sydney for a few days but if it was only a layover, you have some great ideas. One amazing city.

  • You managed to fit loads into your 6 hour visit! And having a long layover like that gave you a break from the airplane which is always great on long journeys!

  • Oh these are great tips- although I do think 6 hours is waaaay to short. But I love how you managed to do all this during a layover!

  • Gokul

    Good itinerary but I don’t feel like 6 hrs is would be enough. I am not the Touch and Go kind. This will take a full day.

  • Beautiful photos, looks like you were able to pack a lot into such a short day! That actually surprised me about the Visa, good to know I would have never thought you would need a visa coming from US or UK, what’s interesting is that you don’t need a vias from Australia coming into UK. The light rail sounds very expensive, holy cow , I was just home for a visit in Minnesota and the light rail from airport to downtown minneapolis was only $1.75 . In northern England the train also is under $5 depending on where you are going… We just looking into transportation in Japan and it equated to over £500 to hotel. interesting how things differ from country to country

  • Erika Bisbocci

    You did quite a lot with such a short amount of time! As a flight attendant, I’m very familiar with trying to pack as much as possible into a layover. I, like you, find that it is a great way of finding out if you want to return to a place to see more of it!

  • Melody Pittman

    I’ve never heard of Manly Beach before. Looks pretty. You sure saw a ton for such a short time. That is how I like to roll, too. 😉

  • Vyjay Rao

    I think this is a good way to get a slice of Sydney if you are transiting through and have about 6 hours to spare.I know we will not be doing justice to the place, but it is still worth it and better than not seeing it all and spending time at the airport.

  • Punita Malhotra

    Great selection of things to do in only six hours. But I would ensure i have more time, even in a stopover. Sydney is too good to pass over in a rush.

  • Definately a great choice for your layover. Australia is high on my to go to list. Great ideas and great post

  • Pingback: How to Transform Your Next Layover into an Extra Bonus Trip()

  • Tyler Maata

    Hey, did you have any trouble leaving the airport? We’ve got a stop over for 6hrs and wanting to leave to go to our favourite restaurant, but don’t know if that’s possible?

    • No problem at all. You should be able to have 3 hrs to run around. That’s after transit and being back early. Do note that I think it’s the six hour mark when you need a visa to be in Australia whether you plan to leave the airport or not. So double connect if you need a visa but getting in and out and the rabbit too Sydney is super easy.