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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Have you visited before? If so, what are you top items to do in Sydney for a short stay? Leave a comment below.