What to do in Sydney - a 3 day hybrid itinerary for active travelers
Updated: Nov 9
Sydney’s growing reputation as an international center for business, arts, fashion, entertainment and adventure tourism is quickly putting this coastal city back at the top of the list for international hybrid travel. Located on the South-east coast of Australia, this New South Wales capital is comprised of a very diverse international and cosmopolitan population of people from all over the world. Bordered by the Blue Mountains to the west and the Tasman Sea to the southeast, Sydney offers a vast array of unique areas to explore. Being a hybrid traveler, I am always looking for ways to get outside and be active. But I also search for upscale restaurants and sexy lounges with spectacular views, as an indulgent reward. So read on. Whether this metropolis is part of a business trip or a starting point for a longer journey across the diverse continent, here are Paradox Travel’s suggestions on how to spend three days in Sydney, Australia.
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Where to stay
There is something for every taste among the centrally located hotels in this fabulous city.The business traveler will find the classic Sydney Harbor Marriott Circular Quay to be one of the best situated to the ferries, buses and subway routes and consistent with their reputation of excellent service and ever-so-comfortable beds. Those looking for the most stunning view of Sydney Harbor, Sydney Harbor Bridge and the world famous Opera House will delight in luxury at the Hotel Shangri-la. However, if you are seeking true opulence, extravagance and sophistication, go directly to LE Hotels The Establishment. With its sexy atmosphere and uniquely intimate feel in every one of its stylishly decorated rooms, lounges and bars, you just may find it’s hard to leave this luxurious boutique hotel to see the city sights.
Day 1 - The Harbor, the Fish Market and the local Light Show
You may arrive early morning typically from an international flight. I suggest you pay for that extra night and check into your hotel early and sleep. (see our tips for managing Jetlag here).
Activity suggestions - walk down to Cinqular Quay -> chock full of unique shops and galleries, this harbor provides a front row view to the beauty of the Sydney Opera House! If you want to explore further, the neighboring Darling Harbor is accessible by foot or bike path and is home to some of Sydney’s tastiest casual restaurants, harbor-side cafes and is the location of the infamous Sydney Fish Market. Rivaling Seattle and San Francisco for variety and quality of fresh fish and shellfish, this marketplace is the place to go to sit down with a beer and enjoy fresh shucked oysters, creative sushi delights, and pots of steamed crab and mussels – all in a picnic table style atmosphere.
Cocktails - one of my favorite starts to an evening are cocktails and charcuterie at the Cruise bar while enjoying a classic view of the iconic performing arts center. Each night at 7pm, Badu Gili - a seven minute light show of indigenous art - is projected onto the large white sails of the Opera House.
Evening/Dinner suggestions - Hang out with the locals in the Rocks District! Home to Australias oldest and liveliest pubs such as The Mercantile, the Argyle and the Hero of Waterloo, this walkable neighborhood is full of locally loved watering holes and music venues. After a few pints, try some northern Italian pizza combined with some Australian vino at Caminetto’s outdoor patio. Or for lighter appetites, go for tapas and wine-tasting at Wine Odyssey.
Day 2 - Gardens, Beaches and high-rise Cocktails
Get up early, grab cup of coffee and a morning pastry sandwich at Pie Face and then go for a jog or walk in the Royal Botanical Gardens and catch the view from Ms Macquarie’s Chair. Feeling adventurous? How about climbing and watching the sun rise from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge?
Midday, consider catching a taxi over to Sydney’s east coast and Bondi Beach.
Activity suggestion - If you are a runner, get yourself to the eastern coast from Circular Quay on foot like we did, and then take a taxi back. Once there, you can also walk or run an excellent walkway that connects five beaches on this coastline, starting at Bondi Beach, passing through Bronte, and continuing all the way to Coogee Beach. It’s incredibly scenic with many options for food and drink en route. You can decide how far you want to walk or run. Expect to take 2.5 hours to walk the entire path, as it has some steep grades, stairs and of course you will want to stop and take photos. See here for more details.
Dinner suggestion - Sushi E at the Establishment Hotel (try the succulent ahi sashimi or the Balmain Bug roll!)
Day 3 - Manley, Secret Coves and Classic Australian dining
Depending on your countries currency exchange, Australia can be expensive for a tourist. But one of the most cost-effective ways to tour the area is via the ferry system. And if you want to get that classic Sydney Opera House and cityscape view, the ferry to Manley is the way to do it. Manley, a beach resort community, has a laid-back, surfer vibe and offers a nice contrast to the bustling city.
Activity suggestions - Walk the pedestrian-only Corso, do some shopping, have lunch and enjoy the beach. Walk or job the 6 mile Fairlight walk from The esplanade at the wharf to Dobroyd Head. Here you will find many coastal trails, one of which leads to Crater Cove Heritage cabins. These seven abandoned coastal home have million dollar views and are nestled unobtrusively into the cliffs. Built sometime between 1923 and 1963, these homes were initially used by weekend vacationers. Eventually permanent residents and artists looking for escape from public eye took them over. However in the 1980’s, the area was declared part of the National Park system and all of the residents left, leaving many items related to their life there, behind. These abandoned dwellings can be explored by way of the small, and the somewhat overgrown Manley – Spit path. However, the area is fragile and the NPWS does not advertise nor encourage visitors. So if you manage to find it, tread lightly and don’t share the secret with too many others.