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Sydney may not be the capital of Australia, but it sure does feel like it. I’m not sure I’ve said this before, but Sydney was the first stop on my very first solo backpacking trip. I stayed in the city for near Darling Harbour for a night or two so I could do some sightseeing, then I moved out to Bondi Beach. I’m not sure how long I stayed in Bondi for, but I made so many friends there I remember it was difficult to leave!
There are so many things to see and do, but if you’re short on time and you only have 24 hours in Sydney then here are the top things to do.
1. Darling Harbour
I was young and straight out of university so I stayed in hostels at the time, but if you want to stay in hotels in Sydney, Australia then there are plenty of great areas to choose from including Darling Harbour. The picturesque harbour is a an entertainment precinct and pedestrian area with a casino, an IMAX theatre and a number of tourist attractions including the Powerhouse Museum, Madam Tussauds and Sydney Aquarium. There are also several bars and restaurants should you wish to come go for a night out.
2. Chinese Garden of Friendship
The Chinese Garden of Friendship is a quiet and relaxing spot near Darling Harbour. The pretty walled garden features ponds filled with koi carp, along with waterfalls, ponds, exotic plants, pavillions and rocky pathways. If you’re feeling thirsty and exhausted after all that city sightseeing, stop here for a cup of tea or dim sum in the Chinese Teahouse.
3. Botanical Gardens
The Royal Bontanical Gardens is Sydney’s largest green space so if the hectic pace of the city gets too much for you, lay down on the grass under a shady tree, open a book to read and take it all in. Situated just a short walk from Sydney Harbour, the gardens are home to over one million specimens so if you’re a nature enthusiast you’ll be kept happy all day. You can take a picnic or a packed lunch up to the hill and admire the stunning views over Sydney Harbour, or get some exercise and go for a lunchtime jog on the pathway that skirts around the edge.
4. Harbour Bridge
One of Australia’s most photographed landmarks, the Harbour Bridge (affectionally called ‘The Coathanger’ by locals) is the world’s largest steel arched bridge. You can gaze up at it, sail under it, fly over it and drive across it, but if you’re feeling really brave you can do the Harbour Bridge Climb for 360-degree panoramic views over Sydney.
5. Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognisable structures in the world and an unmissable sight on your tour of the city. Have your photo taken in front of it and take a one-hour guided tour inside to learn all about the history, stories and magic of one of the busiest performing arts centres in the world.
6. Lunch on The Rocks
If you’re feeling hungry, stop for lunch at Swagmans Courtyard cafe on The Rocks- the historic precinct where Sydney began. In 1788, when the European settlers came over to Australia, The Rocks became home to Sydney’s convicts and had a reputation for being a bit of a slum. These days the Rocks is a fashionable area with heritage buildings, cafes, shops, bars and top notch restaurants.
7. Evening Drinks at the Opera Bar
My friend Abbie took for sunset drinks at the Opera Bar and this was definitely the highlight of my day. If you go there at dusk you can enjoy a glass of wine and take photographs as the sun sets on the Sydney Opera House. It looks really magical after dark when it’s all lit up too.
If you have more time…
Day trip to Manly- For a quick day trip from the city, take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, a northern suburb of Sydney. Hit the beach then stop off at the Manly Wharf Hotel for a beer in the ‘arvo’.
Bondi Beach- If you’ve ever seen Bondi Beach Rescue you’ll know that Bondi Beach is an iconic and popular beach in the Bondi suburb of Sydney. It’s a popular spot for surfing and I would highly recommend doing the coastal walk from Bondi to neighbouring Coogee. On Sunday you can shop for vintage clothing and other bits and bobs at the Bondi Beach Markets.
The Blue Mountains– Book a day trip or hire a car to visit the Blue Mountains- a stunning mountain range that gets its name from the blue haze created by the mixing of sunlight with drops of oil released by the eucalypts that cover the area.
Hunter Valley- 2 hours from Sydney you’ll find the Hunter Valley- a wine region with around 120 wineries. You can book a tour, hire a car or take a bus to get there, but it’s well worth stopping a night or two and booking yourself into a B&B or guesthouse. Sample the wines and local food produce, browse the shops, sign up for a cooking lesson, tee off at a golf course or indulge in a spa session.