You’re going to visit Australia’s best-known city, sure — but in deciding how to plan a trip to Sydney, keep in mind a few things. First, it’s definitely one of the most popular places to visit on the entire Australian continent and the Southern Hemisphere. In fact, considering its beautiful beaches and iconic, seashell-inspired opera house, not to mention its world-class restaurants and art, this spot easily ranks as one of the best cities in the world. So let us give you a leg up, mate, on how to plan a trip to Sydney.
When To Visit
Generally speaking, visiting any time of the year is enjoyable, but the perfect time to visit is spring, which in Sydney runs from September through November. Temps generally range from nights of 55 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. This is the driest season, too, so you probably won’t experience any sudden downpours. According to Trip Savvy, the spring holidays in Australia include Labor Day weekend in early October and two weeks of school holidays in September, when flights and hotel costs run higher. So this makes a big difference in learning how to plan a trip to Sydney and do it proper, as they say there. Autumn is another great time to travel, from March to May, according to US News. Summer is high tourist season, and runs from December through February, when temps rise to the upper 70s and lots of crowds and at its most expensive. Winter, from June through August, boasts temps between the high 40s and mid 60s, and it’s the low season, which means that it’s the cheapest time to visit Sydney.
Despite its massive urban area (700 square miles), Sydney is a surprisingly easy city to navigate. Unless you’re planning to visit the far-flung areas on the outskirts of town, most of the city center and harbor are easily accessed through walking and public transportation. One of the best ways to take in the highlights and city landmarks is to catch the Hop-On Hop-Off bus. The City Circle train can also take you to most of the attractions, but for visiting highlights of the harbor, you’ll want to take ferries or buses. To make the most of public transportation, you’ll need to get an Opal card. There also are plenty of harbor cruises that will trek you around the harbor, too. For more information on getting around, visit here.
Planning a Tour
Whether you’re looking for a guided, walking tour, a wine tour, or a skydiving tour, you can find it in Sydney. For a free, volunteer-led tour to some of the city’s treasures, it’s best to opt for Sydney Greeters. If you’d rather jump out of a plane, though, then try Sydney Skydivers. For a private wine tour, the perfect service is Sydney Private Day Tours. There are also ghost tours, surf school, fishing tours, night discovery tours, night sky tours and much more. Check Visit Sydney for an overview.
Top Things to Do, Places to Visit
If it’s your first time in Sydney, then there are some attractions you’ve got to see. The most iconic site is the Sydney Opera House, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is undergoing a historic renovation (though it’s still open during construction). You also should check out the Rocks, which used to be aboriginal lands and then became the spot where the first convicts pitched their settlement. Today, it’s a hip neighborhood. You’ll also need to check out Darling Harbour, which is a waterfront neighborhood filled with shops, restaurants and entertainment. It’s also home to the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium.
Where to Eat
There are plenty of great meals — many with great views — to be had in Sydney. Two of the world’s best restaurants are in Sydney: Quay, with its views of the opera house, and Sepia, located just a bridge away from Darling Harbour. The owners of Quay also run the restaurant at the opera house, Bennelong. Eater recommends a slew of other hot restaurants as well, but for a good overview of restaurants and cuisines, try Gourmet Safari.
Jeanette Hurt is the award-winning writer and author of eight culinary and
drink books, including The Cheeses of California: A Culinary Travel Guide, which received the 2010 Mark Twain Award for Best Travel Book, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. She's written for TheKitchn.com, Four Seasons Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, Entrepreneur.com, and dozens more publications.