This post probably contains affiliate links from which I earn a small commission if you buy from them, at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for stopping by!
If you’re about to visit for the first time, this Sydney 3 day itinerary is going to be perfect for you. There’s no city in the world quite like Sydney. Just mention ‘Australia’ and I bet the Sydney Opera House is what springs to mind straight away. I mean, I travelled around Australia for 2 years and that’s still what comes to my mind first!
It’s home to incredible food, beaches, art, buildings, history… it’s just a really exciting city to visit. 3 days in Sydney is enough time to see a little it of everything so even though it’s a quick trip, a lot can be packed in.
This first timers guide will give you the best 3 day Sydney itinerary and I’ve also included budget-friendly options. Australia isn’t cheap but trust me, visiting Sydney on a budget is definitely do-able. So here’s your Sydney Australia itinerary to help you plan your trip.
You might also like:
- 34 Budget friendly and free things to do in Sydney
- 10 great places to eat in Sydney on a budget
- Barangaroo Reserve – the BEST place for NYE in Sydney on a Budget
- 10 Places to visit on your Melbourne to Sydney Road Trip
- The ULTIMATE Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip
Getting from the airport to Sydney
If you’re wondering far Sydney airport is from the City, you’ll be please to know it’s just 8km. Sydney’s airport is thankfully not far away which is great if you’ve had a long flight. I recommend you pick up an Opal Card (this is the top-up transport card for Sydney) at the airport so you’re ready to explore. Once you land, there are a few transport options to get you from Sydney airport to the city:
Bus and Train combination
This is the cheapest way to get from Sydney airport to the city, but also the longest. Catch the 400 bus from outside the terminal to Mascot train station and from here you can get the T8 train line to the city. Altogether, this will take you about an hour but only costs about $6 so it’s great if you’re on a tight budget. You’ll need an Opal card to use the bus and train.
This train service runs about every 10 minutes and gets you into the city in less than 15 minutes. Adult tickets cost $19.40 which is made up of the cost of the train ticket and a ‘Gate Pass’, or you can get an Opal Card and top it up with enough money for the journey. It’s expensive but definitely the most convenient.
There are a couple of shuttle booking agents at the airport if you prefer to travel this way. They cover drop-offs for most regional areas and suburbs which makes things a bit easier for you. The cost of these will depend on where you need to get to.
How to get around Sydney
Sydney has a fantastic public transport network that includes, buses, trains, light rail, ferries and trams. None of these accepts cash payment for tickets so you will need to get an Opal Card. They are free to get but you need to top up a minimum of $20 for adult cards. If you don’t pick one up at the airport, you can get them to form most 7Eleven’s, small stores and the major train stations, but take at the Opal website for more information.
To use them, you simply tap on and tap off and it will calculate the cost of your fare. Travelling in rush hour is more expensive BUT they do cap it at $16.10 per day. On Sunday’s it’s capped at $2.80 which is fantastic!
Where to stay in Sydney
As you have a lot of things to do in Sydney in 3 days, I recommend you stay within the CBD or the inner suburbs like Surrey Hills, Darlinghurst, Erskineville, Glebe and Paddington. I personally love Booking.com as it allows you to search for accommodation in the Sydney CBD area so you know you’re going to be close to the sites.
If you want to be close to the harbour, Rydges Sydney Harbour in The Rocks has rooms overlooking the Harbour Bridge and is really affordable for the view you get. The Ibis at Darling Harbour is also in a great location with a nice view. There are some great boutique hotels in the inner suburbs as well as more of the big chains like Radisson and Marriott.
If you’re visiting on a budget, I recommend the Sydney Harbour YHA or at Central or one of the Base hostels (you can find and book them using HostelWorld) or to take a look at Airbnb. Travelling as a couple, Tom and I often find an Airbnb to be cheaper than 2 beds in a hostel.
Your Sydney 3 day Itinerary
This morning is going to give you exactly what you want – the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Catch the Train to St James And walk through the park to the Royal Botanic Gardens. These are considered one of the best in Australia and you’ll find plenty of paths to walk along through a number of beautiful parts. Keep going straight from the main road though and you’ll reach Mrs Macquarie’s Point.
If you’ve been wanting to get a photo of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge together, this is your chance. There’s also Mrs Macquarie’s Chair here which is a bench shape that was carved into the rock by convicts in 1810 for the wife of a major-general at the time.
Take your time to walk through the Botanic Gardens until you reach the Opera House. I used to see every day on my day to work but it doesn’t get boring. You can walk around it and see over the harbour to Luna Park as well. If you want to go inside the Opera House, you can take a guided tour, or why not book in to see a show one evening?
Right next to the Opera House is the Opera Bar and a great place to sit and relax with a view. They do some really great food here as well so grab a bite to eat for lunch as well.
Carry on walking around Circular Quay (which is always busy by the way) towards the cruise ship terminal. Along the way, you’ll go past some more great bars and restaurants, as well as the ferry terminals and Museum of Contemporary Art. There’s quite often a cruise ship in the harbour which is really impressive to see up close.
Head left to The Rocks which is Sydney’s oldest area. It’s got a dark and fascinating history but today is full of beautiful old buildings boutiques and bars. If you’re visiting on a weekend, you have to check out the market there. I love this part of Sydney!
If you keep walking through the rocks you’ll find yourself under the Harbour Bridge. From here you can take the stairs up to the bridge and walk over it. If you want to splurge then you can also do a Bridge Climb to the top! The harbour bridge goes over to North Sydney where you can visit Luna Park or get beautiful views of Circular Quay from Copes Lookout.
Go back over the bridge to Observatory Hill for a great sunset spot. If you’re there at the right time you might also get to watch the cruise ship leave, which is pretty fascinating given its size, and you’ll get to see the city lights spring to life. Sydney at night has just as much buzz as in the day.
For dinner, choose from one of the many fantastic restaurants in The Rocks. If you’re looking for hearty food and a great view, I highly recommend the rooftop bar at The Glenmore.
After spending the day at the harbour, take a free walking tour with ImFree to get to know the city better. The tour runs every day from 10.30 and you’ll get to see some fantastic places including Hyde Park, the Town Hall, Martin Place, Pitt Street Mall with The strand Arcade, and my favourite building in Sydney- The Queen Victoria Building. Melbourne is definitely the capital of street art and laneways in Australia, but you’ll find out that Sydney has its fair share of these as well.
if you wanted to learn more about The Rocks, ImFree also run a free evening tour there which I highly recommend!
The tour will end back at the cruise ship passenger terminal which is perfect to set yourself up for your afternoon. Grab some lunch from one of the many eateries at Sydney Gateway and then hop on a ferry over to Manly.
Make sure you take your swimmers with you as Manly Beach is great for surfing, and the more gentle Shelly Beach is a favourite for snorkelling. Manly is a great place to try out some watersports like stand up paddleboarding or kayaking too.
Follow the flow of people down the Corso to reach the beach and walk along to the right to reach Shelly Beach. If you wanted to stay here for the rest of the day, grab some food from a supermarket and make use of the free BBQs on Shelly Beach.
If you’re looking for somewhere vibrant for dinner, then you have to check out China Town. Sydney is home to a huge Chinese community and there’s a real buzz around China Town in the evening. Here you can get a super affordable and delicious meal. If you’re there on a Friday, I highly recommend getting food from the night market there.
Morning and Afternoon
Your 3 days in Sydney wouldn’t be complete without spending a day at the famous Bondi Beach. One of the best things to do in Sydney is the Coogee to Bondi coastal walk. The views are beautiful and there’s plenty of places to take a swim. The walk is about 6km and will take 2-3 hours.
To get to Coogee you’ll need to catch a train to Bondi Junction and then a bus. You’ll arrive right at Coogee Beach where you can then take the coastal path. The path takes you Gordan’s Bay, Clovelly, Tamarama and Bronte beach before reaching Bondi. The whole route is incredible and it’s well worth taking your time to enjoy.
Bondi Beach is always crowded but it’s somewhere you can’t miss out on experiencing. For a great bite to eat, I recommend getting some fish and chips (I’m British, what can I say?) and checking out the street art on the wall next to the beach.
To finish of 3 perfect days in Sydney, head to Darling Harbour where you’ll find plenty of great places to eat and drink to suit all budgets. If you’re there on a Saturday, they do a free fireworks display at 9pm- an awesome way to finish up your 3 day Sydney itinerary!
More things to do in Sydney
- Take a day trip to the Blue Mountains – Less than 2 hours drive away is the Blue Mountains National Park where you can visit waterfalls, forests and try some great local chocolate. It’s also where the famous Three Sisters Lookout is. Check out my guide on The Blue Mountains to learn more.
- Explore the inner suburbs – Sydney’s inner suburbs are vibrant, quirky, cool and full of hidden gems. If you want leafy green streets and cute cafes, check out Glebe. If you want street art, cheap eats and great nightlife then go to Newtown. Surry Hills is really close to Sydney Central and is great for craft beers and restaurants.
- Do more coastal walks – The Coogee to Bondi walk is the most famous but definitely not the only coastal walk Sydney has. I recommend the Spit Bridge to Manly walk for a longer coastal route or getting over to Watsons Bay which has a lovely lighthouse and great city views.
- Visit more markets – Nearly every suburb has a market and I think it’s a great way to mix with the locals. The Glebe, Paddington and Newtown markets are famous for their vintage clothing, Paddy’s Market is THE place to go for produce and the Sydney Fish Market is where you want to go for affordable seafood.
- Hunt out the underground bars – I didn’t go looking for many when I lived in Sydney, but I did go to the Tank Steam Bar and Frankie’s which serves up delicious pizza and has an epic happy hour!