Last Updated on July 7, 2021 by queenie mak
Sydney is the biggest city in Australia and is the country’s leading global city. With two of the most recognizable landmarks, the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge as the backdrop, it is no wonder that Sydney has one of the world’s most beautiful harbour.
As the state capital of New South Wales, Sydney attracted over 4 million international visitors and over 10 million domestic visitors last year. The trend continues to rise as Sydney is one of the cities that has it all. From the modern metropolis city centre, the vast green spaces to unspoilt beaches, Sydney is truly one of the world’s best cities.
My first solo trip to Sydney was more than 15 years ago and I recently went back to Sydney. The trip brought back a lot of good memories and inspired me to put together a solo travel guide to Sydney, Australia. I’ll show you exactly how to spend 3 days in Sydney and discover all the things to do alone in Sydney. Keep reading and I’ll show you how!
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What you need to know before planning your Sydney travel itinerary
Before you start to research for your Sydney itinerary, take a look at my list of 17 things you need to know before travelling to Australia. I included information about Australia including applying for ETA, transportation, money and accommodation.
Here are additional travel tips that you may find useful for travelling to Sydney:
- Sydney is a safe city for solo female travellers
- Get an Opal Card, a prepaid IC card for New South Wales. It is a rechargeable smartcard where you can take public transportations including train, bus, ferry, light rail and metro in Sydney and Byron Bay. See more detailed info below.
- Sydney is a fantastic city for foodies! There are so many types of cuisine to choose from. From the best Asian cuisine like Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese to European flavours like Italian and French, you can sample any type of cuisine you want. And if you are a vegetarian and vegan, there are lots of excellent vegetarian and vegan restaurants as well.
- Festivals and events in Sydney:
How to get to Sydney
Flying into Sydney
Travellers will fly into Sydney Airport, which is only 8km from Sydney CBD. The easiest way to get to the city from the airport is to take the Airport Link. The train costs $17.84AUD (with the Opal Card) going to Central Station, and the journey takes 13 minutes only.
Train Travel to Sydney
But because of the vast distances, it takes a bit of time to travel between cities. For example, it takes about 12 hours to get from Melbourne to Sydney on an overnight train.
If you enjoy train travel, it is one of the options of getting into Sydney.
For more information about train travel in Australia, click here.
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Long-Distance Bus to Sydney
Greyhound Australia is Australia’s long-distance bus operator. The bus system has many routes, and many connect different parts of the country. The Greyhound bus has recline seats, USB chargers, and free wifi.
Greyhound services many cities and rural areas. The easiest way to purchase a ticket is online. Go to Greyhound Australia, and search for your route to Sydney.
How to get around Sydney
The best way to get around Sydney is by public transportation. Between taking a bus, metro, train and ferry, you can reach most attractions in Sydney.
To make your travel life much easier in Sydney, get an Opal Card.
The Opal Card is the cheapest and easiest way to travel on public transportation in New South Wales. It is a rechargeable card where you can use it for train, bus, ferry, light rail and metro and any NSW TrainLink rail services.
You can purchase an Opal Card and top up your card at the two airport stations, most convenience stores and newsagents.
However, there is a minimum value of $10AUD for an adult Opal Card. But there is a daily cap where you will never pay more than $15.80AUD a day. On Sunday, you can take as much public transportation, and it will only cost $2.70AUD. The only exception is the Sydney Airport station access fee isn’t included in the daily cap.
You can travel throughout Sydney and even take the train to Bue Mountains, Newcastle and other regions in New South Wales.
It is worth getting an Opal Card even if you are only spending 3 days in Sydney, especially if one of those days is a Sunday.
For more information about the specific fares for each type of transportation, click here.
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Where to stay in Sydney as a solo traveller
Sydney has many types of accommodations all over the city. Generally, housing (like most things in Sydney) is quite expensive. There are cheap options for budget solo travellers and luxury options for those of you who are willing to splurge.
Base on my recommended 3 day Sydney itinerary, it would be best to stay between CBD and Central Railway Station. Here are a few suggestions for hotels and hostels in Sydney.
- The Pod Sydney ($) – Each guest has their own bunk bed with a privacy curtain and locker. Choose from a female dormitory room, a mixed dormitory room or your double or twin room. The hostel is conveniently located near Central Railway Station and is perfect for a budget solo traveller.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Veriu Central ($$) – Get a solo accommodation in this funky hotel near Central Railway Station. The eclectic decor is seen throughout the room and all the public spaces in this late 19th-century building.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Metro Aspire Hotel Sydney ($$) – Located in Chinatown, get a premium room where it includes a balcony and a sofa bed. They also have a good spread for their breakfast buffet.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Veriu Broadway ($$$) – Just a few blocks west of the Central Railway Station, indulge in the Studio Heritage Suite where you can get a very spacious modern room. The room comes with a kitchenette and a sofa bed.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
My solo 3 day Sydney Itinerary
All the places mentioned in this blog post are pinned in the interactive map. You can find more information about each Sydney attraction by clicking on the individual pin.
The best way to discover all the things to do alone in Sydney is by touring through different neighbourhoods or suburbs. And that is exactly how I planned my Sydney 3 days itinerary:
- Day 1: CBD and Chippendale
- Day 2: Watsons Bay and Manly & Northern Beaches
- Day 3: Bondi, Coogee and Surry Hills
Day 1 in Sydney: CBD and Chippendale
Day one of your 3 day Sydney itinerary is all about exploring the Central Business District (CBD) and all the tourist attractions in the centre of Sydney.
Follow all the blue pins on the Google map for more information on all the places below.
Central Business District (CBD)
CBD, or known as the downtown core, the commercial centre and is the most populated area in Sydney.
The first place you need to visit is one of the most famous 20th-century architectural wonder, the Sydney Opera House. Marvel at the iconic architecture where white granite tiles are used to shape the building that resembles flotilla of sailboats. And watch one of the performances including concert, contemporary dance or ballet performances in the world-famous opera house.
And if you dare, do the Bridge Climb to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of Australis’s most iconic landmarks. It takes about 3.5 hours to do the Bridge Climb. Alternatively, you can walk across the bridge on the pedestrian walkway.
In between visiting the most famous buildings in Sydney, tour around Circular Quay and visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia to see displays of Australian art and modern Aboriginal art. Admission is free. If you love to see more contemporary art, also visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
A visit to Sydney is not complete without walking through The Rocks. Meander through the cobblestone laneways to see Sydney’s oldest area. Essentially, the Rocks is the area where European settlers decided to settle back in 1788. Learn more about the Rocks by taking one of the walking tours.
CBD is a great place to shop. Visit The Strand Arcade, a Victorian-style building with high-end retail shops. And shop at the Queen Victoria Building, also known as QVB, for other upscale shops. Both buildings are part of the heritage buildings.
Where to eat in CBD
- Opera Kitchen – a restaurant and bar in the best location! Enjoy a meal or drink at the Opera Kitchen while sitting by Circular Quay while enjoying people watching and seeing Sydney Opera House
- Skittle Lane – the little coffee shop is located close to Darling Habour, the perfect spot for anyone who needs a caffeine kick while touring around CBD. And it is very popular with Sydneysiders working in the CBD.
- Gumption by Coffee Alchemy – enjoy a flat white at Gumption which is located inside the Strand Arcade, an iconic shopping centre in CBD
Below are a few excellent options for tours if you want to experience Sydney with a tour group:
Chippendale is a hip neighbourhood with many galleries, restaurants and markets. Not far from CBD, Central Railway Station and Chinatown, Chippendale is easily accessible and is the spot in the city for modern art.
The White Rabbit Gallery has one of the most exciting art collections. Their exhibition focuses on Chinese contemporary art where they change their displays twice a year. The gallery also has a teahouse onsite. Check their website for opening times as they close while changing their exhibits.
Not far away from White Rabbit Gallery is Galerie Pompom. The cozy, small gallery features contemporary artwork by artists from Sydney and Melbourne. Check their website for upcoming exhibitions.
Where to eat in Chippendale
- Spice Alley – nestled in the neighbourhood of Chippendale, you will find various Asian cuisine at budget prices. Find multiple hawker-style food joints including Singaporean, Malaysian, Thai, Cantonese and Vietnamese.
- Gin Lane – as the name suggests, the bar serves some of the fanciest gin cocktails in the cozy neighbourhood of Chippendale just off of Kensington Street. Don’t miss their happy hour, which is all night on Tuesday!
- Edition Coffee Roasters – a coffee shop with a stark and sleek interior serving the best flat white. They have a delicious Japanese souflé pancake. Yum!
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Day 2 in Sydney: Watsons Bay and Manly & Northern Beaches
For day two, get out of the city centre and so something outside as there are many outdoor activities in Sydney like exploring cliffs, parks and the best beaches for swimming and surfing. Best of all, take one of the most scenic ferry rides from Circular Quay.
Follow all the purple pins on the Google map for more information on the places mentioned below.
Your solo tour of Watsons Bay starts with a ferry ride from Circular Quay. Hop on the ferry and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way to your destination.
From Watsons Bay Wharf, walk across the park to The Gap Lookout where you can see dramatic cliffs of the Wreck of the Dunbar. Follow the walking path walking north; you will find Lady Bay Beach on the way to the Hornby Lighthouse. On the way back to the pier, take the scenic route where you will see Camp Cove, a small quiet beach which will lead you to a small residential neighbourhood and eventually lead you to the Marine Parade path.
Where to eat in Watsons Bay
- Beach Club at Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel – enjoy a drink or two or three at the Beach Club outdoor patio! This is the place to people-watch – everyone looks gorgeous!
Manly & Northern Beaches
From Watsons Bay, take a ferry directly to Manly, which is just 15 minutes away.
As soon as you arrive at the wharf, follow the signs and find The Corso, which is the pedestrian street with surf shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. Walkthrough The Corso promenade until you reach Manly Beach. You can rent a surfboard and spend some time in the water or head over to Shelly Beach for standup paddleboarding or snorkelling.
After spending some quality time on Shelly Beach, walk back towards Manly Beach and continue walking north, crossing a few streets until you reach the next beach, Freshwater Beach. And when you keep walking further, you will reach Freshwater Rockpool.
Continue north, and you will find the Curl Curl Boardwalk, a paved path that will take you to Curl Curl Beach. At the end of the beach, look for the Tea Tree Lookout, which is a scenic spot with a lookout point and a picnic area.
And if you still have time, continue on the Dee Why Coastal Walk, and it will lead you to Dee Why Beach, the last beach on your coastal tour of Northern Beaches. It is a spot that hosts many sports events and special events, including fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
From Dee Why Beach, the easiest way to get back to CBD is by taking the bus. Find a bus stop on Pittwater Road and hop on B1 bus and make your way back to the city.
Where to eat in Manly
- New Brighton Hotel – the Corso Bar on the second floor overlooks the Corso promenade. It is an excellent spot for a cold beer and people watching. And check out the rooftop garden bar as well.
- Chica Bonita Manly – they make delicious tacos and strong margaritas!
- Bare Naked Bowls – many eateries in Australia specializing in acai bowls, cold-pressed juices and raw treats. And Bare Naked Bowls is one of them.
- Stowaway Bar – a casual little spot for wine, cocktails and bar food.
- Cruise Espresso – they really know how to make a great cup of joe! And not a bad place to do a bit of work.
- Market Lane Cafe – excellent breakfast and coffee. Locals love this place!
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Day 3 in Sydney: Bondi, Coogee, Surrey Hills
On the last day of your 3-day itinerary, visit Sydney’s most famous beach and one of the best coastal hiking trails in Bondi. And to end your trip, visit Surry Hills for some good eats and drinks.
Follow all the orange pins on the attached Google map for more information on all the places below.
Bondi & Coogee
You haven’t been to Sydney if you haven’t visited Bondi Beach, Sydney’s most famous beach.
Soak up the sun on the beach and grab some food before starting the Bondi to Coogee Walking trail. The trail is a very popular coastal hiking trail and can be done during any time of the year. The walking trail meanders through different neighbourhoods and will take you to Tamarama Beach, Bronte Beach and Clovelly Beach.
The easy hiking trail is 6km long and will take about 2 hours or so but could be longer depending how much time you spend at each beach. But don’t feel you have to rush it – the trail is delightful and is one of my favourite things to do in Sydney. So take your time and take in the scenery.
And finally, at the end of the trail is Coogee Beach. Enjoy the views and the beach and have a fabulous meal at Coogee Pavillion.
Where to eat in Bondi & Coogee
- The Traditional Chip Shop – you’ve got to have fish and chips at the most famous beach in Sydney! Fish is crispy and not oily. And they give you a lot of fries (or chips as Australians call it)
- Gelato Messina Bondi – one of the best gelato stores in Australia! You can’t leave the country without trying a few unique flavours. They have 35 classic flavours and five specials every week. My fav is the chocolate mint and macadamia crunch!
- Bondi Hall – if you need a coffee, try a flat white at Bondi Hall. And maybe even a croissant!
- Coogee Pavillion – whether you are at Coogee Pavillion for lunch or dinner, you will have one of the best meals in Sydney! Or as the local calls it, “The Pav,” the eclectic restaurant serves fresh seafood, wood-fired pizzas and other delicious treats.
The best eateries, bars and coffee shops are in Surry Hills. And the hip and stylish neighbourhood has boutique hotels, beautiful Art Deco buildings, and vintage second-hand stores.
Spend your last night in Sydney by walking through the eclectic neighbourhood of Surry Hills, sampling the city’s best food and reminisce your solo trip in Sydney over a few drinks.
Where to eat in Surry Hills
- Tokyo Bird – a cozy Japanese restaurant that serves delicious yakitori and whisky cocktails. They have one of the biggest Japanese whisky collection!
- Mr. Crackles – get a mouth-watering Crackles Classic sandwich where you get a delicious sandwich with slow roast pork belly and crispy pork crackling.
- The Winery – a fun wine bar with an eclectic interior. Check out both the ground floor and mezzanine levels. And don’t miss their disco brunch!
- Button Bar – try one of their pirate-themed cocktails at this fun local bar
- The Clock – enjoy a meal and a cocktail at The Clock where you can enjoy the casual atmosphere. Choose one of the seats on the second-floor balcony, and you can people watch the night away.
- Gelato Messina Surry Hills – if you didn’t have one in Bondi yet or want another scoop of the best ice-cream, this is your last chance!
- Paramount Coffee Project – a sophisticated coffee shop with sophisticated clientele. Their flat white is sublime! And the Crumbed Eggs on Toast is to die for!
- Reuben Hills – they have all-day breakfast and delicious coffee! Yes, I can’t get enough of flat whites in Australia!
- Single O Surry Hills – there are so many excellent coffee shops in Surry Hills, and this is another one! Get a flat white to go and enjoy your caffeinated beverage while strolling through the neighbourhood.
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If you have more than 3 days in Sydney
Three days isn’t a lot of time to spend in Sydney. However, if you have a few extra days, plan a weekend getaways from Sydney. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
A day trip to Blue Mountains National Park is possible from Sydney. You can even take the train with your Opal Card on a Sunday where you only pay $2.70AUD for an entire day of travel.
Experience a day of hiking in Blue Mountains where you can see amazing scenery. The bushwalking trails will lead you to the famous Three Sisters at Echo Point, Jenolan Caves and Wentworth Falls and other waterfalls in Blue Mountains. If you love nature, you wouldn’t want to miss the Blue Mountains!
Royal National Park
Spend the day exploring Sydney’s Royal National Park which is just 35km south of Sydney. See Wattamolla, the Sea Cliff Bridge and the wonderous Figure 8 Pools.
If you are a wine lover, then you must visit Hunter Valley. There are many wineries in the area and it is the perfect way to spend a balmy afternoon. What’s better than wine-tasting and touring world-class vineyards?
How will you spend your 3 days in Sydney?
I didn’t think I was returning to Sydney after visiting the amazing city 15 years ago. But I am thrilled I went back because I get to see Sydney a bit more this time around and was able to enjoy the beach life.
While there are many free things to do in Sydney, travelling in Sydney can get pretty expensive. But if you follow my solo 3 day Sydney itinerary, you can visit most sights in just three days and on a moderate budget.
Are you inspired to visit Sydney, Australia? It is truly one of the best cities in the world that has everything you want for a short vacation. Don’t hesitate and book that ticket!