Start your day with a coffee and brekkie in Darlinghurst—either a Malaysian meal at Lucky Suzie or Nordic-Japanese fusion dish at Edition Coffee Roasters—because you’ll need a full stomach and a bit of caffeine in your system to power through this jam-packed day of sightseeing you’ve got ahead of you.
Lace up your walking shoes and make sure your phone’s fully charged because you’re starting the itinerary with some serious selfie-taking at Sydney’s big-ticket attractions. Saunter through the immaculately groomed Royal Botanic Gardens until you reach Mrs Macquarie’s Chair for the postcard view of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, then get up close and personal with the architectural marvel on the Opera House steps, which are right next to Circular Quay.
It wouldn’t be a visit to Sydney without jumping on a ferry, but the half-hour journey north to Manly—a compulsory experience if you’ve got a little longer in the Harbour City—can’t be squeezed into this whirlwind schedule. Instead, cruise over to Kirribilli and walk along the waterfront towards Luna Park for a unique perspective on the city, with the Opera House and the skyline providing the backdrop for the hulking Bridge.
For another interesting vantage point of the city and its landmarks, walk back across the Harbour Bridge — it’s only a tick over a kilometre in length, and takes 20 minutes to walk. You’ll pop out in the historic Rocks precinct where simply strolling around the serpentine sandstone alleyways transports you back to convict-era Sydney.
If it’s not too early for a schooner, knock back a cold one with lunch at the Glenmore Hotel, Sydney’s most scenic rooftop pub. Culture vultures should also pop into the art deco masterpiece that is the Museum of Contemporary Art, shopaholics can melt their credit cards at the opulent Queen Victoria Building arcade, and fans of a succulent Chinese meal should follow their nose to nearby Chinatown. But all roads lead to Bondi on the 333 bus from Circular Quay and Elizabeth St.
Bondi is far from Sydney’s most beautiful beach—nearby Bronte and Tamarama both have their more famous neighbour easily covered — but it’s the one you need to tick off your bucket list if you’re only in the Harbour City for one day. And besides, if you visited Sydney and didn’t Instagram a snap of Bondi Icebergs’ ocean pool, how will anyone know you visited Sydney? The Insta-famous club is also a nice spot to stop for a nibble of afternoon tea, too.
If you’ve got the energy in your legs, invest two hours walking the six kilometer Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk — the sweeping views of the Pacific make every step worth it. Bring a towel and your bathers for plenty of pit stops at the beautiful beaches and bays along the way then rehydrate in Coogee, a magnet for Sydneysiders and visitors alike, either in the Coogee Bay Hotel’s laid-back beer garden or the rooftop of the more upmarket Coogee Pavilion.
Head back to the city for dinner, where you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to trendy neighbourhoods—like Surry Hills, Newtown and Darlinghurst—brimming with finger-licking dining options. After all that walking, you’ve earned a burger to refuel, so head to Butter or Ume in Surry Hills or Mary’s in Newtown for a big fried feed that your tastebuds will thank you for.
If you’re looking to end the evening with a cheeky nightcap, avoid the inner city, where the nightlife has been dulled by controversial lockout laws that force venues to close their doors at 1.30am. You’ll find a better time at Darlinghurst small bars like Love Tilley Devine and Shady Pines, or offbeat Newtown institutions like Earl’s Juke Joint and Websters Bar.