One Day in Sydney, Australia: Itinerary & Where to Go in 24 Hours

Often proclaimed as Australia’s unofficial capital city, the city of Sydney is a true metropolis of coastal beauty, urban innovation, and rich Australian culture. Sydney’s perfect weather makes it hospitable for visiting all year round.

Although keep in mind that Australia’s sunshine can be brutal, so pack lots of sunscreen, sleeved shirts, and a good hat to protect yourself from the UV rays. Another plus side to this fabulous city is Sydney’s uncontainable natural beauty, meaning that there’s an activity for every budget and interest.

From breathtaking beaches to extraordinary culinary experiences there is so much to see & do.

Not sure where to start? Plan your trip with this complete 1-day Sydney itinerary…

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24 hours in Sydney: A complete 1-day itinerary

Like many of our time-crunched city itineraries, with only 24 hours in Sydney it can be difficult to choose what to do and where to go.

Enjoy a drink overlooking Sydney’s famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House, jump on a ferry to Taronga Zoo, embrace the known and unknown beaches scattered around, or make a trip to one of the many acclaimed museums and galleries.

Sunset @ Sydney Opera House

Discover that great Australian hospitality and explore the diversity and culture in the city and city fringes. This complete 1-day itinerary has all the answers for your next trip to Sydney.

Bondi to Coogee Coast Walk

There is no better way to start your morning than to breathe in that fresh Aussie air along a gorgeous coastal walk.

Tipped as possibly the best thing to do in Sydney, the Bondi to Coogee Coast Walk embodies all that is right with the city into one winding ocean track.

Extending over six kilometres in length, the walk should take you around three hours to complete. It’s suitable for walkers of most ages and fitness levels.

Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

There are reasons as to why this is possibly the most celebrated coastal walk in Australia. Begin at the beautiful golden sand Bondi Beach, grab a coffee at one of the many artisan cafes along the way, and finish with a cool-down swim at Coogee Beach.

The walk weaves in and out of some of Sydney’s most celebrated beaches, including the likes of Clovelly, Gordon’s Bay, and Bronte Beach, each offering spots for swims, surfing, and sunbathing.

Brunch in trendy Alexandria

You’ll be hungry after all that walking, and you’ll need to fuel up for the big day ahead. Once the industrial heart of Sydney, the suburb of Alexandria has ditched the trucks and tradies for turmeric lattes and hipsters.

The inner-city suburb has become famous as a foodie mecca- perfect for brunching. These old-school industrial warehouses have been converted into cosy, trendy coffee shops boasting specialty coffee, organic foods, local produce, and culinary masterpieces.

Check out the new brunch on the block, Baby Coffee Co, located on the outskirts of bustling Alexandria, with an exclusive coffee bean and a deliciously colourful and creative menu curated by a secret chef. Wet the baby’s head with their brunch cocktail menu boasting bottomless mimosas and pick up some cool branded merch as a memento.

An absolute must-see in Sydney is The Grounds of Alexandria, one of Australia’s most Instagrammed locations. The grounds we speak of refer to an old pie tin factory, which has been transformed into an artsy, vibrant foodie community space, complete with a petting zoo and markets.

Source: flickr, The Grounds of Alexandria

The Grounds of Alexandria hosts three different eateries, one cafe, one restaurant and one canteen. The Grounds decor is comprised of well-manicured gardens, pastry and lolly vendors and quirky art pieces including a telephone booth and an old farmers truck full of freshly harvested local produce.

On Sundays, The Grounds of Alexandria also hosts a market for local craft makers to sell their goods. Take the train to Green Square Station, just a few stops from Central, the Airport and Circular Quay. Green Square Station is close to the hub of eateries and homewares boutiques. The development of Sydney’s light rail is also well underway due for completion in 2020.

A trip to Sydney’s lesser-known beaches

Although Sydney is mostly known for its star-studded lineup of famous beaches, including the likes of Bondi and Coogee Beach, if you dig a bit further, you’ll find a wide range of ocean hotspots that give you the true local experience.

Begin with a trip to Milk Beach in the chic suburb of Vaucluse. The beach is small in size but is a lot quieter than most and is protected from the elements as it’s located within the harbour.

Gordon's Bay, Sydney, Australia

Next up on Sydney’s lesser-known beach list is Gordon’s Bay. Located just north of Coogee, Gordon’s Bay is a snorkeling paradise as it’s protected by an offshore reef. Gordon’s (as the locals call it) offers calm waters for bathing and expansive rock ledges for catching some rays.

Other hidden beach gems off the tourist trail include Little Bay, Chinamans, and Store Beach.

Enjoy Lunch at the Tower Eye

After exploring Sydney’s secret locations, head to the biggest tourist attraction of them all and make your way to Circular Quay for lunch.

Soak up Sydney’s best city views from 275 metres high at the iconic Sydney Tower Eye, 360 Bar and Dining. This experience is truly exceptional and unique to Sydney, offering an extraordinary culinary experience with an even more extraordinary view.

View from Sydney Tower Eye

The main attraction of this restaurant is in its name. It boasts 360-degree views of Sydney’s city and harbour surrounds from a rotating restaurant, so you can’t miss a thing. 360 bar has an extensive menu of specially designed cocktails to match the extraordinary array of fresh local produce.

Elton Inglis, the Executive Chef, has over 15 years of experience in the industry working in some of the most renowned kitchens around the world. Furthermore, the Tower Eye is located just above Pitt Street Mall, Sydney’s best shopping location.

PRO TIP: Want to skip the line-up? Grab a Sydney Tower Eye Fast-Track Entry before you arrive to save time on your one-day Sydney itinerary!

Museum of Contemporary Art

Whilst in Circular Quay, check out the unmissable Museum of Contemporary Art. For those eager to explore the thriving art and cultural scene within Sydney, this is definitely the place to go.

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney

The Museum finds the perfect balance between exhibitions supporting local and international artists, with an emphasis on contemporary art. For those on a shoestring budget, the museum is an ideal thing to do in Sydney, as admission is completely free.

Enjoy getting lost among the galleries, and finish off the trip with a coffee/bite to eat on the rooftop cafe overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

Taronga Zoo

Ready to view Sydney Harbour from a unique perspective? Catch a short ferry from Circular Quay to the famous Taronga Zoo in Sydney’s North, letting you enjoy panoramic views of Sydney harbour and towering cityscape.

Taronga Zoo is home to a wide range of native and international animals, including fan favourites like the koala bear and African lion.

Giraffe at Taronga Zoo in Sydney

The Zoo isn’t the cheapest attraction in Sydney, however booking your Taronga Zoo entry tickets online gives you a discounted price if you’re travelling on a budget.

What’s most unique about Taronga Zoo are the sweeping views of the city in the background at a large chunk of animal enclosures. Quite bizarrely watch Giraffes enjoy their lunch overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Taronga Zoo is a must on your list of things to do in Sydney.

Have an afternoon drink at the Opera Bar

No trip to Sydney would be complete without heading down to the famed Circular Quay, home to Sydney’s most iconic structures: Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

While exploring the truly remarkable location, make sure to grab a drink or bite to eat at the Opera bar, beautifully perched on the water’s edge overlooking the glistening harbour, bridge, and expansive city skyline.

Opera Bar in Sydney

Opera Bar is reasonably priced for such a fantastic location, meaning you don’t have to fork out half of your daily budget on one drink. As you soak up the vibrant atmosphere of the bar, it’s obvious to see as to why this is a visitor favourite for things to do in Sydney.

Explore Sydney’s Inner Western Suburbs arts culture

The day has been jam-packed with luxury activities and sightseeing in Sydney’s world-famous Harbour, City, and Eastern Suburbs. Now, we want you to jump on the train and head west to the Inner West, including the suburbs of Glebe, Newtown, and Surry Hills, to finish your evening on a cultural high.

Street Art in Glebe, Sydney

Once the home of Sydney’s working-class families, Sydney’s Inner West has been redesigned into an expressive collision of Sydney’s diverse cultures and subcultures. The renewal of this area has made way for a burgeoning food, arts, and music scene, complete with historic pubs, old and new boutique and vintage stores, and culinary experiences spanning a world of flavours.

Train from Circular Quay to Newtown Station, where you will find yourself at the beginning of Newtown’s arts and foodie hub, King Street. Here, you will experience a bohemian culture stemming from the region’s blue-collar roots, which has remained true to their eccentricities throughout the generations.

Enjoy dinner in Surry Hills

The next stop, Central Station, offering a menu of cuisines to explore on the city fringes. From the lantern-strung lanes of Spice Alley to delicious boutique wine bars, Surry Hills is your one-stop destination to foodie heaven.

Source: Nikki To via Broadsheet, Firedoor Surry Hills

From the British-born, Michelin star chef Lennox Hastie, Surry Hills presents Firedoor. As the name suggests, this restaurant exclusively offers smoked foods and meaty cuisines. The menu includes smoked and hung blue-eye trevalla and 184-dry aged steak valued at $176. This restaurant will tease and tantalise your taste buds. Other honourable mentions go to Bang, Gogyo, and Chin Chin.

Head to karaoke in Chinatown

After filling up on dinner, get back on the train at Central and head to Haymarket, where you will be welcomed into Sydney’s Chinatown. Once a rabbit warren of opium dens and gambling lairs, Chinatown is now a cultural hub embracing Chinese community and culture.

Sydney's Chinatown

Peruse the shops of knick-knacks and pick up some authentic Chinese desserts under the neon lights and lanterns. After exploring the area, head to K1 Karaoke bar to take out the night. K1 is open until 4 am daily and specialises in Green Tea and Hennessy.

Where to stay with 24 hours in Sydney

As with any city of its size and stature, choosing where to stay in Sydney isn’t always easy. If you’ve only got a quick layover in Sydney, the best areas to stay are the CBD (Central Business District) and The Rocks just to the north. Here are a few ideas to start your accommodations search…

  • The Ultimo: An excellent value modern hotel located in vibrant Chinatown and housed in a lovely heritage building. The Central Train Station is just minutes away by foot.
  • Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour: A centrally-located mid-range hotel fitted with modern rooms and a chic ambiance. Guests will love the tasty modern Australian cuisine served at the on-site restaurant, Lo Lounge!
  • The Langham Sydney: One of the top luxury picks in the city, this 5-star hotel pulls out all the stops for a memorable stay on your Sydney layover. Besides the city & bay views from the rooms, guests will love the top-notch amenities here including a luxurious pool, hot tub, tennis court, an elegant on-site restaurant, and a bar.

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Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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