A Week In Sydney Australia


Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

A brief getaway to see more of New Zealand.

After all the effort to get to Australia my month is finally at a close. I had hoped to get to Darwin, Perth, then Whitsundays and southern Australia. But state borders remain either closed or require quarantine so it will be for another trip. I’m still feeling very lucky that I jumped on the flight from New Zealand when I did, or the borders would have shut again. And, I only got into Australia because I happened to be in New Zealand at the time. Twice blessed.

While in Sydney, I managed to walk almost 20,000 steps a day, much needed by my pandemic belly! I filled my days with many joyful activities. Here are some of my favorites:

Sydney – Darling Harbour/Haymarket

Chinese Garden Of Friendship

This was my number one favorite activity in Sydney. The gardens are beautiful, and with the iguanas appearing everywhere, made quite a treat! Careful you don’t step on one, and yes, they are real. You can meander slowly around the beautifully carved paths, in and out of pagodas, and stare out at the pond. Chinese zodiac symbols can be found if you look for them. 

Darling Harbour

Though somewhat touristy, I enjoyed looking out over the water, and found it worthwhile to return at night, when the lights make the harbour come alive. While the restaurants around the water are very expensive, you can find some really fun places inbetween the harbour and Haymarket, along some of the side streets. One of my favorites was Dopa, a funky donburi restaurant. The food was delicious for such a casual eatery.

Wild Life Sydney

This is one of the activities included on the Sydney attraction passes. Side note – I suggest you Google all the different passes as there are many, and they do save you a lot of money. The one I got was via the zoo, and had 4 attractions plus the Big Bus. I didn’t make it to Mme Tussaud’s and was very disappointed by the aquarium.

I got really lucky and, perhaps because there weren’t many tourists, got to speak with a bunch of the staff, who invited me for very special encounters, such as getting up close to the platypus and learning that you don’t want to try and pet one as it has a stinger which leads to a lot of pain, even for humans, and lasts for months. I played with koalas, pet the kangaroo, and met Dave, the quokka. Though most of the exhibits are indoors, I did actually enjoy myself here.


Sydney Tower Eye 

Though I was more impressed with Auckland’s Sky Tower, I still enjoyed my visit to the Sydney Tower Eye. It was another of the activities included in my city pass. It was a little hard to find – inside a shopping mall, up to the 5th floor, an escalator, check in desk, an elevator, sheesh!

I was in Sydney 20 years ago and though I had forgotten a lot, I of course was immediately connected by my first sighting of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. I’d say you could feel complete here in 15 – 25 minutes. It goes without saying, you should also visit both of these, which you can do from the Circular Quay metro stop. 

Beach Days

Bondi Beach

This is one of Sydney’s main beaches. 20 years ago, I saw a giant whale there, and people swam right next to it, fearless, which made quite an impression on me. This time, I saw an art exhibit and found the Coogee Coastal Walk, making a couple laugh with my mis-pronunciation. Though I didn’t have time to do the entire walk, I loved what I saw and even had a close encounter with a beautiful bird. It’s exceptionally easy to get to Bondi from central Sydney. Jump on the metro to Bondi Junction and then take a 10-minute bus ride to the beach. Or, do the Hop On Hop Off bus, and get off right at the beach.

Manly Beach

One of the best reasons to go to Manly is the boat ride, which gives you spectacular views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, as you pass by them. Grab the ferry from Circular Quay and you’ll be at Manly in about 25 minutes. You can use your Opal card (Sydney transportation card) to get there and back.

The beach you arrive to, is not the main one. There are some lovely (and expensive) restaurants when you disembark. Instead, walk down the main street in the center of town. It’s only about three streets long, and brings you right on to Manly Beach. There are many places to eat at all different price ranges, and the beach is lovely to kick off your shoes and go for a walk.

My favorite part about Manly, however, was the blowhole cave I accidentally found. Walk all the way down to the left side of the beach, pass a swimming pool, and hike the rock cliff (not too difficult), following it around to the I <3 QBC graffiti and you can’t miss the cave entrance. Walk through it, carefully, for a treat in sound and view. Find the carved lizard, and spend some time admiring the gorgeous view!

Manly Beach
Manly blowhole

Around Circular Quay

The Royal Botanic Gardens & Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair

This is a stop on the Hop On Hop Off Bus route, or, you can walk from the Circular Quay metro stop. The gardens are lovely. If you’re there on a Friday afternoon, you’ll hear and see everyone on boats in the bay – they’ll have left work for lunch, and not returned, to party on a boat. Sure beats casual Friday in America!

If you walk through the gardens, you can follow the sign to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair – it’s more like steps carved into a rock. They were carved by convicts for Elizabeth Macquarie, wife of the Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. If you make it, have a seat and take a photo to commemorate the visit. 🙂

The Sydney Fish Market

One of my favorite activities in Sydney was the fish market! It’s apparently one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, and fun to see all the different seafood. The best part is you can dine there on freshly cut sashimi, freshly cooked octopus and some of the largest oysters I’ve ever seen! 

To get there, you can either walk from Darling Harbour, or again, take the Hop On Hop Off bus which leaves you about 5 minutes walk from the market entrance.

As a slow traveler, one week in Sydney isn’t enough to see and do everything! But, that wasn’t my goal. I did treat myself to some oysters on The Rocks, which were delicious, and also visited the Sydney Christmas market which had some wonderful local artisans.

My time in Sydney and Bowral and Melbourne were wonderful. I’m so glad I went, and got to see two wonderful friends I hadn’t seen in years. I certainly got to see some wonderful parts of Australia I missed my first visit. I will have to return to see the parts closed off to be due to the pandemic!



Things To Do In A Week In Sydney

Visit The Sydney Opera House + Harbour Bridge

Check out Wild Life Sydney and Sydney Tower Eye + Darling Harbour

Go to Bondi Beach and Manly Beach

Walk through the Chinese Friendship Garden

Go to the Botanic Gardens and Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair

Visit the Fish Market and eat oysters!

Do the Hop On Hop Off Bus

Where To Eat

Side streets around Haymarket and Darling Harbour

Opera Bar for drinks and oysters

Where To Stay


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