Things To Do In A Day in Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia is one of the most stunning cities in the world. From the architectural genius of the Opera House, sweeping views from the Pylons, Manly and Bondi white sand beaches, great public transport, entertainment, restaurants, shopping and more!

Currently a little over 5 million people live in Australia’s iconic city. There’s so much to do in and around the city ranging from hiking, fine or casual dining, Broadway shows to beaches.

In this article I’m going to share a ton of info so you can make the most out of your time in this spectacular city! Scroll to the bottom for a detailed vegetarian and vegan restaurant guide.

{Things To Do In Sydney}

{Go To The Beach}

Cost: $
Time spent there: Half day, full day, a few hours
Getting there: ferry, car, walk, bike, cab, bus

Australia is well known for its beautiful coastlines. Luckily there are two gorgeous white sand beaches right in Sydney! If you haven’t check out our post on visiting Manly and Bondi. You can easily spend an entire day here or just a few hours.

On my last trip to Sydney, I spent several days relaxing on Bondi. I love climbing the rocks there and going for long walks as the surrounding hills are beautiful. If you’re not a sand person, there’s also a grassy hill, perfect for lounging and people watching. On our honeymoon, my husband and I did a lot of picnics throughout Sydney and Bondi was amongst our favorites (in addition to the Rocks area of Sydney!).

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White sand at Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

I published a more detailed article about deciding whether to go to Bondi or Manly. I think you know what my ideal scenario would be – go to both! But this is a good article if you’re short on time and have to choose 1 or the other.

{Beach Facilities}

  • There are lockers at Bondi (not Manly).
  • Neither beach has umbrella, nor lounger rentals.
  • Anyone allergic to sand or just doesn’t want to be on sand, Bondi has a lovely grassy hill above the beach.
  • There are restrooms at both beaches
  • Get to Manly via the ferry at Circular Quay, self drive, or walk
  • Get to Bondi via public bus, cab, walk

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If you enjoying walking, the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk, is a must! You’ll love the views throughout the approximately two hour easy walk. But why not break it up with a relaxed coffee or lemonade? And if you’re visiting in October or November, you’ll catch the Sculpture by the Sea, one of the world’s largest outdoor sculpture exhibits.

Visiting from May to November? You might site a humpback or two as they’re migrating during that time.

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grassy area to lay out at Bondi Beach, Sydney

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Things to do at Manly
In addition to beach activities, Manly Sea Life Sanctuary is informative, fun and family-friendly. There are loads of hidden coves, inlets and historical sites. Walking and cycling tours are available or hire a cycle and jaunt around on your own.  Whether you enjoy swimming, surfing, lounging, cycling, walking or just relaxing – in general, you’ll love your visit to one of Australia’s most famous beaches. Find the latest events for families, couples, seniors and children, here.

At both Bondi and Manly, you can hire snorkel, surf, and cycling gear.

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Keeping Safe
There are lockers inside the Bondi Pavilion that you can hire for 4 hours from 6a-8p. They take credit card, coins and notes. Unfortunately there are no lockers at Manly. It should be obvious, but definitely make sure you put on sunscreen and reapply it according to the directions on the package. Usually you have to reapply after swimming in the water. The ozone over Aus is thinner, compared to many other places in the world so even on non-sunny days make sure to slop on the sunscreen.

Staying at the Beach
Both Bondi and Manly have a range accommodations from backpackers to high end hotels, within walking distance. Just search around on your favorite travel accommodations site to find a great place to stay!

Vegetarians and Vegans friends – there are places to eat.

Bondi 
Mediterranean cuisine
Sandwiches, salads, burgers
One veg main entree – stir fry
Organic, fruits, salads and more

Manly
High end pizza place – better for vegetarians than vegans
Sushi
Thai food
Mexican

If you try Mexican food in Aus, PLEASE share your experience in the comments. I tried Mexican food there in the early 2000s and it was not good. I tried it again 12 years later and didn’t see improvements. I’m a native Southern Californian so grew up around authentic and Californian Mexican and Aus hasn’t landed on the pulse yet, IMO.

Taking a Break from Swimming
While we were there, we were just looking for a quick place to eat after playing in the water for a few hours. These days practically every restaurant and cafe has at least one vegetarian or vegan dish. For what we were looking for that was good enough.

Fine Dining
If you’re looking for a nicer dining experience, some of the restaurants above fit the bill. I’d also recommend hotel restaurants. They have stunning views and they’re usually willing to work with consumers to accommodate dietary restrictions.

Hope you have a brilliant time on your visits to Bondi and Manly!


{Visit the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium}

Cost: $$
Time spent there: a few hours, half day
Getting there: car, walk, bike, cab, bus
One of the best aquariums in the world (in my opinion), you can get lost in here for hours mesmerized by all the colors and creatures. There are over 700 species and 13,000 unique fish here!
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{Sydney Bridge Climb}

Cost: $$$
Time spent there: a few hours
Getting there: walk, cab, car, bus

Some people find this expensive. Others find it scary. I’ve done the bridge climb twice and thought it was brilliant both times! Climbers are securely attached to the railings and it’s a VERY easy climb. It’s not strenuous or difficult at all.  It really is quite beautiful, and the views of Sydney that you get offer a very unique perspective and overall it’s exhilarating to be up there!

Sometimes they offer discounted tickets to go to the pylons with your Bridge Climb purchase. On my last trip to Sydney I stayed at Darling Harbour so walked to the Bridge Climb office. It’s in the Rocks which is an awesome and fun area to hang out in anyway!

They offer a variety of tours with pricing starting at about $140AUD (about $113USD). There are lovely gardens and parks in the Rocks where you can enjoy the views of Circular Quay. If you’re worried about how much money you dropped on your climb, them hit up the local market and go for a picnic in the park, instead of an expensive meal at a restaurant.

If you are looking for nicer dining options following your climb, head to The Gantry, Cafe Sydney, Altitude Restaurant (in the Shangri-La hotel), the Spice Room, or Appetitio Pizza Pasta Bar for vegan and vegetarian options.

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{Hanging Out in Darling Harbour}

If you love to people watch then Darling Harbour is probably one of the best places in the world. There’s so much going on here from the shops, outdoor restaurants and bars, harbour cruises, Madame Tussauds, sailing on yachts from the America’s Cup-class yachts, to the water taxis, and the casino!

And there’s plenty for everyone: couples looking for a romantic afternoon or evening, families with adolescents and teenagers, families with infants and toddlers, and grandparents. It’s easy to spend an afternoon or evening wandering around. Darling Harbour is constantly changing. Click here for the latest attractions and info.

I was there the week of Christmas and the harbour looked beautiful with all of Christmas decorations. Aussies have a great sense of humor and they take the holidays to show it off! During summer it’s fun to grab a cold beverage or ice cream and just chill out on one of the many areas to sit out and enjoy. I also enjoyed playing (and cooling off) in the water features.

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Us at Darling Harbour, Sydney, December
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Adorable kids playing in the fountains at Darling Harbour, Sydney

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Boxing Day!

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So much fun playing in the fountains!

{Circular Quay and The Rocks}

Circular Quay is perhaps Sydney’s most iconic area as this is where you’ll find the towering sails of the Opera House. Guided tours and dining + show + tour packages are available. I suggest going early in the morning if you want to get shots in front of the Opera House without scores of people in the background.

And for the best photos of the Opera House from above, head to the Pylons and/or walk across the Harbour Bridge. For same level photos get your camera ready on your ferry to Manly or any other harbour cruise.

There are loads of restaurants, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, catch a ferry to Taronga Zoo, have a picnic in the Royal Botanic Garden. Like Darling Harbour, Circular Quay is a fun area to relax with a cup of coffee or a book and revel in the beauty of the surroundings. After you’ve gotten your fill there stroll over to the Rocks.

The Rocks is a quaint, lovely area to go for a stroll. On weekends the area is lit with a lovely outdoor market where you’ll find artisanal breads, cheeses, and chocolate, fine dining, art on display and for sale. Grab a drink at a bar and strike up conversation with locals and tourists alike. You’ll find the Bridge Climb office here as well.

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The Rocks, Sydney
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Ferry to Manly passing by the Harbour Bridge

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{Royal Botanic Garden}

Don’t forget to check out Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair!

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{Your Animal Fix in Sydney}

Taronga Zoo and Featherdale

If you don’t have time on your trip to get out to Kangaroo Island or the outback but would still like to see some of Oz’s beloved furry friends, then head over to Taronga Zoo and/or Featherdale.

At Taronga you’ll find 4000 animals and over 350 species ranging from monkeys and elephants to rhinos. The zoo is also involved with animal rehabilitation and conservation. Fancy holding a baby kangaroo? Getting up close to a koala? Then Featherdale is your destination. Featherdale is about 23mi. from Darling Harbour. You can get there by public transport in about 1.5 hr.

To get to Taronga Zoo, catch a ferry from Circular Quay.

{The Blue Mountains}

Next time I go, I will definitely add this to my agenda. I’ve heard it’s spectacular to visit the Blue Mountains. It’s only about a 2 hour drive from Sydney and many companies offer tours and packages. It’s recommended to spend at least 1 night (if not 2) there. Click here for the latest info.

{Play in Sydney}

The Star at Darling Harbour is a resort casino and entertainment center wrapped into one. Head here for a fun night out of testing your luck in the casino, clubbing, or catch a musical. I saw Legally Blonde there; and it was fantastic. I got same-day tickets online. The actors spoke in American accents (I wondered about that! The story is about a fellow California girl and takes place in Boston, so I wasn’t sure what to expect!). The only thing,

Attire: I wish I knew ahead of time is that theater in Sydney is not casual like it can be in London. My husband and I showed up after a long day of traipsing around the city. Everyone else was dressed for a night out. Oops! I wish I’d known so now I’m sharing with you!

{Shopping in Sydney}

There’s plenty of shopping in Sydney from the Westfield Mall to Darling Harbour and Paddington Market. If you live in a major US or Canadian city, you’ll find the shopping very similar to going to South Coast Plaza in Orange County, Square One in Mississauga, or the Westfield Mall in San Francisco – in terms of available items and store quality.

Australia has a lot of its own brands. In addition you’ll find familiar brands known worldwide like Calvin Klein and Adidas. Their big department store is Myer. I’d characterize it as somewhere between Macy’s and Nordstrom in terms of pricing. They do carry petites at Myer.

I found that a lot of the fashions followed more trends you’d see in Europe and Asia and some fashions trend quicker there compared to the USA. For example the last time I was in Sydney, the peplum blouse had just come out and was all the rage – it was EVERYWHERE. I didn’t see the peplum go big in the US, until a few months later.

Paddington Market opens on Saturdays only and is like a flea market or swap meet. You can find gadgets, bits and bobs at discounted prices – but like anything you get what you pay for. I didn’t spend time shopping in Sydney. I didn’t find things were discounted. For example a lipstick at MAC costs $36AUD which is $29USD, the same price I’d pay in the US.

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{Christmas in Sydney}

Christmas in Sydney is beautiful! The whole city is decorated with decor like this massive Christmas tree! It’s very festive and there’s something really fun about experiencing Christmas in summer!

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{Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Sydney, Australia}

Asian Cuisine:

I ate at Peace Harmony a few times during my most recent visit. They had two locations – one near Darling Harbour and another in the Central Business District. According to their website, they took a break and are planning to re-open again sometime this year.  Both locations were very casual, hole in the wall places and the food was really good.

Bodhi Restaurant (20 minute walk from Darling Harbour)

Mother Chu’s Vegetarian Kitchen (about a 20 minute walk from Darling Harbour)

Green Gourmet 100% vegan, Chinese food, specializes in Yum Cha (about 2mi or 35 minute walk from Darling Harbour; probably Uber or get a cab)

Golden Lotus is casual, 100% vegan Vietnamese cuisine in Newtown (about 3mi from Darling Harbour)

Burgers and Fries:

Lord of the Fries is an Australian chain restaurant serving vegan burgers and fries. There are 2 central Sydney locations – George Street (about 10 minute walk from Darling Harbour) as well as in Central Station. There’s also a location in the Paramatta Westfield Mall, but that’s quite far from the city center.

Soul Burger is 100% plant based or vegan burgers, fries and shakes.

Sweet and Savory Pies:

Funky Pies serves vegan as well as gluten free, savory and sweet pies; in Bondi

Fine Dining (reservations are recommended):

The Gantry – they offer a full vegetarian menu as well as a tasting menu and are located right on the water near the Harbour Bridge.

Yulli’s – all of their dishes are vegetarian and/or vegan and/or gluten free, served in a quirky tasting room. It’s a little over a mile from Darling Harbour in Surry Hills, closer to Allianz Stadium.

The Malaya – Serving Malaysian food with harbour views. They have a separate vegetarian menu that appears to be vegan as well.

Cafe Sydney – the rooftop restaurant offers sweeping panoramic views and they have a separate vegan menu.

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant 

Bentley Restaurant – $$$, they have 1 vegetarian entree and a separate vegetarian tasting menu; rather expensive for the food for vegetarians (the ambiance is great!).

est. is French fusion cuisine. They have a small, separate vegetarian menu.

Raw Food:

Earth to Table: at Bondi Junction; must try the cakes! $$, casual

{Restaurants that are 100% Vegetarian and/or Vegan}

The restaurants on this list are taken from the categories above. I just wanted to add the 100% vegetarian restaurants in a separate list for anyone who only eats at places that do not serve non-vegetarian items.

Casual:

Peace Harmony Sydney: casual, $$, Vietnamese

Soul Burger is 100% plant based or vegan burgers, fries and shakes

Bodhi Restaurant: somewhere between casual and fine dining, $$, more Vietnamese

Mother Chu’s Vegetarian Kitchen: casual, $$, Chinese

Green Gourmet is casual, $$, 100% vegan Chinese in Newtown

Golden Lotus is casual, 100% vegan Vietnamese cuisine in Newtown

Fine Dining:

Yulli’s: fine dining, $$$

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant: fine dining, $$$

{Indian Food in Sydney, Australia}

There are a number of Indian restaurants in Sydney. I didn’t eat at any. I was in Sydney about a week after my wedding at which we had had nothing but Indian food for several weeks straight, so I stayed away from it on my honeymoon in Aus. However usually Indian food is very vegetarian friendly.

As far as fine dining, Indian food my husband and I did check out Zaaffran on our most recent visit. We found it not good for vegetarians and also very expensive. It’s in the mall at Darling Harbour, so the expensive part is to be expected as what you’re really paying for (as a vegetarian) is the ambiance.

The Spice Room ($$$) in Circular Quay is much more vegetarian and vegan-friendly and offers all the traditional North Indian dishes and others.

For a more casual Indian meal check out, INDU, serving South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine in the Central Business District (CBD). They serve dosa and vegan dosa.

There’s no Indian food in the Rocks but just jaunt over to nearby Circular Quay for the Spice Room.

{Conclusion}

There’s SO much to do and see in Sydney! A friend recently reached out asking me for advice on what to do if you have exactly 7 days to spend in Australia. She wanted to do 2.5 days in Sydney, 2 in Melbourne, and 2 at the Great Barrier Reef.  I told her she’s cramming in a lot in a very short time. Doable? Yes. Recommended? No. I told her to spend the entire time in Sydney and not to go anywhere else. Why?

  • She’s arriving from the West Coast of the US so it’ll take a day or two to get over jetlag
  • She’s going during summer, the best time to be outdoors in Sydney
  • There’s so much to do in Sydney alone as detailed above, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, the Aquarium, a couple days at he beach, Taronga Zoo and Featherdale, go see a show, do a harbour cruise, just to name a few things to do there!

Check out the links throughout the article to get the latest details on what’s happening in Sydney.


I hope you found this info helpful! If you end up going, I wish you a BRILLIANT time and fall in love with Sydney as much as I did! I really hope this article helps you prepare and get everything you need! Let me know what you thought of it! I love hearing from our readers, as well as your fun, funny, interesting, and helpful stories from your travel experiences! You might like to follow us on Facebook and Instagram too, where we share a lot of different content and images.


{About PassportPages}

I created the PassportPages travel blog, to provide nuanced, detailed travel advice, tips, and hacks for traveling all over the world — from a unique and different perspective than the other popular travel blogs. There aren’t as many travel blogs geared towards:

  • nuanced, detailed travel tips and advice
  • vegetarians/vegan travelers
  • ethnic Americans, Canadians, and others
  • petite women

As a non-Caucasian there’s an additional layer to traveling abroad that other popular travel bloggers can’t relate to, like my experience on my most recent trip to Paris.

{About Samta}

When I’m not traveling and/or adventuring (and even when I am), I operate my tech startup, ShaadiShop. ShaadiShop is a marketplace for Indian-friendly wedding venues in California.

During undergrad I decided to study abroad which triggered my travel passion. I lived in Adelaide, Australia for a year and after that, for the next 10 years I spent 1-2 months each year, traveling to various destinations around the globe, on my own while I managed my direct marketing company.

I think traveling solo, prepared me to become an entrepreneur – journeying into new experiences, figuring it out as I went, self-reliance, facing your fears head on, trying new things, and so much more!

Then I decided to get a Masters in Business Administration, and I met my husband. Now we travel around the globe together and often. I love backpacks, vegetarian and vegan cooking and of course planning our next trip. I’m also kinda addicted to blueberries. =p

Check in on the blog or better yet follow PassportPages to get travel info from around the world. And definitely post your questions and comments. I love hearing from our readers! Cheers!

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Samta, Founder, PassportPages

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