Why Visit Sydney Opera House – Best places to see in Australia
There are two landmarks that you always see when Australia is brought up: The Sydney Opera House, and Uluru.
Inaugurated in 1973, the Sydney Opera House is a great architectural work of the 20th century that brings together multiple strands of creativity and innovation in both architectural form and structural design. An urban sculpture set in a remarkable waterscape, at the tip of a peninsula projecting into Sydney Harbour, the building has had an enduring influence on architecture. The Sydney Opera House comprises three groups of interlocking vaulted ‘shells’ which roof two main performance halls and a restaurant. These shell-structures are set upon a vast platform and are surrounded by terrace areas that function as pedestrian concourses.
In 1957, when the project of the Sydney Opera House was awarded by an international jury to Danish architect Jørn Utzon, it marked a radically new approach to construction.
Sydney Opera House – How to get there
Reaching Sydney By car
Do not expect the US highways in Australia. A 500 mile trip can easily take 10-12 hours – make sure you check Google maps for directions and estimates.
It is possible to drive to Sydney from Brisbane or Melbourne in a full day, around 9 hours non-stop to Melbourne or 10.5 hours to Brisbane on the most direct routes. A comfortable drive would allow two days from Melbourne or Brisbane, and three to Adelaide. The Melbourne drive is dual carriageway high quality road. The same can’t be said for the Brisbane drive, which while it has high quality sections, it also has some very narrow winding sections, carries high traffic volumes, and has many stoppages from roadworks.
- Melbourne – Sydney = 862 km via Albury-Wodonga (Hume Highway).
- Melbourne – Sydney = 1,029 km via Eden (Princes Highway). The Princes Highway is a longer drive at over 12 hours, though passes through many small coastal towns and is a far more enjoyable trip. This is the one we took, and is a nice roadtrip.
- Adelaide – Sydney = 1422 km via Mildura or 1659km via Broken Hill (National Highway 32).
- Brisbane – Sydney = 938 km via the coast (Pacific Highway) or 961 km via Armidale (New England Highway). The Pacific Highway passes through more towns, attractions, and has more facilities compared with the New England Highway, but it can get congested moving through the towns around holiday times. Although the Pacific Highway route follows the coast, you won’t see the ocean except for some brief glimpses. There are rivers all the way up the coast, and the river mouths are wide, causing the road bridges and the towns to be a little inland. If you have time, look for the tourist route diversions to see more of the Mid-North Coast and Northern Rivers on the way down (the beaches will be less crowded than Sydney!).
If you are renting a car, check the daily distance allowances and any one-way charge that may apply when driving from less popular destinations to major cities. Cars may be rented at the airport and elsewhere from major rental companies, or at smaller, less conveniently located, cheaper companies.
Ride-sharing can be arranged with other travelers. You can find a wide range of carpool offers on the Internet or in hostel noticeboards, etc. Usual warnings apply.
There are tolls applicable to most motorways coming into Sydney, and not all routes accept cash. See “Tolls” section below.
Reaching Sydney By bus
Coach companies operate to Sydney from all capital cities, and many New South Wales regional centres. The Sydney coach terminal is located adjacent to Sydney Central train station in the City South. Follow the signs.
Coach travel to Sydney is usually quicker, cheaper and more frequent than train travel. Online and advance booking specials are usually available.
Greyhound Coaches has the most extensive bus network in Australia.
Priors Scenic Express operates a coach service from Parramatta, Liverpool and Campbelltown stations to the Southern Highlands, Kangaroo Valley and the South Coast
Reaching Sydney By train
Sydney Central Station
The New South Wales long distance train service CountryLink, (13 22 32 within Australia) runs at least daily services to Sydney from Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and many regions of New South Wales including the Mid-North Coast, New England, the Central West and the Southern Highlands. It also services Broken Hill weekly.
Travelling time from Melbourne and Brisbane is around 12 hours. Fares range between $30 and $100 for standard class seats, and reservations tickets can be purchased online, by phone, or at the station. The long distance trains between Melbourne and Sydney, and Brisbane and Sydney can be a less stressful alternative to driving, but they do not average particularly high speeds and take longer than flying. It is often possible to get a discount airfare around the same price or cheaper than the adult train fare.
The Indian Pacific (13 21 47 within Australia or +61 8 8213 4592 internationally) train service runs from Perth to Sydney via Adelaide and Broken Hill. Adult fares from Perth are $1250 for a sleeper cabin and $513 for a seat (yes, wow!). Children’s fares are $805 for a sleeper cabin and $139 for a seat. The train departs from Perth on Wednesdays and arrives at Sydney on Saturdays.
These fares are much higher than return plane fares to Perth, this journey is really for train journey enthusiasts who want to see the interior of Australia. It also gives you the ability to take your car on the train for an additional fee.
All long distance (Countrylink and Great Southern Railway) trains to Sydney terminate at platforms 1-3 of Sydney’s Central Station in the south of the CBD area. Travellers can transfer to Sydney trains, the light rail service to Darling Harbour, city buses, as well as taxis. It is also easy to transfer to other long distance trains and coaches. There is short term metered parking so you can meet the trains on the platform. There are ATM’s, a small choice of food outlets, cafes open until late, and a railway heritage society display and bookshop in the terminal.
The NSW Trainlink network runs services several times a day from close regional cities: Newcastle via the Central Coast (New South Wales), Goulburn via the Southern Highlands, Nowra via the South Coast and Lithgow via the Blue Mountains.
Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport – the official name – (IATA: SYD) is Australia’s busiest airport and the main gateway to Australia. It is located around 9 km from the City centre in Southern Sydney on the northern shores of Botany Bay. Sydney Airport is the oldest continually operated commercial airport anywhere in the world.
Over 35 airlines fly in and out of Sydney Airport with daily flights linking Sydney to key destinations on every continent. The Asian-Pacific transport hubs of Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo and Seoul have several daily flights, as do the European centres of London, Paris and Frankfurt (with stopovers in Asia). There are also non-stop flights to Dubai in the Middle East.
North America is connected via Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth (new destination for Quantas, and one of the longest flights in the world) and Vancouver. Travellers from South America can fly direct from Santiago (stopover in Auckland). Africa is connected with a daily direct flight from Johannesburg.
You can fly to Sydney directly from all other Australian capital cities and from many major regional airports. Otherwise, you need to fly to the state capital and transfer to a Sydney flight. Sydney can be reached within an hour and a half from Melbourne and Brisbane, 45 minutes from Canberra and just under four hours from Perth and Alice Springs
Airlines and terminals
Check which terminal you are going to.
International terminal (T1) handles all international flights and some domestic flights. Check your itinerary and flight number because check-in, connections and customs will take longer when arriving or departing from the International Terminal, even on a domestic flight. You do not need a passport when travelling domestically, just hang on to your boarding pass.
Domestic terminal 2 (T2) is the largest domestic terminal. Airlines using this terminal include Qantaslink (Qantas flights numbered 1600 and above), Aeropelican, Regional Express (Rex), Jetstar, Tiger and Virgin Australia.
Domestic terminal 3 (T3) handles Qantas domestic flights numbered from 400 to 1599, which are mostly services to larger cities and towns.
Sydney Opera House – How to Visit
By public transport
The public transport system consists of commuter rail, bus, ferry and light rail. Combined, they can get you virtually anywhere in the metropolitan area.
Transport Infoline, tel. 13 15 00, . 24 hours. Information on fares and route planning for all public transport in Sydney. Available online and by telephone
TripGo, . is a free iPhone, iPad & Android App that provides direction for all transport modes around Sydney, Newcastle, Blue Mountains & Woollongong. It shows cost, time and carbon output for each trip.
TripView (TripView app) is an alternative app and is also free. TransitShops, Circular Quay (corner of Loftus & Alfred Streets), Wynyard under Wynyard Park, QVB west.
Information on fares and route planning for all public transport in Sydney, all ticket sales, accepts cr cards. As of 2012, Google Maps can also be used to plan Sydney public transport routes.
Public transport in Sydney has historically been poorly integrated and the ticket system can be confusing. You can purchase individual tickets to access each mode of transport or you can buy a MyMulti ticket which is explained below. If in doubt check with a driver or station attendant as transit officers do not accept any excuses and you’ll be stuck with the $200 fine!
Importantly for travelers, throughout 2013 and 2014 Sydney is implementing a new stored-value card, like London’s Oyster Card or the Hong Kong Octopus card, or Amsterdam’s bus card.
This is called the Opal Card. Opal Card (Opal.com.au – Official government website for the Opal card) – gives information about the rollout timetable and lets you buy and recharge an Opal card.
The Opal card is a touch-and-go contact card that you pre-load with value. The major advantage of the Opal card is that one ticket will work on all modes of transport and that your fares are automatically calculated. For travellers it holds an extra bonus in that once a designated weekly maximum spend has been reached all further travel for that week is free.
At the time of writing (Aug 2014) cards can be bought through the official website or at selected major stations during peak periods only.
To use the Opal card you hold it against the card reader until the reader ‘dings’ and then do the same again when you get off the bus or exit the ticket gates. This enables the system to calculate how far you travelled and deduct the appropriate amount from your card balance. If you forget to ‘tap off’ you are charged a ‘default fare’ that assumes you travelled the maximum possible distance on that mode of transport – which may be significantly more than fare you would have paid if you had ‘tapped off’ appropriately. Similar to the Amsterdam system, if you already used that.
Opal readers are at the doors of buses, on ferry wharves, on ticket barriers at major train stations and on free-standing poles near the entrances to outer-suburban train stations that do not have barriers.
At the time of writing (Aug 2014) the Opal card covers all the railway network and all ferries and buses in the North-West, South-West and North Shore by private operators. OnlyEastern Suburbs government Operate buses are Opal enabled. By the end of 2014 it is currently scheduled to extend to all buses, with light rail to follow in 2015. You should check the website before travelling as the rollout dates are not fixed and will change depending on how smoothly (or not) the earlier stages of the rollout go.
Once the rollout is complete all the earlier forms of tickets will be withdrawn from sale. Until then single trip and Multi Tickets will continue to be sold. During the transition period you will need to check the status of the Opal rollout before your visit to see if it covers the areas you wish to travel to.
Money saving tips: Multi Tickets
If you are going to be using public transport to get around during your stay in Sydney, consider purchasing a multi-modal ticket that are valid on buses, trains, Sydney Ferries and the light rail, but not private ferries or special event buses.
Multi-modal tickets are available in one-day or weekly varieties:
MyMulti Day Tripper is an one-day ticket throughout Greater Sydney (including the Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Newcastle) (adults $22/children $11).
The Family Funday Sunday is valid for the same services, but only on a Sunday and only if there is at least one adult and one child travelling and the group is related by family ($2.50 per adult or child).
MyMulti (weekly) will be cheaper than the Day Tripper for three or more days of transport. All MyMulti weekly tickets cover all buses, ferries and the light rail, but you have to choose whether you want a MyMulti 1, a MyMulti 2 or a MyMulti 3 based on how far from the city centre you want to catch the trains. A MyMulti 1 ($44) covers trains within within 10 km of the city centre. A MyMulti-2 ($52) includes trains nearly to the outskirts of Sydney. A MyMulti-3 ($61) covers the entire Sydney and Intercity network. If you are planning on travelling to the South Coast beaches, Newcastle, or to the Blue Mountains by train this ticket may be well worth it.
If you purchase the ticket after 3PM, you get the remainder of that day and the next 7 days. MyMulti Tickets can be purchased from 7-Eleven, some newsagents, railway stations and ferry ticket booths – but not on buses or the light rail. Family Funday Sunday Tickets can’t be purchased at 7-Eleven and newsagents, but can be purchased on buses, trains and ferries.
The MyMulti-1 ticket is popular with visitors to Sydney. It allows travel to the Zoo, Manly, Bondi Beach, Watsons Bay, Darling Harbour, etc, by bus, train, and light rail for up to a week without worrying about change, ticket prices, queues or pre-pay only services. However, as of September 1, MyMulti-1 tickets are no longer valid for travel on ferries.
Using the airport stations incurs a surcharge of $12. If you have a Multi ticket and arrive at the airport stations you will have to pay this to exit. If you buy a Multi ticket at an airport station this fee will be added to the price of the ticket.
Children’s and Senior fares and Money Saving Tips:
As in Europe, there are many discounts for children and seniors.
- Children aged 15 years and under are entitled to a discount on most public transport.
- Children 3 years and under travel free (4 years and under on Matilda ferries).
- On Sydney Ferries, buses, and trains, you pay for only the first child when accompanied by a parent or grandparent, the other children in the same family allowed for free. No family identification is required so anything that resembles a family unit will be able to get away with only having to pay for the first child. This is not available on light rail, or Matilda or Manly Fast Ferries.
- Student and other concessions are only available to those issued with a NSW transport student identification card. This card is only issued to students enrolled and resident in NSW or the ACT. Student fares are not available on the light rail, Matilda or Manly Fast Ferries.
Seniors fares are available to anyone with an Australian Seniors Card. Accordingly, overseas visitors are not entitled to student or senior concessions.
Opera House By Train
A Sydney Train
Sydney has a vast suburban rail network operated by Sydney Trains , covering 882 km of track and 176 stations. The train network will take passengers to most of the metropolitan area, with the exception of the north-west and northern beaches. Trains service every station in the metropolitan area at least every 30 minutes (except for the Carlingford line) Frequency is higher in the city, and major centres (Chatswood, Parramatta, Bondi Junction, etc) usually see a train every 10 minutes or so. Peak times (7AM-9:30AM and 4:30PM-7PM) have more frequent and also crowded trains, as well as some express services that skip more stations. Expect congestion around Central and Town Hall.
There are different styles and ages of trains running on the network. You may get a clean modern train, air-conditioned with comfortable seating and clear station announcements. Alternatively, you could get a train like a sauna packed in like sardines in the summer afternoon peak, with station announcements that are barely audible, if at all. Prepare yourself with a network map and a bottle of cold water, just in case.
Most train services do not stop at every station and do not travel to the furthest extent of the line. Look at the departure screens at the station concourse which indicate when the next train will arrive, it’s destination, the platform it will depart from, and the stations it will stop at. Alternatively, you can also listen to announcements that will regularly play before and when a train arrives at the platform. Or if you have mobile Internet services use the Transport Info trip planner.
Outside of operating hours, between midnight (1AM on Fridays and Saturdays) and 5AM, NightRide buses run at least every hour. Any train ticket is valid for the equivalent NightRide bus except a single. If you have no ticket, you must buy a NightRide single from the driver, which is more expensive than a single for the train. NightRide buses stop at most stations and a few additional stops, but they do not travel on the same routes. If you intend catching a NightRide bus home, check the NightRide route map on the back cover of each timetable, or with the Transport Infoline. Buses can be crowded on Friday and Saturday nights.
Exercise caution whilst travelling on trains after 8pm, particularly if the carriage is mostly deserted and if travelling to greater western Sydney, as it is not uncommon for undesirables to be found on trains during these times. 99% of the time they will not cause you any more trouble other than being loud, vulgar and obnoxious, but it is best to avoid them as unwanted altercations may follow. Moving to other carriages would be a good idea. Otherwise, travel in the middle carriage with the train guard (marked with a blue light). The guard has contact with police and the driver if there is any trouble on the train.
On weekends, check for trackwork before leaving for the station; Sydney Trains will transfer passengers to buses if lines are closed for trackwork, and the process will add at least half an hour to a typical journey. Trackwork is common on weekends and will be advertised at the station and the Sydney Trains website for about a week before it begins. You need the same Sydney Trains ticket for the trackwork buses as you would for the train.
If you don’t have a Multi ticket, you will need to purchase a ticket a ticket for the entire journey at your origin before boarding a train. Allow a few extra minutes during peak times as ticket machines and offices are often busy, especially on Monday mornings. Simply tell the person at the ticket office your destination station, or press the correct station button on the ticket machine. The City is considered a single destination for the City Circle, Martin Place and Kings Cross Stations. Tickets are available as single, return or weekly. Fares are distance based, between $3.20 and $6.00 for a single within Sydney. Return tickets are 30% cheaper after 9am in the morning and on weekends.
Ticket offices have limited opening hours at suburban stations and outside of these hours you will need to use a ticket machine. The ticket machines accept up to $50 notes but will give only $19.90 in change (in coins) and accept only 10 coins and 6 notes. A number of ticket machines also accept Visa or Mastercard at most stations, but only if you have a PIN. Ticket offices also accept Visa or Mastercard, and allow you to have a PIN or sign. Ticket inspectors fine you $200 if you are caught on a train or platform without a ticket.
What to see in Sydney Opera House –Landmarks
- The Sydney Harbour Bridge crosses the harbour from the The Rocks to North Sydney. There are many different experiences centred around the bridge. You can walk or cycle across, picnic under, or climb over the Harbour Bridge.
- The Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Opera House is simply one of the most famous structures ever built. It is in the city centre.
Darling Harbour is a large entertainment precinct and includes a range of activities, restaurants, museums and shopping facilities.
Sydney Olympic Park. Home of the 2000 Olympics and now parklands and sporting facilities.
- Luna Park, 1 Olympic Dr, Milson’s Point, tel. 02 9033 7676. Is a large theme park situated near the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Its mouth-shaped entrance can be seen from many areas of Sydney as well as the large Ferris Wheel.
- Sydney Tower also called Centrepoint Tower or AMP Tower. The tallest structure in Sydney, the tower contains a buffet, cafe and a rather large restaurant and attracts many visitors a year. The tower is in the City Centre
- St Mary’s Cathedral. Sydney’s main catholic cathedral. Corner of St Mary’s Road and College St. The cathedral is in the City Centre.
Royal Botanic Gardens- The Royal Botanic Gardens were first established in Sydney by Governor Bligh in 1816. The gardens cover 30 hectares and adjoin the 35 hectares making up the Domain, there are over 7500 species of plants represented here. The gardens are at the north eastern corner of the City Centre and overlook Sydney harbour.
La Perouse Top 7 sites to see
- The Rocks has sites preserved from Sydney’s early settlement.
- Parramatta to the west of Sydney is the site of many of Sydney’s oldest buildings from colonial times.
- Macquarie Street in the City has a string of historical sites, from the first hospital in the colony, to the Mint to Hyde Park Barracks, to the Conservatorium which was the original government house stables. Sydney Hospital was first known as “The Rum Hospital”, it was the first major building established in the colony.
- La Perouse, near Botany Bay, in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs contains the grave of an early French explorer, museum, and old fort.
- The walk from Manly to Middle Head passes many coastal artillery fortifications built into the cliffs of Sydney Harbour during the late nineteenth century.
- Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and walk near the Botanical Gardens in the City
- Anzac War Memorial at the eastern end of Hyde Park in the City Centre. The memorial commemorates the memory of those Australians who lost their lives during war. It houses a small museum, an impressive statue and the Pool of Remembrance. Sydney’s Anzac War Memorial was built in the 1930s.
Museums and galleries Top 7 To see
Some of Sydney’s museums are free to enter including the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art. You may be charged to enter certain exhibitions. Sydney Museums generally do not have ‘free days’ that you can find in other parts of the world but some historic houses may be free on certain public holidays, though tend to attract large crowds.
- The Australian Museum is much the old style natural history museum. Usually a special exhibition on as well. The museum is near Hyde Park in City Centre.
- The Australian National Maritime Museum has inside and outside exhibitions – much of the history of Australia is a maritime one, and much of it is in this museum in Darling Harbour.
- The Art Gallery of NSW has mostly classical, but some modern and Aboriginal art. Near the Botanical Gardens in the city centre.
- The Powerhouse Museum has some buttons to push, some technology, but some interesting displays of Sydney in the 1900s, in the City West in Ultimo, right on the boundary with Darling Harbour. Exhibits designed for children also.
- The Museum of Contemporary Art in the city centre, near Circular Quay.
- The Museum of Sydney in the city centre.
- Or see one of the smaller chic Art Galleries in East Sydney.
If you are into wildlife than museums, you are in the right place. Taronga Zoo Large zoo – whose animals have the best view in the world – is a short ferry trip from the City on the North Shore.
For a list of what animals you can catch in action in Sydney or around, please check Best Seven Wild and Beautiful Places in Sydney Where to See Wildlife.
Sydney Opera House
Sydney’s large natural harbour was the reason that the original penal settlement was established in the area, near what is now known as Circular Quay. It is now well developed, with skyscrapers, highrises, and houses all around its shores, but it is still very beautiful.
The harbour is served by ferry services that transport passengers around the harbour. An excellent way to see both the harbour and Sydney attractions is to take a ferry east from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo or Manly or west under the Harbour Bridge towards Parramatta. These are reasonably priced and a favourite for tourists. If time is short, for a shorter route, the ferry between Circular Quay and Darling Harbour will let you ride under the Harbour Bridge and see the central part of the harbour.
Catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. Before returning to the Sydney CBD, walk from the Manly ferry wharf along the Manly Corso to famous Manly Beach. A great day, afternoon or evening out at a fraction of the price of a commercial harbour cruise.
You can take a cruise on Sydney Harbour. There are many cruises to choose from and they depart from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay. For a bigger adrenalin rush, try the jet boats that zip around the harbour at breakneck speeds.
Sydney Harbour can be viewed from the city or from on of the many walks next to it, most of which are easily accessible by ferry or bus.
The world famous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race begins every year on Boxing Day, on Sydney Harbour. Thousands of spectator craft take to the water to farewell the yachts as they set off on their grueling journey to Hobart. Seaworthy craft can follow the yachts through the Sydney Heads into the open ocean. You can also see the race from a harbour vantage point like Watsons Bay. where you can see them sail towards you across the harbour, and then cross to the gap to see them sail down the coast.
You can visit the Harbour Islands by ferry or water taxi.
Swing by the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Art Gallery of New South Wales on the edge of the gardens. While you’re in the area visit Mrs Macquarie’s Chair for a picture postcard view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in one picture. You may have to compete with the numerous wedding couples on weekends.
A fantastic way to see Sydney Harbour – From the Air
Scenic Flights Adventures and Flight Training, +61 2 9791 0643 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Red Baron Adventures do scenic flights over Sydney Harbour and the Northern Beaches most days of the year (weather permitting) in an open cockpit Pitts Special bi-plane. They also have heart stopping Aerobatic Flights available for the more adventurous (note: these are not done over Sydney Harbour). Flights range from $440 to $660 and go for between 45 min and 80 minutes.
Far from being confined to the inland areas, Aboriginal people extensively occupied the Sydney area prior to the arrival of European settlers.
A wander through The Rocks and you will find many places exhibiting and selling contemporary Aboriginal art. The Art Gallery of New South Wales the City Centre has an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Gallery, which is free to visit.
- Rock Carvings, can be seen in the Royal National Park – catch the train and ferry to Cronulla and Bundeena. There are extensive carvings in Kuringai National Park, near West Head that are accessible only by car. Closer to the city, there are examples at Balls Head and Berry Island, near to Wollstonecraft station. There is an interpretive walk at Berry Island.
- Meeting of Civilisations. Interpretive centre is at the site of the landing place of Captain Cook, at Kurnell.
- Bangarra Dance Theatre, is a modern dance company, inspired by indigenous Australian themes.
What and where to eat in Sydney Opera House
How much does foo cost in Sydney
Breakfast at a standard cafe (food plus a coffee or juice) can cost anywhere up to $20 for a full English breakfast or other substantial meal. A main meal in a mid-range restaurant is around $25 – $35. Upper mid-range averages around $35 – $45. At the real top-end places a dinner for two with wine can run up to $400-500 and beyond.
For the more budget-conscious, Sydney’s multicultural demography means plenty of quality ethnic cuisine for cheap prices, particular Asian restaurants. Many restaurants particularly in the city will also offer “lunch specials”. For example, a good Korean “set lunch” can be found for less than $15. A bowl of noodles in Chinatown will run you $8 or $9. Some Thai curry with rice at any of the many restaurants all over Sydney will cost about $10.
Newtown in Sydney’s inner-west (approx 4km from the CBD) is renowned for its inexpensive cafes and restaurants on King St, in particular Thai food. It is highly popular among students from the nearby Sydney University.
For an Asian bent, head to Chinatown for authentic Asian cheap eats. As well as restaurants, there are numerous food courts scattered throughout Chinatown packed with Asian eateries where the rock bottom priced food (but no less tasty) can be found. Plonk down at a laminate table shoulder to shoulder with hungry locals for some bubble tea and a sizzing plate of delicious Asian food. If you have a little money to spend, yum cha (dim sum) for lunch at one of the many Cantonese restaurants around Sydney is a regular ritual for many Sydney siders. Yum cha can be had in Chinatown (avoid the touristy al fresco places on Dixon St, go to East Ocean or Marigold instead), the city (Zilver, Sky Phoenix and others) and most urban centres around Sydney. Expect queues on weekends and brusque service all days – it’s all part of the charm of yum cha. Some yum cha restaurants have now abandoned the trolleys, and instead give you a menu to tick your items which will be brought to your table. Some only have trolleys for specials or on weekends.
Cafes serving breakfast start opening at 6AM and breakfast is usually served until 11AM, or occasionally all day. Orders for lunch start at about noon and continue until about 3PM. Many cafes will start closing late afternoon, although a few may remain open for dinner.
Restaurants usually open for dinner around 5PM-6PM and while there are exceptions (usually concentrated in areas with active nightlife), last orders for dinner are typically taken around 10PM. Restaurants in business areas open for lunch as well. It is common for restaurants in suburban locations to sometimes be closed on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday nights.
It is more expensive to get a sit down meal in the evening, than it is for lunch.
Eating on the street
Just about every suburb in Sydney has a restaurant or two, a cafe or coffee shop, and a place that sells takeaway food.
However, there are are a number of places in Sydney where you can window shop through many restaurants and make your choice.
All of Darling Harbour is like this, there are restaurants of every variety all along the waterfront. East Circular Quay in the City Centre is similar, along with the International Passenger Terminal on the west of Circular Quay – however many of the restaurants in this area are expensive and loved more for the view than the quality of the food. There are (pricey) exceptions, such as Cafe Sydney, Aria and Sailors Thai.
In the east of the city, Victoria Street in Darlinghurst and Crown Street in Surry Hills (between Oxford and Cleveland Streets) has a large range of funky cafes, small bars, pubs, patisseries and restaurants. Darlinghurst and Surry Hills has it all, from cheap Asian take-aways to high end restaurants. Many trendy restaurants in this area don’t take bookings; often you wait at the bar for a table. These suburbs are popular with hipsters, yuppies and the gay community.
Just east of the city is Woolloomooloo Wharf which boasts a fantastic view across the harbour and several upscale restaurants, including excellent steak, Chinese, Italian and seafood restaurants. Perfect for lunch on a sunny day.
King Street, Newtown, centered on the railway station, has a constantly changing selection of good value restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars. You can find many various types of cuisine here; mainly cheap Thai, but also Vietnamese, Italian, Turkish, Japanese and modern Australian. This area isn’t touristy, but popular with students from the nearby Sydney University. The area has its own alternative style, which makes for great people watching.
On the Lower North Shore Willoughby Road at Crows Nest, has honest and consistently good Indian, Japanese, Thai, steak, a handful of small bars. Military Road through Cremorne and Neutral Bay have a smattering of decent restaurants, mostly Japanese. Kirribilli has a few nice cafes and restaurants, and a short after dinner stroll will take you by some of the best views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Parramatta, to the west, has an eating strip, many with alfresco options. Harris Park nearby is Sydney’s Little India with a good number of very affordable, authentic Indian restaurants.
In the North West district, Castle Hill has many restaurants on Terminus St as well as at “The Piazza” which is adjacent to Castle Towers shopping centre and features a pleasant, lively atmosphere with a fountain in the centre of the ring of restaurants.
Sydney is also home to some of the world’s best restaurants.
If you are wanting to try Sydney’s finest rated restaurants during your visit, make a booking well in advance at Quay or ARIA in the The Rocks; Tetsuya?s, Est in the City Centre; Marque in the City East or Pier in the Eastern Suburbs.
Neil Perry is one of Sydney’s celebrity chefs, and runs Rockpool at The Rocks. He also has the Rockpool Bar and Grill in the city, not far from Circular Quay, with Spice Temple downstairs.
If you want to splurge on the location make an advance booking at Guillaume at Bennelong Restaurant in the Opera House. You may be lucky on a weekday and get a walk-up table at one of the restaurants in Campbells Cove in the The Rocks.
If you want to have fine dining away from the central Sydney, try Jonah’s in the far Northern Beaches – go for lunch, the view is stunning. Alternative, Berowra Waters Inn is an experience unlike any other and a top pick for devouring excellent European / Modern Australian cooking overlooking a natural bushland waterway in northern Sydney. (You will need to arrange a car, or, for the jet set, take a sea plane!)
Sydney Cafe Culture
If you think Seattle has a strong cafe culture, wait to see Sysdney.
While Australia’s cafe culture may have its roots in Melbourne, Sydney has well and truly taken up the joys of good coffee and tasty, easy food. The best cafes are usually in the inner city and the inner west. Many Sydneysiders take great joy in good coffee, and the very best places for this will be the likes of Campos Coffee on Missenden Road in Newtown, Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville, Mecca Espresso in Ultimo or King Street in the City, Single Origin Roasters near Elizabeth St in Surry Hills, or The Source Espresso Bar in Mosman. Other well-known favourites include Three Blue Ducks in Bronte (also open for dinner and run by ex-head chef of Michelin starred Tetsuya’s), Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills (where a very good bakery is crammed into a tiny corner terrace), and Black Star Pastry in Newtown. You can expect to line up for any of these, though the wait is worth it.
Sydney’s strong cafe culture is matched by its penchant for morning and all-day breakfasts. A visit to Sydney is not complete without having breakfast at one of the many beach-side cafes in the Eastern Beaches (Coogee and Bronte in particular; in Bondi you will find the better cafes along Bondi Rd heading down to the beach or in the streets back from Campbell Parade), the Northern Beaches (Manly in particular, but also Freshwater or Dee Why) and at Cronulla, in the city’s south. If you do get to a beachside cafe for breakfast, a quintessential Australian breakfast is Corn Fritters with Bacon and Poached Eggs.
Modern Australian Food – An Eclectic Mix
Thanks to Sydney’s (or rather, Australia’s) multicultural mix, “modern Australian” is usually characterized by a fusion of cuisines. Think entrees spiced with a Thai-inspired chilli dressing, mains with a hint of a Chinese-style ginger-based marinade or sunny Tuscan flavours- all in the same menu. Many of Australia’s celebrity chefs are of ethnic backgrounds, and many have trained overseas, bringing with them a world of experience back home.
Visit the Sydney Fish Markets in Pyrmont (within walking distance of Darling Harbour) for a lunch of fresh seafood of almost any description. Sadly the cooked seafood on offer is overpriced, greasy and frankly an embarassment. Avoid. For a proper seafood lunch at the fish markets, bypass these shops and go directly to one of the many fishmongers. Pick out the best freshly shucked oysters, cooked Balmain Bug or lobster tails, glistening prawns and sashimi. Take it out to tables outside and enjoy getting your hands dirty. Otherwise, head upstairs to Fisherman’s Wharf Chinese Restaurant for some wonderful Cantonese seafood or yum cha.
Hit a steakhouse and try Australia’s world-famous prime Angus beef. Easily accessible upmarket Sydney city steakhouses include I’m Angus  at Darling Harbour, Prime and Kingsley’s in Woolloomoolloo in the City East. For a truly top end experience of some of Sydney’s very best steak and seafood in luscious deco setting, try Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar and Grill in the CBD. Dress up and bring your Amex – you will need it.
Alternatively, many CBD pubs offer $6 to $10 steak “meal deals”, provided that you also order a particular alcoholic drink at the same time. You can try out the proper steak meal at Kings Cross Hotel Restaurant for only $12. You can also go to Phillip’s Foote at The Rocks to cook your own steak on a BBQ.
For a more alternative or interesting dining experience, head to The Grounds of Alexandria, in Alexandria, just south of the CBD. A short train ride to Green Square station from Central, and then a 10 minute walk will take you to a very unique (and popular) garden-to-plate setting. On weekends you can easily spend an afternoon wandering around the garden, where you can meet the resident pig (named Kevin Bacon) and sample or purchase the extensive amount of fresh produce sold through small stall displays. When you’re done with that, the attached restaurant serves up consistently tasty food.
Ethnic Cuisine in Sidney
For those who are after authentic multicultural culinary experiences, there are unique “food districts” scattered around the greater city. The range of food available is huge and isn’t necessarily expensive.
If there is one thing that you absolutely must do in Sydney is check the ethnic food.
For a complete list of what are the best places to do that, check The One Thing You Must Do In Sydney, Australia: Check the Ethnic Food.
Take away food in Sydney can be as cheap as buying the ingredients and making it yourself, and many stores specialize in take-away food. There will usually be a picnic table, park or beach nearby to eat whatever you can select. Quintessential Aussie takeaways include the meat pie (minced beef with gravy sauce in a crusty pastry shell), sausage roll (sausage mince in a puff pastry casing), usually topped generously with tomato sauce/ketchup, and fish and chips (inherited from the British to be sure but loved by all Australians).
Most restaurants will do take-away food as well, but almost certainly at a premium to the cost of buying food from a take-away. Outside of the city an occasional restaurant may offer a 10% discount for take-away.
Vegetarian and special diets
Vegetarians are well catered for. Every restaurant will usually have at least one vegetarian dish. Indian retaurants can be relied upon to provide a wider selection. Maya Sweets on Cleveland St is a must visit for vegetarians and Wafu does Japanese with lots of vegan and vegetarian options. The trendy East Sydney and Inner West suburbs have many choices, Cabramatta in the western suburbs have many Asian Buddhist cuisine resturants that are vegan and vegetarian.
There is an awareness of gluten-free and dairy-free diets in Sydney, and again the more trendier inner city suburbs are more likely to cater for these diets.
It seems every weekend, there is a food festival on in one of the suburbs of Sydney. Usually the idea is that restaurants take part, providing smaller portions of their signature dishes around $7-$12 a plate.
The largest food festival, the Sydney International Food Festival, which showcases Sydney’s food culture is in October, which includes the night noodle markets operating in Hyde Park in the City Centre
Tipping in Sydney – Rules of the Road
The general rule on tipping in Australia is that it is not compulsory and generally not expected. This remains true for most cafes, and for counter service in Sydney. However for a full service restaurant in a tourist areas and mid to higher end restaurants a tip would be expected by the waitstaff. However, most Australians will still not tip, and you should feel free to follow their lead should you wish to. Some snootier waiters may raise an eyebrow, but nobody will follow you or give you a hard time. Otherwise a 10% tip added to the bill or rounding the bill up to the nearest $10, $20 or $50 to a maximum of 10% (depending on the size of the bill!) will usually meet their expectations. They may be expecting a little more if you have an American accent, as they are well aware of what Americans tip at home.
Australians are casual. While most people make an effort to dress up for fancier restaurants, there is no requirement and both restaurants and diners alike are relaxed about dress standards. There are no restaurants in Sydney that require jackets for men for instance, and jeans (nice – no holes) are common in even the most expensive and posh Sydney restaurants. Wear what you feel comfortable in.
The Good Food Guide, published by the Sydney Morning Herald, is a well-regarded restaurant guide on the Sydney food circuit. The guide uses a reviewing and scoring system similar to the Michelin publications overseas. While the majority of restaurants included are in Sydney, a number of regional NSW restaurants are also included. The GFG can be picked up at any good book store.
Timeout Sydney has a regular section on eating out in Sydney, with emphasis on affordable destinations. There is a paper publication as well as a web site.
There are also numerous blogs on the internet devoted to food and eating in Sydney written by a clique of dedicated, self-confessed Sydney foodies. These websites can be a good source of information from an everyday diner’s perspective. They are great for the scoop on lesser known gems and foodie destinations, as well as covering other topics such as events, cooking and shopping.
For the well-heeled and truly gourmet, the glossy pages of Gourmet Traveler magazine cover the latest in Sydney food fashion and the upmarket restaurant scene.
Eatability.com is a website similar to Yelp! in the USA, containing reviews and rankings of restaurants by the masses.
Where to sleep in Sydney Opera House – from budget to best lodging
Sydney has hundreds of accommodation options in Central Sydney to consider, from backpackers hotels to five star hotels with harbour and Opera House views. There are also options out of the city centre too.
If you are travelling on business, there may be business style accommodation near to where you are working, and there is usually no need to stay in the city. There are options around the commercial areas at the airport in Southern Sydney, around Macquarie Park in the North West, and at Parramatta.
If you are travelling with a car, then finding a place to park, and getting into and out of the city can be a hassle. The Hume Highway in Sydney’s South West has the standard roadside motels where you can park by your room, with the service station or fast food outlet next door.
If you are into camping, the closest camping to the city centre is on the Cockatoo Island in the harbour. You can pitch a tent in Lane Cove National Park, less than 10km from the city centre, and around 750m from the closest train station.
If you are into the beach, the Manly and Bondi are the two obvious places to consider. From Manly 25 minutes on the ferry has you right in the centre of Sydney. Some of the lesser known suburbs have accommodation options. Cronulla has beachfront accommodation, facilities and is the only beachside suburb of Sydney with a train station (45 minutes from downtown).
Sydney has a wide range of backpackers’ hostels – popular districts for these include the southern half of the CBD and Haymarket, Glebe and Kings Cross, the Eastern Suburbs (Bondi, Coogee) and the Northern Beaches (Manly). Backpackers in camper vans or tents can find accommodation on Sydney’s north side 10km (6 miles) drive from the city at Lane Cove National Park.
You find many mid-range accommodation providers within the CBD (mostly in the southern Haymarket end), and within a short distance of the city by public transport, including in North Sydney, the Inner West and the North Shore. Sometimes a cheaper motel style accommodation can be obtained on the roads leading into Sydney, particular in South Western Sydney
There are luxurious hotels that can be found all over Sydney. The most expensive hotels are generally located in the CBD and the Rocks district, near the business hub of Sydney, close to many restaurants, often featuring spectacular harbour views. Some other high quality hotels are located in Darling Harbour. You may check the list below for specific locations.
Please visit one of the various Sydney districts described in the Districts section above to see the accommodation listings.
Serviced, short-term apartments are widely available throughout Sydney and are available for stays as short as one night. Amenities typically include kitchen, washer and dryer, and separate bedrooms. A range of properties exist from budget to five-star.
Please visit one of the various Sydney districts described in the Districts section above to see the accommodation listings.
Check AirBnB.com for accommodations as well.