While the Opera House is definitely worth a look, there is so much to do and see beyond those iconic walls. I started and ended my trip to Australia in Sydney with 4 days on each end. My first trip consisted of a lot of neighborhood walks, oyster eating, park going, window shopping and--yes--a few trips to the Opera House and Sydney Harbor. I fell in love with the city's architecture, cleanliness and overall vibe. People were always out walking, no matter the time of day. On my second trip, I decided to go exploring beyond my beloved city center.
The Bondi to Coogee walk is a must for any beach lover in Sydney. We decided to reverse the trek so we would end up at Bondi Beach, where we planned to spend the rest of the afternoon. To get there, we grabbed a bus to Coogee from Sydney's Central Station. The trip is about 20 minutes long and cost around $4. (Be sure your Opal card is loaded beforehand,. You can use it on buses, trains and ferries throughout the city.)
The 6 km walk takes about an hour and 45 minutes to complete, leading you along a cliff-side path that overlooks a number a beautiful beaches. The path itself is paved and includes plenty of nice restaurants and picturesque shores you can stop and rest at along the way. Sunscreen, water and comfortable shoes are a must, but you also won't want to forget your camera.
Cool down with a dip in the ocean at Bondi Beach, or visit the pool ($6.50) at Bondi Icebergs Club if you want to enjoy the view without the sand.
After a quick shower to wash all the sand out of my hair and the sunscreen off my face, I got dressed and headed out for dinner and drinks in an area called The Rocks, right around the corner from Circular Quay. My friend Gabby and I both got delicious and reasonably priced burgers at the aptly named Ribs & Burgers, then headed out in search of a trendy bar. I recommend getting a drink at The Glenmore Hotel (pricey cocktails but great harbor views from the rooftop bar) and skipping The Argyle (which charges a $25 cover). You could easily spend the whole night in the area.
We started the day with a trip to Glebe Markets, a massive flea market held every Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm on the lawn of Glebe Public School. You'll find a variety of locally sourced food, desserts, clothes, jewelry and art to fit nearly any taste. Personally, I loved the hand-crafted rings so much I came back a second time to buy more. Glebe itself is a really cute neighborhood with a good selection of restaurants and coffeehouses. I stopped at the bookstore when I was there and picked up a few souvenirs/Christmas gifts before heading back towards the city center.
Depending on where you're coming from, you can either walk or take a bus directly to the markets. I was staying in Paddington the first time I went, so I decided to take the bus. It took about 20 minutes (10-11 stops) and cost $3.58. On my second trip, I was coming from Chippendale so it was a quick 7 minute walk.
I'm pretty solidly in the camp of, "if you've seen one zoo, you've seen them all," but I made an exception for Taronga Zoo on the recommendation of a few friends. The zoo is a 12-14 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay near Sydney Harbor, and home to a number of Australia-specific animals like kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, penguins, seals and a massive crocodile. Tickets are $41.40 if purchased online or $46 on site. It's definitely worth a visit it you haven't seen any of these animals elsewhere on your trip to Australia.
Start the day by catching yet another ferry from Circular Quay, this time to Manly. The ride takes about 30 minutes and is absolutely stunning. If you're not up for another beach day, just take the ferry ride for the views. But who isn't up for more beach days? Manly Beach was my favorite yet. It's packed with people sunbathing, swimming, surfing and playing this adorable game called Spikeball (check it out, it's fun and every gorgeous man in the country seems to play it). We spent a few hours getting some sun and watching for sharks before grabbing some fish and chips and making our way back home. There's another ferry that runs from Taronga Zoo to Manly if you wanted to do both in one day.
If you have spare time in the afternoon, like I did, spend it exploring my favorite Sydney neighborhoods: Paddington and Surry Hills. Talk to the friendly store clerks at boutiques on Oxford St., eat at every restaurant on Crown St. and lay in the grass at Moore Park.