Australia was on my bucket list forever. I never thought I would ever actually get there because of my fear of flying and hatred of giant spiders.
Recently though, I took the plunge, booked a ticket and spent 3 weeks down under. I can't even explain how it felt to touch down in Sydney and realise I was really there, on the other side of the world in a country I had only ever imagined visiting. It was amazing.
There is so much to see and do that even my 3 weeks in Australia wasn't enough to do all the things I wanted to do. Luckily my friend made an excellent native tour guide and she made sure I saw a lot of the things on my bucket list but we have already compiled a list of things I missed that we made sure to do next time (and there will be a next time!)
So how to make sure you make the most of your time in Sydney? Hopefully this guide will help...
Hit The Beach
After a long flight, what better way to shake off the jetlag and revitalise yourself than with a walk along one of Australia's golden beaches? I spent a lot of my first day in Sydney in Cronulla, a small town not far outside the city. The beach was everything I had imagined: soft yellow sand, tanned surfers taking on the big, blue waves, the smell of saltwater in the air a welcome change from the stuffy plane air I had been breathing for the last 24 hours.
Sydney has over 100 beaches so there is sure to be one not far from wherever you are. Be sure to take a break from your walk to find a Gloria Jean's coffee shop and order one of their TimTam Iced Chocolates to sip as you stroll. You won't regret it.
Visit Sydney Harbour
Every traveller needs the iconic picture of them posing at the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, am I right? The weather and what time of year you visit will massively affect how busy the area is but just like all touristy landmarks, there will always be a crowd. My tip is to go early in the morning, perhaps before spending the rest of the day exploring the city as there will be more commuters and less tourists.
Seeing the Opera House for me was one of those awe-inspiring moments. The building itself is stunning and I just couldn't believe I was really there seeing it, touching it for myself in real life. This was huge for me!
If you want to hit two birds with one stone, there is a specific point on the promenade where you can get both the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House in the background of your photo. Or you can cheat it with a panorama like I did...
Climb the Harbour Bridge
This was one I actually didn't get around to doing but definitely want to on my next visit to Sydney! Even my fear of heights won't stop me.
Every day hundreds of people put on super attractive jumpsuits, get connected to the bridge by a steel cable and walk up to the very top to look out over the harbour and the city. The views are apparently incredible and make the trek worth it. Along the way you will be treated to a history of the bridge and it's construction, along with other facts about the city from a helpful tour guide you listen to via radio. Cool, huh?
See the city from above
In the middle of Westfields Shopping Centre is the Sydney Tower Eye, an observation deck high above the city offering exceptional views of Sydney from every angle. Even though the day I went up, the city was covered in a cloud of smoke from back-burning (a technique used to prevent bushfires), it was still an incredible experience.
On one side I could see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, on another I could see the planes coming in to land at Sydney Airport and all around I could see tiny people, like ants, going about their daily lives in the city below.
You can also sign up to do a Skywalk at the Sydney Tower Eye. I decided against this as I was on a tight budget but for $50 AUD you can get access to the observation deck, don a blue jumpsuit and go for a 45 minute walking tour on top of the tower at Sydney's highest point! This feels like it might be a bit too much for fear of heights but I am considering adding it to my 'next time' list.
Spend the day at Bondi
Would any trip to Sydney really be complete without a day trip to the most famous beach there is?! Bondi is featured in more films and postcards than any other beach in Australia and when you get there you can definitely see why. The foamy waves crash onto soft sand which leads to impressive rock faces, complete with an easy cliff walk if you are looking to pass the time.
I was there in May, so Australia's autumn season, so the weather was just a bit too chilly for me to go for a swim. It was no issue for Bondi's dedicated swimmers and surfers though, along with the lifeguards chilling atop their iconic tower.
I've heard good things about the famous Bondi Icebergs restaurant but didn't get round to eating there this time. If you get a chance, it comes highly recommended. Definitely another place I will be sure to visit next time I'm there!
Take the ferry to Manly
The Manly ferry is famous and has become something of a rite of passage for visitors to Sydney. The 7 mile journey takes roughly 30 minutes and can offer some of the best views of they Sydney skyline you could hope to see.
Once you get to Manly you will notice a much more laid back atmosphere than the city (if it is possible to be even more laid back in Australia!) The people are super chill, the dining options are unlimited and the boulevard is an amazing place to do some people watching - a favourite travel pastime of mine!
I loved Manly and I'm already looking forward to getting back there and exploring it some more. This was definitely one of my favourite places in Sydney even though I was only here for an hour or 2!
Get the family together at Luna Park
Indulge your inner child with a day at Luna Park. This is sadly another attraction I didn't quite have time to experience on my first trip to Sydney but have every intention of checking it out next time.
With shows to see, delicious food to dine on and thrilling rides from roller coasters to ferris wheels, Luna Park is the perfect day out for all the family.
Eat at Pancakes On The Rocks
If you are looking for some of the best food you have ever eaten followed up by the biggest, sweetest, most mouth-watering stack of pancakes imaginable, then Pancakes On The Rocks is the place for you.
I suggest eating here at least once during your trip - although the menu is so attractive you may find yourself needing multiple visits! This restaurant is understandably very popular so it is likely you will have to wait for a table, but I promise it is worth wait. The Devil's Delight is to die for, trust me.
Take a bike tour
If you are short on time or just want to see as much of the city as possible, book yourself onto a city bike tour. These are a great way to get around, stay healthy and find out a lot about the city from a local with a passion.
My personal recommendation is to book your tour with Bonza Bike Tours. You can choose either to have a group tour or a private tour for just your family and they will do their best to cater to what you want to see and do. Ask for Steve if he's available - he's a laugh and will make your day!
And that's it! Is there anything I've missed that you think should definitely be on a first-timer's Sydney bucket list? Let me know in the comments!