5 Day Sydney Itinerary for the Active Traveller

For many people, Sydney is the first stop on an epic Australian adventure. As with all trips, deciding how much time to stay in one place can be a challenge. Here is the perfect itinerary for 5 days in Sydney to give an overview of this iconic city and the nearby attractions.

5 Days in Sydney Itinerary – A Brief Overview

This Sydney itinerary is broken up to give each day a purpose.

  • Day one will be spent getting to know Sydney and seeing those icons you have come here for.
  • Day two is all about the native animals at Taronga Zoo, then on to Manly for scenic views and beach lifestyle.
  • Day three will take you to the other beach, Bondi, and day four will see you in the Blue Mountains.
  • Day five will bring you back to the Sydney icons, for a Sydney Harbour Bridge walk or climb, (or both), and other activites on the harbour.

This Sydney itinerary 5 days will suit the active traveller who likes to explore on foot. Each day includes a scenic walk around this beautiful city. Don’t worry, it’s not too strenuous, but it won’t be for you if walking is not your thing.

On a budget? Check out the Free Things to Do in Sydney

Day One – the Sydney Icons

Spend your first day in Sydney seeing the sights and checking out some of those icons you have seen in photos, and start it all right in the heart of it.

It will be a big walking day, but you will soak up Sydney best by foot.  If you haven’t yet had breakfast (or even if you have), do something decadent and stop off at Black Star Pastry in The Galeries on George Street to have a piece of the world’s most Instagrammed cake, their Strawberry Watermelon Cake. Not only does it look good, it tastes amazing too.

The elaborate interior of a historical shopping mall

Start your exploration with a free walking tour. These tips-based tours run by I’m Free Walking Tours will spend around 2.5 hours taking you through the streets of Sydney.

They will show you some of the best sites, tell you about the history of Sydney and give you dozens of tips for things to see and do during your visit. If you have any specific requests, ask your guide, because they are happy to help you out. They will even tell you about some secret bars and local tips on how to get around.

If a free walking tour is not for you, take the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off Tour instead.

The tour finishes near The Rocks, and this is a great place to grab lunch, particularly if it’s the weekend and The Rocks Markets are in full swing. Either take a wander through this historical area now or leave it until later with another free walking tour in the evening to learn about it as you go.

Take yourself back past the colourful crowds of Circular Quay, enjoying the view, the buskers and the atmosphere as you make your way around to the Sydney Opera House.

Walk across in front of the Opera House, take a photo on the steps, and keep going towards the Sydney Botanic Gardens. For great views of the Opera House, walk all the way around to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

If this walk is too much, instead enjoy a drink at the Opera Bar overlooking the harbour and a short stroll through the gardens.

A stone bench carved with an inscription

From Mrs Macquarie’s Chair it’s a short walk to the bus stop to get the 441 bus back into the centre of the city. Stay on the bus until you come to Darling Harbour. Spend the rest of the day in this area. Depending on your interests and the time you arrive at Darling Harbour, some of the things to do in this area area

  • take advantage of Happy Hour and relax with a drink overlooking the water. Many of the cafes & bars have cheap drinks in the late afternoon, generally between 3pm & 5pm, but this does differ
  • visit an attraction, such as the Australian National Maritime Museum, Madame TussaudsChinese Garden of Friendship, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium or dozens of other options in the area.
  • enjoy an activity, such as taking a ride on the ferris wheel, go ten pin bowling or play laser skirmish. There are usually some seasonal activities in the area. In the past for example, during summer there is a floating cinema and during winter the area becomes a winter wonderland.
  • do some shopping at the Harbourside shopping mall
  • eat dinner in one of the waterfront restaurants. My favourite is Blue Fish for delicious seafood.

Day Two – Taronga & Manly

Day two will be spent on the northern side of Sydney Harbour.

A view over a pool for a seal to Sydney Harbour beyond

Start the day at Circular Quay by jumping on a ferry to Taronga Zoo. It’s about a 15 minute ride across the harbour, and a great opportunity to admire the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge from the water.

Spend the morning strolling around the zoo, enjoying the animals, and the great view back across the harbour. Perhaps take part in one of the animal experiences and learn about the conservation efforts of the zoo.

Grab your Taronga Zoo tickets in advance

After Taronga Zoo, make your way to the beachside suburb of Manly. Incorporate a coastal walk and some lunch as you go. There are a few different options

  • If you choose not to walk, take the bus directly to Manly. This will require at least one change along the way. Use Googlemaps for the best directions at the time you want to travel.
  • do the walk from Taronga to Balmoral Beach. This walk is along a picturesque section of harbour coastline. The whole walk is around 6km and will take 2 hours. At the end, walk to Spit Road and get the 144 bus to Manly.
  • catch the bus to just the other side of the Spit Bridge and do the Spit to Manly walk along the harbour. This walk is around 10km and will take around three hours.

Instead of the buses, it’s also possible to use taxis or Uber to get between locations if you prefer.

A "Welcome to Manly" sign

The main attraction at Manly is the beautiful stretch of white sandy beach. Either enjoy relaxing on the sand or swimming between the flags. You can hire a kayak or a stand-up paddle board.

There are a few other great things to enjoy here besides the beach too. After the long walk you might enjoy a relaxing beer at Four Pines Brewery or a gin and tonic at Manly Distillery. Check out the Manly Art Gallery, or do a spot of shopping in the mall.

If it’s a warm day walk around the southern end of the beach to the Fairy Bower Pool for a dip in the protected waters, or snorkel in Cabbage Tree Bay, an aquatic reserve with more than 150 different fish species.

Take your time eating dinner at one of the many Manly restaurant options and then catch the famous Manly ferry back to Circular Quay to end your day with views of the lights of the city from Sydney Harbour.

If it’s a little early for your dinner, catch the ferry back to Circular Quay then make your way down George Street, either walking or taking a tram, to Sydney Tower Eye. Take a tour to the top to enjoy sunset views over the city.

You can also have dinner in the revolving restaurant here, enjoying the changing skyline as you rotate 360 degrees around Sydney.

Day Three – Bondi

Today we visit another one of Sydney’s icons, Bondi Beach. It was known around the world for its beautiful white sand, the relaxed hippy culture, the good surfing and the Bondi surf lifesavers.

It is the location of the reality tv show Bondi Rescue, all about those lifesavers. The show has been running for sixteen seasons and is shown all over the world, so Bondi has become even more popular than ever before.

The easiest way to get to Bondi is to catch the 333 bus. It will take you straight there in about 50 minutes. Another option that could suit depending on your accommodation location is taking the train to Bondi Junction and then swapping to the 333 bus from there (it’s right upstairs from the train station).

A clifftop path with the ocean on the right and a cemetery on the left

If you would like to start your morning with one of the best-known walks in Sydney, catch the bus instead to Coogee. This means catching the 373 bus from Circular Quay or meeting it at Museum Station.

You are going to Coogee do the Bondi to Coogee walk in reverse. This walk is 6km long and takes an average walker about two hours, allowing time for some photos and sightseeing along the way. I can’t help but wander through the Waverley Cemetery – surely it must be one of the most scenic anywhere!

When you get to Bondi, it will be time for a rest. Grab something to eat at one of the cafes along Campbell Parade. My favourite is Parida Bondi. The food is delicious and the coffee even better.

Now that you are replenished, it’s time to head across to the beach. Spend the afternoon enjoying time on the sand. If you do choose to go into the water for a swim, make sure you do it between the flags. And keep an eye on the surf lifesavers – you might just spot your favourite from the tv show.

If just relaxing on the sand with a good book, an occasional dip in the ocean and some great people watching sounds a bit too sedate for you, then you have to have a go at the locals’ favourite activity – surfing!

The best way to have a go is to take a private or a small group learn-to-surf lesson. Learn the techniques before having a go. You can tell all your friends you surfed at the famous Bondi Beach!

A lifeguard building and the beach beyond

If it’s the weekend, break up your beach time with a wander to the Bondi Markets, They can be found at the Bondi Beach Public School each Saturday and Sunday from 9 am-4 pm.

You will find plenty of stalls filled with local produce, crafts and other goods, although Saturday tends to be more focused on fresh food than Sunday is.

Later in the day make your way towards the southern end of Bondi Beach and Icebergs. Here you will find the Bondi Baths, one of Sydney’s historic ocean pools. If you would like to, it is possible to do a few laps in the pool.

Even if you don’t want to swim, you can’t help admiring the beautiful pool as the waves sweep over the sides. Eat dinner at the bistro while enjoying the view across the pool and along the whole of Bondi Beach. Icebergs is known as a bit of a celebrity hangout, so keep an eye out for famous faces.

Day Four – The Blue Mountains

Today, let’s venture out to the captivating Blue Mountains, just a short journey from Sydney. The Blue Mountains are renowned for their stunning natural beauty, lush landscapes, and unique rock formations. Lace up your walking shoes and prepare for a day of exploration!

Start your day by hopping on the train from Sydney to Katoomba, the gateway to the Blue Mountains. It’s about a two-hour ride that will give you a taste of the beautiful landscapes you’re about to explore.

Upon arriving in Katoomba, make your way to Echo Point, home to the famous Three Sisters rock formation. These ancient rock pillars stand majestically against the backdrop of lush valleys and misty eucalyptus forests. Take in the views and snap some photos to capture the moment.

Three rock formations with views of a vegetated gully beyond

Embark on the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, a trail that offers panoramic vistas of the Jamison Valley and its waterfalls. The walk is well-marked and relatively easy, so you can immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of the Blue Mountains without breaking a sweat. Along the way, keep an eye out for colourful native bird species that call this area home.

As your stomach starts to rumble, make your way to one of the cafes in Katoomba for a delicious lunch. The Yellow Deli and Sanwiye Korean Restaurant are great options for a satisfying meal. Enjoy your food while taking in the serene mountain atmosphere.

After lunch, head to Scenic World, a must-visit attraction in the Blue Mountains. Here, you can experience the world’s steepest railway, which takes you on an exhilarating descent through the rainforest. If heights don’t faze you, the Scenic Skyway offers a glass-floored cable car ride with breathtaking views of the valleys below.

Before wrapping up your day in the Blue Mountains, take a short drive or train ride (or you can walk the 2km) to the charming village of Leura. Known for its quaint boutiques and tree-lined streets, Leura offers a fun shopping experience. Browse through unique gifts, artisanal products, and local crafts in the village’s boutique stores.

For dinner, choose from one of Leura’s cozy restaurants to satisfy your taste buds. The Bunker and Polar Bear of Leura are popular choices, offering a variety of cuisines prepared with fresh, local ingredients.

A waterfall in the Blue Mountain

As the sun sets over the Blue Mountains, reflect on the beauty and tranquillity you’ve experienced throughout the day. Whether it’s the awe-inspiring vistas, the lush rainforests, or the charming village atmosphere, the Blue Mountains have a unique way of leaving a lasting impression.

When you’re ready, make your way back to Sydney, jump back on the train for the trip back to Central.

Prefer an organised day trip to the Blue Mountains? Check availability below

Day Five – Sydney Harbour Bridge

Rise and shine, adventurer! Today is all about embracing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge in all its glory. Get ready for another busy day filled with breathtaking views, exciting activities, and delicious meals.

A woman in a kayak holding the paddle above her head. In the background in the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Kick-start your day early with a sunrise kayak tour on the sparkling waters of Sydney Harbour and get a view of the bridge from an angle not normally seen.

Picture yourself gliding peacefully beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge as the sun paints the sky with hues of orange and pink.

Companies like Sydney Kayak Experience offer guided tours that provide both beginners and experienced paddlers with an enchanting experience on the water. You will need to make your way over to the north side of Sydney Harbour for this tour as it starts in Kirribilli.

Grab a hearty breakfast after your tour at the cafe right next door (the tour includes a $20 voucher).

Now it’s time to get up right close and personal with the Sydney Harbour Bridge by embarking on a leisurely walk across this engineering marvel as you head back to the Sydney city centre.

The bridge offers a pedestrian walkway, providing you with stunning panoramic views of the harbour, Opera House, and the city skyline. Capture the moment with plenty of photos as you stroll along this iconic landmark.

If you don’t want to walk across the bridge, you can jump on a train to return to Circular Quay station.

After your bridge walk, have lunch in the city centre. If you have plenty of time, take a tram to Chinatown for a delicious bowl of noodles or some dim sum.

If short on time head over to The Rocks then you will be close to your next activity. Consider grabbing a table with a view of the harbour and savouring the flavours while watching the world go by. A hidden gem is the cafe on the top floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

If it is a weekend, again, wander into The Rocks Markets and find something tasty there to eat as you browse the stalls.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb 2021

The afternoon is reserved for the ultimate Sydney Harbour Bridge experience – the BridgeClimb. Strap on your provided gear and embark on an exhilarating journey to the top of the bridge.

Along the way, your knowledgeable guide will share insights into the bridge’s history and construction. Reach the summit and take in the 360-degree views of the city, the harbour, and beyond. The climb is not as hard as you may expect, and it’s a memory you’ll cherish forever.

As the day starts to wind down, prepare for a romantic and enchanting experience aboard a sunset dinner cruise on Sydney Harbour.

Companies like Captain Cook Cruises offer evening cruises that allow you to soak in the twilight beauty of the city’s skyline. Enjoy a meal, unwind with a glass of wine, and watch as the city lights begin to twinkle against the darkening sky.

As you cruise back to the harbour, take a moment to reflect on the incredible experiences you’ve had throughout your visit to beautiful Sydney.

By now you’ve probably realised there is so much more to do in this amazing city, so you can start planning your next trip now.

If you’re in Sydney before a cruise, take a look at the best hotels near Sydney Cruise terminal.

Read these posts next for your Australia trip
Great Barrier Reef Experience, Cairns
Crossing the Nullarbor
17 Places to Stop on the Great Ocean Road

TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS

Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs

Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.

Hire a rental carRentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.

Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.

Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.

Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.

Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.

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