Top Things to Do During a Layover in Sydney
If you’ve never been to Sydney there is so much to see and do, it really is a diverse and beautiful city, but I always recommend to do a few things well versus too many things poorly. This is especially true with a layover in Sydney. So check your FOMO at the door and enjoy what you can with the short time you have.
These recommendations include a little something for everyone to choose from and many of the sights and activities listed here can be enjoyed if you have a layover of 4-6 hours or more.
Sydney Harbour, Circular Quay – Sydney’s Big Ticket Items
Time Required: 4 hours (minimum including travel to and from from airport)
How to Get There: 30 minutes in the airport train, stops at Circular Quay station
Anyone reading this guide will be familiar with the world-famous sites they’ll encounter in Sydney’s Circular Quay. It really is a spectacular location with the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House perched directly on Sydney Harbour, which is teaming with ferries and pleasure crafts every day of the week.
You can see the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge from from where ever you stand, meaning you’re always guaranteed a memorable selfie from all sides of the harbour. Circular Quay is a busy ferry terminal with the Harbour bridge on one side and the Opera House on the other.
Local Tip: Start under the Harbour Bridge side then walk to the Opera House side. This is Sydney’s most touristic location meaning it’s full of tourists all year round. To get a reprieve from the crowds pop down for a drink or bite to eat at one of the bars next to the Opera house on the water to escape the crowds. Enjoy the view and watch the world go past. There’s so much to see, it’s always teeming with activity and you can waste away an afternoon here drinking and eating if you want.
Bondi Beach – The Heart of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs
Time Required: 6+ hours
How to Get There: $40 in an Uber from the airport
Many people have a love affair with Bondi and it’s not hard to understand why it’s one of the world’s most famous beaches. Bondi Beach is a focal point of life in Bondi and everything really centres around it. Expect to see shirtless bleach blonde surfers walking past as you sip on your coffee, hipsters looking cool, tourists taking selfies and locals crammed into bars.
If you’re visiting Bondi in summer you’re options are simple: grab breakfast on Hall St, head to the beach during the day, enjoy the stunning coastal walk, grab a drink in one of Bondi’s bars at sundown, and pick up some tasty Thai food in the evening.
In the winter months you can still enjoy the outdoors as Sydney’s winter’s are comparatively mild. Do the coastal walk, shop and eat your way around Bondi or take a plunge into the famous Icebergs swimming pool during your sauna session (what better way to reinvigorate after a long journey!).
Top Things to Do in Bondi During a Layover
The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
Time: 1-4 hours
This is a must do activity in Bondi. The coastal walk runs all the way from Bondi to Coogee Beach and the scenery has to be seen to be believed. Expect to see stunning cliffs, amazing beaches, epic houses and a lot of ocean. You might be lucky enough to spot a Humpback whale during their annual migration between April and December.
Local Tip: A nice cheat on the coastal walk is to start in Bondi, stop for a snack along the way at Bronte Beach if you want, and walk as far as your legs can take you. When you’re done catch an Uber back to where you started – this will halve the 3-4 hour return trip time and will only cost $10-$15!
Take a Plunge at Bondi Icebergs
Time: 1-2 hours
This iconic salt water pool is open to the public all year round and it’s a perfect way to refresh yourself after a long trip. In summer you can sunbathe, swim laps and enjoy the experience of waves crashing into the pool as you swim or relax poolside. In winter you can take a sauna and plunge into the cold salt water pool between sessions.
Where to Stay in Bondi During a Layover
Bondi is such a desirable location so it makes sense to book something in advance. If you’re going to come for a short time it also makes sense that you should enjoy your time by being close to the water and the action.
Serviced apartments are a great option for accomodation in Bondi Beach and there’s none better than Bondi 38 with their beachfront location and spectacular views.
Budget conscious travellers might like to try one of the many hostels in Bondi for a short stay, there’s loads to choose from including the Bondi Beach YHA or Noahs Bondi Backpackers.
Manly – Sample Sydney’s Amazing Northern Beaches
Time Required: 6 hours
Costs: $16 / $20 return on standard or fast ferry
How to Get There: Airport train to Circular Quay train station, take the Manly ferry from there.
Tip: Combine Circular Quay and Manly for an ideal layover day trip
If you’re in a hurry I recommend the fast ferry option for a few dollars more. Sydney siders commuting on the ferries don’t know how good they have it. The ferry to Manly is a worthwhile tourist activity on it’s own. Act like a local and grab a beer or gin and tonic from the bar for the ride, sit outside and savour the view along the way.
Once in Manly you have two sides to enjoy, the harbour side, which is very beautiful it it’s own right and the ocean side. As someone who has lived in Sydney I love the harbour side with it’s hidden gem local beaches that are picturesque, sheltered and surrounded by beautiful houses.
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To check out the harbour side beaches by foot you can start by jumping in for a swim right next to the ferry terminal and grabbing a beer at (insert bar name) afterwards, or if you want to be seen get an outdoor table at (insert name).
Alternately you can just turn right as you get off the ferry and and explore the coves and bays to your right.
Local Tip: Little Manly Beach is a stunning little beach with a summery chilled vibe. The beach has a fenced area for kids (and big kids) and an amazing cafe that does super tasty BLT’s. Consider booking a kayak tour of the harbour side coves and beaches. This is a magical way to catch a glimpse of some spectacular harbour homes and discover hard-to-access beaches.
Manly Beach is 5 minutes walk from the ferry terminal and it’s a great place to swim, sunbathe and take a long walk anytime of day. There’s hundreds of shops and restaurants on the harbour and ocean sides in Manly so just follow your nose to something interesting.
There’s a small beautiful cove at the far right hand side of Manly beach called Shelly Beach, this is a must see spot that’s a short 10 minute stroll with great views over the point and a top place to stop for a more sheltered swim.