Sunny. Vibrant. Unique. These are just a few words we could use to describe Sydney, Australia. The Azamara Quest made her maiden call to Sydney on January 14, 2016, and the port quickly became a favorite of our guests.
What makes Sydney so special? Travel blogger Lee Abbamonte has called it “the best city in the world”. Azamara’s Cruise Director Tony also named it his all-time favorite port, saying the city is home to the most beautiful sail-in in the world. He says arriving in Sydney by cruise ship is “a breathtaking moment no matter how many times you do it and, of course, the city itself is an inspiring one with so much to see and do.”
Sydney is a popular embarkation or debarkation port and many cruisers choose to extend their vacations here. With so much to see and do, it can be hard to fit everything into just a couple of days. We’ve created two 36-hour itineraries to help travelers make the most of the time here – one for first-timers and one for return visitors.
36 Hours in Sydney: For The First Time
Day One: Morning
Devote your first day in Sydney to adventures – this city is full of them. Begin at Bondi Beach, one of the city’s many incredible beaches. Bondi Beach is widely regarded as one of the most famous and best beaches in the world, thanks to its convenient location (only eight kilometers from the city center), great waves, facilities (change rooms, ice cream, coin-operated barbecues, etc.) and more.
Plan to spend some time swimming, relaxing, or surfing at the beach, and bring a good pair of walking shoes. There’s an incredible 6km coastal trail that will lead you to another of the city’s great beaches, Coogee Beach.
The cliff side trail will take you through Sydney’s suburbs, with gorgeous views, rest stops, and picnic areas along the way. Don’t miss Waverley Cemetery, perhaps the most gorgeous burial ground in the world. Expect to spend about two hours on the walk.
Day One: Afternoon
Coogee Beach is smaller and calmer than Bondi Beach, making it better for swimming but less ideal for surfing. It’s surrounded by cafes and restaurants and has a park with free electric barbecues, giving you plenty of options for a tasty post-hike lunch.
Day One: Evening
After a day spent at two of the city’s best beaches, rest up and clean up before making your way to the city center. Here, you’ll do one of the most magical things the city has to offer: climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
There are several times of day you can climb the famous bridge, but the Twilight option combines the best of both worlds – begin during sunset and finish after dark, when the city has lit up. The 360-degree city views are simply stunning, and the climb is not too strenuous. A typical Bridge Climb takes three and a half hours, while the Bridge Climb Express clocks in at just over two hours.
Following your Twilight Bridge Climb, enjoy a late dinner in the Circular Quay & The Rocks neighborhood, known for trendy, contemporary fusion food.
Day Two: Morning
After an adventure-filled first day in Sydney, slow things down on day two and take in some of the city’s cultural offerings. Begin in Darlinghurst, a historic yet trendy neighborhood known for great food, shopping, and parks. First, enjoy a leisurely breakfast at one of the many cafés on Stanley Street. This area was the heart of Sydney’s Italian community in the 1950s and 60s and is still where coffee lovers in-the-know head to get the best espresso.
After you’ve fueled up, Hyde Park is just a short walk away. This is Australia’s oldest park and was named after the original in London.
Begin at the Southern end of the park, where you’ll find the ANZAC War Memorial, a military monument commemorating the Australian Imperial Force of World War I. Then, stroll through the beautiful park admiring the many public works of art and water features it has to offer. Come to the Northern end, where you’ll see the Archibald Fountain. This fountain was donated in 1932 to honor Australia’s contribution to World War I.
Just outside the park, you’ll see St. Mary’s Cathedral, a stunning Gothic-style Catholic cathedral. From here, it’s only a five to ten-minute walk to Sydney’s famous Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Day Two: Afternoon
The Art Gallery NSW has a café and restaurant, so you can take your time exploring and break for lunch. The gallery boasts an incredible collection of Australian art, including a can’t-be-missed section on Indigenous art. There are also world-class and prize-winning temporary exhibits.
After soaking up the best of Australian art, cross the street to enter the Royal Botanic Garden. The lush gardens were established in 1816 and offer a tranquil sanctuary for residents and tourists alike. The park is home to more than one million specimens, including garden displays that celebrate Aboriginal culture.
Day Two: Evening
A stroll through the Botanic Gardens will lead you directly to your final stop, Australia’s most famous landmark: the Sydney Opera House.
Considered a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture, the theater was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The best way to see inside the Sydney Opera House is to attend a performance. So plan ahead to get tickets to whatever’s on. (If the idea of seeing a show doesn’t appeal to you, tours run daily from 9am to 5pm and can be booked in advance online.)
Either have an early dinner in the area or grab a bite after the show. There are several incredible restaurants in the area, many of which offer early bird dining deals. The Opera Bar’s large outdoor area is perfect for post-show cocktails.
36 Hours in Sydney: Off The Beaten Track
If you’ve been to Sydney before, chances are you’ve already seen the Opera House and have climbed Sydney Harbour Bridge. We have good news: the city has plenty to offer beyond those landmarks.
Day One: Morning
Begin your first day in Sydney by getting a bird’s eye view of the city. The Sydney Tower Eye observation deck will take you a thousand feet above the city. Bring your camera to capture the stunning 360-degree views of the city’s most iconic landmarks below, the Pacific Ocean to the east, and the Blue Mountains in the distance.
Your next experience is only a five-minute walk from the tower: High Tea at The Tea Room QVB. The Tea Room is located in what was originally the Queen Victoria Building’s Grand Ballroom. Today it mixes modern luxury with elegance and history in a truly stunning setting. The Tea Room is open seven days a week, beginning at 10am, and reservations are recommended.
Photo via the Wikimedia Commons, Author Sardaka
After tea pay a visit to one of the Sydney’s most unique landmarks, the Chinese Garden of Friendship. It’s only a ten-minute walk from the Queen Victoria Building and well worth a visit.
The garden was designed by architects from Sydney’s sister city, Guangzhou, for Australia’s bicentenary celebration in 1988. The walled garden is modeled after the traditional gardens of the Ming Dynasty with waterfalls, lakes, and exotic plants. The Chinese Garden of Friendship is in Sydney’s Darling Harbour neighborhood, a pedestrian district beloved for its abundance of shops, museums, and restaurants.
Stroll through the charming Darling Harbour before catching a ferry (weekdays only) to Circular Quay. This ferry route will take you under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and around the Sydney Opera House. And, it’s only a twenty-minute ride!
From Circular Quay, hop on another ferry – this time, it’s only a twelve-minute ride to the famous Taronga Zoo.
Day One: Afternoon
Inside the zoo’s main entrance, grab a quick coffee and sandwich before spending the rest of your day visiting with some of Australia’s most adorable and most interesting animals. Taronga Zoo cares for 4,000 animals from over 350 species. You’ll see local wildlife like koalas, Tasmanian devils, and Australian little penguins. The zoo is also home to exciting animals like elephants, tigers, and giraffes.
Day One: Evening
After a fun afternoon at the zoo, take the ferry back to Circular Quay. End your busy day by relaxing at one of Sydney’s many incredible restaurants. If you enjoy tapas, there are several great Spanish restaurants in Sydney. The city’s small “Spanish Quarter” can be found near Chinatown, on Liverpool Street between George and Sussex. However, there are great tapas restaurants all over the city. Tapavino and Ash St. Cellar are both a short walk from Circular Quay.
Day Two: Morning
If you’ve been to Sydney before, chances are you’ve already visited the city’s most famous beach, Bondi Beach. The city’s second-most famous beach is just a short ferry ride away and it’s absolutely worth the trip. Like the Darling Harbour to Circular Quay trip, your ferry ride is a worthwhile sightseeing endeavor in and of itself.
Enjoy breakfast in The Rocks neighborhood and then catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach. The ferry ride is about 30 minutes long and offers the opportunity to take in beautiful views – if you’re lucky you may even spot a whale or two!
Manly Beach is known for being “seven miles from Sydney, a thousand miles from care”. Once you’ve arrived, relax and enjoy the two kilometers of soft golden sand and renowned surfing waves. Even if you don’t surf or play beach volleyball, Manly Beach is a prime location for another fun activity: people watching. There are also restaurants, playground, barbecue areas, bars, and shops to enjoy.
For lunch, look for restaurants serving fresh seafood and locally-brewed craft beers.
Day Two: Afternoon
After enjoying a few hours at Manly Beach and having lunch in the area, return to Circular Quay in the mid-afternoon for a unique cultural experience. Tribal Warrior is an aboriginal-owned and operated company that offers Aboriginal Cultural Cruises. The experience last two hours and departs at 3:00 p.m. October-April, and at 1:00p.m. April through October.
During the cruise of Sydney Harbour, guests learn about the culture and stories of the Eora, Cadigal, Guringai, Wangal, Gammeraigal and Wallumedegal people, and the Indigenous history of Sydney, Australia. The tour includes a stop on an island for an Aboriginal cultural performance.
If the idea of a harbor cruise doesn’t float your boat, there are other ways to explore Aboriginal culture in Sydney. The Royal Botanic Garden offers Aboriginal Heritage Tours, while the Australian Museum, Australian National Maritime Museum, and Museum of Sydney all feature permanent exhibits showcasing Aboriginal culture.
Day Two: Evening
After an enthralling experience learning about Aboriginal culture, take your pick among global cuisines for your last dinner in Sydney. The city has a large Chinatown district, as well as a small Korea Town (marked with a sign at Liverpool and Elizabeth Streets) and Thai Town (near Chinatown at Campbell and Pitt Streets).
If you’d like to be on trend, opt for Korean food. In addition to traditional family-run restaurants serving up delectable dishes like kimchi, bibimbap, and Korean fried chicken, Sydney is home to new, upmarket fusion restaurants that put a contemporary twist on menu items.
If Sydney wasn’t on your travel bucket list before reading this article, we bet it is now! Few cities in the world offer such an alluring combination of stunning beaches, incredible international cuisine, and a bustling, cosmopolitan culture.
Start planning your voyage to the Land Down Under by browsing these upcoming voyages to Sydney. And for a truly unforgettable adventure, join us on the 2018 World Journey. We’ll cruise from one iconic bridge to another, beginning in Sydney beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge and concluding 102 days later beneath London’s Tower Bridge.