The Perfect Day in Sydney

The perfect day in Sydney involves walking through its picturesque scenery. Whether you stroll along Sydney Harbour, past the quaint terrace houses of Paddington, or into the artsy laneways of Surry Hills, you will discover the beauty and tranquillity of this city by the sea. Take a break for a great cup of coffee or meal, and end a summer night at an outdoor film by the Sydney waterfront. It will feel like a perfect Sydney day indeed.

Mrs Macquaries Rd, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
Sydney’s 158-acre botanic garden, which hugs the harbor between Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and the Sydney Opera House, is home to nearly 9,000 plant species. Depending on the season of your visit, you might seek out spring peaches and wisteria or tropical orchids and summer lotus flowers. On any occasion, don’t miss descendants of the 200-million-year-old Wollemi pine, a dinosaur of a conifer only discovered in 1994. The gardens are also studded with sculptures from historical statues to modern works by Bronwyn Oliver, Paul Selwood, and Keld Moseholm. The quartz-and-sandstone Wurrungwuri depicts an Aboriginal shield once used by the traditional owners of this land. Tours are offered throughout the year, including a 1.5-hour Aboriginal history tour on the food and medicinal properties of native Australian plants.
633 Bourke St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia
Queues consistently spill out onto the footpath at this little corner shop. A rusted metalwork sign above the tiny bakery café, situated on the leafy Bourke Street Surry Hills, reads ‘Boulangerie’. The creme brulee tarts are locally famous, and we’re here all the time for a loaf of sourdough (plain, seeded, hazelnut and raisin, fig and cranberry or potato and rosemary). Nab a corner booth seat if you can.
Sydney, Australia
Australia’s most famous beach has played many roles throughout history. In 1907, a group of local swimmers became the world’s first lifeguards; during World War II, it was fortified by barbed wire and iron stakes; and over the last few decades, it has become a play land for international backpackers. More recently, the bohemian surf hood has morphed into a lively dining and shopping hub, with restaurants ranging from standbys like Sean’s Panaroma to the friendly burger joint Bonditony’s to Italian favorite Da Orazio Pizza and Porchetta, opened by Icebergs Dining Room owner Maurice Terzino. (Don’t miss the pool and sauna at Icebergs either.) Once fed, check in at the QT Hotel, shop along Gould Street, and walk the stunning Bondi to Coogee coastal path.

Anyone can swim in this glorious pool for a mere $5.50. Mon-Fri: 6:00-6:30pm Sat, Sun: 6:30-6:30pm Closed Thursdays.
50 Holt Street
The Argentine restaurant that took Sydney by storm in 2010—and even rose from the ashes of a fire that originated in its charcoal grill—finally outgrew its Cleveland Street Surry Hills digs and reopened on Holt Street in late 2016. The old parilla and asado fire pits were transplanted to the new location, this time positioned behind the counter of the open kitchen, and the rockabilly vibe lives on, albeit in a bright, plant-filled, parquet-floored space decorated with vintage sports and movie posters. Old menu favorites like the grilled Wagyu skirt steak and deep-fried Brussels sprouts can now be paired with a seafood cocktail, or wood-fired pumpkin tamales smothered in mole. End with the flan or melon ice cream served in the rind.
For many Sydneysiders, swimming in the ocean is a daily cleanse. There’s a seawater pool at just about every beach, so even ocean-fearing travelers can get a taste of the salty lifestyle without worries of waves or worse (sharks?). Bronte Baths, an inviting rock pool at the southern end of Bronte Beach, is a local favorite for swimming and sunbathing—and for standing on the ledge and getting washed away by waves during big swells. Bronte is about midway between Bondi and Coogee Beaches along the stunning coastal walk. Several nice restaurants are nearby (notably Three Blue Ducks) for a post-swim snack.
2 Raper St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia
The final home and workplace of the late Australian artist Brett Whiteley is now a museum that holds rotating exhibits of Whiteley’s work shown on weekends as well as monthly events such as poetry readings and classical music performances. The upstairs is frozen in time: dipped brushes are ready to create their next masterpiece; reference books are opened to the last page Whiteley saw; vinyl records sit waiting to be played. All of this plus a wall of photos, graffiti, and quotes from contemporaries like Bob Dylan paints an intimate portrait of an artistic genius who died of a methadone overdose in 1992. Entrance and events are free, and you don’t need to book ahead. Just show up ready to be inspired.
Crown St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia
On the first Saturday of the month, locals shop for vintage apparel and antique home decor at this flea market.
169 Dolphin St, Coogee NSW 2034, Australia
A quick bus ride from the city (or a refreshing end to the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk), Coogee Pavilion is one of the most happening beach bars in Sydney. The downstairs area is home to a wood-fired pizza oven, oyster bar, juice stall, and kids’ zone with giant Scrabble, pétanque, ping pong, and nautical books, while the breezy rooftop features four different bars, outfitted with love seats and wire-frame stools for taking in the breathtaking bay views. Aussie wines and beers plus fruity cocktails shaken with house-made juice pair with Mediterranean-themed tapas like chargrilled lamb chops and blistered Padrón peppers.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: United States
Journeys: Sports + Adventure