G'day mates! (Is there a cheesier way to start an Australia post... I'll wait..). I know that travel, unfortunately, is still not top of mind in this current climate. But I wanted to offer a little sunshine to your media feed talking about one of my favorite (and farthest!) solo travels.
I flew down to Australia for a week completely solo in 2019 after a trip with friends to Bali, Indonesia. At the time, I wanted to be challenged, and Australia did not feel "challenging enough" for me. Laughing hysterically as my time in Bali proved to be ALL of that. So I welcomed my time in Australia with open arms, and it quickly became one of my favorite destinations.
Interested in learning how to travel to Australia solo? Read my guide below!
*Blog Note: This guide is provided by my best friend Brigitte, who lived in Sydney for a year. If you've been with the blog for a while, you'll know she is my #1 travel buddy, and I give her all the credit for these recommendations! Check out her photography Instagram page & her website coming soon!
How Long to Stay
This is all relative to YOUR personal preferences, but I spent a total of 3 full days in Sydney as I had spent the other part of the week in Northern Australia. My rule of thumb is always to do your research before travel to understand how much time you'll need based on your "bucket list." Especially if you're traveling to somewhere FAR from home, I knew Sydney would have many places to hit, so I took more time than I usually would!
Where to Stay
Sydney is a cohesion of vibrant cityscape and laidback beach town, so I suggest seeing both places! The Central Business District (CBD) is the perfect jumping-off point to seeing both the major city spots and a quick ferry to Manly Beach. I chose an Airbnb in Darlinghurst that had adorable aesthetics and was indeed one of my favorite places I have stayed ever. I walked and took public transit everywhere, and the location was fantastic for accessing significant destinations. If Airbnb is not your thing, try the Ovolo Woolloomooloo or the Sir Stamford at Circular Quay.
As for the more beachy stay, I suggest staying in the famous Bondi Beach. If you have ever entered a Hollister Co. back in the day, you know Bondi is a beach community on the coast of Australia. I cannot express enough how much I loved the location of my Airbnb. I stayed in a studio apartment right on the ocean (no longer available on Airbnb, similar listings here) and walkable to the Bondi Icebergs. If Airbnb does not hit your feelings, try the incredibly charming boutique accommodation of the Baxley Bondi.
I highly suggest getting both experiences as it felt like staying in two different cities!
Getting Around - Opal Card
Snagging an Opal Card was so vital that I made it into a section. This card gives you access to major public transit in the Sydney area and is incredibly easy for you. With a simple tap, you can enter trains, ferries, you name it! You can order your Opal Card online ahead of time or snag it when you enter the train/ferry.
If you are not opting for public transit, Uber is easily usable in the country of Australia!
Day 1 - Manly Beach
Start your day early and head to the picturesque Manly Beach. A beach community nestled just 25 minutes from bustling downtown, Manly has some of the most gorgeous beaches and views. Take the slow ferry at wharf 3, and do not worry about getting a photo of the infamous Syndey Opera House (you'll notice it is adjacent to the ferry station); you will get the best view on your way back! More to come on where the best spot on the ferry is for photos.
After departing from the ferry, I suggest grabbing a famous Aussie coffee before walking toward Shelly Beach and North Head Sanctuary. Brezel Bar has an incredible flat white and while we are on the subject, Australia has the best coffee in the world. Hands down. No question. I can fully understand why Starbucks repulses Australians.
After you have departed from the ferry, I suggest walking toward Shelly Beach and North Head Sanctuary to view the coast. Unfortunately, the weather was a bit inclement when I visited Manly, so the photos do it no justice. This walk is about 2 hours roundtrip with easy to medium difficulty. Although there are many different trails toward the Sanctuary, every trail is beautiful and getting lost is part of the fun. Plus, you can cool off with a swim at Shelly Beach, which is reminiscent of the Hawaiian islands. BONUS.
FOOD TIME. As is with most coastal towns, poke bowls are an absolute staple. Head into the quaint streets and grab a bite at Momo Bar; I ordered the Aloha poke bowl! If poke isn't your thing (why, though), try Betty's Burgers or Hugos.
After a quick bite, check out the diverse shopping options in central Manly. Coastal Manly has adorable boutiques where I picked up some treasured pieces I still have in my closet today. This and That Boutique was my absolute favorite featured above as well as Bow and Arrow.
After making *necessary purchases, walk north along the boardwalk to Queenscliff and along the rocks to Queenscliff cave. It is physically along the rocks, not up and above as I mistakenly waltzed through people's neighborhoods. A little farther up is a filming location for Mary Kate and Ashely's "Our Lips are Sealed" (confession: the reason I went) and a freshwater swimming area. Enjoy the beautiful seascape before catching a ferry back to the CBD!
*Note on the ferry for the best views of the Opera House: Head toward the front of the ferry outside so you are facing forward. My favorite photo of my time in Sydney!
Day 2 - Central Business District
For day two of your Australian adventure, explore the beautiful city area of Sydney. For a delicious "brekkie", begin your day at Celsius Coffee Co in Kirribilli offering fresh breakfast options & strong coffees. A quick ferry ride from CBD to Kirribilli wharf, Celsius is a quick breakfast stop that sits atop the ocean.
The Kirribilli side of Sydney has much to offer. If you are up for a brisk walk, head toward the reputable Sydney Harbor Bridge for the best views of the skyline. Continue walking toward Luna Park that houses some classic theme park rides and games, but if you continue along the water, you will find the beautiful Wendy Whiteley Secret Garden. The garden is a quick but transformative walk through lush gardens in the middle of Sydney's bustling city. It is free to the public and is open seven days a week!
Make your way back to Syndey and "The Rocks" by walking over the Sydney Harbor Bridge! Or better yet, climb it.
After walking across the Sydney Harbor Bridge, it is time for a drink. Squires Landing is an incredibly picturesque spot to drink a libation with a crystal clear view of the Sydney Opera House. A quick, easy stop, but it can get crowded around happy hour so be mindful of the time you visit!
After enjoying a libation, walk around the ferry building to snap some incredible shots of the Sydney Opera House. I loved walking around the entire circumference to bask in views from every angle. Right around the corner is the Royal Botanical Gardens, which I highly recommend visiting. The area is home to beautiful and rare flowers and is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
You walked. A LOT. Now catch dinner and a show! The Westpac OpenAir Cinema is a great spot to watch a movie and is arguably the most scenic. If a film doesn't suit your fancy, East Village in Darlinghurst has a beautiful rooftop bar or Munich Brauhaus back at the Rocks is another excellent option. Portside at the Sydney Opera House also looks fancy & their seafood looks delicious!
Day 3 - Bondi Beach
After your days in the city, it's time to hit the beach! There are many places to start in Bondi, but my favorite beginning to this beautiful city is to see it via the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee.
But first, let's fuel up! Harry's in Bondi Beach has incredible coffee and banana bread. Do yourself a favor and snag a piece, because it is your moral imperative to have all the baked goods. Are you looking for something a little more hardy? Try the Bondi Farmers Market on Saturdays and Sundays and order an acai bowl from any of the stands or the Depot Cafe for smashed avo (avocado toast for us Americans) with a side of halloumi cheese. Y'all.....how did I just discover halloumi??? I'm lactose, but still, this cheese is everything, and it is hard to come by in the states. Please give it a try. Or take a lactaid.
Along this path from Bondi, you will first see the Icebergs. I opted to do this at the end of my trek, but I decided to go in and swim physically. Is it necessary? No. But a fun memory! The cost is $9 to enter and swim, but the summer months are massively crowded, so it was hard to find lockers to store my stuff in while swimming. I ended up keeping most of my things with me!
The path is a boardwalk and sandy pathway that hugs the coastline the entire stretch. Seriously one of the most stunning views of all time, but FULL SUN PEOPLE. Wear that sunscreen and hat. Nobody likes a lobster. Or wrinkles for that matter.
Some high points of the trail are Gordon's Bay (looks like Greece!), Tamarama Beach, & the Bronte Baths. Once you arrive in Coogee, grab an afternoon lunch at Coogee Pavilion and order a spritz & the fish and chips! They are phenomenal, plus the atmosphere inside is vibrant and odds are there will be some sports on. "How about them...Giants?"
After a big day of hiking, swimming & tanning - it is time for food and drinks, naturally. Bondi has some incredible dining options, but North Bondi Fish was a complete winner. Order the spicy margarita and gawk at the cute bartenders. As for other options, Fishbowl (Japanese/Poke Bowls), Bondi Hardware (Sharing Plates), & Eden (Healthy) all look delicious and highly rated.
I hope you enjoyed this 3-day itinerary of the insanely diverse city of Sydney, Australia! Hit that like button or leave a comment below if Australia is on your list post-travel restrictions. Thanks for reading!