Next year, my dad and I both hit milestone birthdays. For awhile now, Sydney has been at the top of both of our travel bucket lists. If a special occasion is needed as an excuse to visit (although that usually doesn’t stop my family), those would be it. I created this day considering him; someone who doesn’t mind early mornings, a bit of a thrill, and a good sunset overlooking the water. Here’s our dream day in Sydney.
Tour Backstage at the Sydney Opera House
Although this tour begins bright and early at 7 a.m., the chance to see what goes on behind the scenes of the Sydney Opera House is definitely worth it. The tour takes visitors backstage and through spaces usually occupied solely by performers and staff. Guides inform you of the Opera House’s history, the technical aspects of putting on a show, what it’s like in the orchestra pit, and even a sneak peak into the drama that’s gone on behind the curtain. The tour lasts up to two and a half hours, and ends with breakfast in the green room. While prohibited in some areas, cameras are welcome, so don’t forget to bring yours for some rare photo ops!
Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge
Connecting the central business district with the North Shore, Sydney Harbour Bridge is affectionately nicknamed “The Coathanger” by locals due to its arched design. One of the city’s most iconic landmarks, the best way to take in views of harbor is to do a bridge climb. A “Day Tour,” running from early morning to late afternoon, would allow for a day’s dose of thrill before lunch. Participants travel the length of the bridge on an exposed catwalk. From the top of the arch are panoramic views of the harbor and the Sydney skyline. The experience also comes with a group photo and a certificate of achievement.
Grab Lunch at the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar
Given that some members of my family aren’t very inclined to mollusks, this lunch spot is my selfish addition to the list. Situated on the waterfront of Circular Quay, Sydney Cove Oyster Bar sticks to this day’s theme of taking in stellar views. Diners can see both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House from their tables. It’s no wonder it’s ranked among the city’s 50 best restaurants. Freshly shucked oysters are, not surprisingly, the star of the show. The restaurant offers several local varieties that you can order naturally or mignonette-style (with a condiment of vinegar, black pepper, and shallots). However, the menu offers a range of seafood to order, including crab and grilled prawns.
Go Shopping at the Rocks
After lunch, I plan to wind down from the busy morning by strolling through one of Sydney’s most iconic neighborhoods. The Rocks gets its name from the sandstone rocks that line the harbor. With quaint streets and historic buildings, the area doesn’t quite feel like the heart of a major city. Besides offering a plethora of small shops and art galleries to explore, the neighborhood plays to host to several markets during the weekend. A food market runs on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., while an arts and crafts market runs on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can also download a “Walking the Rocks” smart phone app for a historical tour of the area.
Enjoy City Views from the Public Ferry
For excellent views of the Sydney skyline from a bit of a different perspective, consider the Sydney ferry. With special consideration for my dad’s love of sunsets, taking it in the early evening is a must. While used everyday by locals to commute to different parts of the metropolitan area, the scenery along the route is more than worth the fare. Since the ferry is classified as public transportation, you can avoid the high prices of private cruises for the same views. Famous sites you can’t miss include the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Hop off at Darling Harbour (the Barangaroo Wharf stop) to scope out a restaurant for dinner.
Dine at Darling Harbour
After a scenic ferry ride, dinner is in the cards at Darling Harbour. This waterfront pedestrian district bursts at the seams with entertainment. It would also be an excellent place to spend an afternoon, especially if you have a couple of kids in tow. The area is home to the largest IMAX screen in the world and the Australian National Maritime Museum. The abundance of restaurants is what made me consider this corner of the city for dinner. Bungalow 8 is a long-standing favorite in the district, and offers customers a tropical sanctuary from the surrounding city. I can hear the mussels spiked with chili calling my name half a world away. The selection of cocktail “jugs” you can order for the table don’t hurt either.
Take in Views from the Sydney Tower
Basically Australia’s version of the Space Needle, the Sydney Tower is the city’s tallest building, soaring over 1,000 feet to the tip of its spire. Since public access was granted in 1981, taking in the city skyline from the observation deck (also known as the Eye) has been a must for visitors. I can think of few better ways to end a long day of sightseeing than with a 360-degree panoramic view of Sydney all lit up for the night. The observation deck is open daily, with the last entry at 8 p.m. You can purchase tickets on-sight, but they’re generally cheaper online, and combinable with other offers. While I suggest you check the weather beforehand, the Sydney Tower does offer a “Weather Promise” that lets visitors return up to a week after their initial purchase if viewing conditions are poor.