Do you have a layover in Sydney? Not sure what you can do and see with 7, 12 or 24 hours in the city? Sydney is Australia’s largest, arguably most cosmopolitan city and home to Australia’s busiest airport. Here’s the ultimate guide to making the most of your short visit with things to do near Sydney Airport.
Planning Your Time
Sydney Airport is located just a short distance from the Sydney CBD. If you’ve got at least 6 or 7 hours up your sleeve between flights, why not head out for some fresh air and adventure?
- With a 7 hour layover, you’ll have 4-5 hours to explore Sydney.
- With an 8 hour layover, you’ll have 5-6 hours.
- With a 10 hour layover, you’ll have 7-8 hours.
- With a 12 hour layover, you’ll have 9-10 hours.
7 Hour Layover in Sydney
With only 4-5 hours to spend in Sydney, you’ll want to keep it simple. Here are some options:
Explore Circular Quay
Recommended time allocation: 4-5 hours
Head to Circular Quay to get a glimpse of Sydney’s two most iconic sites: the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
Follow the footpath with signs to the Sydney Opera House. Enter the Royal Botanical Gardens and follow the path that curves along Sydney Cove to reach Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, a sandstone bench carved by convicts in 1811. From here, you’ll be treated to postcard-worthy views of Sydney Harbour.
Stretch your legs to explore iconic places like the Sydney Opera House, Customs House and Royal Botanic Gardens. While you’re here, we recommend visiting one of the many fantastic restaurants in Circular Quay.
Get Your Culture Fix
Recommended time allocation: 2+ hours per museum
Keen to soak in some art or Australian history? Pop into the Museum of Sydney near the Botanical Gardens to learn about Australia’s colonial past
Head to the Domain to enjoy Australia’s oldest art gallery, the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Enjoy cutting-edge Australian and international contemporary art in a grand Art Deco building at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
Visit The Rocks District
Recommended time allocation: 2-3 hours
The Rocks, Sydney’s oldest quarter and a historic neighbourhood bursting with charm, is well worth exploring. Start at the Rocks Discovery Museum and take a walk through the charming, cobblestone lanes, dropping in to historic pubs along the way. Wander the open-air Rocks Markets to scour for handmade fashion and feast on street food.
Catch A Sydney Ferry
Recommended time allocation: 1 hour for the ferry, with an additional hour for each activity
Hop onboard a ferry to explore Darling Harbour and the surrounding neighbourhoods. You have two options:
- Take the Pyrmont Bay line to SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium and the Australian National Maritime Museum
- Take the F3 and F8 to Cockatoo Island to take a guided historical walking tour of one of Sydney’s most fascinating colonial tourist sites
12 Hour Layover in Sydney
If you have a 12-hour layover in Sydney, you essentially have 9-10 hours to play with.
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Recommended time allocation: 1-2 hours for visiting Pylon Lookout, 4+ hours for climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1-2 hours to enjoy a Sydney waterside restaurant
Just a head’s up: You’ll need to book this one in advance. Climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the ultimate Sydney bucket list item. Scaling the bridge will give you an incredible view of one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world. After you finish up your climb, treat yourself to a waterfront lunch or dinner before heading back to the airport.
Recommended time allocation: 3-4+ hour
Make the most of Sydney’s glorious weather and beautiful beaches by travelling to Bondi Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Australia. Take a swim, enjoy a picnic of fish and chips on the sand, or head east to the Coogee Beach Coastal Walk for extraordinary cliff top views.
Watsons Bay and South Head
Recommended time allocation: 5 hours+
Take a serene ferry ride to Watsons Bay, one of Sydney’s most picturesque spots, where you can bask in glorious local seafood and stunning views.
Once you arrive, you’re spoiled for choice with possibilities:
- Take a walk out to Horny Lighthouse on the edge of South Head
- Explore one of the many charming coastal walks along the cliffs
- Enjoy fish and chips on the grass and sand near Watsons Bay ferry wharf
- Climb up to the Gap Lookout
- Dine at Doyles on the Beach (one of Sydney’s oldest seafood restaurants)
- Explore the cool cafes along Marine Parade
24 Hour Layover in Sydney
Get Up Close and Personal With Australia’s Unique Wildlife
Recommended time allocation: 8+ hours
Sitting on the northern side of Darling Harbour, Taronga Zoo is a must-visit if you have children with you. There is plenty here to keep a family occupied with plenty of Australian animals to see, befriend and cuddle, as well as a timetable of shows hosted by the Taronga Conservation Society Australia. If you have limited time, we recommend purchasing your zoo ticket in advance to save you from queueing on arrival.
Recommended time allocation: 2+ hours
If you have a sweet tooth, there’s no better place to stop in Sydney to satisfy your sweet cravings. The suburb of Haymarket is home to Sydney’s Chinatown. Here, you’ll find lots of dessert bars to try lots of weird, wonderful and classic Australian and Asian desserts.
Shop In Paddington
Recommended time allocation: 3+ hours
Shopaholics will find lots to love in the trendy suburb of Paddington. From Oxford Street, brimming with the latest fashion from Australia’s cutting edge designers, to the lively Saturday Paddington Market where you can buy almost anything at bargain prices, Paddington offers a lot of variety in terms of shopping options, and you’ll need the better of a morning or afternoon to get the most out of what’s offered here.
How To Make Your Layover A Breeze
With these simple tips, you can make your Sydney airport layover a fantastic, stress-free experience.
- Plan your time carefully – Arrive with a concrete plan for what you want to see and do during your Sydney airport layover. Be realistic about how much time you’ll have and the top priorities you want to accomplish in that time.
- Hire a chauffeured car – Book Car Australia to make travelling from location to location a breeze.
- Double check when you’ll need to get back to the airport – Make sure to plan enough time to get back to Sydney Airport in time. For international travellers, we recommend checking in at the airport at least three hours before your flight is due to depart. Don’t forget to factor in time to clear security!
Looking for a comfortable ride to make your Sydney airport layover easy and stress-free? Car Australia has all your travel needs covered with our airport transfer services. Get in touch today on 1300 661 119.