Experiencing Sydney in 8 Hours

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When you think about Australian cities, you are all probably thinking about the same place – Sydney! This is undoubtedly the iconic place throughout the Southern Hemisphere and certainly a city worth visiting if you are fortunate enough to travel to Australia. When we decided to head to Brisbane and Gold Coast for our Honeymoon over Christmas 2012, I knew we had to find a way to head down to Sydney, even if it was just for one solitary day. After performing research on driving distances and flights, I was able to locate the perfect day trip for us.

Leaving out of Gold Coast Airport at 6:00AM on January 2, 2013 and flying back from Sydney International Airport that same day at 8:20PM, this would hopefully give us ample time to at least see the main highlights in this action-packed metropolis.

I am not going to lie, we would have LOVED to stay longer in this spectacular city and we look forward to having the opportunity to return in the near future. With so many amazing attractions, gorgeous luxury hotels and friendly locals willing to make you feel right at home, this is a city you should want to stay and experience for several days.

Here is a breakdown of how we navigated Sydney in just 8 hours (of course there is so much more to see but if like us, you are only able to visit for a day, here is a good way of seeing the most iconic landmarks of Sydney).

6:00AM (Gold Coast Time) – 9:00AM (Sydney Time – 1 hr time difference)

A short 1 hr flight from Gold Coast saw us landing in Sydney around 8:20AM (local time) and the first thing you notice is the expense of actually getting downtown Sydney.

Airport Link – A return ticket on the train will set you back around $25 per person which seems a little pricey to me but in terms of Australia is pretty standard! Despite the price, the service is convenient and arrives in a timely manner.

St. James’ Station/Town Hall Station – We disembarked the train at St. James’ station which is truly in the heart of Sydney’s downtown district. Either here or Town Hall are perfect locations to begin your day around Sydney.

9:00AM – 10:00AM

Sydney Tower – Read about our experience further by clicking the link.

10:00AM – 11:00AM

After leaving the Sydney Tower, our goal was to head towards the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. However, according to our trusty tourist map, there were several smaller attractions along the way worth visiting.

Sydney in 8 hours

Hyde Park and St. Mary’s Cathedral – Heading East down Market Street after leaving the Sydney Tower, you arrive at a wonderful area of Sydney that is home to Hyde Park and St. Mary’s Cathedral. Just like the namesake in London, this part of Sydney really does have a London locale feel to it with people wandering through the park or simply relaxing by taking lunch on one of the benches in front of the impressive fountain.

This fountain, known as the Archibald Fountain, was designed using a combination of French and Australian culture. Archibald specified that it must be designed by a French artist, both because of his great love of French culture and to commemorate the association of Australia and France in World War I. He imagined its design and ornamentation developing to rival his dream city – Paris. The artist chosen was François-Léon Sicard who certainly achieved Archibald’s desires.

Directly across from Hyde Park across College Road is the impressive historic structure of St. Mary’s Cathedral. Even if you are not of Catholic descent, it is certainly worth visiting this cathedral to see the impressive architecture and infrastructure present both internally and on the exterior.

Art Gallery Road – Heading North towards the Royal Botanic Gardens, you pass a series of attractions that may be of interest if you have any passion for art galleries or museums. The Mint Museum and the Barracks Museum are both located here and worth visiting if you are interested in these topics. We simply walked by on our way through but just taking pictures from the outside gives you a great sense of the history and culture that resides here.

Royal Botanic Gardens – This is just a really great place to relax, enjoy the well manicured gardens and overlook the surrounding  harbour. We walked around the outside of the gardens on the way down but spent some time on the way back inside the gardens.

11:00AM – 12:00PM

The walk from the Sydney Tower via all the other attractions is probably about a mile or two in distance and takes about a hour depending on the time you spend in each of the smaller landmarks. We arrived at the Circular Quay area taking in the many highlights and views of the harbour from the foreshore around 11:00AM.

Sydney in 8 Hours

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge – These are undoubtedly the two major landmarks that Sydney is stereotyped upon. Just being in the vicinity of these attractions gives you a sense of achievement.

Read about our experiences here by clicking the link.

12:00PM – 2:00PM

After spending some time visiting the Opera House, we left down the majestic steps (almost like a scene from the Rocky movies!) and headed South back through the Botanic Gardens and into the Business District. Rather than walking back along the same route, we opted to move down Bridge Street and then along Pitt Street which is home to many leading corporations and shopping districts.

If you are interesting in shopping in high end department stores, all the way from here to Market Street is full of designer outlets and stores. This is also a good spot to visit some tourist gift shops. Beware that some may be priced higher than others but if you do enough shopping around you can still pick up a couple of bargains!

Sydney in 8 Hours Apple Store

The Apple Store – Although technically not a major landmark, the Apple Store in Sydney is certainly an impressive structure. Three levels containing every Apple product you can imagine, the third floor offering a training camp for anyone interesting in learning more about their product lines. The decor is very atypical of Apple with glass staircases and very modernistic structures.

Queen Victoria Building – The Queen Victoria Building is a late nineteenth-century building designed by the architect George McRae in the CBD area of Sydney, Australia. The building fills a city block bounded by George, Market, York and Druitt Streets. Designed as a shopping centre, it was later used for a variety of other purposes until its restoration and return to its original use in the late twentieth century. Another statue of Queen Victoria can be found here, an impressive structure in the heart of Sydney’s booming infrastructure.

2:00PM – 4:00PM

What better way to spend your afternoon than in the wonderfully picturesque Darling Harbour region of Sydney.

Darling HarbourRead about all our experiences here. This area of Sydney offers a high volume of attractions.

4:00PM – 6:00PM

The Darling Harbour is a great place to hop on the Sydney monorail for a scenic overview of the city at night. The monorail travels through the city centre and follows a path above the Spanish Quarter, Chinatown, George Street (Sydney’s main street), then travels past the historic Queen Victoria Building before returning back to Darling Harbour. If you have time to experience this form of transportation around the city, go for it!

Sydney in 8 Hours - Darling Harbour

We decided to head back to the airport to grab some dinner rather than trying to get into one of the busy restaurants in the heart of Sydney. There is so much to choose from, so many options and so much to see in very little time!


Our experiences in Sydney are very minimal and we were only able to see a few things but what I can say is that we both agree that we would love to come back here in the future and spend some more quality time here. Sydney offers everything for all age ranges!

It’s a wonderful city to be part of and for someone with British heritage, there is a sense of a homely feel here as you are reminded of so much British heritage and lifestyle with a twist of Australian homeliness mixed in!

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Chris Boothmanhttps://abritandasoutherner.com
Chris Boothman is the co-founder of A Brit and A Southerner. Born near Manchester, England, Chris moved to USA in 2006 where he soon after met his wife and travel partner in crime, Heather. They have since embarked on an amazing journey of travel as they challenge others to follow in their paths of working full-time but also being able to travel frequently! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Chris at [email protected]


    • You are from a really great city! Even though we only had about 8 hours to experience the ‘main attractions’ as you can see from the post, we really fell in love with this city. The history, culture and attractions were amazing.

      For sure we are looking forward to returning and heading ‘off the beaten path’ so to speak so that we can explore those hidden gems of places. Where would you recommend heading to when we return?

  1. Such a great city guide! It’s great reading the long winded complete city guides but refreshing to read a quick one day guide to run around the city like a maniac and see everything that is important!

    • Cheers for the kind comments Jeff!! You know we get a lot of feedback that either criticizes our ‘mad dash’ approach or suggestions that we should spend more time in a location, and in an ideal world that would be the case, but it is nice to be able to spend a few hours and see so many great attractions in a city.

      I find that sometimes those travel guides, no disrespect at all meant to the likes of Lonely Planet etc, are very difficult to identify the ‘key attractions’ so we feel that something like this post would be really beneficial to someone who has time constraints like we had!!

      Thanks again Jeff!

  2. Wow you really packed it in I lived in Sydney for a few years and didn’t see some pf those things 🙂 which is often the way when you live somewhere.


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