I’ve been looking forward to this interview with Jennifer McDermott of Finder. Australia is one of the most desirable destinations for Americans. Anna and I have been fortunate enough to visit Sydney twice, and we would love to be able to go back again. Born and raised in the city, Jennifer knows all of the tastiest places to eat and the best things to do in Sydney.
Sydney is one of the most popular destinations in Australia. It has notable landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge that are instantly recognizable. With a population over 5 million, it is the largest city in Australia and Oceania.
When planning your visit to Sydney, remember that it is in the Southern Hemisphere, so the seasons are reversed compared to the United States. Our summer is their winter, and vice versa. It is not uncommon to see Santa wearing board shorts and flip-flops while holding a surfboard.
Because the beaches are a popular tourist destination, Jennifer recommends visiting during the summer or fall (December through April). Summer can be quite hot, but Sydney is located on the coast so the ocean breezes help to cool things down.
Some people say that Sydney is expensive, but the average “Sydneysider” (Sydney local) has a higher average salary than we’re used to in the US. You can always find great deals. Chat up a local and they’ll be more than happy to point you to some great suggestions.
We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Destination New South Wales, the local convention and visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests.
Best things to do in Sydney
Here are some of the best things to do in Sydney according to our local expert, Jennifer McDermott. And I’ve added some additional options based on my research and places I’ve visited.
- Bondi Beach (reviews) – one of the most popular beaches in Sydney. Anna and I took a bus from Sydney to Bondi. Affordable, quick, and pleasant.
- Circular Quay (reviews) – a popular tourist area that you can walk around and enjoy the shops. To make sure you don’t sound like a tourist, Quay is pronounced “key.”
- Featherdale Wildlife Park (reviews) – a zoo without walls. When you walk inside, you’ll almost instantly be greeted by a wallaby or two hopping about. This was Anna and my favorite thing to do in Sydney.
- Queen Victoria Building (reviews) – built in 1898 as a monument to the monarch and has been beautifully preserved and transformed into a shopping hub.
- Sydney Airport (reviews) – if you have US Global Entry, you will have expedited entry into Australia. Make sure that you apply for your entry Visa before heading to your departure airport. You need one before flying to Australia.
- Sydney Cricket Ground (reviews) – catch a cricket or rugby match here if you can. Anna and I saw the Australian national team in a rugby match against the New Zealand All Blacks. So much fun.
- Sydney Harbour Bridge (reviews) – take the tour of this iconic bridge for some of the best views of the city. It can be expensive, but the uniqueness of the experience is totally worth it.
- Sydney Opera House (reviews) – an iconic building in Sydney, right on the water’s edge. A beautiful building. It is worth going through the tour.
Coastal walks are second to none. The Bondi to Bronti walk is very popular with locals. Walk along the cliffsides past lesser-known bays and rock pools.
Every year the Sculptures by the Sea happens from October to early November. It is a free outdoor art installation that you shouldn’t miss.
Looking for other things to do? Here are the top 10 sightseeing tickets and packages for Sydney.
Or, you can buy one of the Lonely Planet books, which are another excellent resource. Their current promo offers 3 books for the price of two.
Best places to eat in Sydney
When you’re in Sydney, there are so many excellent places to eat. While Jennifer lives in New York City, the beautiful fresh produce and seasonally-based menus are what she misses most from Sydney.
She says that nobody does breakfast better than Sydney. Fresh, light, and delicious. Here are the best places to eat in Sydney.
- bills (reviews) – Jennifer’s favorite place for breakfast. Grab some eggs and avocado toast.
- Buffalo Dining Club (reviews) – cheese and pasta lovers will enjoy this tiny restaurant off Victoria St in Darlinghurst. There are no reservations and it’s a long wait. But they have amazing cacio e pepe pasta served with shredded cheese straight from a pecorino cheese wheel.
- glass brasserie (reviews) – inside the Hilton Sydney. It has a fantastic chef’s table.
- Hemingway’s Manly (reviews) – overlooking the ocean, this popular restaurant has created a menu that combines Manly seaside favorites with traditional French cuisine.
- Icebergs Dining Room and Bar (reviews) – a popular bar overlooking Bondi Beach. The top floor is a private club, but you can stop in for a drink and a quick meal. Guests have access to a pool that gets splashed by the crashing waves below.<
- Longrain Restaurant (reviews) – being so close to South East Asia, there is amazing Thai food here.
- Manly Wharf Hotel (reviews) – a fun bar and restaurant right on the wharf with perfect views of the water.
- Spice Temple (reviews) – being so close to South East Asia, another wonderful place for Thai food.
- The Australian Heritage Hotel (reviews) – Anna and I ate here. Fun atmosphere and unique pizzas. Anna enjoyed the saltwater crocodile pizza. Plenty of good beers on tap.
- The Bucket List (reviews) – a fun bar in the middle of Bondi Beach. Grab a drink and watch surfers ride the waves.
- Via Napoli Pizzeria (reviews) – incredible pizza. It is baked in a wood-fired, domed oven on hand-kneaded dough rolled by hand.
Jennifer says that “Sydneysiders” don’t use Yelp when searching for or reviewing restaurants. They prefer to use Zomato instead.
Best places to stay in Sydney
When traveling “down under”, here are the best places to stay in Sydney.
- Best Western Plus Hotel Stellar (reviews) – this Best Western category 4 hotel is 20,000 points per night.
- Hilton Sydney (reviews) – right in the middle of the CBD. Has a superb restaurant (Glass Brasserie) and is next door to the historic Queen Victoria Building. This Hilton Honors category 8 hotel is 40,000 to 70,000 points per night.
- Intercontinental Sydney (reviews) – walking distance to the Sydney Opera House and the ferry terminal. This IHG Rewards category 9 hotel is 50,000 points per night.
- Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay (reviews) – Jennifer says you’ll find a more local experience at this hotel. It has a fantastic location right on the water and a spectacular rooftop with views of the Circular Quay. This IHG Rewards category 9 hotel is 50,000 points per night.
- Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour (reviews) – Jennifer’s favorite hotel in Sydney. It’s a former wool store that has great wine with stellar service.
- Park Hyatt Sydney (reviews) – Anna and I stayed here for a couple of nights. It is one of the best redemptions of World of Hyatt points we have ever done. This hotel can go for as much as $1,000 per night. This World of Hyatt category 7 property is 30,000 points per night.
- Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney (reviews) – Anna and I stayed at this Radisson Blu hotel and loved it. We received an upgraded room and a bottle of champagne as a welcome gift for celebrating our anniversary with them. This Radisson Rewards category 7 hotel is 70,000 points per night.
- The Old Clare Hotel (reviews) – a relatively recent refurbishment of one of the city’s favorite old pubs into a boutique hotel. Enjoy the fabulous rooftop bar and pool. A stone’s throw from Newton, an eclectic, Bohemian part of Sydney. This Marriott Rewards category 5 hotel is 30,000 to 40,000 points per night.
Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel (reviews) – the perfect destination for those in pursuit of sun, fresh seafood platters, seasonal fare, and icy cold refreshments, overlooking Sydney’s spectacular harbor.
Jennifer says that the Sydney CBD (central business district) is busy during the week but quiet on weekends. Trying areas like Surry Hills, Paddington, and Pyrmont that are close to the city and harbour, but are more active on the weekends.
AirBnB is also a great option. Use our referral link to get $40 off your first AirBnB stay.
If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.
Getting around Sydney
The local airport is Sydney International Airport, which is less than 10 miles to downtown. A train ticket on the AirportLink from the airport to the city center is $14.30 for an adult and $12.80 for a child (ages 4 to 16). Under 4 years old is free.
When traveling to Australia, you do need a tourist visa. If you’re traveling from the United States, there is no charge for the visa, but if you apply online, there is a $20 charge.
Jennifer says that, if you’re staying within the city, there’s no need to rent a car. There is a comprehensive public transportation network. Get an Opal Card to gain access to the buses, trains, and ferries.
She recommends using the ferries as much as possible. It’s unique to Sydney, affordable, and offers great views of the harbour.
If you only need a car for a couple of hours, you can rent by the hour with Zipcar. Join now to get $25 loaded into your account.
The Final Countdown
1) If a traveler could only have one meal in Sydney – hands down, Jennifer says that you must head to Buffalo Dining Club (reviews) for the caccio e pepe. They plate the meal at your table in a giant cheese wheel. As they stir the pasta, crumbles of cheese melt into your dish making it even more incredibly delicious.
2) Favorite memory of Sydney – New Year’s Eve is one of Jennifer’s favorite times of the year in Sydney. The weather is warm and the days are long. Go to Kirribilli for the best fireworks.
For countries aligned with the British Monarchy, few things are better than seeing the Queen. One afternoon, while Jennifer was going walking down the street, the Queen was driving past. It was only Jennifer and a jogger and, as the Queen rode past, the Queen looked at Jennifer and waved.
3) Happiest Happy Hour in Sydney – happy hour is known as “sundowners” in Australia. For the best happy hour, get out of the city and head to the beach. Grab a drink at The Bucket List (reviews) at Bondi Beach or take the ferry to Manly Wharf Hotel to watch the sunset.
4) Best place for pepperoni pizza in Sydney – Jennifer says that you cannot beat the pizza at Via Napoli Pizzeria (reviews). It started out as a small pizza joint. As they became more popular, they bought out their neighbors and now they have the entire block. They’ve since opened new locations.
Places we talked about on the podcast
Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Jennifer McDermott about Sydney, Australia. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.
- Red dots = best places to eat in Sydney, Australia
- Green dots = best things to do in Sydney, Australia
- Yellow dots = best places to stay in Sydney, Australia
Who is Jennifer McDermott?
Jennifer McDermott is the Head of Communications & Consumer Advocate for Finder.com. She keeps her finger on the pulse of personal finance and trends that affect consumers. Jennifer is passionate about empowering consumers to make better decisions about their money.
Here is a sample of the articles you can read on Finder.com:
- Travel insurance for Cuba
- How to refinance student loans without a degree
- The best financial podcasts for Americans
As you can tell, Finder offers some valuable personal finances resources for anyone that is self-employed or working in the creative arts.
Big thanks to our affiliate partner – Nectar Sleep
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Stay tuned for our next episode
Listen to the next episode when Anne Slater-Brooks of Travel The Globe 4 Less takes us to the home of modern-day futball (aka soccer) in Sheffield, England. We hope you’ll join us when We Travel There.
What’s your favorite part of Sydney? Let us know in the comment section below or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!
To learn more about cities within Australia, please listen to our other episodes:
- Sydney Opera House, The Rocks & Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia
- Fringe Festival, Rottnest Island & Kings Park in Perth, Australia
- Best Things to Do in Melbourne, Australia with Abby Lewtas
- Swimming the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia with Tyson Franklin
- Australia Zoo, Coastal Islands & Adventure World in Brisbane, Australia
- Tarra Bulga, Walhalla Gold Town & Morwell River Falls in Latrobe Valley, Australia