Your 7 day guide to Sydney and Melbourne, Australia.
Traveling to Australia had been a bucket list trip and dream of mine for many years. I had always been attracted to what I had seen in photos of Bondi Beach, Sydney Harbor and the Great Ocean Road. Last June, I came across a flight deal to Sydney, Australia that made my dreams come true. I started planning immediately and came up with an itinerary that gave me a taste of many things that the Continent had to offer.
We stayed in a chain hotel, Airbnb and a Bed and Breakfast. We rented a car, hiked several mountains and went on a bush walk. We drank fine wine, relaxed at a spa and visited too many beaches to count. I’m giving my recommendations of where to stay, what to eat and things to do with just one week in Australia. You honestly need at least a month there to explore. This itinerary will give you just enough to be satisfied and want to come back for more.
We had an 11 hour layover at LAX, so I will give you the details of that in a separate blog post.
Day 1: Arrival
You will likely have an overnight flight that will arrive into Sydney during mid morning. It is important to stay awake and get adjusted to the time change since Australia is 15 hours ahead of Eastern time. Your hotel may not be ready for you to check in, but they will let you store your luggage and freshen up.
Transportation: The train will take you from the Sydney airport, right into Circular Quay (the Sydney harbor and the Rocks) for $15 one way. This is the fastest and cheapest way to get into the city, especially if you are traveling solo.
Where to stay: The Holiday Inn Old Sydney is about 500 feet from the base of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the Circular Quay train station. It gives you the comforts of a chain hotel, has a nice full service restaurant and a rooftop pool and hot tub with amazing views of the Harbor.
Where to eat: The Spice Alley is an Asian Food Hall in the Chippendale/ Haymarket area of Sydney. You will need an Uber to get there, but it will be worth it. We went for dinner one night and lunch the next day. There is a cute mall on the next block that has an Asian cosmetic store called “Blush Cosmetics”. I got the best hydration sheet masks from there for about $.50 and I wish that I had gotten more!
What to do: Use this day to explore the Sydney harbor and get your photos of the bridge and opera house in. If you have time, you can take the train to the Featherdale Sanctuary and get your picture taken with the Koalas.
Day 2: Hike the Blue Mountains. This will be an all day activity and a bbq lunch. A chance to try Kangaroo at the bbq is included. I highly recommend that you do the hike with Coast Warriors. Abe and Nate were excellent tour guides and they grew up in the area. They are very knowledgeable about the Blue Mountains and make the day really fun. They took us to see kangaroos before the hike and provided pillows in each seat for the ride back into town.
What to do: The Sydney Bridge Climb. This climb is iconic and should be on your list of what to do when visiting Australia. You can do a half bridge climb that will take you a couple of hours, or the full climb that can take up to four hours to complete.
What to eat: We had plans to eat at the Sydney Tower buffet and enjoy the view, but we ended up back at Spice Alley.
We had a 9pm flight to Melbourne, Australia that night so that we could start fresh in a new city the next day.
Day 4: Melbourne, Australia
Transportation: We got brave and rented a car to get around since there were so many things outside of the city that we wanted to do. We also arrived late, so public transportation was limited and Uber’s/ Taxis are expensive to the airport here.
Where to stay: We stayed at the Carlson View Serviced Apartments. It was an Airbnb type situation that worked out very well. It was also my first experience with staying in someone else’s home, but the whole apartment building was dedicated to “hotel rentals” and the process was simple and professional. My only complaint is that the car park was two blocks behind the apartment building, and we didn’t feel safe walking to and from the apartment when it was dark. There was an all male hostel and bars on the side streets where guys just hung out at all hours. We were ok and never approached, but it was a bit intimidating for two female travelers.
What to do: The first morning, we woke up very early and drove to Hosier Lane to check out the street art. After that, we drove to Brighton Beach to take photos at the bathing boxes. After that, we drove down to the Mornington Peninsula to the winery and hot springs. They are close to each other, but about a 90 minute drive from Melbourne.
After we had lunch at the winery (info below) we spent the rest of our afternoon at the Peninsula Hot Springs. We had four hours of relaxation and spa treatments for $36 usd. I still can’t get over this one and can’t wait to go back!
What to eat: Montalto Olive Grove and Winery. Montalto Restaurant is the highlight of any visit to Montalto estate. They have been awarded 14 Chef’s hats since opening in 2002, and offer a warm and relaxing dining experience with seasonal local and estate-grown produce, cooked on their wood fire grill.
Where to shop: Queen Victoria Night Market. Also known as ‘Vic Market’ or ‘Queen Vic’, the Queen Victoria Market has been in Melbourne for more than a century. A historic landmark spread over two city blocks, it’s a vibrant and bustling inner-city Market where you can shop for everything from Australian fruit and vegetables, and local and imported gourmet foods, to cosmetics, clothing and souvenirs. The Night Market runs seasonally over Summer and Winter, Wednesdays from 5pm.
Day 5: Great Ocean Road. We took a small group tour of the Great Ocean Road with Go West Tours and our guide Damon was very knowledgeable and accommodating. We saw Koalas, did a bush walk, visited several beaches and saw the infamous Twelve Apostles and Gibson’s steps. One tip that I would give you is to skip the pre paid lunch at Apollo Bay and head to the main road to eat at a better restaurant and spend some time shopping for souvenirs. The bus has WiFi and it is a 3 hour ride back to Melbourne, so bring a jacket or blanket, small pillow, headphones and entertainment. This is an all day tour and you will get back to the city around 9:30 pm.
Day 6: We had a 7am flight back to Sydney so that we could have a full day at the beach. We landed at 8am and took an Uber to Coogee Beach.
Where to stay: We stayed at a cute Bed and Breakfast called the Dive Hotel. The staff knew that we were coming early, so they had a place for us to store our luggage and had breakfast ready. By the time we freshened up, had breakfast and nailed down our plans for the day, our room was ready. They made it a priority for us.
What to do: at this point, we are exhausted and I’m tired from dragging a bunch of luggage around. Of course, I overpacked. There was a shipping post right behind the hotel and I was able to send half of my things home, cheaper than the cost of checking a second bag. We napped for a couple of hours, then got out and did half of the coastal walk from Coogee Beach to Maroubra Beach where the natural infinity pools are. Along the way, we passed McIvers Baths for women and children. It is the oldest Aboriginal birthing pool in the area and it is still open and operating. You can go in for $2.
What to eat: Coogee has so many great places to eat, but we started with lunch at “a Fish called Coogee”. It’s like a fresh fish market where you pick out the fresh seafood that you want and they cook it to order. I had the Barramundi fish (an Aboriginal favorite) and it was so good! By the time we finished our walk that night, we settled for pizza at dominos, but wait!! This dominos had a menu full of vegan pizza options with vegan cheese that was actually good.
There are also several fresh markets where you can get salads, cold press juices and desserts to take back to your hotel room.
Day 7: The Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk. A cliff top coastal walk, the Bondi to Coogee walk extends for six km in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. The Bondi to Coogee walk features stunning views, beaches, parks, cliffs, bays and rock pools. The beaches and parks offer a place to rest, swim or a chance to eat at one of the cafes, hotels, restaurants or takeaways. Most beaches offer picnic shelters, play areas, kiosks, toilets and change-rooms, Tamarama, Bronte, Coogee and Maroubra have free electric barbecues. The Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is a medium grade urban walk but there are some steep gradient paths and several staircases along the track. There are rest stops with great views and seating along the Bondi to Coogee walk. It takes about two hours to complete the Bondi to Coogee Beach section of the walk and another hour and a half if you choose to continue to Maroubra. Although an urban walk the Bondi to Coogee walk is open to the elements, please make sure you wear comfy shoes, bring a hat, sunglasses, sun screen, water and in colder weather wear appropriate clothing.
What to do: Bondi Beach Icebergs Club. The famous Bondi Baths have been an historical landmark of Bondi Beach for over 100 years and are open to the public all year round. Featuring both a larger lap pool and smaller kid’s pool, qualified lifeguards are on patrol during opening hours all year round.
Wheelchair access is also available from street level down to the pool upon prior arrangement.
What to eat: The Bucket list. The Bucket List is the ultimate casual chic beachside venue where guests can wine and dine mere metres from Bondi Beach.
Day 8: The return home.
We had a good brunch at the Coogee Cafe. On Sunday’s each cafe and restaurant gives a 10% surcharge for brunch, since places are really crowded. It is also not customary to tip on service in Australia. Don’t feel bad, the bartenders make $28 per hour as their minimum wage. If you have time on a Sunday in Bondi Beach, visit the Bondi Markets for handmade crafts and clothing.
My trip to Sydney was amazing, everything that I hoped it would be, plus more. I never had a bad meal, the people were nice for the most part and the weather was good. I can’t wait to go back and explore more cities along the Gold Coast and inland where the Aboriginals are.
I hope that this helps you plan your stay on one of the most beautiful Continents in the world