Sydney Harbour 1 Day Walking Itinerary

by | Last updated Jul 19, 2023 | New South Wales, Sydney | 36 comments

Sightseeing Sydney Harbour is a must on every visit to Sydney


Sydney is one of my favourite places in the world, after all, I was born and grew up there. And I know when I sightsee Sydney Harbour it has so much to offer. Apart from my family and friends, Sydney is a vibrant city with world-class beaches and some iconic sights. You know the ones I mean, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and of course, the Harbour. Every day people from overseas and locals head to Sydney Harbour to explore. Here is my Sightseeing Sydney Harbour 1 Day Walking Itinerary to help you make the most of your time in this beautiful city.


Sightseeing Sydney Harbour


Getting around Sydney is easy as there is plenty of local transport including buses, trains and ferries. Get yourself an Opal Card and get going. If your stay in Sydney is limited by time to just one day, and you don’t want to do this walking tour to see the iconic spots of Sydney, consider doing the hop-on hop-off bus tour of Sydney. It will take you to the major sights and allow you to hop-on and off at places you want to stay longer at.

>>>Book your BigBus ticket here.


Tips for Enjoying the Sydney Harbour Walk


All along the route, you will get great views of Sydney’s three iconic places – the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour. If you are visiting Sydney on a quick trip, this walk lets you tick off the best sites from any must see Sydney bucket list. Along the walk are plenty of cafes, restaurants, picnic spots and bars to pop into if you get hungry or just need to sit down while enjoying a hot coffee or cold drink.


TIP: Ensure you have a good pair of walking shoes on today. You will be doing a lot of walking today. Also wear a hat and sunscreen if the day is hot and sunny as you will be by the water. A bottle of water would also come in handy to rehydrate along the way. As there is the possibility to picnic in the Royal Botanic Gardens you could bring some snacks or a packed lunch to enjoy. But there are plenty of eateries you could grab a meal in.


What You Will See Along the Route


This walk takes in many of the city’s biggest sites around Farm Cove. The walk is relatively flat and paved. There are a few stairs, particularly in The Rocks area. The distance you will walk will depend if you deviate from my suggested route, but expect anywhere up to around 10km. The time to undertake the walk can also vary. It depends on what interests you and how long you spend in each area. Check out my map following of where the places are and how long you could spend in them, keeping in mind you only have this one day to explore Sydney.


  • The Rocks – 1 to 2 hours.
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge – the climb can take up to 3 hours.
  • Circular Quay – a walk along the wharfs 10 to 30 mins.
  • Sydney Opera House – walk around it and go inside maybe 30 mins to 1 hour. A tour can take 1.5 hours.
  • Royal Botanic Gardens – a walk along the water perimeter – 20 mins. If you deviate into the gardens on one of the walking paths or stop for a picnic around 1 hour.
  • Mrs Macquarie’s Chair – a sit down of 5 to 10 minutes should suffice.
  • A plethora of coffee shops, restaurants like some of the best Indian restaurants in Sydney, bars and retail stores.


Sydney Harbour 1 Day Walking Itinerary Map


This map is reproduced from my travel guide Live Work and Play in Australia.


So this is the route we will be following today. Starting in The Rocks and ending at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. You can follow my Sydney Harbour Walk route in either direction. This route will provide plenty of photo shots and help you experience Sydney Harbour.


1st Stop – Sydney Harbour Bridge


First stop on your 1 day walking itinerary around Sydney Harbour is the Sydney Harbour Bridge or ‘The Coat Hanger’ as it is affectionately known. You can walk underneath the bridge and see the massive pylons that hold it up. Look up and listen to the noises of the traffic and trains crossing it. You might feel inclined to walk across the bridge to North Sydney. Don’t be alarmed if you can feel it vibrate as you walk. If you aren’t feeling energetic take a train across The Bridge. It offers spectacular views of the city from a different angle.

Or you might want to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. When you climb to the summit 134 metres (440 feet) above sea level you will be treated to spectacular views over Sydney. You can choose to climb at dawn, during the day or at night. See Sydney’s changing faces as it progresses through the day as it wakes up, comes alive and then goes to sleep. The climb to the top can take around 3 hours. If you don’t want to climb to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge you can go up half way.

>>>>>Purchase your ticket to climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge here.

>>>>>Purchase your ticket for the half climb tour here.


The Rocks


Discover Old Sandstone Buildings in The Rocks Sydney Harbour on a Walking Tour.

Discover the old buildings in The Rocks


From the Sydney Harbour Bridge you can walk past the International Cruise Line Terminal and into The Rocks area. Here you will walk along cobblestone laneways and discover the history of British settlers and convicts who arrived here in the late 1700s. Learn about the British settlers and the beginnings of colonialisation of Australia. See many of the original sandstone buildings built in the 17 and 1800s including Cadmans Cottage at 110 George Street, a sandstone cottage which served as a sailor’s home at one stage. Or perhaps visit Sydney’s oldest pub – The Fortune of War dating from 1828. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants to enjoy, however, there are plenty more on this walking route.


Circular Quay


Sydney Harbour wharfs at Circular Quay with ferries, ocean liner and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Plenty of ferries, boats and ocean liners at Circular Quay


Sydney is built on and around a harbour. Plenty of boats travel on the harbour with the hub being Circular Quay. It has the train station, bus stops and ferry terminal all bringing people to the harbour. If you arrived by train at Circular Quay Train Station take some time to check out the view from the platform – it is one of the best views of Sydney you will see.


Circular Quay is a Transport Hub


Circular Quay is often buzzing with people. Tourists coming to see the sights of Sydney Harbour. Workers eating their lunch (I use to be one of them). People coming to eat in the cafes and restaurants. The noises of the boats on the harbour and the buskers outside on the wharfs. As this walking itinerary around Sydney Harbour to see the iconic spots is tight, we are moving onto the Sydney Opera House. You could go on a ferry ride of the harbour as you get a different perspective of Sydney from the water. The most popular ferry route is to Manly taking around 30 minutes each way. You can purchase a ticket for a ferry at the ferry wharf. Sydney Opera House is an easy walk from Circular Quay, you can see it, and is the next stop on my 1 Day Walking Itinerary around Sydney Harbour.


Sydney Opera House


Up close to the Sydney Opera House. See the tiles.

Get up close and personal with the Sydney Opera House


The Sydney Opera House is a world-class venue and an iconic Australian landmark. It was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon and opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II. Distinguished by soaring sails of white ceramic tiles it is a World Heritage Site and a must-see while in Sydney. Well you can’t actually miss it because of its dominance in the area! You could try to catch a theatre show at the Opera House or just enjoy the complex with its restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and outdoor plaza areas. If you wish to take a tour of the theatres and halls inside budget around 1.5-2 hours to tour it.

>>>>>You can purchase your ticket for a tour of the Sydney Opera House here.

If you choose to walk around the Sydney Opera House, you will notice a castle-like building sitting in the middle of the harbour. This is Fort Denison, once used as a convict prison, but is now a tourist attraction with a restaurant. Continue walking and you will see gardens. This is The Royal Botanic Gardens and the next stop on your walk around Sydney Harbour.


The Royal Botanic Gardens


Leaving the Opera House walk along the foreshore of Farm Cove. This was the original farming ground of the first white settlers and is now the Royal Botanical Gardens. The gardens are set on 30 hectares and house a number of areas to enjoy. These include the Palace Rose Garden, Herb Garden and the Australian Native Rockery. Or perhaps visit The Calyx, a living art gallery in the gardens. Maybe you would prefer to just sit in the park and have a breather before continuing to the final spot on this 1 Day Walking Itinerary around Sydney Harbour – Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.


Mrs Macquarie’s Chair


Sydney Mrs Macquarie's Chair Has Views of Sydney Harbour.

Great views of Sydney Harbour from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair


Why would a chair be of interest on this walking tour of Sydney Harbour? Well. The first Governor of New South Wales was Major-General Lachlan Macquarie and his wife Elizabeth Macquarie loved to sit in a spot most evenings and overlook Farm Cove. She loved sitting in this spot so much a sandstone rock bench was carved for her by convicts in 1810. And here she would sit for hours. Now you too can sit on the bench and overlook Sydney and see one of the most iconic Sydney postcard views. The view though, I can only imagine, is very different to what it was in 1810!


Time for Evening Activities


So now you have completed your 1 Day Walking Itinerary around Sydney Harbour. You will have experienced a lot of what Sydney has to offer, particularly around The Harbour area. You may see it all in a day or maybe two. However long it takes it is well worth it. Now to find a nice restaurant for dinner and watch the sunset over my hometown. Great places to eat can be found along the Sydney Opera House Concourse. Sit outside, have some good food and a drink and enjoy the hustle and bustle of Sydney Harbour. Or hurry back to the Harbour Bridge for a sunset bridge climb!


Are You Ready To Take a Walk Around Sydney Harbour?


If you have walked around Sydney Harbour I’d love to hear what you thought. Or if you are planning a walk and have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section following.


Extend Your Stay in Sydney


If you can extend your stay in Sydney you can easily fill up your extra days with more things to see and do. Read my post 13 favourite things to see and do in Sydney for some inspiration.


2 Day Sydney Itinerary


If you have 2 days to spend in Sydney I suggest the following:

Day 1 – follow my 1 Day Walk Around Sydney Harbour itinerary

Day 2 – hop on a ferry to Manly and experience Sydney from the water. The ferry takes 30 minutes to reach Manly where you can walk ‘The Corso’, the main shopping and eating area. Walk to Manly beach and sit on the sand or go in for a swim. Or catch a bus along Pittwater Road to Palm Beach where you can walk to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse.


3 Day Sydney Itinerary


If you have 3 days to spend in Sydney I suggest the following:

Days 1  and 2 – follow my 2 day Sydney itinerary. 

Day 3 – catch a train to the Blue Mountains and visit the Three Sisters at Echo Point.


Need Sydney Accommodation? – Where to Stay in Sydney


Even though this itinerary is for 24 hours in Sydney, you may need accommodation. Sydney has plenty of accommodation options available, many on or near and within easy reach of Sydney Harbour. As I am now based in Melbourne I need to find accommodation when I go to Sydney. I always book accommodation through booking sites as they are so easy to use. My go-to site is where I can compare accommodation available, check availability and book a bed in a hostel (or a family room if I am travelling with my family) or find a hotel room. If you are only in Sydney for a day the closer to Sydney Harbour the better.


Sydney Harbour 1 Day Walking Tour where you see the iconic Harbour Bridge, Opera House and The Rocks area.


  1. Emma

    I loved my time in Sydney. Would happily go back. Great recommendations of what to do there

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Glad you enjoyed Sydney. It is a spectacular place to visit.

  2. Rhea

    I’ve never been to Sydney but this definitely makes me want to visit! Looks absolutely amazing!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      I’m glad you want to visit Sydney – make sure you walk around Sydney Harbour.

  3. Caroline

    Great recommendations for getting a feel for Sydney 🙂

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Thank you. Walking around Sydney Harbour is a great way to get a feel for Sydney. Then you can move on to experiencing other things Sydney has to offer.

  4. Megan Elliott

    This is a great guide!! I visited Sydney a couple of years ago and hit most of these places. Beautiful city!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      It is an easy walking day itinerary to do, and you appreciate all Sydney has to offer around the Harbour.

  5. Pia

    Love Sydney, it’s one of my all-time favorite destinations and can’t wait to visit again. Thanks for sharing these insights!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      You are welcome. It is one of my favourite destinations also.

  6. kmf

    Loved this local’s one-day walking itinerary around the Sydney Harbour in Australia. Such a beautiful area!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      I use to sit down at the Harbour and eat my lunch every day when I worked in Sydney. Loved watching the ferries come and go. Sydney Harbour is such a beautiful place.

  7. Amanda

    Sydney is such a fun city to spend a day in! I did pretty much all of these things when I was there, and my biggest realization is that the Opera house is multiple buildings! I remember my mind being BLOWN learning that, haha. I think next time I’m in Sydney I’ll definitely want to go up on the bridge though!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      You should climb the Bridge – sunrise or sunset are very popular.

  8. Kat

    I had no idea there was so much to do around Sydney Harbour! Thanks so much for sharing this!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Walking around Sydney Harbour is the tip of the iceberg of what to see and do in Sydney. But the harbour area is the most popular because of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

  9. Cris

    This is fabulous! So great that there’s so much to do within walking distance of each other around Sydney Harbour.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      This is just around the Harbour area – there is plenty more to see and do in the rest of Sydney.

  10. Yanitza

    I really like how you included a variety of things to see in this itinerary and it also seems very easy to follow. The Botanical Gardens and Opera House sound like lovely places!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      There are many interesting things to see and do in Sydney so I tried to include as many as possible during the 1 day. My feet are tired just thinking about the walking! but it is the best way to get around this area of Sydney.

  11. gloria

    I have never been to Australia, but when I do go I want to definitely see Sydney. Thanks for sharing these useful tips

    • Sharyn McCullum

      I do you hope you get the chance to visit Australia -you will definitely love Sydney Harbour.

  12. Fiona Mai

    This article brings back lots of memories for me! I visited Sydney 2 years ago and also had a great time walking around the harbour, admiring the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. <3

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Sydney Harbour is the biggest attraction in Sydney. It is very mesmerising.

  13. Rhonda

    I love Sydney and have been there several times. The Rocks free tour is very interesting. The last time I was there, I went into the Museum of Contemporary Art and was pleasantly surprised.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      I’m glad you love Sydney and I hope you visit many more times.

  14. Kim

    I love walking around The Rocks area and along the waterfront. There is so much to see in Sydney Harbourside and it’s always improving.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      I agree, it is such a magical place to walk around.

  15. Ashton

    This is such a helpful guide! Wish we had this when we were there!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      I hope you can use it for your next trip to Sydney!

  16. Jenn Record

    You never hear about the botanic that addition.. and I did not realize you could get that close to the opera house that high up..what views!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      If you go on a tour of the Sydney Opera House you are taken to some very special places with fabulous views. I also went to a concert there in their big hall and boy, it was fabulous.

  17. Ashton

    I loved visiting Sydney! I wish I had this list when I was there!

  18. Kez

    I think the botanical gardens are really underrated, because everyone focuses on the bridge or the opera house. Sometimes, people don’t even realise the gardens are there.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      That is so true. I think it depends on the time you have available as the bridge and Opera House are usually the first things you want to see to any trip to Sydney. I love walking through the botanical gardens myself.


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About Me

Bells Beach Surfing Recreation Reserve Sign shaped like a big white wave with Sharyn McCullum On the Great Ocean Road.

G’Day! Sharyn here, an Aussie loving discovering Australia. Let me show you around so you can discover Australia too.  Read my story here.

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