I'll start by saying: don't spend just 24 hours in Sydney. It's such a big, interesting and beautiful urban center with different neighborhoods that hug the Central Business District from all sides - each with their own personality and points of interest. But sometimes, 24 hours is just what you get - and with my plane having landed around 8 in the morning, and a flight heading to the Northern Territory at 9:30 a.m. the next day, I had to do what I could with the time that I had. And with the help of my amazing Sydney-based client and his recommendations, I think I did a pretty good job if I don't say so myself.
So if you've got 24 hours, and want to see the highlights, here's how to do it:
9:00 a.m. - Grab a taxi into the city from the airport and check in early to your hotel room in the Central Business District. There are tons of hotels downtown at varying price points - you're sure to find a hotel that's a fit. I personally stayed at the Castlereagh Boutique Hotel, and where it was lacking in room decor it made up for in location convenience. I was right around the corner from The Strand Arcade and the Mid City Shopping Centre, which is an ideal place to shop, eat, and people watch.
10:30 a.m. - Head into your office to take a call with your clients. (Okay, only do this if you're on business and this is required of you). Otherwise, you should probably find a local coffee shop because the coffee in Australia is no joke.
11:30 a.m. - Grab an early lunch at Romolo in The Strand Arcade. You'll sit in the middle of the historic Arcade while you're served bunch and lunch favorites with an Italian/Australian twist.
12:15 p.m. - Grab a city map and make your way to Circular Quay. The main ferry docks for the city are sandwiched on the left by the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and on the right by the impressive Opera House. Even someone who tends to marvel more in mountains than man-made creations can appreciate the presence of the Sydney Opera House. Walk around the harbor for different views of these icons - and then just take a second to sit and appreciate the fact that you're in their presence.
1:30 p.m. - Try your hand at public transportation and take a ferry to Milson's Point for stunning views of the harbor. You can buy an Opal card (a metro pass of sorts) and load it with as much money as you'll need to get around for the day. Tap to get on the ferry, then enjoy the view as you drift away.
2:30 p.m. - Arrive back at Circular Quay. Use your Opal card to transfer to bus 333 towards Bondi Beach. Grab a seat, put your phone down and look out the window. This route takes you through neighborhoods like Darlinghurst, Paddington and Bondi Junction before you begin to feel the vibe of a small beach town in the surf shops and acai smoothie cafes that dot the streets. Before long you'll see the ocean - and you've arrived.
3:15 p.m. - If you're at all familiar with Bondi Icebergs, you might get the same spidey-sense that I did when I hopped off the bus. I just had a feeling it might be down this little road, switching back off the main drag through Bondi. The crowds of people walking to and from may have given it away, but I came around a curve and saw it - the turquoise pool jutting out into the Pacific, differentiating itself only by slight elevation and visible swimming lanes. I'd highly recommend taking a dip if you have the time, but alas...24 hours is not much time to see an entire city!
3:30 p.m. - Continue on past Bondi Icebergs to the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk. This combination nature pathway and boardwalk will take you by gorgeous cliffside views and right up on living saltwater tide pools. Get up close and personal with sea snails, anenomes, and maybe even a starfish or two.
4:15 p.m. - Walk downtown Bondi Beach, taking in the Aussie beach town feel. Grab a smoothie at one of the beachside cafes and take in the street art and ocean air. Then stop into a convenience store to buy an overpriced power adapter because you totally forgot yours and you just realized it.
5:00 p.m. - Hop the bus back towards Circular Quay. You could probably grab a transfer somewhere that would get you closer to your hotel, but let's be honest - you're not really sure where you're going so let's just stick to what you know and you can walk back from Circular Quay, right? Right.
6:00 p.m. - Arrive back at your hotel room to freshen up for dinner. Answer work emails. Or don't.
7:30 p.m. - Meet your friend for dinner back at Circular Quay. No friend? DIY! There's no shame in eating solo; just pretend you're a food critic. Grab pizza and a few beers at Opera Bar, where you can watch the sun go down over the harbor. Appreciate the changing hues over the harbor bridge as the lights come up on the Opera House arches.
9:30 p.m. - Succumb to your body's need for sleep and head back to your hotel. Climb under the covers content that you've seen a good part of the city in such a short amount of time. Pat yourself on the back; promise yourself you'll be back to see more sometime.