Inspiration Destinations Australia Circular Quay to The Rocks: 48 Hours in Sydney   

Circular Quay to The Rocks: 48 Hours in Sydney   

An aerial shot of the Sydney Habour, one of the top things to do in Sydney - Luxury Escapes

See the city through the eyes of a tourist with this staycation how-to.  

From the city to the surf, Sydney’s got it all. Arguably Australia’s most beautiful city, the CBD is abundant with rich experiences for everyone from history buffs and creative types to foodies and music lovers.  

Climb the iconic bridge, sail through the harbour, and wander through the vibrant markets at The Rocks. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Sydney’s CBD and feel like a traveller in your own city. 

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Afternoon: harbour thrills 

Once you’re all checked in to your accommodation, perhaps The Star Grand Hotel for harbourside luxury, or the eternally elegant Capella Sydney, set the tone of your Sydney staycation with a stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens. Stop to snap a photo at the Harbour View Lawn before cutting through the gardens to Circular Quay. Here, jump aboard a private Sydney Harbour Sightseeing Cruise for a leisurely afternoon, or up the action with a full-throttle jet boating adventure around the harbour on a 30-Minute Shark Attack Thrill Jet Boat Ride. The latter comes complete with commentary about the city’s history and famous landmarks. Once you’re back on dry land, watch the sunset over the harbour with a Sydney Sling at the always-buzzing Opera Bar. If you can’t score a seat, try the moody Sicilian vibes of Apollonia cocktail bar, or San Sebastian-inspired pintxos and Spanish red at Deux Frères

Night: sky-high dinner 

A table overlooking the Sydney Harbour full of plates at Shangri-La Sydney's Altitude restaurant, one of the best places to eat when in Sydney - Luxury Escapes
Altitude, Shangri-La Sydney.

Wander over to the other side of the Quay for a dining experience with a view, at the aptly named Altitude. Located in the Shangri-La Sydney, an unforgettable multi-course experience awaits, led by executive sous Chef Michele Menegazzi and his team. Taste your way through a three- to five-course menu, with plates like pink snapper sashimi to apricot Sacher torte – all enjoyed as the lights of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay dance over the water.  


Morning: make a caffeinated start 

The first port of call – coffee. Source your AM caffeine hit from the roast enthusiasts at Regiment. Each step of the coffee-making process incorporates impressive gadgets, including a pair of Übermilks, pouring out pre-steamed milk. Choose your brew from Five Senses blends, rotating single origin blends and Mörk hot chocolate, and round out your morning sustenance with a pick from the menu of moreish bagels and organic crumpets smothered in toppings.  

Afternoon: adventure, on The Rocks 

An ariel shot of The Rocks suburb in Sydney, one of the best things to do in Sydney - Luxury Escapes
The Rocks, Sydney.

Make your way to the vibrant The Rocks precinct, home to the buzzing eponymous market held every weekend. Stretching along George and Playfair Streets, the markets promise artisanal goods, handmade clothing and fresh local produce. Snack on woodfired pizzas or buttery Portuguese tarts, grab a complimentary picnic rug and rest your legs (and wallet) under the shade of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  

If you’ve never had the chance, your city staycation is the perfect opportunity to take on a BridgeClimb Sydney. You’ll see the city from a new point of view (usually reserved for the birds) while your guide fills you in on some of the quirkiest parts of the bridge’s history. Alternatively, stay closer to sea level with an enlightening Aboriginal Dreaming walking tour. You’ll learn about the world’s oldest surviving culture and their connection to the land as you walk through the storied precinct.  

Night: dinner and a show  

Make your way to Restaurant Hubert - where reservations are strongly recommended - as the sun starts to set, ready to enjoy Sydney’s take on elegant French cuisine and live jazz. Oysters mignonette, beef tartare and chicken fricassee are devoured alongside classic French wine varietals as diners cosy up in red leather booths under dim lights. If time permits, snag last-minute tickets for a theatre show at Capitol Theatre, or seek out live music at Mary’s Underground or Oxford Art Factory

Finish with a nightcap at Cantina OK! number 41 on The World’s 50 Best Bars list and Sydney’s mezcal mecca. Hidden down an inner-city laneway, this bar always feels like an exclusive – yet welcoming – cool-kid party. Friendly bartenders walk tequila lovers through the seasonal cocktail menu spanning from classic mezcal margaritas to the likes of shaved corn ice and sawtooth jelly concoctions as you stand shoulder to shoulder to shoulder with other good-time seekers. 


Morning: slow Sunday sojourn   

A sustaining breakfast on a Sunday is always a must – so for your Sydney staycay, start with a carb forward option from A.P Bakery. Dig into the likes of a buttery croissant or rich curry infused bacon sandwich on your way to grab your morning latte from Mecca Coffee in the city – one of the city’s most popular caffeine dealers.  

Find yourself once again along George Street and spend some time browsing the historic Queen Victoria Building, Strand Arcade and Pitt Street Mall. 

Afternoon: get the creative juices flowing 

For the last stop on your Sydney-side adventure, wander through the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ exhibitions and collections, from interactive installations to Indigenous art. Finish with a visit to the Australian Museum to make a stop at the Ramses & the Gold of the Pharaohs Exhibit to see ancient Egyptian relics up close. 

Get more with every booking at Luxury Escapes

After more Sydney inspiration? Here’s Sydney’s Top 10 Best Restaurants.  

About Ruby Staley
From exploring the world to kicking back with a good book, Ruby loves doing it solo. A passionate Euro enthusiast, catch her dreaming about Amsterdam or slurping down pasta a la vodka in moments between scribbling down her thoughts.

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