Sydney is the largest city in Australia and a major cruise destination. With iconic sights like the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, you may want to stay a couple of extra days if this city is the start or end of your cruise.
Travellers to Australia (other than those from New Zealand) need to apply for either an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) or eVisitor for European visitors which is linked to your passport. http://www.eta.immi.gov.au/ or http://www.easyeta.com for discounted ETAs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Australia
Where You're Docked
There are two main cruise terminals in Sydney. Overseas Passenger Terminal is in Circular Quay beside the same named railway station and in the Central Business District (CBD). Aussies use the abbreviation CBD instead of downtown. White Bay Cruise Terminal opened in April 2013 replacing the wharves previously used in Darling Harbour which were pushed out by development. This new terminal has no public transit access or long-term parking. Shuttles may be provided to Central Railway station. Terminal information here. The navy pier east of the botanical gardens can also take cruise ships too big to fit under the bridge if the main terminals are occupied.
Money & Tipping
Sydney has excellent public transport networks with ferries, buses and suburban rail. The city is transitioning to a contactless smart card, Opal, for all transport networks. As of Jan 1 2016, paper tickets are limited to single one way trips or return trip on the train. The Opal card is free but requires a minimum $10 purchase for the card with $10 incremental top ups. Adult daily cap is $15 ($2.50 on Sundays) and weekly cap is $60. Cards are sold and can be topped up at the airport, many convenience stores, news agents and at train stations. Self-serve kiosks are limited in stations though the plan is to add more in 2016. Train fares have a 30% off-peak discount with Opal. Fares for both trains and buses are distance-based and you will need to tell the bus driver where you are getting off. Refunds on unused balances on Opal are only obtainable by mail.
The best way to get around the CBD is the free local bus 555 which does a return trip between Circular Quay and Central Station along George St. Operating hours are from 9:30am to 3:30pm on weekdays, 9pm on Thursday, and 6pm on weekends.
If venturing further out, you can take the CityRail suburban train network. Buying an off-peak return journey on a Cityrail ticket will be cheaper than two one way tickets. Tickets can be purchased from machines or staffed counters and credit cards are accepted. Fares are distance based with most fares around $4 (discounts for off-peak).
The touristy monorail that looped around the Darling Harbour area closed in June 2013 and has been dismantled.
Taking the bus is a bit more difficult if docked at White Bay since most buses are prepay so you either need an Opal card or a prepaid MyBus ticket. The nearest bus stop is approx one mile (20 min) away at Victoria Rd at the end of Robert St. Most buses heading east (destination Sydney) will terminate at Town Hall Station. The trip planner indicates the Opal fare is $3.50. http://www.transportnsw.info/
Update - In 2015, Captain Cook cruises started ferry services from White Bay to Circular Quay when ships are docked there. Price is $9 one way with service approx every 20 min. https://www.captaincook.com.au/sydney-harbour-cruises/ferries/white-bay-cruise-terminal-city-ferry/
City Explorer runs hop on, hop off bus tours. http://www.theaustralianexplorer.com.au/
Getting to/from the Airport
The Sydney International Airport (SYD) is not too far southwest from the CBD and your only choices for getting into the CBD are either the train or a taxi. The train station is privatized so the fares are very expensive for the distance traveled. The fare is $17 one way ($13 airport access fee plus $4 fare, Feb 2016). These are standard commuter trains with two levels so it may not be very convenient if travelling with large suitcases or during rush hour.
If you don't have a lot of luggage and don't mind a bit of a walk (around 1.6km or 1 mile), the nearest regular train station is Wolli Creek and the fare is only $4.20 (Feb 2016) and avoids the airport access fee. When crossing the river, make sure you cross on the right (north) side since there is a center barrier in the middle of the street on the other side. See google map below for walking route.
worldtaximeter.com indicates the fare from the airport to Circular Quay should be approximately $45.
Sydney Buses #400 (prepay) runs to Bondi Junction form both airport terminals.
Staying in the CBD is recommended and a short distance to either of the main cruise terminals. Search hotels in Sydney here
Must See Sights
Sydney Opera House - Just around the corner from Circular Quay and in the middle of Sydney Harbour is this magnificent building. Tours are offered inside though most people like to wander outside. There are good views from the neighbouring Royal Botanical Gardens. http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/
Sydney Harbour Bridge - For the adventurous, you can climb this massive bridge with Sydney's BridgeClimb though reservations are usually required (especially during peak season). Alternatively, you can enter the south pylon for a view (entrance is at bridge/street level on the east side).
Taronga Zoo - Though wildlife parks in smaller cities tend to offer better and closer encounters to Australian wildlife, the zoo is your best bet for city visitors. You can take the ferry from Circular Quay to this scenic zoo. http://taronga.org.au/taronga-zoo
Darling Harbour - this touristy area has many attractions (including museums and aquariums) and waterfront restaurants.
Shopping & Restaurants
George St is the main street in Sydney with plenty of shops, malls, restaurants and bars. The closest supermarkets to Circular Quay are Woolworth's at MetCentre on George St & Jamison and the smaller Coles Express inside Wynyard Station. A bit further away is a Coles Central at George and King with another location at World Square Center, George St and Liverpool. Woolworth's can also be found at George & Park St across from Town Hall. For souvenirs, head to Paddy's Market in Chinatown. Open 9am-5pm, closed Tuesdays. http://www.paddysmarkets.com.au/
Hot-Star - This fried chicken cutlet chain has expanded from it's roots in Taipei to a store on 96 Liverpool St (at George St).
The lively Rocks Market is held on the weekends on Argyle and George St adjacent to Circular Quay. A food market is held on Fridays. http://www.therocks.com/things-to-do/the-rocks-markets/
Pitt St Mall (by King St) is pedestrianized and surrounded by malls and department stores and usually has entertainment provided by buskers.
Queen Victoria Building (QVB) on George St (at Market St) is a shopping complex housed in a beautiful, historic building.
For an Aussie specialty, try a meat pie at Harry's Cafe de Wheels on Hay & George by the Capitol Shopping Centre, Central Baking Depot 37-39 Erskine St close to Wynyard Station, or a mini pie at Pie Face, multiple locations, many on George St and one in Circular Quay. Pick up some Tim Tams (chocolate biscuits) and Twisties (cheesies) at the supermarket. For authentic and expensive dim sum, called yum cha by Aussies, try Marigold 683 George St, East Ocean 421/429 Sussex St, Emperor's Garden in Chinatown or Zilver, 477 Pitt St. Din Tai Fung, famous for their Shanghai soup dumplings, has a food court outlet in Westfield Mall on Pitt St Mall and a restaurant in World Square Center on George St and Liverpool. For budget Chinese food, head to food courts in Chinatown (Dixon House or Sussex Centre) or in Market City (above Paddy's Market). Pho Pasteur, 709 George St, is recommended for Vietnamese noodle soup.
You can bring your own wine to restaurants displaying BYOB though a corkage fee may be charged.
The nearest post office to Circular Quay is at 38-40 Pitt St about half a block down. The general post office is on the pedestrian mall at 1 Martin Place (at George St). Post offices are generally closed on weekends.
There is free wifi at McDonalds (slow), ferries and Cityrail (time or data limits), and the State Library at Circular Quay (tough to connect when busy). The Apple store at George & King is great for fast free internet. Cafes and restaurants may provide free wifi for customers.
Been Here Before or Extra Days
Sydney CBD Map
Sydney Weather Forecast
Suggested Port Guides