Last January in 2019, I went to New Zealand but had 12-hour transit in Sydney. It was actually a good chance for me to explore the city for free, meaning I didn’t have to book another ticket just to visit Sydney. Well, the city has many things to offer and I only had less than 12 hours to go around, so this is what I did.
Before going further, let’s see how many hours we really had to go around the city. So, getting out from the airport required me to pass the immigration, and when I got back, I would need to pass the immigration again. It might take around one hour in total. I needed time to shower before jumping back to the plane and some time to get the backpack in and out from the luggage locker at the airport. This took me around another one hour and a half. The travel time from airport to the city and back to airport again took around one hour in total (including the waiting time etc). Also, just to be safe we need to be at the gate earlier. 1 + 1.30 + 1 + extra time around 30 minutes = 4 hours. We had 8 hours. If you want to be real safe with your next flight, I’d suggest to just have 7 hours outside the airport.
How I Spent The Limited Time
So, since I arrived at 6 in the morning, we didn’t really rush all the time we had. We went to find luggage locker so we can put our backpacks, it took us at least 30 minutes just to do so, because there was no clear information about it. Turns out, you can find the locker just by the parking lot, outside the building. It costs AUD 12. Then we went out by train. We stopped at Circular Quay and it costs AUD 18.70. It was still around 7.30 in the morning, no shop was open, only people with collars were walking around, heading to work. We decided to stroll from the station to Opera House and had the obligatory photo. On the way, we passed the view to Sydney Bridge and it is also beautiful to have some pictures there.
Other than fast-food chain restaurants that open for 24 hours like McDonald’s or Hungry Jack’s that opens at 6 AM, there are also pretty decent choices that open at 8 AM and you can find them in Gateway Plaza just one minute walk from Circular Quay Station. It is located next to Custom House (on your right hand side if you come from Circular Quay Station). There is also the yummy Gelato Messina inside Gateway Plaza. After having breakfast in Gateway Plaza, we walked to Bonza Bike as we wanted to bike around the city. It is another way to enjoy and explore the city. It can be tiring, but it was fun. Just to rent the bike for 4 hours, it costs AUD 30. We biked at least 18km in total. The furthest we went was Bondi Beach. Along the way, we stopped at some places, like Hyde Park, St Mary’s Cathedral, passed by Kings Cross as the red light district area. We got some time to chill at Bondi Beach and went to end the trip with Aqua S inside Regent Place. We had sea salt ice cream and it was just not my type of ice cream. It was okay, but not my favorite. Like I wouldn’t go there again. Tastes like a normal soft serve ice cream. For all that trip with the bike, it took us 4 hours and 10 minutes. We didn’t get charged for the 10-minute late (thank God!). After that, we walked back and took train to get back to the airport.
We biked for 4 hours and it was summer, we definitely got burned and sweaty. We still had a flight to take to New Zealand. Fortunately, Terminal 1 Sydney Airport offers free shower room. You can find it before you pass the immigration. It is inside the rest room. There are two rooms for shower and it has hot and cold water. You’d better bring your own toiletries and towel.
All in all, Sydney is a bike-friendly city. It is good just to stroll around and see what the city has to offer. But if you’re not up to a long-distance bike, and you have 12-hour transit, you can spend more time trying out food, the famous coffee Australia has, checking out the museums. If you’re not afraid of heights and have some spare budget to do crazy things, you definitely have to climb Sydney Bridge. You can buy the cheaper tickets via Klook, KKday, or anything similar. Or simply, just join the HO-HO Tour! It’s stress free. Enjoy your trip!