Being a little strategic on your trip can save you some frustration (and even sunburn).
Sydney is undeniably beautiful, but it's also maddeningly spread-out and, in places, incredibly tourist-heavy. Ticking off the guide-book "must-dos" could take a week or more, a time-intensive endeavor that may prevent you from experiencing some of the city's other pleasures. Below, our picks for attractions you could skip in favor of shaping a more fulfilling itinerary.
1. Visiting Bondi Beach
You'll spend an hour getting here on a hot, crowded bus. Then, when you arrive, you'll find the sand heaving with rowdy backpackers, and cringe when you see the souvenir t-shirts and overpriced food nearby. Bondi looks impressive from a distance, but nearby beaches such as Bronte and Maroubra (as well as many area pools) are just as picturesque yet less choked with tourists.
2. Climbing Harbour Bridge
It's an icon, and the Opera House is clearly visible from the top. But partaking in an expensive "bridge-climb"—and negotiating the cumbersome safety gear and whipping wind that come with it—may hold less sway when you consider the other breathtaking vantage points dotted around Sydney Harbour. Why not spend that money on a seaplane or helicopter ride, or catch a harbor ferry and check out the bridge from the water?
3. Attending the Mardi Gras Parade
Sydney's month-long Mardi Gras Festival, which runs from early February to early March and celebrates queer culture, is full of worthwhile events, including boundary-pushing theater and provocative lectures. The parade itself, though, can be a logistical nightmare: much of downtown is closed to traffic, and unless you arrive well ahead of time, you won't see much from behind the barricades.
4. Strolling Through Chinatown
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Sydney—with its sizable Chinese-Australian population and balmy climate—is an ideal location for an open-air Chinese precinct. Think again. Not only is the city's Chinatown relatively small by global standards, it's also bland (gone are the days when gangsters and outcasts would crowd its late-night noodle shops). With so many good Chinese restaurants in Sydney's other areas, you can safely skip Chinatown.
5. Eating at Harry's Cafe de Wheels
What started out as a single food truck in the waterside precinct of Wooloomooloo has become a Sydney institution—there are branches everywhere. In addition, you can find traditional Aussie meat pies that locals love in most bakeries across Sydney, and you won't have to wait in line to purchase them.
6. Exploring Darling Harbour
It's marketed heavily toward tourists, but there's not much to see or do in this enclave, aside from visit Sydney's surprisingly tame aquarium, browse a small shopping mall, and eat ice cream in the cafes. Like many parts of downtown Sydney, it's also tricky to find and surrounded by intimidatingly busy roads.
7. Discover the Historic Rocks District
This headland was one of the first parts of Sydney to be populated by European settlers, and there are gritty stories to be heard about its former slums and ghosts. These days, however, the steeply sloping streets of The Rocks are full of quasi-English pubs, souvenir shops, and a few luxury mega-retailers. Take a walk through Millers Point instead—it's a fascinating old suburb directly uphill from The Rocks that's managed to retain a great deal of charm.