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Sydney Opera House on a clear day.

How to Visit Sydney’s Top Attractions During an Airport Layover

Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD) is conveniently located not too far from central Sydney. As a result, it’s possible to utilise a short layover, whether it’s just a few hours or overnight, to visit the iconic harbour in the spectacular city of Sydney in between flights.

It’s quite easy and budget-friendly to organise a day trip from the airport to the city without a guide. Here’s the lowdown on exactly how to do a self-guided Sydney layover tour from the airport.


The journey into the city takes around 20-30 minutes each way. Exploring the Sydney Harbour waterfront will take a minimum of 1-2 hours, which means you’ll need a total of around 3 hours plus a buffer for getting through the airport to catch your next flight (if you’ll be heading to the airport straight after).

Obviously, it would be a much more relaxed day trip if you can spend more than a few hours in Sydney, so we’d suggest staying a night or two at Novotel Sydney International Airport to allow for extra time to experience the city and all it has to offer.


If you’ll be staying with us at Novotel Sydney International Airport, we can hold your luggage in a secure location at the hotel reception while you spend the day exploring. There is no charge for this if you’re a guest at the hotel.

If you’ll be travelling straight from the airport, there are baggage storage services available at the International Terminal, T2 Domestic, and T3 Domestic.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge seen from Circular Quay Train Station


By train: If you’re staying at our Sydney international airport hotel, it’s an easy 12-minute walk from the lobby to Wolli Creek Station. From there, catch the T8 Airport Line towards the city circle. Trains arrive approximately every 10 minutes throughout the day.

If you’ll be travelling straight from the airport to the city, there is a train station at both the domestic and international terminals. Follow the signage to find the station then go to the platform that takes passengers towards the city circle.

Purchasing a train ticket is easy – you can either buy a single trip ticket from the Opal ticket machines, or do a contactless payment by tapping your credit or debit card on the Opal machine reader before you get on the train, then tap it again as you get off at your destination. Keep in mind that there is an airport surcharge for using the train stations at the domestic and international terminals, but Wolli Creek Station does not incur a surcharge.

By taxi or rideshare: It takes approximately 20-30 minutes to drive from the airport to the city, so you can grab a taxi or rideshare instead of taking the train. This is a particularly economical option if you are travelling as a family or group as the cost should be equivalent to about 3 public transport tickets.

Sydney Harbour and the Opera House seen from Pylon Lookout


Sydney’s top attractions can be visited by hopping off the train at Circular Quay. Be sure to keep your eye on the window as you pull into Circular Quay Station for a great view of the Harbour Bridge, then take the escalators or stairs down to ground level to exit the station.

Walk directly to the promenade in front of the Sydney Opera House to take photos of the iconic white sails against the blue sky. This area also provides a great vista of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you’re in the mood to admire the view with a drink in hand, head to the nearby Opera Bar for a wine, beer, or cocktail.

Next, walk back past Circular Quay Station to the other side of the quay where you’ll find the historic district of The Rocks. Some of Sydney’s oldest pubs can be found in this area as well as a variety of boutique shops, restaurants, and bars.

Wander out to Hickson Road Reserve to stare up at the Sydney Harbour Bridge, then get an elevated viewpoint of the city skyline by heading up to the Pylon Lookout. Learn about the construction of the bridge at the small museum inside the pylon before walking back down to The Rocks to grab dinner in one of the many eateries that are hidden within the laneways.

Getting back to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport or our Sydney Airport Hotel is as easy as making your way back to Circular Quay Station then taking the train back to where you started along the T8 Airport Line. We look forward to seeing you in Sydney soon!