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What To Do During An Eight-Hour Layover In Sydney

Layovers are a bummer. Imagine an eight-hour wait at the airport, with nothing but the bustling crowd of people and your dying smartphone to accompany you. Horrible.


Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport is one of the busiest international terminals, hosting stopovers to many worldwide destinations. If you’re on your way to another Australian state or neighboring New Zealand, you’re probably going to go through Sydney. And if you’ve snagged a good airfare deal that requires you to stop at Sydney for around eight hours, worry not, because there are lots of options for you to spend that time.

The best thing about the Sydney International Airport is it has its own train line right below it. That means you can hop on the train and get to any key destination around the city in a pop. You can get to the heart of Sydney for the best price and in the less amount time possible.

With eight hours at your disposal, you’ve got to make sure that you move the most efficiently. So let’s condense our layover itinerary to Circular Quay, home to a number of food outlets, views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the famous Sydney Opera House.


Getting to Circular Quay is a no-brainer. Head to the Airport Link at the Domestic or International Terminal (fairly easy to spot because of the directional signs; or better yet, ask any concierge or officer), purchase a ticket to Circular Quay (AU$18 for a one way Adult ticket), and board the train. If you have luggage to leave, there are rental lockers and Smarte Carte booths around the airport so you can roam around the city easily.

Trains from the airport leave every 15 minutes and the ride to Circular Quay takes around 20 minutes.

Once you’re in Circular Quay, you can get to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge on foot. Maps are available at the airport for the more directionally challenged, or you can always ask the store attendants. Based from experience, Australians are generally nice and courteous so there’s no need to be shy.


There are many picturesque locations at the Circular Quay as you make your way to the Opera House. Plus, the walk will give you the best view of the Harbour Bridge for Instagram-worthy photos. If you’re in the mood to chill out and eat, a number of good restaurants and bars line the Circular Quay area, offering dining options with a view of the harbor. For waterfront dining, check out the Ripples at Milsons Point, Aqua Dining, or the Opera Kitchen to eat right on the steps of the Opera House.

It’s always better to head to the Opera House during the day because it’s easier to maneuver around and there are less people eating out. But the views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are particularly stunning at night, in addition to the culture that springs to life when people flock to the surrounding restaurants and bars.

If you’re more interested on sightseeing, you can take a 60- to 90-minute ferry that will take you under the Harbour Bridge and along other scenic destinations around the city. Captain Cook Cruises offers the Hop On Hop Off Sydney Harbour Explorer, which can give you a lift from and back to Circular Quay aboard a rocket ferry. For longer-staying tourists, the ferry lets you alight and stay at various stops. But if you’re on a layover clock, it’s better to stay on the ferry and enjoy the cruise and the views.


Note that if you’re on an international connecting flight, you need to be back on the airport three hours before your scheduled departure. For domestic flights, allot two hours. The Sydney International airport can get pretty busy, especially during peak seasons, so it’s better to have enough time for checking in and immigration.

If you liked what you saw, then maybe you can book an overnight stopover at Sydney next time, since the city offers many hidden gems outside the Circular Quay.

Oh, and don’t forget to take home a fridge magnet or two from the Sydney airport!