The Ultimate Sydney Stopover GuideDo you have a Sydney stopover coming up? Australia’s largest city has plenty for visitors to see and do, and the airport is just a short train ride from the city centre. But if you’re just staying one night in Sydney between flights, there is also an increasingly large choice of airport hotels near both the domestic and international terminals.

Whether you’re just in transit or staying for a few nights, this AFF guide will help you to make the most of your Sydney stopover!


How to get from Sydney Airport to the city

There are conveniently-located train stations at both the domestic and international terminals of Sydney Airport. These trains run direct to Central station and all city circle stations, including Circular Quay where you can alight for the Sydney Opera House and great views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The trip takes around 15 minutes.

The train is the fastest and most convenient option if you’re going to the city, but it’s also somewhat expensive. There is an extra “station access fee” charged on train tickets to/from the airport stations, so a one-way trip from Sydney Airport to the city costs $16.77 with an Opal card (or $17.84 during weekday peak periods). If you’re using a single-trip ticket, the fare is $18.70.

However, a train ticket from Mascot station to the city costs just $2.47 (or $3.54 during peak hour) with an Opal card. Mascot station is an easy 20-minute walk from the domestic Terminals 2 & 3, or you can take the 400 bus which runs every 20 minutes. This method works out much cheaper. The 400 bus also stops at the international terminal, or alternatively you can walk 15-20 minutes from Terminal 1 to Wolli Creek station and take a train to the city from there. Read more: Save Money Getting to Sydney & Melbourne Airport

Taxis and Uber are also available, and this generally works out cheaper than the train if there are more than 3 passengers. You can even earn Qantas points for catching an Uber to or from Sydney airport.

If you’re planning to use public transport at all during your Sydney stopover, it’s worth getting an Opal card. This will save you time and money when using trains, buses, ferries and trams in Sydney. The Opal card also comes with daily and weekly spend caps, and all Opal card trips after the first eight trips in a week are half price. On Sundays, you can even use unlimited public transport with an Opal card for just $2.70 (excluding airport station fees).

Opal cards are sold at the airport train stations, although there is a ridiculous minimum deposit of $35 if buying your Opal card at the airport. If you’d rather not put so much money on your card, you can also buy and reload Opal cards at most convenience stores, newsagents and supermarkets in Sydney.


Where to stay near Sydney Airport

Given how easy it is to get from the airport to the city, you may consider venturing away from the airport – even if you’re just spending a night in Sydney. But if you are looking for accommodation near Sydney Airport, there are plenty of options.

The domestic and international terminals are located on opposite sides of the airport. If you’re looking to stay near the international airport, the location of the Rydges Hotel at Sydney Airport is hard to beat! It’s literally across the road from the airport entrance. If you do stay here, consider paying a little extra for a room with a view over the airport runways.

There are no hotels quite so close to the domestic terminals, but there are now many options within walking distance (or a short shuttle drive away) in Mascot. Two AFF members recommend the Merriton Suites in Mascot.

Last weekend I spent a night at the Meriton Suites, Sydney Airport. There are two Meritons in the area and this was the one in Coward St. It was beyond expectations, especially as I’d got a special for $126.

We’ve used the same Meriton in Coward St. The bus 400 goes from both domestic and international terminals and stops in front of the apartments. If you book directly on their website you can change booking if there is a sale.


What to do in Sydney

There is so much to do during a Sydney stopover! Here are just a few ideas for places to visit, activities and day-trips…

  • Visit Circular Quay and the Rocks – this is the historic centre of Sydney and today you’ll find nice restaurants, museums, markets on the weekend and unbeatable harbour views. From Circular Quay, also consider walking along the waterfront past the Opera House to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair – this is the best spot for photos of the bridge and opera house. Or, walk across the Harbour Bridge to Milson’s Point.
  • From Circular Quay, take a ferry to Taronga Zoo, Manly Beach, Darling Harbour or Cremorne Point.
  • Paddy’s Markets and Chinatown – for cheap souvenirs and delicious food.
  • Visit Newtown – Sydney’s “hip” suburb with quirky stores and laid-back bars and restaurants.
  • If you have a day to spare, consider a day trip to the Blue Mountains. (And if it happens to be a Sunday, the train trip there will only cost $2.70!)
  • An hour south of Sydney is Cronulla. Visit the beach here, or take a ferry to Bundeena to go bushwalking in the Royal National Park.
  • Walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach along the spectacular coastal walking track.
  • If you’d like to go shopping in the city centre, visit Pitt Street Mall and the Queen Victoria Building near Town Hall station.


The best Sydney Airport lounges

When it’s time to leave, which are the best Sydney Airport lounges to visit?

In Terminal 1, the international terminal, the best lounge is arguably the Qantas First Lounge. This is available to Qantas Platinum and Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers, as well as First Class passengers travelling on Qantas or any other Oneworld airline. For Business passengers and Qantas Gold/Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyers, the neighbouring Qantas Business Lounge is available. In comparison to the excellent Qantas First Lounge, the Business Lounge is currently rather outdated and underwhelming – but will be refurbished soon. Until then, consider using the wonderful Emirates Lounge instead if you’re eligible (and travelling at a time when the Emirates Lounge is open, i.e. early in the morning or in the late afternoon/evening).

Note that Qantas offers all-day check-in at Sydney Airport for international flights.

The international terminal also has a dedicated SkyTeam and Amex Lounge, as well as two Star Alliance lounges provided by Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines. And if you’re flying Virgin Australia or Etihad, eligible passengers can use the very good “The House” lounge.

In Terminal 2, the only lounges are the Virgin Australia Lounge and (much smaller) Rex lounge. In Terminal 3, Qantas operates large Qantas Club and Domestic Business lounges.

The only lounge available in Sydney to Priority Pass members is the Rex Lounge in Terminal 2. However, there are a range of bars and restaurants in every terminal of Sydney Airport that offer a $36 food & beverage credit to Priority Pass cardholders. Read more: Priority Pass Adds Sydney to Lounge Network


Do you have a great Sydney stopover tip to share? Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Sydney (SYD) Stopover Tips


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]