Our thoughts on the Hop on Hop Off Bus in Sydney

Sydney Hop on Hop Off Bus

Should you take the hop on hop off (HOHO) bus in Sydney? Maybe, there are pros and cons for this bus tour in Sydney, and we have laid them all out so you can make an informed choice. 

Unlike some cities, Sydney has just one company offering a Hop on Hop off bus tour. The Big Bus HOHO service is now the only HOHO option in the city. The service provides two routes, a Sydney city sightseeing route and a second route that covers the Eastern suburbs and visits Bondi Beach.

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Frequently asked questions about the Sydney HOHO bus

How does the hop on hop off bus work?

The Sydney Big Bus HOHO bus offers two routes, with over 30 stops at key sights around Sydney and Bondi. There are two ways to make use of your pass. You can ride the full loop without getting off, an excellent way to get the lay of the land and listen to the full commentary or you can get on and off as you go.  If you have time, you could do both.

How long does the Sydney and Bondi Hop on Hop off tour take?

Both the Sydney route and the Bondi route take 90 mins each although in peak hour traffic this can be closer to 2 hours.

How often do big bus tours run?

The city service operates daily between 8.30am and 6.30pm. The last full route departure from Circular Quay (Stop 1) is at 5 pm. There are buses scheduled for every 20-30 minutes, but Sydney is a bustling city, so traffic can cause delays sometimes.

The first bus on the Bondi route begins at 9.30am from Central or 9.45am from the Australian Museum (Stop 3) these run a little less frequently so pay attention to the timing if you alight along this route.

How much does the Sydney Hop on Hop off tour cost?

It depends on the type of ticket you book; with prices starting at $52. Children up to 6-years old travel for free on buses when accompanied by paying adult (maximum of 2 children per adult).

Who is suited to the HOHO bus tour?

I am going to be honest the HOHO bus can be a little frustrating at times because of Sydney traffic, particularly from 3 pm on weekdays. Weekends on the city route are better than weekdays but weekdays are a better option for the Bondi route which sees more beachgoers on the weekend.
  • These services are perfect if you or anyone you are travelling with has limited mobility.
  • They are also great for families saving the kids feet for when you reach the attractions rather than wearing them out on the way.
  • The commentary is translated into eight languages, so if English is not your first language, this can also be quite helpful.
  • Sightseeing on hot summer days is much more pleasant with breaks on an air-conditioned bus.
Sydney HOHO Bus in Kings Cross Australia
The Big Bus in Kings Cross

Five tips for riding the Sydney Big Bus HOHO service?

The key to enjoying your day on the Sydney HOHO is to do some planning

  1. Download the app that gives real-time location information, so you know how long till the next bus is going to appear.
  2. Plan out your stops – knowing what you want to see and how long you will spend at each stop will save time umming and ahhing en route.
  3. If you want to cover both routes in one day I suggest you do a changeover on at stop 3 – do the Bondi Loop and then return to Stop 3/26 to rejoin the city route. Doing this saves time backtracking.
  4. If you have time to do them separately then complete the first loop – hopping on and off as per our suggestions below and then do the Bondi loop but instead of returning to the city after you have explored the Bondi Beach jump on the 380 bus to Watsons Bay. Take a look around there and then take a ferry (or the hop on hop off ferry) back to Circular Quay.
  5. Unless you are on a tight schedule, get the 48-hour ticket and split the bus into two days

Which type of ticket should you buy?

A 24-hour pass will cost you about $52 if purchased in advance. It is a little more to buy it on the bus although you can do this if you wish.

Several package tickets are also available. One of the best value is this two-day ticket that includes a 48-hour hop on hop off pass, a 1 hr harbour cruise, a visit to Sydney Tower and a guided walking tour of the Rocks. If you choose this, you can do the Sydney Tower visit at sunset after the bus has finished for the day.

There is also the Sydney Pass – The HOHO bus is one of the options on this ticket which includes 3, 4, 5, or 7 attractions to use in 30 days.  Prices for this ticket start at $119, and it can be excellent value depending on what you choose.

There is also a pass that includes the HOHO among its options. The Sydney Unlimited Attractions Pass has different price points and attraction options.

Another great deal is the two days Hop on Hop on Bus and Ferry combo; you get a 48-hour bus ticket and a 48-hour ferry ticket.  The HOHO ferry is run by Captain Cook and has stops at all the main harbour sites including a couple that cannot be reached by public ferry including Shark Island. It also allows travel between some stops without needing to go back to Circular Quay – like say Manly and Watsons Bay that can save lots of time.

Sydney City HOHO route stops

Hop on Hop Off Sydney route

There are 23 stops – for each stop, we offer our suggestions on what to see and which stops we would consider getting off at. These are our thoughts; others may disagree.

1. Circular Quay – George Street
The stop is actually on George Street in the Rocks. It has moved due to the tram line construction. Start from here. Buy your ticket in advance to save time and money.

2. Sydney Tower / Westfield Sydney 
You might like to stay on the bus here – you are likely to be coming by this area at another time, so save your shopping time until later. However, from this stop, it is a short walk across Hyde Park to St Mary’s Cathedral so if you want to see these two spots you can do this and then walk to the next stop which is just a couple of minutes from stop 3.

3. Australian Museum
Only get off here if you plan to visit the museum. This is also a change over stop for the Bondi Route. If visiting the museum allow 1 hour. There is an excellent indigenous collection here, and a visit is a great way to learn more about local Aboriginal culture. Be sure to check out the view from the 4th-floor cafe.

4. William St
No need to get off here unless you want to head up along Crown street for shops or cafes.

5. Kings Cross
Get off at either this stop or the next and spend some time exploring Kings Cross, Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay. The next stop is my preference, but either is fine.

6. El Alamein Fountain

Dandelion Fountain Kings Cross
The El Alamein Memorial Fountain is also a war memorial.

This is a good spot to leave the bus if you want to visit the back streets of Potts Point or Elizabeth Bay House. There is also a market here on the weekends. Head down Macleay Street to find lots of good restaurants. Check out our article on Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay for ideas.

7. Woolloomooloo Bay

Wooloomooloo wharf
The beautiful heritage listed finger wharf at Woolloomooloo.

Get off here if you want to try a meat pie from the famous Harry’s Cafe D Wheels and to explore the 100 plus year old wharf. If you fancy stretching your legs, you can walk from here around the waterfront to the Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and through the gardens to the Opera House stop. This diversion would probably take at least 40 minutes.  If you have the two-day pass, consider walking as far as the Opera House or Botanic Gardens stop.

8. Sydney Opera House
I would not get off here or the Botanic Gardens but would visit these independent of this tour unless you are on a 48-hour pass.

Royal Botanic Gardens looking to Opera House
Find a bench under a tree and take in the view.

9. Botanic Gardens
The bus stops at the Macquarie Street Gate. You can also enter the gardens from Stop 10 via the Gate opposite the State Library. From the library gate, you are nearest to the Calyx and can walk downhill through the gardens.

10. State Library
The library has five new galleries and can be worth a visit, depending on what is showing. Check the website to see if it is of interest. The older wing, the Mitchell Library, is worth a look.

11. Hyde Park
Stay on the bus – save your visit here for when you are at Pitt Street Mall and the Cathedral. Come back for a walk after the bus stops running or early in the morning when the light is lovely.

Hyde Park corridor trees Sydney Australia
Hyde Park’s Corridor of trees is prettiest in the early morning and late afternoon light.

12. Central Station
No need to get off here unless you want to change to the Bondi route.

13. Power House Museum
If you are not planning to visit the Fish Market or Casino, then it is a good idea to get off here and walk through Darling Harbour. It will save you a bunch of time, and there is plenty to see along the way. From this stop, you can also walk back to the Frank Gehry Paper Bag building at the University of Technology and explore the Goods line before heading into Darling Square.

You can rejoin the bus at stop 18-20 depending on how much of Darling Harbour you wish to see.

14. Sydney Fish Market
The bus stop is 600m from the Fish Market at the corner of Pyrmont Bridge Road so take this into account if you decide to get off here. If you have limited time, do not get off here. If you are keen to visit save it for another time and use the light rail which stops much closer to the market.

15. The Star Casino
Unless you plan to visit the Casino stay on the bus.

16. Maritime Museum

Australian Maritime Museum
Go onboard several old ships at Sydney’s Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum is great – well worth a visit if you have time. Entry is free to the museum’s main galleries, some exhibits and the boats are ticketed, but you can buy those on the day or keep an eye on group for a half price “Big Ticket” that comes up quite often.

17. International Convention Centre

This is a great stop if you have kids as the children’s playground opposite the convention centre is fantastic. There are lots of family-friendly dining options here too.  I would personally walk the next four stops and not rejoin the bus before you reach stop 20 or 21.

18. Chinese Gardens/ Chinatown – walk between these Darling Harbour spots

Sydney's Chinese Garden Darling Harbour
An oasis in Darling Harbour, the Chinese Garden, is perfect for some time out.

A small but impressive garden that is also home to Lotus restaurant so you can treat yourself to some first class dumplings and tea after you have explored the garden.

19. Sea Life Sydney Aquarium – walk between these Darling Harbour spots
This stop is home to the aquarium, Wildlife Zoo and Madame Tussauds.

20. King St Wharf  – walk between these Darling Harbour spots
Restaurants are the main attraction here.  Continue walking to Barangaroo for the next bus stop unless you are exhausted.

21. Barangaroo (opposite Wharf Theatre)

Barangaroo Sunset Sydney HOHO stop
Make Barangaroo your last stop and take a sunset walk along the waterfront.

This is a lovely park that offers views of the western side of the Harbour and across to the Anzac Bridge. You can walk from here around the foreshore right to the Harbour Bridge and the Rocks.

This bus stop is just past the reserve you need to walk a little back to enter the reserve.

22. Dawes Point – Sydney Harbour Bridge (21 Hickson Rd)

Walk from here to Circular Quay.

23. The Rocks (11 George St, corner Hickson Rd)

We have a self-guided tour of the Rocks you might like to follow if you want to explore longer here.

Bondi HOHO Route Stops

The Bondi Hop on Hop Off route has nine stops.  Three stops are in the Central Business District, two are in Paddington, two are in Bondi, and 2 are in the Eastern suburb bayside suburbs.

Bondi to Coogee Walk Sydney
MacKenzie Bay on the Bondi to Coogee walk

If you have a full day to cover this route, there is plenty of time to get on and off at the several stops however if you are doing both routes in one day then you will probably want to restrict yourself to just Bondi and perhaps one other stop. I suggest a walk in Paddington and time on the Bondi Coastal walk.

24. Central Railway Station
Join the Bondi route here if suitable. Alternatively, join at the Australian Museum, which is stop three on the city route.

25. Town Hall (currently closed due to road work nearby)

26. Australian Museum  – change over point for the city route

27. William Street – change over point
I would not alight here – if you want to explore this area do it at another time, but honestly, there is not a lot here if you are on a short visit.

28. Paddington Town Hall
Jump off here and check out the Paddington Reservoir Gardens.

Paddington Reservoir Sunken Garden Sydney Australia
The sunken garden at Paddington Reservoir on Oxford St.

Wander along Oxford Street, exploring some of the interesting shops and cafes. My favourites include Matt Blatt – a quirky furniture store with plenty of accessories to fit in your suitcase. There are also some op (second hand) shops that often host hidden treasures.

If fashion is your thing head towards William St and walk down to the bottom before doubling back and continuing along Oxford St to Jersey Road to rejoin the bus at stop 29.

29. Jersey Road – Centennial Parklands
Great spot for a summer afternoon with plenty of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos. The Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden is a fantastic spot for kids to explore if you need a time out. Adults and older kids might like to walk the Labyrinth.

30. Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach from the South
Bondi from the hill near Icebergs

The closest stop to Iceberg’s, Bondi Graffiti wall and the Bondi to Coogee walking path. Even if you don’t have time to do the walk at least walk up to the first high point by Marks Park, where you will find great views up and down the walkway.

31. North Bondi

Mermaids Pool North Bondi Beach

If you are planning to take the bus back into the city, rejoin it here. Alternatively, you can take a detour to Watsons Bay on a local bus, the 380, (or on foot along the Federation Cliff Walk) and then either return by bus to North Bondi to rejoin the HOHO service.  You could also decide to take the ferry back to town from Watson’s Bay.

32. Rose Bay
Home to Sydney Seaplanes and Lyne Park.  The beginning of the Hermitage Foreshore walk is just a few minutes walk from here. If you want a special occasion meal in the company of Sydney’s elite check out Catalina. Local secret Tide Cafe is highly recommended.

33. Double Bay

My favourite thing about Double Bay is the fantastic Woollahra Library that opened in 2016 and is one of the coolest in the city. A more likely reason for visitors to alight here is to check out the high-end shopping on Knox and Cross St.

An equally good reason is to sample the goods at a few of the areas great bars and cafes. Places like  Mrs Sippy, the beer garden at the Golden Sheaf Hotel, a local institution or one of the bars at the Intercontinental Hotel, either the rooftop bar or Stillery will make you the perfect cocktail.

If you are looking for coffee or lunch, I am partial to Little Jean and Indigo both are excellent choices for coffee or lunch.

So there you have it – our guide to making the most of the Hop on Hop Off tour in Sydney.  If you are on a tight budget or feel like this is not the right option for you, check out our Do it yourself Sydney HOHO article that shows you how to do your own self-guided tour using Sydney buses.

Do you have a question about using the Sydney HOHO bus? Head over to Facebook and join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group, where you can ask questions and find friendly locals or previous visitors happy to share their advice!

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