Seeing Sydney by bus is a great way to explore the city, either s a local or if If you are on an extended visit to the city. Some of these routes are perfect for uncovering our best-kept secret spots. There is no better budget way to see the city.
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the best routes for exploring Sydney using local buses
Taking a trip by local bus is a good, cheap way to see more of a city. I think it’s good to experience a city the way the locals do and get a glimpse of everyday life. We regularly do this on our holidays, even in the infamously un-public transport friendly city of LA!
By world standards, Sydney’s bus system compares well. The network is extensive, and service is frequent in the inner parts of the city. Sure locals will complain the buses are often late in peak hour traffic but when you are a traveller these things matter less.
Bus Basics – How to catch the bus in Sydney.
If you plan on riding the bus in Sydney, you need to either use PayPass, credit/debit cards or buy an Opal card before you ride. You can buy these from convenience stores.
If you are in town for more than a few days, you will probably want to check out how the Opal ticketing system works. An Opal card is a good option for kids or those overseas visitors who wish to avoid multiple transaction fees on their accounts. Read my Opal 101 article and see if it will work for you.
Signalling the driver
Bus stops are used by multiple routes, so when the bus approaches your stop; you may need to signal the driver, so they know that you intend to catch their bus. As some stops they do not automatically stop, so be careful you don’t miss your bus while staring at your phone – I have done this 🙂
To signal the driver, you raise your arm out in front of you, towards the road. Once on board, a quick hello to the driver always goes down well; driving a bus in a busy city can be a stressful job, so a smile and a hello might make their day.
How to use the Opal reader
There are two Opal ticket readers at the front of the bus for tapping on and two by the back doors for tapping off. You tap on by holding your card still over the reader for a second or two until it registers. You tap off before exiting – the machine will only allow you to tap off close to the stop.
If you forget to tap off, you will be charged the most expensive fare for that route. If this happens, you can call the Opal helpline 13 67 25, and they will usually reverse the cost.
Sydney by bus – routes for visitors to Sydney
This article is the first in a planned series of highlighting bus routes I think work well for visitors to Sydney. The ones where your efforts will be rewarded with attractive suburbs, delicious food or gorgeous views.
Best Bus Routes on the Northern Beaches & Middle Harbour
City to Palm Beach – 190X and the B1
If you have an extra day in Sydney, then the bus from Wynyard to Palm Beach, the 190X is a good option. The x stands for express, meaning limited stops. These buses are much quicker.
There is also a 199 bus but avoid that if you can. This is a long journey that takes in almost all the northern beaches as it travels to Palm Beach. It’s scenic, but all the stops make the trip drag.
- Spit Bridge – The starting point for my favourite Sydney walk – Spit Bridge to Manly
- Newport – There is an excellent pub at Newport, the Newport Arms that you might like to consider for an afternoon drink. The beer garden is one of the nicest you will find anywhere.
- Palm Beach is home to the famous Aussie TV Soap “Home Away.”
- Barrenjoey Lighthouse
For more info, check this post on things to do in Palm Beach
Manly Wharf to Church Point – Route 155
The 155 from Manly Wharf to McCarrs Creek Church Point will have you thinking you have left Sydney wandered into some paradise miles away from the city. The trip takes about an hour and stops at several great swimming beaches along the way.
- Dee Why Beach – The Deck bar and dining
- Collaroy Beach – The Collaroy offers meals right by the beach in lovely surrounds
- Church Point Ferry
Church Point is also the way to get to the Pittwater YHA, which I highly recommend!
More details: Sydney Buses Regional Guide – North
Milson’s Point via Beauty Point to Balmoral Heights- Route 229
The 229 bus from Milson’s Point (where you are if you walk to the other side of the Harbour Bridge) goes to Beauty Point takes in some lovely harbourside homes and scenery. It also goes past Balmoral Beach, which is a beautiful place to have a picnic lunch.
- Chinamans Beach
- Middle Habour Yacht Club
- Clifton Gardens
Alternate route: 246
Best Bus Routes in the Eastern Suburbs
The Eastern suburbs offers something for everyone and takes in Sydney’s most expensive houses and impressive harbour views.
The Eastern suburbs is the area I am most familiar with as I live near here. I have written a series of self-guided bus tours for this area, including Route 311 Central Station to Elizabeth Bay to Barangaroo or the 325 – Watsons Bay to Walsh Bay
Keep an eye out for more in the series coming soon.
Circular Quay to Watsons Bay – Route 324/325
The 325 from Circular Quay to Watson’s Bay will take you past all the multi-million dollar houses in Rose Bay Vaucluse. The 324 bus detours past Nielson Park, which is a lovely sheltered Harbour Beach an excellent stop for a swim in warmer months.
- Watsons Bay – Doyle’s fish and chips – in the park or the restaurant
- The Gap lookout
- Milk Beach
- Vaucluse House
- Parsley Bay
There are also some lovely walks here that start from here. Follow my self-guided 325 Watsons Bay bus tour for a full day out..
Alternate Routes: L24 (express service) or 324, 325 outside peak hour or the 380, which makes the journey from Bondi Junction along the coast to Watson’s Bay – a much shorter trip.
Pyrmont to North Bondi – Route 389
Starting in Darling Harbour, the bus makes its way to Bondi through Darlinghurst and the lovely inner suburbs of Paddington and Woollahra before finishing its run at North Bondi. Read my full post on the self-guided 389 bus tour and plan your day out.
- Fish Market
- Gelato Messina Darlinghurst
- Paddington Terrace houses
- Queen St Woollahra
- Bondi Junction Westfield
- North Bondi Beach
From Bondi, take the Bondi to Coogee beach track for some spectacular coastal views.
More details: Sydney Buses regional guide for Eastern Sydney
Best Bus Routes in the Inner West – Balmain
The 442 bus goes from the Queen Victoria Building to Balmain Wharf. Balmain is an old original working-class suburb that, over the last decade, has been gentrified. These days is home to million-dollar homes, some great cafes and interesting shops.
From here, you can catch a ferry back to Circular Quay, which makes a nice half-day out.
More details: Sydney Buses Regional Guide – South
Have you taken a bus and explored Sydney?
About the author: Paula Morgan, a born-and-bred Sydney resident, has been sharing this city and its secret spots for over 15 years. She’s not just about the iconic landmarks; she’s all about the hidden alleys adorned with street art, and the joy of discovering a new café or a fabulous restaurant tucked away in a corner you never knew existed and weekends away exploring regional NSW.