Where to stay in Sydney
If you are wondering about where to stay in Sydney then you are not the only one.
It’s a bit city, with so many different neighbourhoods that have different vibes and available attractions
This is my adopted city and in this guide, you will find all you need to determine your best area to stay in Sydney, based on your type of trip, you either travel with kids, with your partner or you are looking for a spot close to some good nightlife.
Having a short stay in Sydney, 2-3 days, or a long one, 3-7 day, can take you also to decide in a different way.
Without further ado let’s get into it
Table of Contents
- 1 Where to stay in Sydney – in a nutshell
- 2 Best area to stay in Sydney with family – CBD
- 3 Where to stay in Sydney for the view – Darling Harbour
- 4 Where to stay in Sydney for the nightlife – Darlinghurst
- 5 Where to stay in Sydney for couples – Surry Hills
- 6 Coolest place to stay in Sydney – Newtown
- 7 Where in Sydney for a unique stay – Paddington
- 8 Where to stay in Sydney for the beach – Bondi
- 9 Best surfing place to stay in Sydney – Manly Beach
- 10 Coolest hotels in Sydney [boutique and hidden gems]
- 11 Transportation in Sydney
You can read also
- Best hotels to stay in Sydney CBD (Central Business District)
- Best places for photography in Sydney
- How to get from Sydney to Melbourne, all the options
- Best areas to stay in Melbourne
Where to stay in Sydney – in a nutshell
The best areas to stay in Sydney with family, as a couple and for nightlife (from budget to boutique) are mostly located around the CBD, with the exception of Bondi and Manly on the coast.
Here is a map with the highlighted neighbourhoods.
I have organised this quick list to answer the most commonly asked questions. Keep reading for more details on the areas
- Where to stay in Sydney with family: the best location is in the CBD area, close to Circular Quay, a 20-25 minutes train trip from the Airport, next to the major attractions and a quick ferry away from Manly, a must-visit beach neighbourhood. Darling Harbour works also great, especially for grownup kids. Another good option is to stay in Manly, especially if you stay in summer for a few days and you want access to a calm beach. Read more on Manly below.
- Best places to stay in Sydney on a budget: The greatest choice of cheap and backpackers accommodations is around the Central Station in the CBD and in Bondi. The CBD is a great option, especially for a few days stay (unless you plan to do surfing the whole day at the beach). It takes also more time to reach Bondi and to move around. The Capsule Hotel is the best value option and The Pod an amazingly cheap hostel, still on the “luxurious” side.
- Best place to stay in Sydney for tourists: Most of the attractions are close to the CBD, from Circular Quay you can also take the ferry to explore the bay or do a short trip to Manly. Or take a 30 minutes bus ride to Bondi. So many options. You will be central to everything, perfect if you want to explore all of the city attractions. Read more on the CBD area
- Where to stay in Sydney for nightlife: There 2 great areas for nightlife and they are very close to each other, Darlinghurst and Potts Point. You will be next door to the most iconic and hidden pubs and bars in Sydney. I may only suggest trying to book a hotel in a quiet street or lane to enjoy a nice sleep when needed. Both areas can be quite noisy otherwise.
- Best area for a romantic stay in Sydney: In this case, my favourite neighbourhood is Surry Hills, a bit arty, a bit secluded with plenty of boutique and hidden restaurants and cafes, small galleries, interesting local pubs….. such a cool area. This is not a neighbourhood with popular attractions, it’s more about tiny secret and hidden places to experience with your partner.
- Coolest Hotels to stay in Sydney: this is such a diverse city that you can really find some hidden gems and amazing boutique stays. For example, the Park Hyatt Sydney has one of the most amazing views in the world I believe. Or the QT Sydney is an amazing boutique gem right in the centre of the CBD. Read more below on the Coolest Hotels to stay.
- Where to stay for one night: if you have just one night then I suggest staying in the CBD area, close to Circular Quay, to The Rocks, Sydney Opera House and the Government House. It’s just a 30 minutes train ride from the airport, very well served with any kind of transportation. Alternatively, if you are looking for a more local experience, then Newtown may be the best choice, just a 10-15 minutes taxi ride from the airport. This is one of the coolest areas of Sydney with some of the best restaurants in the city. Read more on Newtown
- Best places to stay in Sydney Darling Harbour: Darling Harbour is a great spot, between the CBD and Glebe, the University area. The view of this little bay is just amazing and you will have plenty of restaurants and drinking options around, all with a fantastic view of course. In this area, I suggest staying at The Ovolo 1888 Hotel, a real little gem.
- Coolest place to stay in Sydney: I love Newtown and one of the reason is the cool side of it. Plenty of live music pubs and theatres, great choice of restaurants of which one of the best Thai in Australia, lovely cafes all around and mostly locals around (almost no tourism). The real thing. Well connected with trains and buses and 10 minutes by taxi from the airport. Read more on Newtown
- Where to stay in Sydney for a unique stay: Paddington is a lovely neighbourhood of Sydney, a bit trendy, a bit arty, located between the CBD and Bondi and very well connected to both by bus. Here you will find the most unique accommodation in Sydney, located in the middle of the Residences Centennial Park. Read more on Paddington
- Where to stay in Sydney for the beach: there is an easy answer for that: Bondi. It’s the most famous Australian beach, as busy as beautiful. Try to have a walk there at sunrise for the best colours. QT Bondi is one of the best affordable hotels in the area. However, if you are after a calm beach then Manly is a better option with Cove Beach and Shelly Beach absolutely gorgeous.
- Best surfing place to stay in Sydney: it’s a hard decision here because there are many beaches around. My choice goes to Manly Beach because besides having great waves, it is also well connected to the CBD and it has a bayside beach too, perfect for swimming. The vibe is definitely cool, surfing cool. Great drinking spots all around. Keep in mind that you have also the option to explore calm beaches as Cove Beach and Shelly Beach.
- Do you want to go straight to your hotel? Pre-order an airport transfer that will wait for you directly at the airport. So easy.
- Best Tours and activities in the CBD: The Harbour Bridge Climb is the most unique experience in Australia I think, right in front of the Opera House. Just imagine yourself doing that climb to the peak of the bridge, one of the best viewpoints. The Sydney Opera Tour is a one hour guided visit to the most iconic site in Sydney, unmissable. And to close the day, Dine above Sydney, book your dinner at the Sydney Tower 360, a rotating restaurant and bar with a unique view of the city
- Best Tours and activities around Sydney: If you are in the city for a few days it makes sense to save some $$ with a Sydney Attraction Pass, buy the pass in advance and save some money. If you plan to visit the beautiful Sydney bay then I suggest this 3 hours Lunch Cruise in the Harbour with live music, a great experience. And finally plan a trip to the Blue Mountains, really unmissable, especially because you will have the possibility to finally experience the native Australian animals
Best area to stay in Sydney with family – CBD
The CBD is the best place to stay in Sydney for families with kids that want to experience all the popular attractions.
It’s just so easy, all walking distance, a short train/bus trip or a ferry ride, very popular with children of course.
Only 20 years ago the city centre was mostly deserted after office time and at the weekend.
It has now all changed, there are plenty of nice restaurants and cafes.
The CBD is also the perfect place to stay if you are on a business trip or you plan to stay just for a short stay (1-2 days)
I wrote a dedicated post to the best places to stay in Sydney CBD because this is quite a vast neighbourhood with 5 different areas very different in vibe and type of experience that you can have.
Where to stay in Sydney for the view – Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour is a relatively new area of Sydney being redeveloped only 30 years ago.
It used to be the docking area of the city. It is now the place to be with so many restaurants, bars and cafes. The Convention Center is also here.
This is the best areas to stay in Sydney if you want to stay close to the CBD but disconnect from it, in a more relaxing environment.
If you have kids, this is the place to visit with a huge free playground and the many attraction around (read more later).
In this respect, Darling Harbour is a fantastic place to stay for family with kids.
Just factor in more walking then you would do in the CBD.
You can go to Darling Harbour by ferry or with a 20-minutes walk from the Town Hall metro station.
A stay in Darling Harbour can be extremely convenient when your main goal is to stay around the CBD area, for business or just for the places to visit in Sydney.
It’s a nice relaxed area walking distance from the CBD with so many bars and restaurants to visit.
Strangely enough, there is not a wide offer of hotels though, and you should book well in advance to stay in this area
The Ovolo 1888 Hotel is the little gem in the area with lots of add-ons quite often included in the price as breakfast, minibar and sometimes even the happy hour
- Chinese Garden of Friendship: This is a beautiful example of the perfect integration of Chinese traditions with the Australian culture. The garden was donated as a sign of friendship by the Guangdong province to the city of Sydney in 1988. It has a characteristic Chinese style with the garden formed by bridges that cross small streams, ponds, and mounds. A place of peace in the heart of the Sydney.
- SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium: it is the largest aquarium in the world with the biggest collection of sharks in captivity. Visiting the aquarium is a unique experience. You will be able to walk underwater through transparent tunnels and admire the seals, the coral reef and the colourful fish in their natural habitat. There is also a full section dedicated to the penguins. The aquarium is part of the Sydney Wildlife World, with the largest variety of reptiles, birds, insects and Australian butterflies.
- WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo: this zoo has only Australian animals: kangaroos, emus and, of course, the koalas, which seem to be the most popular ones with the tourists. Unique is the Kangaroo Walk-About, an area where people can walk in the animal environment separated only by a small fence
- Madame Tussauds: the famous wax museum that opened originally in London and it is now popular in many other cities in the world, Sydney included.
- Australian National Maritime Museum: you can visit a submarine, an impressive gunship, a magnificent replica of the James Cook’s HMB vessel and so much more.
Eating and drinking
- Cohibar: great view to the city and a nice beach life feeling around it. Specialised in cocktails. It can be very very busy on Friday nights and weekends
- Zaaffran: located on the first floor of the Shopping Center this restaurant delivers amazing dishes. It is a bit of a new fusion Indian style food, do not expect the usual suspects. I was also impressed by the long list of wines
- Muum Maam Barangaroo: the long walk to the bottom end of Darling Harbour is well worth the effort for this hidden gem. Such delicious food
Where to stay in Sydney for the nightlife – Darlinghurst
Darlinghurst and the nearby Potts Point are the areas where the biggest part of the Sydney nightlife is.
In saying that there are super quiet streets as well as super parties streets where it is impossible to sleep due to the noise.
I was in the area a few times an on one occasion I did not realise my accommodation was just in front of a bar open till 4am. But during the day it was super quiet, sigh.
Oxford Street is the area with possibly the highest concentration of bars and pubs in the whole of Australia.
There is a big influence from the gay community that uses this area for the famous Mardi Gras parade, an event not to be missed if in the city in early March.
After the second world war, this area was mostly inhabited by refugees and European immigrants that took here foreign customs as cafes and cabarets that soon transformed in strip clubs.
The 70s and 80s were years when prostitution and drugs were reigning in the area and it’s almost incredible and unthinkable, the change Darlinghurst, Potts Point and Woolloomooloo have gone through.
Once you leave the main streets and explore inside these districts you can find real gems, peaceful alleys and lanes beside the amazing restaurants and trendy eateries.
It’s one of my favourite areas to stay, however being selective is really important otherwise you may end up with a sleepless night.
If you are after a hotel in this area I would suggest the Larmont Sydney by Lancemore, so close to bars and restaurants but still very quiet.
The rooms are spacious and a few have balconies as well (see photos here)
The Ovolo Hotel in Woolloomooloo, an amazing quiet gem not to be missed and just a few hundred meters from the nightlife.
It is in one of the old pier, formerly a woollen dock, fully refurbished and redesigned (see photos here)
Stunning position, just minutes away from the CBD and the Botanical Garden, the Ovolo offer complimentary breakfast. And in 15 minutes walking, you are the heart of Darlinghurst.
- Sydney Jewish Museum: an interesting place to discover the history of the Jewish from the first fleet, which included few Jews, to nowadays, going through some of the darkest years of our past. At 12pm they organise a free 40 minutes guided tour, not to be missed.
- National Art School: an interesting building to visit, the formal gaol of Darlinghurst. The students have also organised an area where they show their own work. It can actually be quite interesting and you could come across some of the future names in the art world.
- Artspace: it’s the centre for experimentation and contemporary art. It’s admission free.
- Elizabeth Bay House: It was known as the finest house in the colony. It has been refurbished and taken back to its splendour. I loved both the interior and the view to the bay
Eating and drinking
Here is great news, most of my favourite spots are in the same area, almost in the same street actually.
- Buffalo Dining Club : think fresh buffalo mozzarella flown from Italy together with a great range of prosciutto and jamon serrano from Spain. Pasta is also available if you still have space 🙂
- Una’s Restaurant : real German food with German beers of course. Plenty of schnitzels at a reasonable price served with a great service. One of my favourite Teutonic places outside Germany
- Kings Cross Hotel : a great local pub on 4 levels. Walk up to the rooftop in summer. Live bands are also common, especially at the weekend.
Where to stay in Sydney for couples – Surry Hills
I find incredible how Surry Hills has gone through such a dramatic change in the last 15 years or so.
It was once one of the cheapest areas to buy a property. It is now one of the most expensive neighbourhood.
And there’s a good reason for that.
There are so many lovely cafes, restaurants and bars around, together with parks and leafy streets.
It’s a great place for couples that want to indulge in life. Have a relaxing coffee, a romantic dinner, a nice walk through the many art spots.
The nightlife is here more respectful. There is no craziness ongoing, everyone wants just to have an enjoyable and easy time.
Add to that the multitude of art centres and art exhibitions. If you can make it to one of the openings (usually on Thursdays) you will be suddenly immersed in the local underground art community
Surry Hills is also so close to the CBD that makes it an interesting area to be based even on a business trip. You leave the office and you walk to one of the coolest and most romantic places in Australia.
It’s walking distance from the Central Station which makes it a super convenient place to stay.
A quick tip about accommodations?
In Surry Hills you can also find one of the best value accommodations in Sydney, the Best Western Plus Hotel Stellar.
It’s meters away from Hyde Park, the CBD and the all Surry Hills cafe and restaurants area. Great hotel in a fantastic location.
You will find more galleries in Surry Hills, Waterloo and Alexandria than in any other area of Sydney.
Most of the openings are on Thursdays. There is usually a talk from the artist(s) and sometimes drinks and appetisers are offered.
I love the openings as you end up always meeting interesting people, mostly locals.
You should not feel any kind of pressure to actually buy anything unless you love the piece of art of course.
When and if you see something interesting, then move in, otherwise just have an “arty” chat
This is just a small list of galleries. You can have a look at an extensive directory on ArtGuide.
If you need free internet access or you just want to have some reading time, you can visit the local library on Crown Street.
Eating and drinking
It’s always a hard choice, even more so in Surry Hills.
I like to list these below just because they provide something unique in my opinion
- Il Baretto : simple Italian food. In saying simple I mean back to the origin of the real Italian food. No fusion, no Italian tapas etc. Just a few mains on offer based only on fresh ingredients. One of my favourite Italian restaurant in Sydney
- The Carrington: nice local pub off the main road. They offer a good selection of beer and some Mexican/Spanish food which is not probably what you are here for
- Bourke Street Bakery : best pies ever….full stop! It can be very busy
- Dove & Olive : nice gastro pub feeling with one of the biggest selection of beers I have ever seen. Every night they have a special beer and a special main which can save you some dollars however still eating amazing food
Coolest place to stay in Sydney – Newtown
If you are looking for a cool and quirky place to stay in Sydney then you should look into Newtown, in my opinion, the best if you want to experience the local Sydney life with lots of pub, restaurants, cafes, design shops and much more.
It’s around 4 km from the CBD however it is very well connected with frequent trains that will take you to Circular Quay in minutes.
It’s also super convenient if you fly in. The airport is so close that you better take a taxi, it’s much quicker and cheaper too.
Live music is another constant presence in the area with bands in pubs, mostly in the weekends, and theatres with a great line-up of famous names.
The first part of King Street, from the Victoria Park till the station, has some amazing Thai and Asia restaurants, supposedly the best in Sydney
If you are after middle east food then head to Enmore Road or King Street, after the station, towards Sydney Park.
Fashionable cafes are everywhere, meters from each other.
You will hardly experience any tourist here. This is the place to experience the local Sydney life.
The Sydney Park Hotel is one of the hidden secrets of Newtown. Amazing interior design that can take you back in time. Bathrooms are shared but believe you me there is great attention to the cleanliness. Price wise…unbeatable for Sydney!
- The Camperdown Cemetery: this is a unique place in its genre. It’s just behind the St. Stephen’s Anglican Church and you will suddenly feel in a Dracula movie, it’s not scaring, it’s actually quite interesting. It’s very tiny too….can I see a boutique one LOL
- The Sydney Park: this is another big park that you can visit for a rest or for some jogging. It’s right between Newtown and Glebe, another interesting University area.
- Gould’s Book Arcade: this bookshop on King Street is an amazing place to visit just to admire the number of books that the owner was able to amass in a relatively tiny space. There are columns of them and I always have a feeling they are going to collapse on me. Great spot to wander around
Eating and drinking
My first time in Newtown was over 15 years ago. It was difficult to find a cafe.
You go now and there is one every 5 meters and the remaining space is used by restaurants.
The style is more on the Asian side on King street, till the Newtown station (coming from the CBD).
From there you can keep going on King Street or turn to Enmore Road. In both cases, the style is more Middle East with plenty of Turkish eateries.
My favourites here?
- Corellis Cafe Gallery : a real local cafe with some honest food. I like it and I do not know why :o….good sign I guess 🙂
- Lentil As Anything : vegetarian and vegan restaurant run on a voluntary basis. They have just 2-3 mains on offer, based on the fresh food of the day. No price, up to you to leave what you think it is right (they give suggestions on the wall)
- Thai Pothong Restaurant : an institution. Nominated multiple time the best Thai restaurant in Sydney
- Brewtown Newtown : is it a bookshop or a cafe’….probably both…great place for some quiet time
- The Sultan’s Table : amazing Turkish eatery. It is BYO (there is a wine shop next door)
Where in Sydney for a unique stay – Paddington
Paddington is a fascinating area of well-refurbished terrace houses, trendy boutiques, cosy restaurants and cafes, niche art galleries and a few bookshops.
Add the biggest park in Sydney, the Centennial Park, and leafy streets everywhere.
This area reaches its best on Saturdays with the Paddington Markets next to the lovely Uniting Church.
Peaceful and arty are the two words that come to my mind when someone asks me about Paddington.
It’s a great area to stay in Sydney for couples if you are looking for a romantic stay, with a sense of local life.
It may work also for a family if you plan to stay in Sydney for a long stay with kids. There are some nice houses for rent that could be the perfect solution
It is located just between the CBD and Bondi beach which can make it convenient if you plan to visit both.
Buses run continuously on Oxford Street however they can be quite full during business hours and slowed down by the city traffic too.
Of all of the areas in this post, Paddington is probably the one that is less convenient for transportation and it will take you more time to move around.
- Paddington markets: running on Saturdays, this is the place to spend easily a morning wandering around. Every time I go I find always a new and unusual thing to buy….it may be just me though LOL
- Australian Centre of Photography: a must-see if photography is your thing. There are exhibitions that change on a regular basis and I was never disappointed. Try to match a visit with an opening speech, always interesting
- Centennial Park: the biggest in Sydney. The place for any sport, to do or watch. Few stadiums are also in the area, beside a great playground for kids and an area with cinemas, restaurants and bars.
Mrs Banks Hotel is one of my favourite boutique accommodations in the city, so unassuming from the outside, so beautiful inside.
The interior design is absolutely gorgeous (see photos here) and the service is really outstanding.
One of the best experiences in Sydney.
Right in the Centennial Park, you will find the most unique accommodation you can have in Sydney, the Residences Centennial Park. These are the two houses (3 or 4 bedrooms) originally used by the rangers in charge of the Centennial Park.
They have been tastefully renovated in a Victoria style. They have an amazing view and you will almost feel to be in the outback although you are right in the centre of the most populated city in Australia
If you are looking for where to stay in Sydney with family and friends then this may be the perfect, and unusual, solution
Where to stay in Sydney for the beach – Bondi
Let me start with the bad news first. It is not conveniently connected to Sydney.
You need to take a bus and a train. It will take time to go to most of the attractions.
In saying that, if you plan to stay 5-7 days in Sydney and you want to mix some beach life with some museums, and other places to visit, then Bondi could be the solution.
Worthless to say that the beach is just magnificent and that is why it is so popular.
If you are into surfing you can rent a board or take a few lessons.
If you want to have a quiet swim you can visit one of the many swimming pools built into the rocks in one of the many small bays so close to Bondi.
Do not miss the great walk from Bondi to Coogee beach, back by public bus.
You will experience one of the best coastal walks in Australia.
Moreover, you will go through the incredible Waverley Cemetery, overlooking the Ocean. Really unique.
There are plenty of accommodations in Bondi. The unfortunate thing is that they do not come cheap.
Here I like to suggest one of my favourites in Sydney for the great interior, the QT Bondi.
It’s an absolute gem, a great boutique accommodation, something you will remember for a long time and so close to the beach too, just a couple of hundreds of meters. This is Bondi in style and at an affordable price, for Bondi.
- Surfing and time at the beach: this is the main activity here, as easy as that
- Bondi to Coogee walk: a 6km walk that will remember for a long long while. The coastal scenery is just amazing. Have a rest and a swim in one of the many small bay along the walk
- Watson Bay: it’s a 20 minutes ride by direct bus. A beautiful area to explore with some nice beaches overlooking the bay area
- Walking around the Bondi Pavilion, always some interesting characters around 🙂
Eating and drinking
- Funky Pies : away from the touristy area. Good food, lovely service and an honest price too.
- Bondi Beach Hardware : really a nice place for a night out. It stands out from the Bondi crowd for both the food and the interior design
- Papa Pasticceria : this is a little gem you should not miss. It’s an Italian inspired pasticceria (patisserie). Amazing for coffees in the morning…..and the afternoon 🙂
Best surfing place to stay in Sydney – Manly Beach
Is Manly the alternative beach to Bondi? I am not sure about that.
I personally prefer Manly to Bondi, however it must be said that the beach is not as dramatic.
Why do I like so much Manly?
Because of many reasons:
- it is very well connected to the CBD and all the attractions that Sydney offers. There is a speed ferry that takes just 15 minutes or, alternatively, the public ferry in 30 minutes. Plenty of options.
- there is a surf beach on the ocean side for some action and there is a quiet calm beach on the bayside for some easy time and swimming, perfect for the kids.
- Manly has such a village cooled down surfing attitude that you immediately feel miles away from the business area. You feel on vacation, more than any place in Sydney
- there are some of the most beautiful walks, inside the Sydney Harbour National Park, with spectacular views to the city and the bay
- restaurants, bars and cafes with a good range of quality and prices
There is only a small drawback.
It’s far away from the Airport although not as complicated to arrive.
Take a direct train from the airport to Circular Quay and the Ferry from there. It should take around one hour, based on the connection time.
It works as a motel, however, it does have also a few apartments that work great for families.
For a more secluded and romantic stay, ideal for couples, you should check out this Manly Beach Retreat.
Absolutely magnificent interior (see photos here) and just meters Shelly Beach
- Surfing here is as big as in Bondi, if not more. It’s not as touristy as Bondi which means less crowded overall
- Manly Sea Life Sanctuary: this aquarium has been permanently closed in January 2018. Just in case you have already planned a visit
- The north beaches: rent a bike and ride up to Palm Beach (30km) or anyone between
- Walks in Sydney Harbour National Park
Eating and drinking
I always found hard to find a good cafe’ in Manly till I walked in Market Place, a parallel of the Corso and I stopped at the Market Lane Cafe.
Two meters from there you can also find Jipang, a place I always go back for its nice Japanese food.
And next door is Momo Bar, a dumplings and poké bowls eatery, my favourite in the Manly area.
For a good beer head down to the 4 Pines Brewing Company, meters away from the ferry station, on the bayside. Great selection, you can also go for the taste mix
If you have only a few seconds to spare and you just want to check the coolest hotels in Sydney, including some boutique options then have a read to the below list. I have added a link to the area where the hotel is located so that you can easily scroll down to read more on it.
My favourite options are:
Transportation in Sydney
Let’s start with something practical before going into more juice.
The transportation system is not probably something Sydney is famous for, especially considering the size of the city (5 million people).
There is a small metro ring with 7 stations in the CBD and that is it. From almost any of these stations, you can catch a train to the outskirts of Sydney.
Sometime to reach a place, even as famous as Bondi, you need to catch a train and change to a bus paying two tickets. It has to be said that the transportation cost is low when compared to other Australian cities like Melbourne.
The bus network is actually very good although it may be intimidating for people visiting Sydney for the first time. Bus stops are not always clearly marked. The bus does not provide the name of the next stop and this may be an issue for someone.
My advice here is to run Google Map and follow where you are. The alternative is to go the old way, seat close to the driver and ask him/her. They are usually super nice and very entertaining. I always have lots of fun
Ferries are probably the best and quickest way of transportation. Very reliable and punctual. A place like Mainly may look far away however it is just 15 minutes by fast ferry.
Here you can find a few maps and timetables of the public transportation system.