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Sydney for an afternoon and evening

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Since our ff tickets are to Sydney even though we are spending the time in New Zealand -- we wanted to get back to Sydney the day before we return home. We were planning to catch a 7:00 flight from Christchurch puts us in Sydney at 8:30 -- by the time we clear customs and get into the city it will be close to noon. The flight the next day is at 11:30.

So we are trying to figure out where to stay for the night and what to do that day. I would think staying in town would be preferable to the airport area but which part of town? CBD? Rocks? Darling Harbor etc?

I would prefer to keep the hotel cost under $300 for the night.

As for what to do -- we don't have a lot of time -- a harbor ferry? -- which one? -- don't necessarily need a tour boat -- tour the Sydney Opera -- walk the bridge? see something of the original colony? Something else? What is realistic given the time we have? It will be January -- a Monday .

Thanks much!

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