“If Paris is a city of lights, Sydney is the city of fireworks” – Baz Luhrmann
Sydney is one of the most iconic cities in the world. A vibrant and modern hub on the south east coast of Australia, it has a little bit of everything you could want from a destination and an incredible connection with the water that surrounds it. So whether you’re a foodie, a beach bum or super keen on seeing sights, I feel confident you’ll find something here to satisfy your interest. We spent 7 nights in Sydney at the beginning of our big Australian adventure and it’s a great place to start.
Choose somewhere fairly central to stay, especially if you are short on time. That doesn’t however have to mean the CBD. In fact, why not stay somewhere a short ferry ride away from central Sydney and enjoy being on the water daily? We stayed in North Sydney where we found a fantastic balance of quiet local life and also getting to be tourists when we wanted to. Our little privately owned apartment, rented out near McMahon’s Point, boasted a priceless view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is a great idea if you are travelling from afar to Sydney and are likely to spend the first 24-48 hours fighting jetlag. Even if you spend time catching up on sleep in your apartment, you can enjoy the view every time you open your eyes and feel connected to your destination without even stepping out the door. My favourite sight was sunrise behind the bridge. Being a late-riser typically, I never normally catch sunrise, so I guess even jetlag can have its advantages!
Food-wise, you will never get to enjoy all the amazing places Sydney has to offer, so don’t try. No matter what you are into, Sydney can offer you the food of your choice. We found all that we ate to be of fantastic quality wherever we stopped, be it recommended or stumbled upon. So my best advice is to explore without giving attention to food, and see where the city takes you. Darling Harbour is a nice spot to enjoy food or a drink on the water, and The Rocks is culturally rich and fun at night for food too. Manly has an impressive selection of food options and lots of drinking spots so take an afternoon to enjoy the atmosphere here. On a sunny day, stop for lunch or a cold drink at Opera Kitchen for views of the harbour and a summer-in-the-city, laid-back vibe. Food can be expensive in Sydney so if you are planning a long trip, go for a self-catering apartment and balance eating out with a few home cooked meals to help the money go further.
The one thing I had always wanted to do in Sydney was the Bridge Climb. It is a little dear at nearly $300 a ticket but in my opinion well worth the money, the photo and the cheesy baseball cap! The guides were informative and interactive, the safety was outstanding and the small group means you get to move at an ideal pace, not too fast and not too slow. We picked the last ‘day’ climb, just before the sunset prices start. This way, you pay a little less than the sunset groups, but still experience sunset on your way down. You can’t take any photography equipment up so the only way to have a photo or video of your experience is to pay for the company’s photos which they will take plenty of for you. Yes, it’s a little naughty of them but actually it was quite nice to concentrate entirely on the surroundings and view instead of keep snapping away. Embrace the idea of not having your phone glued to your hand and take in Sydney from 134 metres above sea level. Priceless!
Take a sunny day to walk the Bondi to Coogee coastal path. We chose to go backwards and start in Coogee with a spot of lunch. Easy to find, buses from Circular Quay will drop you off right by Coogee Beach. The walk takes you on a windy trail along the coast where you can enjoy wonderful sights and feel the spray of the sea. Watch surfers tackle the waves and relax on various beaches along the route. There’s also a picturesque cemetery, namely Waverley, that has a wonderful peaceful feel, with gravestones looking out to sea. Once you arrive at your destination, walk the length of Bondi and appreciate the street art along the sea path. Finally, treat yourself to a drink in The Bucket List bar or one of the other venues with a beach front view. We were recommended to finish our walk in Bondi and it was certainly a great feeling when we rounded the corner and saw the infamous beach stretching ahead of us. From Bondi, buses take you back to Circular Quay regularly. Buses cost around 4 AUD with an Opal card which can be obtained and pre-loaded from Circular Quay, as well as many newsagents and shops. Opal is the cheapest and easiest way to use public transport in the city because buses and ferries do not take cash or card payments onboard.
Pick an afternoon to wander the Royal Botanic Gardens and learn about a number of different Australian plants and herbs. This hub of green in the city is a welcome respite from the tall buildings and hustle and bustle, especially on a warm day. I recommend walking the path that clings to the harbour first, from the Opera House to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. You can enjoy views along the way of the Opera House in front of the Harbour Bridge which is a nice angle for photos. This is another good spot to enjoy lunch, a drink or an ice-cream. Check out what guided walks and tours are on in the gardens during your stay and pick a day where you can get the most out of the park. I would have loved the Aboriginal Medicine and Food tour that teaches you all about native remedies for keeping well with plants, but sadly it wasn’t on during our visit. I will continue my search for something similar outside of Sydney … or perhaps someone could go for me and report back please!
If you are short for time in Australia, don’t miss a day trip to the Blue Mountains from Sydney, before flying out of the area. If you are time-rich or are using Sydney as a start of a road trip like us, enjoy the city to its fullest first and save the Blue Mountains for the very first stop on the road. About 2 hours drive outside of Sydney, Kattoomba offers Scenic World and the Three Sisters. We recommend starting at Scenic World as a visit really must involve the 52 degree steepest railway in the world! Here, you can enjoy the rainforest walk, shaded and gentle, before taking the Skyway out of Scenic World to join the footpaths that lead you round to view the Three Sisters. From here, if you fancy a bit more exercise, keep going on the tracks and get up close to the Three Sisters. Some of the tracks up here are very steep and there isn’t a lot of shade from the intense sun. Take water and good shoes, and as the crowds start to thin, enjoy the many small trails that give you spell-binding, blue views over this mysterious landscape.
You could live in Sydney and still not run out of things to do on the water, places to enjoy meals, or ever get bored of the sight of fireworks over the bridge. So whatever you decide to do in Sydney will be worthwhile and mainly determined by the length of your stay. We felt a week was a lovely compromise: long enough to slip into Sydney life and avoid being tourists every day and short enough to get us out on the road to start our campervan adventure. Many places in Sydney offer campervan hire or places to buy vehicles if you are looking to start a roadtrip. We feel Sydney is a must see city in Australia and really loved our wonderful location on the north side as a starting point to our trip. Next month, join us as we navigate the east coast in search of all the beauty that this side of Australia has to offer outside of the cities. Thanks so much eclectic Sydney for getting us started!
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