Dates: Apr 2016, Mar 2017, Feb 2018
Route: Flight from Seattle to Sydney via San Francisco.
Tip: Australia is all about the outdoors which is filled with many types of snakes, insects, and other creatures which are mostly not human friendly. A bit of common sense and awareness will help prevent you from landing in a hospital to get an anti-venom shot. Most parks will have on display all the local creatures which can sicken or kill you.
Take two scoops of Vancouver, one scoop of London, and top with some of the most chilled out people in the world. Now serve that on a bed of white sand with heaping dollops of sunshine and you get Sydney. Of all the cities I have been to in this world, Sydney is perhaps the one that comes closest to perfection on almost every metric for long-term living. The general way of life in Australia seems to be one of “do what you want to do as long as it does not affect my sun-drizzled intoxicated existence in this island far away from the maddening world”. Even in the heart of the business centre of the city, there is a laid-back attitude that permeates throughout the fabric of life. Whether it is having your morning coffee and avocado-on-toast or raising a pint to the good life, is just chilled out here. Sydney has many, many things to offer and most of it outdoors so plan accordingly. It has an amazing collection of restaurants and bars but without much of the snobbery found in most big cities.
Circular Quay and Opera House
This is the centre of touristy Sydney and a must do. On the eastern end of the Quay is the Opera House, THE landmark of Sydney and on the western side, the Harbour Bridge. There are things to see and photograph all around and it is one of the most lively areas in the city. You can spend an entire day just walking and exploring the area. Start your day by getting a coffee and wander into the Royal Botanic Gardens which are just to the east of the Quay. Leisurely wander through the gardens and make your way to the Opera House. There are many picture opportunities from the Gardens and also of the bridge. There are also many shops all along the Quay if you fancy shopping. In the centre of the Quay are the terminals where one can catch a ferry to many points in the greater Sydney area. Wander over to Argyle Street and have lunch in one of the many brew pubs or restaurants there. After lunch, walk along the Quay and follow signs to climb onto the Bridge. This is a great way to get views of the Opera House and harbor from high up and work off your lunch. Finish your afternoon by walking along the boardwalk on the other side of the Bridge starting at Copes Lookout. There is also Luna Park which is an amusement park and full of rides. For photographers, don’t forget to do all of the above at night as the views are equally stunning.
Another very lively area that is an inland harbor right next to the business centre of Sydney. Start on the Pyrmont Bridge which gives sweeping views of both sides of the harbor and make your way to the far side. Climb down and explore the collection of boats in the north side and views back towards the CBD (Central Business District). This is a good place to go around sunset as it offers great photo opportunities of buildings and reflections. There are many busy restaurants and bars here so just pick one and enjoy the evening.
A short ferry ride from the terminal in Circular Quay, Manly offers a full day of activities that is all about outdoors and the sun. Get here by mid-morning and walk to the far end of the street after exiting the ferry terminal. This brings you to the main beach which will be packed on a sunny day. Spend the morning lazing on the beach or exploring the north side. After lunch at one of the many restaurants along the beach road, it’s time to work it off. Follow the Marine Parade to the south which offers views back to the main beach and also Manly’s residential areas. A short walk brings you to Shelly Beach which is in a sheltered bay and usually packed with sunbathers and swimmers. Above this beach will begin your ~4mi hike to North Head and Fairfax Lookout. Make sure to take plenty of water as you will need it during a hot day. The first part of the trail offers spectacular views of the sea and the cliffs jutting into it. Shortly after the Upper Lookout, you will walk through woods and towards the Barracks Precinct and see many WW2 defenses along the way. Keep an eye on where you walk as we saw a huge snake on one of our hikes here. Carry on along the marked trail after you pass through the Precinct and eventually you will get to the Fairfax track that is dedicated to many who lost their lives in WW2. The track ends at Fairfax Lookout which offers sweeping views back towards Sydney. Take the shorter route back via Darley Road and celebrate your hike with a cold beer at 4Pines Brewing. End the day with the ferry ride back to Circular Quay and sunset pictures of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
The other Sydney landmark is Bondi Beach and for a good reason; white sand, waves you can surf on forever, the Icebergs ocean pool, and a village filled with cafes and restaurants. The beach is a magnet for surfers and one look at the massive, rolling waves confirms why. This is a beach that is great for chilling, sunbathing, people watching, or just walking about and observing life. The star attraction here is Bondi Icebergs which features a massive saltwater pool where waves crash into the sides. It is an experience to sit on the sea wall and see if you can stay on as huge waves crash into the pool. Afterwards, the Icebergs Terrace café upstairs offers great food and sweeping views of the pool and beach beyond.
The other thing to do is to complete the 3.7 mile Bondi to Coogee walk. One of Sydney’s most scenic attractions, the trail starts just beyond the Icerbergs café and is made up of a trail that runs on the clifftops hugging the sea. There are many parks and viewpoints along the way and also the Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly, and finally Coogee beaches. Coogee also has lots of bars and restaurants including the Coogee Pavilion which is on the beach. This is a fun way to end the day over a few beers and seafood.
My Favourite Bars
Being a fan (fanatic?) of Belgian beer, my favorite bar in Syndey is the Beligan Beer Cafe, not far from Circular Quay. This is in an enormous hall reminiscent of Europe and there is also an excellent restaurant in the back.
The other bar worth a mention is Eau De Vie which is near Kings Cross. This is a 1920s themed bar which plays that role flawlessly including the entry being through the bathroom doors and reminiscent of the speak-easy bars of a past era. Whiskey and Rum fans will love this places for it’s craft cocktails and very informed staff.
We have given you a taste of what Sydney has to offer. There are many other beaches and suburbs around Sydney we plan to explore during future visits. This lovely city has become our winter home for the past few years and highly likely it will continue to do so in the future.
(Click on gallery images below for details)