This past week, my sister and I journeyed to beautiful Sydney, Australia. An incredible city with a wealth of sandstone buildings, beautiful beaches and amazing views, you really can’t go wrong with any activity. Everyone we’ve encountered has been extremely kind, open and willing to guide us directly to our destination. Literally. Still, I thought I’d map out some of our favorite things to do, shopping spots and restaurants. For those visiting in the summer months, I’m sure weather is generally clearer and hotter, but I appreciated the coolness of Sydney in autumn. Also, as it’s not peak season, there aren’t a ton of additional tourists.
Sydney Bridge Climb: One of our must-do’s, climb the Sydney Bridge with an experienced guide in a small group setting. The fascinating stories behind Sydney’s Harbour Bridge will surely interest any architecture or history buff. We recommend the Express Climb, as it’s one hour shorter, and goes to the same spot. You will receive a free group photograph, as well as a Sydney Bridge Climb hat.
Sydney Opera House: A gorgeous spot in Circular Quay, and probably the most well-known, heavily photographed site in all of Sydney. Originally intended to cost seven million dollars, with its self-cleaning, white tiles, the Sydney Opera House actually cost a full 100 million dollars more than expected! Haley and I saw Two Weddings, One Bride, a fantastic, funny operetta running through September 2017.
Bondi Beach: The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk is spectacular. Traveling along the coast, you’ll have the great opportunity to take a swim in Sydney’s many Rock Pools. To me, this was the most quintessentially ‘Aussie’ moment—all the handsome, tan surfers, swimming around like seals. Definitely factor in a few hours for this trip! We suggest taking the Watson’s Bay Ferry from Circular Quay, walking the Gap/Camp Cove and then arriving in Bondi via a short bus ride.
Manly Beach: Manly reminded me a bit of Miami. A big boardwalk, lots of shops and a bunch of tourists, Manly Beach is the place for fresh fish and chips. It’s a short ferry ride away, particularly if you take the Manly Fast Ferry. (This will cost you $17 AUD for a roundtrip ticket.)
The Blue Mountains (Scenic World, Leura): Haley and I took a day trip with AAT Kings to the Blue Mountains. Let me tell you, it was a once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list experience. Our knowledgeable, funny guide, Andy, took us high into the Blue Mountains, where we walked within a temperate rainforest, and had a small photoshoot at Echo Point. Scenic World is a great place for thrill seekers and nature lovers. Gliding high above the treetops, visitors take gondola and train rides through the former mining area. Within the AAT Kings tour, you will also have the opportunity to take a River Cruise, visit the 2000 Olympic Stadium and cuddle a Kangaroo.
Featherdale National Reserve: Featherdale is the place to play with Koalas, Kangaroos, Tasmanian Devils and Wombats. Well, sort of. You can only touch the Koalas, for $20 AUD, but you can seriously spend an entire afternoon chilling with a Roo. They’re gentle, inquisitive and super soft! A warning, I don’t usually like Zoos, as it makes me sad to see animals confined to a foreign territory. While this is a Reserve, protecting certain threatened or endangered species, it can feel quite Zoo-like. So.
Botanical Gardens/Lady Macquarie’s Chair: Don’t leave Sydney without taking a turn about the Botanical Gardens. This green, lush pocket of Sydney is romantic, and harkens back to the Victorian Era. Bring a picnic, and sit by the Rose Garden! Or, grab a seat at Lady Macquarie’s Chair, a stone-carved bench honoring the first Governor of Sydney’s wife.
Hyde Park Barracks Museum: Sydney, as a city, was built on the backs of convicts from the United Kingdom. Sent away as punishment, many convicts lived in the Hyde Park Barracks, a strict, rule-heavy boarding house of sorts. This interactive museum is great for children, as well as adults. The building was restored recently, although the structural integrity remains. P.S. You’ll never believe the sleeping arrangements!
The Rocks: The Old Town of Sydney, the Rocks is a beautiful neighborhood for a stroll or a bite to eat. As I enjoy roaming around aimlessly, take some time in the Rocks to explore without structure.
Queen Victoria Building/The Strand Arcade: These 19th Century shopping centers are gorgeous tributes to the past, while remaining hip to new fashion trends. With stained glass windows, an amazing clock and carpeted floors, you’ll start to wonder: Why don’t we have one of these in New York City?
David Jones: A more contemporary, Bloomingdales-esque shopping center. Ideal for those willing to shell out large amounts of cash. Visiting, for us, was more about the experience of viewing the store than anything else.
Paddington Markets: Saturday morning from 10AM onwards, walk to Paddington and enjoy market life. Clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, you name it! It’s there! And it’s all artisanal.
Paddy’s Market: Paddy’s Market is located in Chinatown. It’s a great spot for picking up Australia-themed products. If you’ve ever been to the Bahamas, it’s much like the Nassau Straw Market. Super overwhelming, but a fun place to check out.
The Malaya: Delicious, contemporary Asian food on Darling Harbour with superb Szechuan beef.
Bill’s: A perfect spot for brunch on your way to Paddington Markets with the fluffiest ricotta cheese pancakes.
Fine Foods Store: A lovely way to start your morning in the Rocks, Fine Foods serves freshly brewed coffee and yummy avocado toast
Spice Temple: Housed in the city center, Spice Temple offers very spicy Chinese food with a super cool vibe. The kung pao chicken is to kill for.
The Palace Tea Room: Grab a scone and some tea in the Queen Victoria Building. Be sure to mix your clotted cream with your raspberry jam.
Governor’s Table: Modern Australian cuisine, with fun, fruity cocktails, Governor’s Table is located next to one of Sydney’s greatest museums. If you dare, try the Kangaroo. (I didn’t dare. I couldn’t.)