Sydney has been on my list before I even had a list — ever since my babysitter’s daughter studied abroad there when I was about 5 years old. She sent me a snuggly toy koala that I named Katie and a book about a family of Koalas spending Christmas at the beach, which blew my mind as I’m used to White Christmases. I instantly became obsessed, so of course my first winter after finishing school, I went to Australia! Courtesy of the ever infamous “Nor’easter winter cyclone bomb” it took me about 48 hours via cab, train, and plane to finally make it, but it was well worth it!
Five Things You Must Do in Sydney:
Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is probably one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. It hosts over 1,000 events annually, an average of 3 per day so there’s literally always something going on, from famous musical performances to social events like the Guinness World Record’s Biggest Blind Date. That said, my favorite way to see it is during the evening light show – no ticket required!
The sails of the Opera House were constructed using over 1 million individual tiles, onto which are projected aboriginal images depicting the history of Australia and theimportance of story-telling as a tradition, particularly in Sydney, where, as a major port city, the native traditions were challenged by the constant stream of new ideas and technology being brought from abroad. You can also go inside and take a tour or get a drink in one of the restaurants overlooking the harbour.
Sydney’s Harbour Bridge is similarly iconic. If you’re a 90s baby you probably remember Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen climbing the bridge in “Our Lips Are Sealed.” If that’s not enough to inspire you, I don’t know what will. Much to my personal devastation, it rained the day I had planned to climb the bridge and I’ve seen enough brain scans in the Emergency Room to understand that climbing tall slippery metal things in the rain does not end well, but please, if you’re able to climb it, do so and send pics so I can live vicariously through you!
Free Walking Tour
That’s right folks, FREE! Every day twice a day there is a three hour walking tour of Sydney. This tour touches on several historical locations but the best two were the Queen Victoria Building and The Rocks. The Queen Victoria Building is this beautiful old building, which, in an effort to salvage the historic architecture, has been turned into a modern shopping mall. My favorite thing inside this building are the three tier clocks in the top level, which contain animated puppets acting out scenes from Australian and British history, including the beheading of King Henry VIII! The tour ends in The Rocks which is the historical cobblestoned and restaurant-laden part of town and the perfect place to grab a strong cocktail while you’ve still got your comfy walking shoes on.
Get your booty to the beach! Australia is home to some of the worlds most beautiful beaches including Whitehaven Beach which I will discuss in a future Whitsundays post. That said, Sydney also has quite a few lovely beaches. Bondi Beach, pictured above, is the most famous of Sydney’s beaches noted for it’s long flat beach space, lively boardwalk, and colorful street art but you have to get there early if you want to find enough space to get horizontal in the sand. The cliff walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach was probably my favorite thing to do in Sydney. The walk itself probably takes 2 hours and is STUN-NING!
The whole thing is lined with brilliant wild flowers and there’s tons of small beaches and a few inlets converted into natural salt-water pools to stop and swim along the way so you can definitely stretch it out to last the whole day. The most luxurious of these natural pools is the Icebergs, which is a set of amazingly clear seawater pools just before Bondi Beach that jut out into the ocean like…icebergs! If you don’t want to swim at the Icebergs, you can also just drop into the cafe and bar. They have amazing cocktails to refresh you on either end of your cliff walk or beach day! Alternatively, if a ferry ride is more your cup of tea as opposed to the Cliff Walk, you can catch a ferry from Circle Quay past the Opera House through the Harbour, over to Manly Beach which also boasts a few beaches, a cliff walk, and a seawater pool.
This is a great part of town near the Opera House and the Habour to catch a bite to eat. We ate at a restaurant called Buckley’s, named after one of Australia’s finest founding convicts. Convicts played a large role in the founding of Australia, and despite their shady history, modern Aussie’s are proud of their convict origins and there are several memorials to such.
Just north of the city is the Hunter Wine Valley, home to some excellent Semillon savignon blancs aka “savi-b.” Definitely worth a stop-off if you’re not driving. Cheers!
North of the Hunter Wine Valley, en route to Byron Bay aka Surfers Paradise aka the subject of my next post, is Dorrigo National Park, a rainforest full of walking trails and waterfalls! The trails here are paved and really easy to maneuver so it makes a great break from your drive, but be sure not to stray off the path and accidentally touch a ferocious stinging tree! There’s also a “Skywalk” – like a boardwalk in the sky – overlooking the entire Dorrigo Rainforest which is just about one of the most inspiring and diminutive views around.