Once a week I’ll be sharing insights, travel tips, photos, and anything else that might be interesting, for a city or region from around the world. I figured what better place to start with than my current home city?
When someone says Australia they immediately think of bronzed body’s, white sandy beaches, kangaroos, Vegemite, and throwing shrimps on barbies. Now, while I’m happy with most stereotypes associated with being Australian let’s get some housekeeping out of the way shall we? No Australian has ever ‘thrown shrimp on the barbie’, mainly because down under we take barbecuing very seriously and won’t ever throw meat onto the grill. Also we eat prawns, not shrimp. Secondly, we do not drink Fosters beer. Ever. Don’t come to a party with a carton of Fosters unless you’re willing to carry it home again.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get started – Sydney! The home of Bondi Beach, the Sydney Opera House, and ‘the coat hanger’ (also known as the Sydney Harbour Bridge). After living here for just 18 months I can tell you it’s so much more than that though, there are so many different places to visit and things to see that it can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re here for a limited time. To help you out I’ve listed a few things to see and do while you’re here, not all of them will be in your guide book….
Ok so this one will be in you’re guide book, but there is a reason for that, it’s iconic!
If you’re visiting in the winter you’ll see the hard-core surfers, get a table at an oceanfront café with no troubles and you wont need to fight for personal space on the footpaths. Winters in Australia are generally pretty mild so if you time it right, and get a sunny day, it’s still an enjoyable day out.
Happen to be here in the summer? That is a whole different kettle of fish! You can’t extend your arms without hitting someone and even if you head off the footpaths and down to the sandy shoreline you’ll find less than a metre between towels. “Why not try and go for a walk, away from the crowds” you ask? The ‘Bondi to Coogee’ walk is packed with strolling lovers staring out to sea, families stopping to checkout the view, and people who think it’s fun to walk for exercise (honestly, that’s what cars were invented for!).
Loving the idea of seeing an Australian beach but you HATE crowds? I feel you gurl, I feel you! My suggestion is head north. The northern beaches are scattered with million dollar mansions to match the million dollar views AND there’s breathing room when you do decide to put your towel down.
This one is also in the books but it’s often hard to figure out where (and what) it is exactly. ‘The Rocks’ is the name given to a historical area of Sydney next to Circular Quay, once known as the slum area of Sydney, it is now a vibrant collection of upscale shops and weekly markets, backpacker hostels near high-end hotels, restaurants and pubs hosting those of all walks of life.
The part that most city guides forget is where, exactly, to go in the area. Where should you eat? Where should you shop? What should you see? This really is like asking “how long is a piece of string?” because the answer will vary person to person, and most of the charm of the area is the old buildings and intertwining roads and alleys. If you feel like you still need guidance though, my options would be to hit up the markets, do a pub crawl, and see what’s happening down at the Sydney Dance Company or book in for a spa treatment at the Shangri-La.
Need more ideas? Check out the website – The Rocks
Queen Victoria Building (QVB)
The QVB is located right next to Town Hall, making it super easy to get to/from with public transport, and a great meeting place for friends. It’s also one of the most amazing buildings in the city, and one of the main things I remember from my first visit to Sydney. Completed in 1898, and originally housing a concert hall, coffee shops, offices, showrooms, and warehouses with hairdressers, tailers, florists, etc. it’s long been an icon of Sydney city. The concert hall may be long gone but you can still have a coffee there (or high tea if that’s more your thing), or purchase some clothes & shoes (though less tailored than days gone past). Located amongst the retail stores you can find many antique stores. You can shop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art store and then visit the Dr Seuss store. Want to add to your hobby plane collection while your friend looks at one-of-a-kind jewellery? No worries! There’s a giant hobby shop and plenty of jewellery stores too.
Afterwards head right down to the underground level, get yourself a coffee and start on the more discounted retailers. Depending on which way you go you’ll end up at the Town Hall train station, or Myer (and if you ended up at the wrong end, turn around and head back, you’re sure to have missed a hidden gem behind the crowds on the first walk past).
Travelling with children (or children at heart)? Make sure you’re on the top level, and near the Royal Clock on the hour, any hour, between 9am and 9pm. The clock will chime, the figures will move, and the kids will want to wait and watch it again in an hours time.
For tourists wanting those postcard photos, without the crowds, check out Watsons Bay and Camp Cove.
Camp Cove is a beautiful little beach that you can swim, kayak or scuba dive from and it’s only a 10 minute drive from the city! There’s also a kiosk there, so if you’re more of an ‘eat ice-cream on the sand’ kind of person then they have you covered (not literally, you’ll need to remind yourself to Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap unfortunately). The beach itself is a short stroll around the rocks from Watsons Bay ferry wharf, or there is a parking lot just near the entry stairs.
NOTE: if you decide to go for a stroll, please note that Lady Bay Beach is nearby and a super easy walk from Camp Cove. What’s so strange about that? Nothing…except it’s a nude beach, and while I have no problem with people wanting that all over tan, I thought a heads up would be welcomed for those who want to be prepared for such a vision.
Penrith Whitewater Stadium
Want something exciting? Want something a little different? While the western suburbs are littered with venues that were built for the 2000 Olympic Games, Penrith played host to the whitewater rafting events in the only man-made rafting course of it’s kind in the whole Southern Hemisphere.
Located 1 hour west of the city, the course is open September to June and costs $94 per person for a 90 minute ride.
Check out the website for more details – Penrith Whitewater Stadium
So if the teenagers are making bum imprints on the lounge, or you’re bored of the same old Sydney sights, I would definitely check out this amazing venue!
There you have it folks – 5 differently paced activities for your time in Sydney! If I’ve missed something, or you have any questions, just leave a comment down below.