Sydney: that guy at the party that everyone has hyped up and you’re really excited to meet, but, once you actually do, you don’t find much beyond his surface. Sure, he’s got a lot going for him in the looks department, but you don’t feel the desire to go on a second date.
This may seem like a harsh intro, but don’t get me wrong, I loved Sydney! Just like a hunky dude, it’s still possible to be infatuated, it’s just evident to you that it’s not a love that connects on a deep level. After just a couple days seeing the sights, though they were impressive, I was ready to move on.
Since Sydney is so popular, the amount of tourists you’ll encounter is daunting. Braving the thick crowds pays off though, when at the end of the day, you have ticked off these popular Sydney to-do's from your bucket list.
Sydney Opera House/ The Harbour Bridge
(duh). I’m sure I sound like a true travel expert with that recommendation! You’d be silly not to see them while you’re here. I have to admit, it was truly sublime to be casually sipping a coffee between the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge, two of the most iconic sites on the continent. You can climb the bridge for an exorbitant fee, but you can also walk along the deck for free. I’ve heard it’s worth it, and if you’re going to do the bridge climb I’ve also heard the sunset climb is amazing and worth the extra little bit you have to pay. As someone who just strolled across though, I’d say that’s plenty of an experience!
Another spot in that area that can tend to be overlooked because of its proximity to the two showstoppers previously mentioned. I loved walking through it though; it is so well kept and contains more than one million specimens! If you walk all the way around the water edge, you’ll come to a fantastic spot where the Harbour Bridge is visible right behind the Opera House. The spot is called “Mrs Macquarie’s Chair,” and you’ll know when you’ve made it when you see 100 “Easterners” (for lack of a better nomenclature) taking selfies. That number is not even an exaggeration.
It’s kind of like the touristy part of Orlando but put around a body of water. There’s actually a Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville and an IMAX. Again, cool place to see, but nothing the non-mainstream part of you will turn to mush over. If you do like touristy things though, (don’t worry I’m not a hipster I won’t judge) you can buy a pass called the “Iventure Card” that’ll give you access to the Taronga Zoo, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Tower, Madame Tussauds (a wax museum), and discounts on restaurants.
I didn't make it to Manly Beach, but I LOVED Bondi Beach. I actually stayed in a hostel there a couple nights, which was a lot better than taking the hour long, one train, two bus commute from the city. I went just as spring was in full bloom and the beach was packed towel to towel, the ocean packed surfboard to surfboard. I’m usually the type to prefer a deserted beach, which as luck would have it, I got that when one of the days I was there a storm rolled through. I sat in the sand and watched a lone surfer battle choppy waves. The dichotomy of one day being one of a thousand people on Bondi Beach, and the next being one of two, was existential.
Before you go, watch the show “Bondi Rescue,” it’s an Aussie equivalent to Baywatch but reality style. Also, it’s a must to eat at The Bucket List and swim in the Iceberg Bondi Baths. These are two saltwater pools located right on the beach that are surely worth the 7 dollar entry fee. I swam around all afternoon “in the ocean” with no worries of getting annihilated by sharks, or worse, pro surfers.
A day spent walking the popular Bondi to Coogee trail contained some of the loveliest hours of my life so far. It takes a while if you go all the way and back, so make sure to start in the morning. Also, I thought I’d need tennis shoes because a guy at my hostel used the word “hike” when talking about it, but flip flops (or thongs as they call ‘em) will suffice. I stopped at almost every beach, so if you’re doing the same, make sure to note that the recommended 3 hours for the walk will turn into 5 very quickly.
A group tour from Sydney to the mountains is well worth the money, take it from someone who spent three hours on a train and an hour on foot to get there. Two friends and I bought a ticket at Scenic World for about $35 AUS (included if you do a group tour), which is totally worth it because you get to ride the Railway, Skyway, Cableway and Walkway as many times as you want. Guides throughout the park teach you history and legends of the rock formations. Most importantly, especially if you’re my friend Lauren, you have access to a toilet all day. Not to mention the railway is the steepest railway in the world!
Hostel info: Noah's Backpackers - 2 out of 5 suns. It's pretty gross to be honest and reception wasn't super receiving. Also, there is no air conditioning. It does get a star, though, because it's location is spot on; it's right on the beach and directly above a wonderful little cafe. Try the green smoothie!
free wifi- only in common areas though
free body board hire
Favorite person I met along the way: My bus driver from Melbourne -> Sydney, because he gave me great advice about traveling alone and how to be safe. Australia isn't very dangerous (well the animals are scary but the people are typically fine), but it was good to get some tips at the start of my big adventure.
Fun fact: You can probably picture what the shells that comprise the roof on the Sydney Opera House look like right? Well if you took all 14 and put them together you would assemble a perfect sphere. The architect who designed the venue got the idea from peeling an orange!