Sydney - New South Wales
For many, arriving in Sydney for the first time is very familiar. In the same way that arriving in New York City feels familiar. You’ve seen the place so often on TV or in magazine articles that you almost think you’re a local. Well of course you’re not and there is so much to discover here. The stunning harbour, the bridge, the Opera House, the Manly Ferry and Bondi Beach are all very well known, but depending on how much time you have here, you’ll only be scratching the surface.
If time permits, you can easily spend a week here. Particularly if you’re not simply running around ticking sights off your list. If you visit Manly Beach, take your towel, wander the length then sit and take in the atmosphere for 3 or 4 hours. Don’t arrive, buy a latte and then jump straight back on the ferry to Circular Quay. The same goes for Bondi, sure, hit the beach and practice your surf moves, but then wander from Ben Buckler round to the Bondi Icebergs and sample some of the cafe culture, have some lunch. Then take the clifftop walk around to Coogee Beach.
Bondi Beach was a little different to my expectations. I didn’t expect the wonderful crescent shaped cove. I imagined a long beach such as Surfers Paradise or Miami Beach. You could easily while away 1 of your 7 days here.
Australia is also where I discovered the hole in the ozone. It is imperative that you cover up and apply copious amounts of suncream. You can burn here on a cloudy day.
You may want to head out of the city to somewhere like Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley or The Blue Mountains. Both can be visited on a day trip, but if you have more time you can stay overnight. After visiting some wineries in the Hunter Valley you may want to pop back into Pokolbin to visit the ‘Smelly Cheese Shop’, pick up some crackers and head back to your accommodation. Outside of Sydney’s big city lights, you’ll get an impressive view of the night sky. The Blue Mountains are approximately 30 miles west of Sydney and are known for dramatic scenery, forests and cliffs with galleries, boutique guesthouses and lots of walking trails. You can book a tour here or take the train to Katoomba if you want to explore for yourself.
Sydney and all its suburbs are packed with great places to eat, coffee houses, galleries and of course the historical districts. Some of the best Vietnamese and Malaysian curries I’ve had have been in small, nondescript restaurants with a couple of tables and a busy takeaway scene.
There is a very good bus, rail and ferry network and so it’s difficult to advise on the best places to stay. A first time visitor would probably stay near Circular Quay, Darling Harbour, or the Rocks as a lot of visitor sights would be walkable, but certainly don’t be put off staying further out.
If you’re not up to climbing the Harbour Bridge, there are plenty of other places to get an aerial view of Sydney; from the Sydney Tower to simply visiting one of the hotels on Circular Quay and enjoying the view over dinner or drinks. Seaplanes can whisk you away to various restaurants along the coast.
Sydneysiders, like most Australians, love their sport, so see if your visit coincides with any Rugby, Cricket or Aussie Rules matches. If you’re around on a Sunday, head over to Rose Bay for brunch, there’s nothing quite like it.
When you’re planning your trip to Australia, my advice would be to pick the part of Australia you want to visit and really maximise the experience. Let’s say you have 3 weeks, I would visit Sydney, Melbourne (including the surrounding highlights) and Tasmania. Don’t try and visit everywhere in 3 weeks, you simply won’t do it. If you’re lucky enough to have time on your side, you may want to include an airpass and explore further afield. Another 3 week itinerary could be Sydney, Brisbane/The Gold Coast and Cairns/Barrier Reef.
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