Sydney was my home base for three weeks while exploring other areas of the east coast of Australia. I was based in Sydenham in the Inner West, staying with an old friend from school and it was great staying slightly out of the centre actually and having a little bit of normal life. Although it was a bit of a shock to the system to go back to western style prices for everything rather than the Indian and Malaysian ones I’d got used too!
Sydney as a city is small and easy to get around with the train system cheap and pretty frequent. I did a lot of exploring as well as the prerequisite beach hangs t and yoga classes too! Instead of giving a blow by blow account of my time in Sydney I thought I’d give a list of the things I would definitely recommend doing, seeing and eating!
Bondi to Coogee walk – Every guide book will tell you this is a must so I’m just seconding this. If you can do it on a day with gorgeous weather then do and take your bikini with you because the beaches you pass are too gorgeous to not swim. Brontë beach is a gorgeous little cove that I loved and has a lovely sea pool as well as sheltered rocky area for swimming. I was also lucky enough to visit during the Sculptures by the Sea festival which meant the route was lined with sculptures from artists from all over the world. The scenery was spectacular, the sea a myriad of different blues, cliffs over looking the ocean and even a cemetery to wander through. Perfect walk to take in the coast and slowly wander in the sunshine
Manly – Hop on the ferry at Circular Quay and head over the to the only ocean beach you can get to in Sydney by going on the ferry. You get a gorgeous view of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House on the way across the harbour and the town of Manly has lots of little shops and restaurants. The main beach is a long sandy classically Australian looking beach but just round the corner from the main drag there is a gorgeous cove, Shelly Beach, which is completely protected from the waves and perfect for swims and sunbathing. I spent a good couple of hours here in and out of the water before hopping back on the ferry
Botanic Gardens – Gorgeous large park on the edge of the harbour in the centre of the city. Lots of wide open space, views of the harbour and gorgeous plants. Great for a wander and a picnic once you’re done with sightseeing. The Calyx is a gallery within the gardens and it’s worth checking out what’s on their too as it’s a gorgeous space. While I was there they had a huge living wall full of plants for pollinators, absolutely gorgeous
Swim at Icebergs – Icebergs is quite possibly one of the most famous seawater pools in the world. It’s an icon, on the edge of Bondi beach and so worth going for a swim in. On a slightly chilly spring day I headed down there, noted the water temperature as 19 degrees, paid my $6 and dived in. It was honestly one of the best swims I’ve ever had, chilly yes but so exhilarating with the waves crashing from the sea into the pool. I’m a sucker for any kind of swimming though to be honest, if I’m near water I have to be in it!
Wander around Paddington Markets – I headed up to Paddington for one of the Saturday markets that’s there, full of local crafter’s and clothing brands it was great to wander around on a warm morning. There’s a little food area which had a live band playing and I did a fair bit of people watching sat there enjoying a cup of tea and date and nut ball. Even if not on market day Paddington is worth a wander around for its shopping. There’s a fair few good vintage shops up near Paddington Public School where the market is held and if you wander back down Oxford Street towards the city centre then you end up down at Paddington Junction. This is home to many of the Australian designers, not cheap shopping but nice for a wander around. Baby Anything is great for jewellery window shopping! Plenty of cafes and restaurants line the way too and it’s worth detouring off of Oxford Street at William Street. William Street is made up of rows of differently coloured Australian style houses with wrought iron balconies but most of these are now independent boutiques full of lovely goodies. While I was there they also had a street festival full of food stands and pop up bars, so keep an eye out for that!
The Harbour – obviously you can’t go to Sydney and not wander around the harbour and take in the views both of and off of the bridge. It’s such an iconic view made of two iconic structures that you can’t miss while in the city. I only walked across the bridge at traffic level rather than climbing either one of the towers or the actual bridge and to be honest the view back across to the Opera House was exactly what I wanted it to be. I wouldn’t feel like you had to pay to do one of the other bridge activities, walking along it is just as good. For the Opera House, take the time to wander all the way around and take in the view of this strange gorgeous building from every angle. I loved how the light caught the roof in different places from every angle and if you’re lucky you’ll see the Opera House seal who likes to hang out on the steps! You can’t visit inside unless you’re on a tour but you can wander around the foyer which gives you an idea of the interior
Taronga Zoo – the zoo in Sydney and another excuse to take a ferry across the harbour for that view. My relationship with zoos is always a little difficult as I always love seeing animals up close but always worry about their welfare. To the most part I was happy at Taronga, the only thing that didn’t sit quite right was the seal shows. In my head seals performing tricks just shouldn’t be a thing anymore. Other than that it was a great day out which also included a cable car ride back to the ferry! It’s got a great selection of animals from Australia too which you don’t see as often in the UK. Kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, cassowaries, platypus and quokkas all ticked off.
Museum of Contemporary Art – right on Circular Quay it’s a free contemporary art museum with a mixture of worldwide and Australian contemporary art. Great view from the rooftop cafe
Art Gallery of New South Wales – great free art gallery again, this time further into the city than Circular Quay but so worth a walk around. There’s a complete mixture of work, from aboriginal through installations to European Victorian oil paintings. There’s a lovely cafe restaurant too so well worth losing a couple of hours in
Eating and Drinking
Flour Drum – super cute cafe with lots of yummy cake which became my writing space in Newtown. Newtown itself is an area of Sydney well worth having a wander around, all independent shops and hipsters but this cafe is slightly out of the centre so normally quiet. Oh and it has the biggest teapots so that tea just keeps on going
Opera Bar – a drink at this bar under the Opera House is a must. Get there at sunset, order an aperol spritz and watch the sun go down behind the bridge with the light glinting off of the opera house. Not the cheapest but worth it as an experience
The Glenmore Hotel – again based around Circular Quay but this time up on the hill in The Rocks. Old pub with a couple of bars, outside tables and a roof terrace with harbour views. Great for a drink or an easy pub style meal
The Dolphin Hotel – pub in the Surry Hills area of Sydney, outdoor seating outside and upstairs and a large indoor bar area. Does pub food as well as drinks, great for an afternoon couple of glasses of wine
Button Bar – bar in the Surry Hills area that we ended up in after The Dolphin Hotel. Good cocktails and great Vegemite pizza!
Golden Lotus Vegan – amazing vegan Vietnamese place in Newtown. I’m not vegan, I’m not even veggie but I had an amazing vegan laksa here. Honestly it was so so good, if you’re in Sydney just go, I can’t describe how good it was
Sakura Japanese Kitchen – based just around the corner from the Westfield in Sydney city centre I was taken here by a friend after work and had the most amazing chicken katsu curry. Cheap, cheerful and great for a quick meal
Rosso Antico Pizza Bar – leaving the best until last. After a couple of months of half decent pizzas this was absolute bliss. Proper Italian stonebaked pizza with plenty of cheese, tomato and beer to wash it down! The menu has loads of different options as well as the classics. So worth a visit
There’s obviously so much more you can do in Sydney, it all depends on your interests but this is a little insight into what I got up to. Hopefully interesting and useful and with a few places off of the beaten track. Until next time Sydney!