So, you have just arrived in Sydney and are raring to go explore this beautiful city.
1) Sleep and adapting to jetlag – don’t underestimate it. My first experience of it, with a flight not broken by a stopover was incredible. I slept like the dead. Even when I woke up, I couldn’t move any part of my body other than my eyes. Completely fruitless, all I could do was surrender and go back to sleep. First lesson, do NOT have an afternoon disco/nanna nap. Do NOT.
2) Get out and walk the city. For the first time tourist, all roads lead to Circular Quay, the transport hub and also home to the beautiful Port Jackson harbour, better known as Sydney Harbour. Well at least I thought they did but a friend who recently arrived from the UK seems to have problems navigating the city and when heading there, usually ends up at the other side of town completely. Framed on one side by the Harbour Bridge and the other, the Opera House (opened by Queen Elizabeth II on October 20, 1973), Circular Quay is a magnet for tourists.
3) Watsons Bay – being English, fish and chips is something of an obsession. Finding good fish and chips is very difficult in Australia. Believe me, I’ve tried. And tried. And keep trying. Doyle’s takeaway shack at Watson’s Bay is probably the closest I’ve come. And the trip there is amazing alone. Get the ferry from Circular Quay, take in world beating views of the harbour, and join the queues on arrival. Once you have your food, go and sit on the grass like all the locals, eating your fish and chips, looking back across the sparkling azure waters to the city. When you are ready to return, jump on the bus and try to count the number of homes fit for millionaires as you journey through the suburb of Vaucluse.
4) Manly beach – very popular, for good reason, Manly is one of the best beaches in Sydney for tourists to easily get to. Once again, head to Circular Quay and jump on a famous green and gold ferry for the 30 minute ride across to Manly. On arrival, don’t make the mistake of somebody I know who thought the tiny strip of beach he could see on arrival at the ferry wharf was the “famous Manly beach” Utterly unimpressed, he spent a short time soaking up some rays before deciding it was the most overrated beach he had been to. Now, had he walked from the ferry, across the Corso, he would have arrived at the “real” Manly beach, surely garnering much improved memories of his little day out.
5) Bondi to Coogee coast walk - The easiest way to get to the start of this walk is a “train and bus” combination ticket. Train to Bondi Junction and then a bus from the interchange to Bondi beach. Usually a 333, 380, or 381 bus. Don’t hang around in the very faded elegance of Bondi, but head along past the fabulously located Bondi Icebergs outdoor swimming pool, and onto the coastal path walk to Coogee, taking in delights such as Tamarama, Clovelly and Bronte on the way. All worthy of return visits in their own right. On arrival in Coogee who can resist fish and chips (I told you I was obsessed) at Chish and Fips on the beach. Washed down with a cold schooner from the Coogee Bay hotel.
6) The Blue Mountains – take the train from Central station out to the Blue Mountains, a journey of just over 2 hours from Sydney, but a world away on arrival in Katoomba. Do a walk, jump on one of the tour buses, explore. Discover why it is in fact called the “Blue” mountains, which is as a result of the blue haze given off by all the eucalyptus leaves. Breathe in the fresh mountain air and marvel at the thought you are so close to a bustling city yet so far away in the mountains.
7) Spit to Manly walk - If you are feeling energetic, do the 10kms Spit to Manly walk. You will not be disappointed. If you were paying me for this recommendation I would give you a “no quibbles” money back guarantee. Get the bus to Spit bridge from the city and start the walk along the Middle Harbour shoreline. See the Heads, north and south, from a different perspective. Visit a historical site of Aboriginal rock engravings. Make friends with one of the many iguanas you will inevitably see on the way. Reward yourself at the end with a cold cider at the New Brighton Hotel on the Corso and lunch at one of the many cafes and restaurants lining the sea front.
8) Taronga Zoo – And we are back to Circular Quay again for the ferry over to Taronga Zoo. I told you Circular Quay would be an important spot for the visitor to Sydney. Now, some people like zoos. Some don’t. I’m in the “do” camp and not just because Taronga surely the best view from any zoo in the world. It also has an overall experience to rival that of even the great Singapore Zoo. Believe me, even the animals look to be smiling. And as you meander through the many exhibits, seeing all the animals, looking back across the water, seeing the sun reflected off the sails of the Opera House, you will understand why.
9) Harry’s Café de Wheels – Another food related recommendation, but who doesn’t like a good pie and peas? And where better to get them than the world renowned Harry’s Café de Wheels, at Woolloomooloo. Really. That is not made up. Google it and check. You can either walk here, through the Royal Botanic gardens (recommended) or jump one of the very frequent Sydney buses. Treat yourself to a Harry’s Tiger, which is your choice of pie, served up with peas, mash and gravy. They even have HP sauce to complement/finish the experience. Feeling like a bit of exercise after? Cross the road and tackle the very steep, very numerous steps up to Potts Point and have a wander through some beautiful leafy streets, lined with Victorian architecture.
10) The North Shore – Yes, there is life across the water too. Get out and explore some of Sydney’s lesser seen, and lesser known North Shore suburbs. Neutral Bay with it’s great bar and dining scene. Mosman with achingly cool cafes and Balmoral Beach just down Raglan Road (one of my favourite Sydney beaches). Kirribilli and Milsons Point with it’s eclectic mix of places to eat, and also home to the excellent theme park, Luna Park, a throw back to a more innocent time, when fun was fun. Take a bus up the Northern beaches. Check out Curl Curl (so good they named it twice), Narrabeen and beautiful Whale Beach. Finish up at Palm Beach, made famous by “Home and Away” and have lunch, drinks, or both at the Boat Shed café. This, my friends, is a gem.
What have I missed off your quintessential SYDNEY EXPERIENCE? What are your “go to” activities on arrival in this beautiful harbour city?
Let me know.