All in all I was in Sydney for a total of just over a week, so while that hardly qualifies me as an expert of any sorts, I do have some further suggestions (a few are also mentioned in part I) should you decide to venture to this beautiful city any time in the near future.
Please take the time to go on a run or walk. There are miles of paved trail through and around the Botanical Gardens; enough so that even with hundreds of other runners and even more tourists all sharing the same path, your run will still be pleasant. The views don’t hurt either.
You can book a sailing trip around the Harbor, which I’m sure is spectacular, but if you’re not able or willing to spend the extra money then take the $12 ferry to Manly Beach. It departs every half hour or so from the main terminal (close to the Opera House and Bridge), and the ride takes about 20-25 minutes. Just make sure you get there about 15 minutes early so that when the gates open, you can fight for a seat on the back deck on the way there and the front deck on the way back.
Since you’re taking the ferry to Manly Beach anyways, you might as well make a beach day out of it! To get to the main beach, you have to walk through the charming beach town that is Manly. The white sand is perfect for lying out to get a tan and the waves are spectacular if you’re into surfing. Supposedly the fish and chips are also delicious at the little shops around the beach, but we opted for a cool gelato instead. Just be sure to watch for sharks if you jump in to cool yourself off…there were two sightings the day that we were there, which resulted in the complete evacuation of the water.
Before I came to Australia, someone told me that it was a very “casual society”. This may be the case in the bush, but it couldn’t be further from the truth in Sydney. When I say that everyone is beautiful in this city, I am not exaggerating. The men look like models dressed in business suits whose weekend activities must consist of playing sports outside in the hot Aussie sun. The women look like they literally stepped off of the runway and on to the streets to go about their daily business (which I can assume is, in large part, looking spectacular). And they are all wearing heels. Every single one of them, everywhere they go. As I walked around in my plain t-shirts and basic flip-flops (or thongs, as they call them here), I felt extremely envious and deeply regretted not having brought my heels, especially when we went out at night. Ladies, do yourself a favor if you’re coming to Sydney and bring at least one pair that can compete with the locals.
Speaking of getting dressed up, you have to go out and have some fun! If you’re looking for a crazy time, head to Kings Cross. This is the area where my hostel was located, and it had a lot of bars and clubs to keep you busy for the night. If you’re bored on a Thursday, for instance, you can go to Sugar Mill and participate in Tranny Bingo while enjoying a pitcher of VB. Trust me on this, it’s a blast. Or if you’re looking for something a little swankier, check out Piano Bar. It’s $10 to get in and the drinks are a little expensive (about $15 for a cocktail), but they play great music and there’s a good mix of people there. If the whole crazy clubbing bar scene isn’t your cup o’ tea, then you have to check out Surry Hills. It’s a little out of the way (especially if you’re walking from Kings Cross), but it’s awesome. This neighborhood would be where I would live in Sydney if I ever decided to relocate. It’s artsy and eclectic with tons of different places to sit outside on a deck and drink or have dinner; it reminded me a lot of some of the places that I visited while I was in NYC for vacation last year.
Since you’re going to be hungry after all that drinking, there is no question where you need to head next: Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. This free-standing shop on the water between Kings Cross and the Gardens is famous in it’s longevity and clientele; the walls outside are lined with pictures of celebrities from all over enjoying their delicious concoction, the Tiger.
The Tiger is a pie (like a Sheppard’s pie) topped with a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, mushy peas (literally peas that have been mushed up), and brown gravy. This is the ultimate drunk food, and tastes pretty amazing when you’re sober as well…although you might feel a little more guilty after consumption if you’re acutely aware of your actions.
In order to redeem yourself the next day, you could try to book a ticket to a show at the Sydney Opera House. What I didn’t realize before I actually went and explored myself is that the Opera House consists of multiple rooms, not just one “opera room”, which is what I had always assumed. The surface is also completely tiled and not just big sheets of white metal or something, which I had also assumed. Anyways, if you ask for a program of their latest shows you can often book them online for a special price of $35. Make sure you do this about a week in advance, though, because they will sell out quickly-especially on the weekends. My friend Kat and I had booked tickets to see Macbeth the Sunday before I left, but unfortunately the cast had a serious bout of food poisoning, so the show was canceled. When I head back to Sydney in a few weeks we are going to try our luck again. Seriously, it’s $35…how could you miss that? If theater doesn’t interest you, they play movies outside in the Botanical Gardens at the St. George OpenAir Cinema on a big screen with the Opera House and the Bridge as the background, which I can only imagine is extremely impressive. That wasn’t an option for me though, as the screen was shut down for the “winter”, but will reopen next summer. Sydney is also home to the world’s largest IMAX theater (about $30 a movie), so there’s always that option as well.
And finally, I have to recommend the hostel that I stayed at-The Blue Parrot. This was nothing like the hostels that I stayed at in NZ in the sense that it wasn’t someone’s farm house or located right across the beach with free dinner awaiting in the sand, but it was really great as far as (I imagine) city hostels go. Everyone who works there is incredibly sweet and willing to help, the location is great, they have unlimited (Your eyes don’t deceive you!! It’s true!) wifi, and they organize events at night for the entire hostel to join-they were actually recently voted the #1 party hostel in Sydney, I believe, but it wasn’t too crazy and generally everyone was quiet when it was time to be. The age group is a little young-I would say 19-22-but there was a pretty nice mix of people and age groups for the majority of time that I was there. Also, there’s an incredible coffee shop about two steps away, which I’m extremely grateful I didn’t discover until the last day for the sake of my wallet.
Sydney was an exceptionally picturesque city with enough activity to keep you busy for as long as you could possibly want…but after a week I was ready to continue on to my next adventure; I’m not someone who can resist the call of Hunter Valley for long.