The first thing we went looking for when we arrived in Sydney was a shopping mall, as my old suitcase had taken a beating too many on the trip to Fiji and was now due for retirement. We found a place called the Strand – very beautiful little place with lots of atmosphere and cute little stores with soaring prices, where we were lucky to find a place with a sale.
Circular Quay and the Rocks
We found the Quay to be a very good place to start your round trip of Sydney, as you will get a good look at the harbour and the Bridge, and walking from the bus station up along the water leads you straight to an area called The Rocks. It had a bit of a European vibe, and it is in this area you will find not only the oldest hotel in Sydney, but also the oldest pub.
My main reason for wanting to go there though was the market being held on Fridays – a foodie market no less, and we had timed our arrival (actually not, that was a happy accident) with lunch time. I got myself a very delicious pork sandwich with crackling and some mini cupcakes for dessert, while my partner got himself a Wagyu beef burger which was reportedly splendid.
The Harbour Bridge
We didn’t get any further than the South East pylon, blame it on lazyness, but the views were still pretty good I’d say. I remember being very fascinated with that bridge, it is really good looking.. for a bridge.
The Opera House
Before coming to the city the only thing I knew about Sydney was that there’s an opera house built by a Dane. This is a fact that makes us small-country people oh so proud. My first impression seeing the building up close was that it is not so brilliantly white as it always looks in the pictures; up close it’s got just about the same colour as the teeth of a person who drinks a little too much cola (don’t look at me). Other than that, it sure is an impressive site, and I was definitely happy to have crossed that off my list.
We took the ferry out there which was lovely – refreshing from the heat, refreshing to see the city from a new angle. We had read that Darling Harbour was something of a ‘tourist hub’, whatever that is supposed to mean, but it didn’t seem too bad when we were there in the late afternoon. Charming place, lots of restaurants, old ships across the water from where we ended up eating, Sea Life aquarium just a little further down. Now, I know that the saying goes that the food in the tourist spots is equal to low quality, but either I was lucky or the standard is incredibly high in Darling Harbour. We wanted Italian so sat down at Mama Casa, and the spaghetti bolognese I got there was seriously the best I’ve had in a very long time. Three different kinds of meat (beef, pork, veal) and fresh tomatoes on top. Very tasty!
After dinner we started to head home, as our heads were at capacity and our feet were threatening to strike. We walked towards the Town Hall station, and on the way noted the fairly active party scene in the area – lots of clubs and young people milling about.
Saturday and bright sunshine – the beach it is. We slept in, and took the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach at around noon. 20 minutes later you emerge at the Wharf in Manly, and can start the walk down the main street towards the beach. I really liked this area – there was live music in the street and a market going on down one of the side streets.
The beach was absolutely crawling with people, but it actually wasn’t too hard to find a spot to lie down. The sand was lovely, the water a little cold – I had a lot of fun simply standing in about knee deep water and let the very large waves cool me down from top to toe. Fun took a drastic drop when I was knocked over by a wave taller than me, maybe 1 meter out in the water. Quite surreal. Thus chastised, I returned to my new Turkish towel and dared my partner to have a go instead. As per beach procedure I got sand everywhere and made sure to distribute it evenly between the public bathroom at the beach, and the rest in the apartment when we got home.
I was afraid of getting a sunburn, so after a few hours we packed our stuff and started walking towards the smaller Shelly beach, which is a short walk away from Manly. The walk there is lovely, right along the water with a little natural pool at one place. There’s a nice view of the city from Shelly – this place was more frequented by families as it is more sheltered from the big waves, as opposed to mostly young people at the big beach.
For dinner we had decided on Manly Grill – apparently that is a place where you can spot celebrities. We didn’t see any but knowing me and my travel partner that could just as well be because we didn’t recognize them.. I got a Steak Bearnaise which was.. OK, but my partner got the dish called Croc & Roo, which he was kind enough to let me have a taste of – I really liked the kangaroo meat, it had a sort of smoky flavour I thought.
Last day not only in Sydney but in the Southern hemisphere – plane was leaving at 9.45 pm. That gave us plenty of exploring time, and as the first thing we wanted to find Chinatown as that is usually an interesting place. Chinatown Sydney turned out to just be a street with Asian shops and a Chinese gate at each end, so nothing special. More interesting was Paddy’s Market which we stumbled upon trying to find China Street – large indoor market where you can get absolutely everything. I was sorely tempted by a pair of Uggs as they cost a little less than half of what we must pay for them in Denmark, but didn’t buy them. Not enough room in my suitcase as I had already had 3,5 months to gather souvenirs..
After China Street we went to George Street which is the main shopping street, not wanting to shop but just to see the place. There are so many well dressed people in the middle of Sydney, and downtown really is quite handsome. We found Victoria Mall, a beautiful old building with three floors of shops. There were carpets on the floor, big chandeliers and a very large clock with all kinds of cool details. I spent an age in a small shop selling high quality stationery, and I found a shop selling souvenirs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (don’t ask me what that was doing in Sydney) which had so many cool things. I don’t know if it’s a sign of bad taste that I think the stuff in a souvenir shop is cool, but there you go.
Wanting to cool off we decided to explore the city park for a bit. We went around for a bit, got surprised at seeing two very large white birds that would belong in a zoo at our latitudes, just walking around in the shrubbery, minding their own business. We also saw wild parrots at one point – completely baffled to see these kinds of animals running wild in a big city. We went in to see St. Mary’s Cathedral, built 1868, which was supposed to be one of the most beautiful of its kind. It was very beautiful – stone walls but a wooden roof, and a sort of golden light filling the interior.
Sea Life Aquarium in Darling Harbour
We had been smart and bought the tickets online so we didn’t have to wait in queue, which turned out to be a very good move as there was a ton of people. So many that I have to admit that I walked rather hurriedly past some of the smaller exhibits to escape the crowds. Instead I spent the majority of my time around the three large tanks: the first one housed 2 dugongs accompanied by a small horde of stingrays and very large fish. Awesome to be able to see these animals up close, as the tanks were designed with a tunnel along the bottom so you could look up at the fish. The second tank had lots of sharks, quite large ones compared to the ones we see in aquariums back home, and the largest tank was representative of the Great Barrier Reef which was also very cool. Although the shark tank was probably my favourite.
Then, all that was left to do was to go to the airport and spend the next 25 hours flying home to a small and, compared to Australia, very boring country on the other side of the globe.
All in all, we got as much as we could out of our stay in Sydney and the lingering impression is very favourable. Wouldn’t mind going back – I missed the Australia Museum and would like to do a day trip to the Blue Mountains.
Have you been to Sydney? Any recommendations or fun stories? Share below!