Our trip down the East Coast then brought us to one of the most famous cities in the world. We arrived in Sydney late at night, our bus driving over the Harbour Bridge with very dark views of the Opera House. At midnight there wasn’t much to see, the Sydney Opera House was not lit up at all, so it was a slightly underwhelming arrival. The next day we entered into tourist mode with gusto, however, and the sights of Sydney did not disappoint. We spent about 5 days in Sydney with a drizzly trip to the Blue Mountains and Katoomba sandwiched in the middle. We had an excellent time, and Sydney definitely lived up to its reputation.
Zoe, who had lived in Sydney for about six months last year, agreed to give us a bit of a tour on the first day. We walked from our hostel, past the Sydney library, through the botanical gardens to the Opera House. We walked around the building, admiring it’s strange curves and points. We then wandered around circular quay and decided to walk across the Harbour Bridge. On the other side we found a lovely little bakery, so we bought pies and doughnuts and sat in a small park at the end of the bridge, with a view of the Opera House in the distance. There were people having picnics and school kids playing football. We decided to kick back a relax for a little while before we continued onwards. We then walked to Luna Park, the old fashioned theme park and although it was closed, we still wandered around for a while. We then walked to Darling Harbour, where our walking tour ended. We all deserved a nice cold beer or glass of bubbly, and it was conveniently just in time for happy hour!
We were lucky to be in Sydney at the same time as the annual Vivid Lights Festival, where the landmark buildings of Sydney are kaleidoscopically illuminated every night. On a couple of evenings, once we’d finished doing all our touristy stuff and eaten dinner, we walked about twenty minutes into the city to the Opera House. The Opera House was the star of the show, unsurprisingly, but the harbour bridge was also lit up, the botanical gardens twinkled, the contemporary art gallery looked like it was dripping in brightly coloured paint and the Customs House had whimsical fairies and gnomes flying all around it. To walk the streets of Sydney at night was a joy. There were food stalls all around, places to get ice cream and stop for a drink. Vivid brought people out onto the streets, to enjoy the city and marvel at the famous landmarks in a new way.
Having friends who live in the city you’re visiting can really make your stay more worthwhile. Our friend Julia, who we met in New Zealand (who was part of our brilliant quiz team), is at university in Sydney, and we arranged to meet up with her. We met up in the city centre, visited the White Rabbit Gallery which specialises in contemporary Chinese art, and then went for burgers in a mysteriously hidden away burger joint called Mary’s in the Newtown suburb of the city. It had graffiti all over the walls and served amazing, simple burgers (even tasty ones for veggies like me). Without Julia’s local knowledge we’d never have known it existed. Afterwards we went back into the city centre and wandered through the botanical gardens, which were all lit up for Vivid. It was a very pretty walk and a good way to let our food go down.
A few days later we met up with Julia again, this time in the suburb of Coogee, where she lives. It’s right by the beach and she offered to take us on a coastal walk, which would be a chance to see several of the beaches of Sydney. We ambled from Coogee to Bondi, stopping on the way at various photo spots and sitting to enjoy the views and the sunshine. It was a beautiful day, we could hardly believe this was winter! Once we arrived in Bondi we sourced some lunch and relaxed by the famous beach for a few hours before heading back into the city.
The last main thing we did in Sydney that I haven’t mentioned yet is our trip to the Blue Mountains. This isn’t in Sydney itself, but it’s a short two hour train ride away (and that is very short by Aussie standards) to the town of Katoomba. The blue mountains are a far cry from the hustle of the city. Many people go on a day trip, but we decided on an overnight stay, which was a very good idea. The day we arrived it was pouring with rain so there were no views to be seen or walking to be done. We relaxed in our hostel and Toby cooked kangaroo steak (and veggie sausages for me!) for dinner. The next day was much clearer so we set out to walk out of the town into the mountains. There were clear paths, so it was easy for us to find the way to the good views. We walked for a couple of hours, admiring the vastness of the mountains and forests. It was the first time since we arrived in Australia that we saw some beautiful natural scenery, which we were used to seeing a lot of in New Zealand. After our walk we went for a coffee and then boarded our train back to the city. Although it was a short trip, it was nice to be somewhere a little more remote for a day or two.
We’d all enjoyed our time in Sydney. It was a city with loads to see and do, and it reminded me a lot of home. It felt a lot like a capital city, and it’s quite odd that it isn’t. Our next stop was the actual capital, Canberra, which we had heard a lot of strange things about.