Our first week in Australia was spent exploring Sydney and the beaches. We wandered around gardens looking for parrots, enjoyed the waterfront, hiked between beaches along the coast, and enjoyed the New Years Eve fireworks shows in the harbor. A lot of our days were spent in smoky haze due to the fires west/south/north of the city and you can see it in some of our photos, but it was mostly very nice and warm weather.
The first two days in the city, we spent the morning walking to and around the botanical gardens. I had read it was great place to see some of the local bird life and the park did not disappoint. There were large sulfur crested cockatoos, lorikeets, ibises, and lots of smaller birds around. The views in the park of the bridge and harbor were beautiful and the days we went the weather was very clear.
There was a tree in bloom that was full of lorikeets and you could hear it from pretty far away. I dubbed it my favorite tree in the gardens and probably could have sat there for a couple of hours watching those noisy birds eat the fruits.
I was surprised that the gardens weren’t more crowded considering it was holiday time, but it made for relaxing walks before heading into the city center for some shopping.
Exploring the Harbor
On our second day, we walked through the botanical gardens to the main harbor area to check out the opera house and the bridge. The opera house is a pretty impressive building, but I believe it is best viewed from afar with the harbor in the background. When you are up close, it is a bit dated and super crowded — I am also likely not the target crowd for the institution since I have never seen a play or an opera. It was also incredibly crowded that day with lots of queues for tours and tourists from the cruise ship that had just moored in the quay.
We continued our walk through Circular Quay past the ferries and cruise ship to The Rocks, a nice shopping area with a Saturday Market. Our luck would have it that it was a Saturday and we browsed the vendor areas — I bought a hat because the Aussie sun is a force to be reckoned with and my pasty skin needs protecting.
From The Rocks, we climbed to the harbor bridge to check out the views. You can actually climb to the very top of the bridge, but its pretty expensive and I am scared of heights. The views from the bridge were really great and it helped us realize how big the city really is. There are smaller towns all the way along both sides of the harbor to the Tasman Sea.
On our third day, we hopped on a bus to the coast to do the coastal walk from Coogee beach to Bondi beach. We started at Coogee beach and headed north along a nice paved path with lots of stops at smaller beaches along the way. It seemed like everyone else had the same idea that day because it was incredibly crowded, despite the considerable haziness/smokiness that day. The water was beautiful and clear but a bit cold for me (about 68 degrees).
We stopped at Bronte beach for swimming and to eat our picnic lunch. The waves were pretty big and it isn’t the best beach for swimming, but there were areas that were marked as ok for taking a dip. There is a pool there that is filled from the sea that you can swim in but it is mostly a lap pool and it didn’t look very appealing at the time. Overall the beach walk was nice and we got to experience the main famous beaches of the Sydney area in one day. After our walk, we got some beer at a nearby bar before catching a bus and the train back to our Airbnb.
New Year’s Eve
Our New Year’s Eve started out pretty slow with breakfast at our Airbnb and a lot of organizing of our stuff. We had opted to get rid of a fair amount of our belongings to be able to fit it all into new smaller backpacks that will be easier to carry around for the rest of the trip. Matt is better at this than I am — what can I say, I like outfit options. (:
We picked up some picnic supplies for the evening ahead and then headed to Yarranabbe Park to watch the fireworks in the harbor. Around 7pm we set up our towels and waited for the first firework show around 9pm. The park just kept getting busier despite the gusty and chilly wind we were contending with the whole night. I ended up wearing both towels to keep warm. Though no alcohol was allowed at the park (and they checked bags), there were a couple of groups that clearly weren’t sober upon arrival and decided to sing karaoke style for a good three hours straight. It was all in good fun and we got some free entertainment!
The midnight show was spectacular with fireworks being shot off from the bridge as well as the several barges in the harbor. Sydney knows how to do a fireworks show! We really enjoyed the whole thing, though maybe we wouldn’t have gotten there as early as we did knowing what we know now.
Our last day in Sydney, we wanted to get on a boat in the harbor, so we took a ferry to Watson’s Bay. Watson’s bay is a nice area where the harbor meets the Tasman sea with views out to sea as well as nice views of the inner harbor (on a clear day you can see the city skyline). The weather that day started out pretty hazy and you could smell smoke in the air, but by the time we left the bay the wind shifted to clear out the haze and it was a very nice afternoon.
We walked around the tip of the peninsula at Gap Park and to the Hornsby lighthouse. Our picnic was in the park near the lighthouse with a view of the Manly peninsula and the Tasman Sea — it was really nice. There were a lot of war memorial sites and old bunkers available to explore. Oh and a nude beach! We wanted to grab a beer on the way back but the beach bars were in full New Years party mode and therefore super busy. The ferry ride back was nicer since the weather had cleared. Also the ferries are super efficient and quick in Sydney, not to mention reasonably priced. We were able to finish off our Opal transit cards with our trip that day. It was a great way to end our adventures in Sydney.
King’s Cross Neighborhood
I thought I would just mention quickly the neighborhood we stayed in, Pott’s Point/Kings Cross. We had a nice time exploring the area every day and ate at some great cafes. We were only an 8 minute walk to the train station and there was a bus stop right outside our airbnb, so it was very convenient. It is also a pretty backpacker friendly area with lots of hostels, so the food wasn’t super expensive and there were lots of convenient stores around. One of the highlights was eating a nice dinner at Yellow, a prix fixe menu restaurant that is all vegetarian/vegan and seasonal. We had great wine and the dishes were superb. My favorite was the second dessert with cacao crumble and coconut yogurt soft serve. I would recommend that neighborhood for a first timer staying in the city.
We loved spending time in Sydney. The city is very easy to get around using the transit system and there are some great neighborhoods to explore. I wish the weather/smoke had been a bit better but with the current fire situation in the country, it was to be expected. Speaking of the fires, we had a much too real encounter with the fire crisis while on Kangaroo Island during week two in Australia that I will recount in the next blog post, so stay tuned!