4 DAYS IN // Sydney, Australia

Sydney has one of the most iconic vistas in the world.  It is a bustling, energetic city that is a delight to explore.  As with most countries’ largest cities, Sydney has a different feel to other Australian cities and towns.

We went in February and spent 4 hectic days based in Potts Point.  We could easily have spent more time in the city.  The temperature was mid-20s to low 30s Celsius.

BridgeClimb Sydney Skyline

Magnificent 7 // Sydney, Australia

1. Climb the coat hanger (aka Sydney Harbour Bridge)

2. Walk the coast and visit a beach or two

3. Kayak in the harbour

4. Ride the ferry to Manley

5. Hunt for bargains at Glebe market

6. Can you keep Wendy’s secret?

7. Explore the Opera House

Getting there –

We drove down from Port Stephens.  For details of our East Coast drive click here

Where we stayed –

We stayed at the Simpsons at Potts Point for four nights. A curate’s egg of an hotel.  Location is fine, about 10-minute walk to Kings Cross station, which has great links to anywhere you would want to go.  It was also a 30-minute walk to Circular Quay. The room was a dormer room, tiny, shabby chic, but the shower was hot with good pressure.  Wifi in our room was poor as it was the furthest distance from the router. The owner, Keith, was a fab, engaging and helpful host, sadly he was on holiday on the first three days of our stay and service was somewhere between poor and non-existent when he wasn’t there.

To Eat and Drink –

Sydney is blessed with many, many restaurants.  We really enjoyed our meals at the following:

Sydney Tower Revolving Restaurant.  This is a terrific way to see all of the city in one go.  We loved the 360 degree view and the had a terrific experience complemented with good food.   Rates as a “must-do” for a first-time visitor in my book.

Glamorous Sydney Tower diner

The Bucket List, Bondi Beach.  This is a buzzing beachside bar with spectacular views of Bondi Beach.  My Salmon Poke was superb.

Bambino Torino Pizza, Newtown.  Good pizza in a trendy, Shoreditch-style area of Sydney.

Ripples café, Milson’s Point.  Our honey ricotta toast and banana bread for breakfast after our kayaking was fab.

To note –

  • Vegetarian food. Sydney has many veggie and vegan restaurants. It was not difficult getting a veggie option at anywhere we ate.
  • Getting around. Sydney metro city trains are brilliant. The metro runs for 21 hours a day on 8 lines.  It is easy to navigate and inexpensive, especially with an Opal card. There are night buses for the three hours the trains do not run.

Magnificent 7

Below are our top seven things that we did.  We needed a rest after this lot was packed into four days. This list is subjective but gives a flavour of some of the things that can be enjoyed in this wonderful city.  For first-time visitors, I would also recommend starting with a free walking tour from Town Hall Square at 10.30 (they also have one at 2.30 but it can be very hot then). These tours are 2 ½ -3 hours long and when we did this tour a few years ago it was an excellent overview of Sydney and some of its history.  Be warned.  It is very popular, so keep up with the guide.

1. Climb the coat hanger (aka Sydney Harbour Bridge)

This is probably one of the best things I have done on a city break anywhere in the world.  It is that good.  The experience lasts 3 ½ hours and is very expensive.  It cost the best part of $300 per person and then you have the opportunity to purchase photo packages for an additional fee.  I was really in two minds as to whether to spend so much money on this, but I am so glad that I did and that I have some expert photos of the experience.

BridgeClimb Sydney Twilight Climb
BridgeClimb Sydney Twilight Climb, one of the images supplied on the BridgeClimb photo package

2. Walk the coast and visit a beach or two

We walked from Coogee Beach along a coastal path to Bondi Beach.

To get to our walk we took the train to Bondi Junction and then a bus to Coogee Beach.  We looked up the bus route to Coogee Beach. To transfer to the 353 bus that goes to Coogee you do not even have to leave Bondi Junction station. Up the escalators, wait at door F and there is even a coffee shop in the terminal next to the bus stops.  Puts London Transport to shame!

If you walk without stopping it will take just over an hour to get from Coogee to Bondi. If you run it (as many people were doing) considerably less.  We took 2 ½ hours to cover the 6 km.  It was an easy walk and ever so pretty.  We stopped and took photos all along the way; at Gordon’s Bay, Clovelly’s manmade beach, Bronte Park (where you can rest in the shade) and beach and at Tamarama Beach where you can take photos with Bondi in the background.  At Bondi there are the Bondi Icebergs swimming pool where surf washes into the swimming pools. It’s a cool place to go.  And then you get to Bondi Beach and the bronzed surfers and sun worshippers.  It is a must to visit.

Panorama of Clovelly Beach
Tamarama beach view

Part of the walk is under repair and there is a small detour through Waverley Cemetery.  If you are going in spring the world’s largest annual sculpture exhibition takes place between Tamarama and Bondi beaches.

Some of the other walks you can do along the coast include: Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay; The Spit Bridge to Manley; Watson’s Bay to Dover Heights.  There’s loads of info online which show distances, transport links and walk times.

iceberg pools
Bondi Iceberg Pools – open to the public all year round

3. Kayak in the harbour

Picture the scene: blue sky, a warm sun, the bridge and Opera House in the background, ferries working their way across the harbour and the sound of the ocean gently lapping against the boats moored in Lavender Bay.  There are a few kayak tours in Sydney harbor.  We chose a coffee and kayak tour with Sydney by Kayak.  We loved it.  Laura and Alex were our guides on this small tour of 8 kayakers (all in individual kayaks). We had only ever been in a kayak once before, however that was not a problem and the kayaks were stable and easy to manoeuvre. The start of the tour at Lavender Bay boat ramp is a ten-minute walk from Milson’s Point train station.

One of the more accomplished kayakers

4. Ride the ferry to Manley

Manley is a suburb of Sydney.  The ferries to Manley operate from Circular Quay and are frequent and inexpensive.  Not only do you get to go to a nice beach, you also get to see a different part of the harbour from the sea and a nice view of the city as the ferry leaves/returns to Circular Quay.  At Manley there are cafes, restaurants, shops etc. as well as a beautiful beach.

5. Hunt for bargains at Glebe market

This is a trendy market that is not on the tourist trail, yet.  There are basically two parts.  The first is a normal market with clothes, records, jewellery, wallets/purses and general gift items.  To the back and side is a separate entrance where they sell predominantly clothes, some vintage, some modern, some second-hand.  We spent hours in the market and bought quite a few items.  Outside the market are independent coffee houses where you can simply watch the world go by.  From here it is a 20-minute walk to the trendy Newtown area which we loved.

There are many other markets in Sydney. Our local friends said that Rozelle weekend market is good for secondhand goods and that Paddington market on Saturday is good for general goods. Paddy’s Market is better known, however is more commercial and not too different from markets of this type around the world.

Market hustle and bustle

6. Can you keep Wendy’s secret?

A little-known garden that is worth a visit is Wendy’s Secret Garden in Lavender Bay.  This is a fabulous place to sit and read, look at the bay or simply relax.  There is a heart-warming story about how and why the garden was started.  It is a tribute to Wendy Whitley who lost her husband in 1992, and funnelled her love and grief into transforming a disused, derelict space in front of her house in Lavender Bay.  We visited this garden in conjunction with our harbour kayaking.

Sydney has many gardens.  We also walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens.  This is a very special place. There are guided tours, many different gardens, a restaurant, gift shop, Mrs Macquarie’s chair and vantage points to simply watch the bustling harbour. On a previous visit we watched an opera on an outside stage of the Opera House from the park.  Many events take place at this park, including an outdoor cinema, so it is always worth looking up online to see if any events are taking place when you are there.

View from Wendy’s secret garden

7.  Explore the Opera House

Synonymous with Sydney, the Opera House is one of most iconic buildings in the world.  There are performances other than opera, as well as guided tours.  We saw a Havana-themed Carmen.  Decent seats at 99 AUD a seat – although there were many more expensive seats. I am not an opera lover; however, I really enjoyed the experience.

An Australian icon

Lessons Learnt!

  • Sydney is much more expensive than other Australian cities.
  •  The local transport system is brilliant. You can pay for a one-time ticket for a machine, however buying an Opal card is much cheaper, about 50% cheaper than buying individual tickets.  Opal cards can be used on buses as well as trains and there is a cap on fares on Sunday.
  • Most of the hospitality industry is staffed by non-Australians on working holiday visas.
  • The surf can be fierce with strong currents. Be very careful and only swim where there are lifeguards.
  • Be thorough with sun cream and insect repellent. I was not as thorough as I should have been one day and regretted it for days afterwards.
  • If you go to see an opera and do not speak the language fluently (Carmen was in French) try to get a seat with a view of one of the screens showing the English translation.

Fun fact: Sydney Harbour was the setting for the movie “Finding Nemo”.

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