The first days of our stay in Australia (the last days of 2018)? Going to the doctor (the both of us, thank you Hong Kong!), taking antibiotics (because we are forced to), sleeping, trying to get better by soaking up some warmth and sunshine by cruising around the harbour.
We were looking forward to the fireworks. For the first time in all those years we’ve been coming down under, we were going to see it live. The day before, we are even scouting some free spots. Sadly, sickness wins, and we stay at the hotel …
But … a new year, and slowly smiling again 🙂 We are getting better day by day and are finally enjoying our extra Summer. The first days in Sydney, we stay at Mascot, close to the airport (good for the budget), after New Year’s Day we move to North Sydney.
Bondi Beach is the first real trip of our holidays, on the first day of the new year. The most memorable event of that day? The Dutchies holding up a homeland tradition thousands of kilometers away: a New Year’s Dive! In Northern Europe we dive in the icecold water on the first of January. Now hundreds of orange caps are diving in the Australian ocean.
Some ideas to spend your time in and around Sydney:
Cronulla Beach and the ferry ride to the Royal National Park. From the train station it is only a short walk to the ferry, and before you know, you are in the NP. At $6,8 per person one way, it is a bit costly, but it is a nice ride anyway.
We walked around the Sydney Olympic Park (we took a train to get there, the ferry is a bit risky because getting there depends on the tide). The Park itself is not that special when there are no events, but a little bit further you’ll find the Brickpit Park. A giant puddle, with a walking circle on top of it. Once used as a brick manufacturing site, now an ecological paradise.
Something really special to do is taking a train to Wondabyne. The only train station in Australia inaccessible by road. It takes quite a long time (1h30) to get there, you have to tell the guard you want toget off at that trainstation and you have to sit in the last carriage. If you want to leave Wondabyne, you have to signal the oncoming train or you’ll stay there. It is a surreal trip, that’s the least we can say! There is one house at the trainstation, that’s it. And snakes … We wanted to walk around, but we decided we were not to keen on meeting deadly animals. The waterfront aka trainstation is nice and quiet as well! (read more about the station in this article)
We combined this trip with a visit to the Kuring-gai Chase NP, some trainstations back to the city center (Mount Kuring-gai).
One of our top walks would be from North Sydney over Neutral bay to Robertson’s Point Lookout and further to Taronga Zoo. You won’t find this in a travel guide! Or you can take a ferry to Taronga Zoo and walk to Bradleys Head. We also walked from Middle Head to Bradleys Head (taking a ferry back from the Zoo). There a some nice beaches and lookouts on all these walks. The pool with the best view ever must be the Maccallum Seawater Pool (Cremorne Point)!
On Sundays, you can visit Garden Island (ferry to Doubly Bay). This is a naval base of the Australian army so the access is restricted to the historical part around the ferry stop. Garden Island is the place where the First Fleet arrived in 1788. They made it a vegetable garden, from where the name derives. Nowadays, the view from the platform is beautiful, and because of the restricted access, not too many people visit this place!
Off course, a visit to Sydney has to include a ferry ride to Watson’s Bay! The view from the Hornby Lighthouse over the gap (the harbour entrance) is amazing! This is one of our favourite places in Sydney!
We can also recommend one of the Sydney Coastal Walks: the Spit Bridge to Manly walk. The best way to start is by taking a bus to the Spit Bridge. From there it is an easy and good signposted walk, but walking 10km in the heat is exhausting! Luckily the beaches and parks are dotted all around !
Manly off course is a day trip in it’s own. And that trip starts with the iconic ferry ride from Circular Quay! 30 minutes, but never a dull 30 minutes! The Corso takes you from the ferry stop to the beach, from where you can walk to North Head. Or from the ferry you go to the right and walk around Little Manly Point Park to Collins Flat Beach, and from there to North Head. This is the more challenging route! Either way, the views are spectacular!
Another kind of day trip activity is spotting some great street art. The best places to walk around are Redfern, Newtown, Enmore and St Peters. You’ll find plenty of Fintan Magee works, along many others!
The one trip we didn’t like that much, was the day out to Parramatta. The ferry ride was okay to get there, but hell to come back to the city
centre (for a crowd like the one we got in on a Sunday probably because of the day cap on Sundays – the boats are too small and ride too little). The area itself isn’t that interesting neither. Been there, but not going back …
Some major events take place in January, and are well worth a visit:
SydFest is a cultural festival, with all kinds of activities and exhibitions, both indoor and outdoors, some for free, some to pay for. We went to Darling Harbour and Barangaroo Reserve for art installations, and to Carriageworks for an exhibition by Nick Cave.
An absolute must is the outdoor cinema (world’s most beautiful cinema!). We went to the movies for my birthday (at $40 per ticket this is not a daily activity). We were really surprised by the superb organisation! Queueing takes a long time (both with a pre-purchased ticket as waiting at the boot if you haven’t got a ticket yet – in that case you have to watch the Facebook page to see how many tickets are available), but so orderly! And you can reserve your seat once you’re in, so you can walk around before the movies start. And no, people don’t rip off your ticket! Amazing! I couldn’t ask for a better birthday gift than to watch First Man with the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House on the background, and the bats flying around us …
Speaking of which: this year, we first visited the Opera House with a tour! Another $40 per person, yes it is expensive, but … you get to see the most iconic building in the world from the inside while learning more about the history of it. The Concert Hall is by all means the most beautiful hall we’ve ever seen. Next time we just book a ticket for a show!
The last week of our Australian trip, we did a little roadtrip. We went to the north, as far as Port Stephens (which is only about 200kms). We drove along the coast, with some stops in between. Some of the better places to have a look around: the Marie Byles Lookout (looking over Boudi NP, instead of going in during holidays!), Avoca Beach, Terrigal, Long Jetty, Catherine Hill Bay, Birubi Beach and Tomaree NP. However, next time, we drive straight to Port Stephens! Dolphins, koala’s and beautiful beaches. And lots of parrots at breaky. What does one need more to relax and enjoy the breathtaking surroundings?
Some Sydney tips:
- We stayed at Meriton Coward Street, and Meriton North Sydney.
- Icecream: Gelato Messina at Bondi Beach
- Bakery: Shuk Bareky at Bondi Beach, or Bourke Street Bakery at Mascot
- Eating out: Stir Crazy Thai at Kirribilli, Fishmongers Bondi or Manly
- Take a Telstra SIM-card as soon as you can, they often have promotion on offer.
- We have an Opal Card, which we’ve registered. So we can top-up from home and don’t have to bother buying a ticket when jetlagged!
- Uber is also an option to get around, safe and reasonably priced.
- We got our car for the roadtrip at Budget, from a suburb: a lot cheaper and easier to get out of the city!
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