Continuing on the Essential Australia Series we move onto the city I personally have had the privilege of calling home, on numerous occasions, Sydney.
As Australia’s most iconic city, Sydney’s reputation is well established and very well deserved. There are a huge amount of highlights and essential experiences available to every visitor, and it is this, alongside a quasi-idyllic lifestyle that makes Sydney one of the Wanderlust capitals of the travelling community.
Sydney’s ‘trump card’ is its beautiful harbour named Circular Quay, which is home to the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge. One of our favourite Wandering Memories of all time is the walk through the city centre to the harbour. It was the sense of anticipation and excitement at sneaking our first peek at the Opera House that added such a thrill to the experience. Upon the first view, it really encapsulated the true feeling of travelling, it all felt real, it felt right and it dawned upon us – we had made it! Even after witnessing the view many times over, we were still in awe of its inspirational qualities.
The Opera house itself sits on the harbour peninsula with just a single route in. On a sunny day it glistens white against the surrounding harbour water. We honestly couldn’t say why it harnesses such iconic stature – it could be its unique shape, it could be its positioning, it could simply be something we saw when we were younger. What is true for us is that it represents the journey and captivates our imagination each and every time we visit. Exploring the Opera House couldn’t be easier; you can literally walk up to the iconic building and explore its outside structure free of charge. Venturing inside and experiencing a show, opera or gig is something we implore you all to do, it’s an incredible experience and one many miss out on.
Circular Quays other substantial draw is the Harbour Bridge, which dominates the skyline and makes the Opera House seem small and insignificant in comparison. Set up high, the bridge offers unparalleled views of the quay, especially in the evening whereby the city gleams against the night sky. Many choose to pay the substantial fee to climb the bridge arc, which we have been told is an incredible experience. For us however just walking across it is enough to get a real sense of the surrounding beauty. On the far side of the bridge lies Sydney’s tacky but fun theme park, Luna Park, however we would recommend the opposite side for a peaceful walk alongside the harbour marveling at the city views.
Circular Quay also offers a host of other unmissable experiences including:
- ‘The Rocks’ historical district.
The area still houses the reminisce of Sydney’s earliest settlement, and is a joy to wander. This trendy district is full of windy streets, hidden staircases, small quaint shops, market places, historical buildings and above all some great restaurants and bars – fantastic on a nice sunny day.
2. The Royal Botanical Gardens.
It seems that most cities have some sort of gardens and in the grand scheme of things we don’t always explore them as much as we should. Sydney is different though as the gardens are one of our favourite spots. The gardens are exceptionally well maintained and are home to a huge number of native species such as Parrots, Ibis’s, Kookaburra’s, Fruit Bats, and Possums etc. At dusk the resident bats all emerge from their homes and flock into the sky – you’ll be surprised at how many there are!. It’s an incredible experience to witness. You could easily lose a day here, just soaking up the beauty.
3. Sea wall and Mrs Macquaries Chair
The ‘sea wall’ walk from the Opera House entrance, which ends at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is also not to be missed. The view from here is again one of our favourites, with the inlet in front of you, the Opera House just behind the bay and the Harbour Bridge behind the Opera House (this view is in such demand that they charge up to $400 for this view at New Year’s Eve – but it is worth every penny).
Circular Quay itself is primarily used as a transportation hub for many of the surrounding suburbs to access the city itself. Access from the city to Taronga Zoo, Manly, Cockatoo Island, Mossman, Parramatta, Watson’s Bay and many more locations is regular and very easy. Manly, especially is one of our personal favourites, as it houses a real seaside, trendy, ‘out of town’ feel. Manly also is the location of one of Sydney’s best beaches, long golden sand hugs the coastline with the coast stretching as far as the eye can see. It is the perfect spot for a bit of relaxation, a quick swim or a beginner surf lesson. The only downside is that the secret is definitely out and the beach although not as well publicised as some others, can get very crowded on a nice summer day. If you are not a beach person, no matter, the number of trendy shops, boutiques and the cliff walk from Manly to Split are worth the visit alone.
Speaking of iconic beaches, Sydney is home to one of the world’s most famous, Bondi Beach. Located in the eastern suburbs, Bondi welcomes millions of visitors a year, and it can seem that they are all there at one time. The town and beach truly encapsulate the ‘Australian dream’, and are still a huge draw to travelers galore. Personally we are not huge fans, as it can become far too crowded and slightly suffocating. That’s not to say that a swim, BBQ or visit the skate park are not recommended, we just wouldn’t highlight them as essential. What Bondi does offer that is essential is the start to our favourite walk, the Bondi to Coogee Cliff walk.
This walk is well-known to many tourists but we have to say we believe it to be one of the BEST experiences in the whole city. The walk passes many lesser known beaches such as Bronte and Clovelly, which offer a drastically different experience to Bondi. The coastline is also spectacular, be it crashing waves or dolphins/whales playing in the distance, there’s always something to see. Coogee itself is smaller than Bondi and although popular it offers a great alternative to the sprawling masses.
To the west of the city centre is Darling Harbour (and Cockle Bay), again home too many restaurants and bars; this area has become ever popular. It is home to Sydney’s IMAX, Chinese Gardens, numerous Museums and Galleries, the Sydney aquarium, Wildlife world, and increasingly it has been hosting a lot of events including Music Festivals, Firework displays and even theatre productions. Darling Harbour is not a s picturesque as Circular Quay but definitely offers an alternative view and experience of the harbour. Again it offers a magnitude of eateries, shopping and markets that you could easily lose a day if not more days exploring.
As you can see the sheer size of Sydney and the multitude of attractions means that we could go on and on for many more pages, exploring the city centre, the lesser known suburbs, the outer beaches and even the Blue Mountains or Hunter Valley. Maybe in later posts we will explore these, but all in all Sydney is an essential destination for any trip to Australia, as is Melbourne (don’t worry I understand the Melbourne vs Sydney debate all too well).
If you need any help or advice with your trip to Australia feel free to get in touch and view the other Essential Australia blogs below.
Please see the Essential Australian series on A Wandering Memory below:
- Essential Australia – Fraser Island
- Essential Australia – Broome
- Essential Australia – Uluru
- Essential Australia – Cape Range
- Essential Australia – The Great Ocean Road
- Essential Australia – Kalbarri
- Essential Australia – Kakadu
- Essential Australia – Byron Bay
If you want more information on any Australian location or are thinking of visiting feel free to get in touch.