It’s been a bit of a whirlwind start to 2016 amidst some pretty major changes for me. I quit my full-time senior job in digital media buying, and have packed up life in the UK to spend 6 months’ of travel and time writing in Australia. Year round summer? Yes please. I lived in Sydney for 4 years from November 2008 – March 2013 on a sponsored working visa. It’s been a mixed emotional bag of huge excitement and surprising nervousness to return to somewhere I loved living so much. A city that really does bring out the better – or certainly healthier – version of you, and surrounded by all my good friends to boot. I wasn’t writing when I lived in Australia previously (massive hindsight regret) so this is my teaser edition of what to do from just a week revisiting: my Sydney travel tips. Call it the ‘English ex-pat version’, as I readily admit it’s loaded with Eastern Suburbs travel references then sprinkled with some obligatory tourist hot spots.
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
COASTAL PATH | if I had just 1 hour, my favourite of all Sydney travel tips is to head to Bondi Icebergs and walk the coastal path towards Clovelly (and on to Coogee and beyond if I had the stamina). It makes me happy every time, come rain or shine. Of course you get to see some of Sydney’s most iconic beaches, however it’s the ocean that I love. All that big blue. (Be warned, it can get rammed and very hot so early morning is best.)
Also check out: Bondi Massive for brunch (although you’re spoilt for choice).
HARBOUR BEACHES | if like me you’re a beach bum but a bit of a waves-wuss, then leave the ocean to the surf crowd and check out beautiful spots like Camp Cove, Parsley Bay and Shark Beach. The views alone shouldn’t fail to impress.
Also check out: if you can justify the splurge, hire a boat or even catamaran with a group of friends and spend the afternoon on the harbour. This was what we did for a best friend’s hen complete with Blake the stripper. Woohoo.
WALK THE BRIDGE | I had never walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge until my family visited me in 2011. What a lazy bones. I’m sure the official over-the-arch bridge climb is impressive, but it’s not cheap. Instead, get the train across to lovely Kirribilli on the North Shore and walk back towards The Rocks. Both suburbs are well worth a wander.
Also check out: the Opera House, natch. Although I admit I think it looks pretty tired and yellow, and the crowds are deterring.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
WATSON’S BAY | is always buzzing and you’ll need to queue for fish and chips at famous Doyle’s. From here you can easily access the aforementioned Harbour Beaches, just enjoy hanging out in the park, or hop on a harbour ferry to Circular Quay or Manly (which we missed, sigh).
Also check out: The Gap, a popular cliff walk offering views back over Watson’s Bay but also infamous for local suicides….
EATING OUT | Australia is a strange country when it comes to food: meat is of the highest quality and super cheap; fruit and vegetables – which are grown locally – seem disproportionately expensive (an Avocado costs $5/ £2.50 versus 3 for £1 in the UK); it’s difficult to do a cheap shop in a supermarket; eating out can seriously be a better option! Sydney travel tips: definitely worth seeking out the regular ‘$10 Parma’ or ‘$15 Steak’ etc. deals in pubs on select nights, and BYO options are limitless – just check the $ corkage rate.
SYDNEY FESTIVAL | 9th Jan was opening night in 2016 and the Flaming Lips headlined. I thought they were way too mellow, regardless the atmosphere and location in The Domain are hard to beat for a free event. Watch out for fruit bats flying overhead at dusk.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
COOGEE PAVILLION | I mentioned 2016 has been a whirlwind start. True also of the end to 2015: we landed on 28th December and ended up having a big night out; 29th I had a hen-do; 30th we got frazzled with an all day harbour beaches session. By New Year’s Eve, still cradling some jet-lag and post-Christmas bloat, I was all but burnt out. Maybe these factors contributed to my official ‘Worst New Year’s Eve Ever’ at the Pavilion! Urgh, what a crowd. We’d gone to meet friends, but it was like a cattle market: queuing; bodycon ‘dresses’ galore; selfies overload; shite music; expensive drinks. You get the picture. Worst of all? They even messed up New Year and failed to do a countdown. Amateurs.
CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT | Sydney’s main skyscraper office area has little to shout about. Sure, you’ll start to find an increasing number of cool cocktail bars and places to eat (since the licensing laws for small bars were changed back in 2008) however they’re like finding a needle in a haystack. Great if you happen to work next door, but not really worth a specific visit. The inner city is dated and not why you came to see Sydney.
KINGS CROSS | or ‘The Cross’ has changed a lot since lockout laws were introduced in March 2014. I almost didn’t recognise it. It’s calm and clean: gone are the lairy trashbags tearing through the streets. These can’t be bad things, but it’s certainly lost it’s edge and it’s soul. It’s even lost the iconic neon Coca-Cola sign, replaced by a standard poster version. Crack down!
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
SURRY HILLS | this trip to was far too short-but-sweet to even scratch the surface for valid Sydney travel tips. After an English winter, we chose to spend our few days soaking up some rays (coated in factor 30) and catching up with friends. I totally ran out of time to enjoy the amazing suburbs of Surry Hills and my old ‘hood Redfern. Ah, next time.
AND KNOW THIS: George Street in the CBD is the oldest street in the whole of Australia, and Sydney officially became a city in 1842 – not even 200 years old yet.