The best of Sydney: Our top seven experiences 1

Posted by Beth | May 17, 2016

Part of the reason we dedicated so little time on our itinerary to such as massive country was we had heard Australia was an extremely expensive place to travel. While it did come out as our most expensive country so far, we were generally pleased that things were not as pricey as we may have expected. It seemed comparable to prices in the United States, if not slightly less. It felt cheaper than New Zealand, though we spent more on average per day in Australia because we splurged for some nice meals and activities versus mostly just camping and hiking in New Zealand. Here are our seven favorite things we did in Sydney, that we felt were well worth the money.

  1. Sydney Opera House: We knew we wanted to visit this iconic landmark and had planned on just taking the tour. We decided it’d be worth the money instead to see a show in one of the theatres. We tried to get tickets to Swan Lake but they were sold out, so ended up at the comedy It was really funny and a cool experience to see a show at the world famous Sydney Opera House.
  2. Trapeze Class at the Sydney Olympic Park: We love the Olympics and always try to visit Olympic venues when we’re in former host cities. To get to Sydney’s venue it’s about 45 minutes outside the Central Business District via train, so we wanted to make the trip worth our time. The company Circus Act Trapeze runs classes at the Aquatic Centre (you can also swim in the pool, which is now a huge family indoor swim center, but it was really crowded over the school holiday). Though we were the oldest participants in our class by at least 15 years, we ended up thoroughly enjoying our time on the trapeze. We both successfully completed the knee hang and catch trick.
  3. Hillsong Church: My long-time favorite worship music has been from Hillsong Church so I was excited our time in Sydney fell on a Sunday so we could visit the mega church. It was an incredible experience, from the free shuttle bus to the excellent worship, meaningful message and friendly people we met afterward. Had it been a little closer to our hotel I would have absolutely gone back for the Sunday evening service as well.
  4. Rugby Match: Near the top of Caleb’s bucket list for quintessential Australian activities was to see a live rugby match. We saw the Tahs vs. Brumbies play at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night. I didn’t, and still don’t, know a single thing about rugby but it was very entertaining to watch and I’m so glad we went.  Tickets were cheap, about$20 USD a person for GA and the lax rules allowed us to upgrade to nearly any seat in the section.
  5. Manly Beach: The most famous of the beaches near Sydney, Manly Beach is accessible via a half-hour long ferry ride from the main harbor, Circular Quay. On Sundays all public transportation, including the ferries, is a flat rate of $2.50 per day if you have the Opal card, which is free to get from any convenience store then you load it with money. It was a little dreary and rainy during our afternoon at the beach, but we hiked a bit, watched some surfers, did a beer flight at 4 Pines Brewery then went out to dinner at Jam Town, a darling little Jamaican restaurant.
  6. Walking Tour: On our first full day we joined up with a free walking tour. We ‘ve had very mixed experiences on these types of tours in previous cities and unfortunately our Sydney tour guide was one of the worst so we ended up dropping out. That being said, Sydney is still definitely a walkable city and there’s a lot to see by foot, including the Central Business District, Hyde Park, the Royal Botanic Gardens (great viewpoints over the harbor), and The Rocks neighborhood. We logged a lot of miles on our own and to get the same type of history tidbits you’d learn on a walking tour, I’d recommend reading In a Surburned Country by Bill Bryson. Excellent read on Australia!
  7. Eating and Drinking: Sydney is a foodie city with a diverse range of dining options at all different price points. Some of the highlights for us were Eating World, a giant Asian food court in Chinatown where we split some ramen and a whole grilled fish with eggplant. We dined on the rooftop of the Glenmore Hotel overlooking the harbor on Monday for $12 steak night, possibly the best deal in the city. Also in The Rocks, we had lunch at cute little café. Slightly overpriced but tasty and healthy. Sydney is also a lively city for after-work drinks and was absolutely buzzing on Friday by 4 p.m. There are good happy hours to be found all over, but we went to El Loco in the Darling Harbor district as well as Charlie Chan’s near Chinatown. Popping up all over Sydney in recent years are speakeasy-style basement bars. On our last night we went for a nightcap at Lobo Plantation, a Cuban bar. At A$18 per cocktail, it was certainly not cheap but our drinks were delicious and the ambiance was lovely.

What we missed:

We crammed a lot into our four days in Sydney, but had we had more time we would have liked to have seen/done the following activities.

  • Fireworks over Darling Harbour on Friday nights at 9 p.m. We were happily at the rugby match instead during this time but have heard they’re great.
  • A Hunter Valley Wine Tour gets you about an hour and a half outside the city into wine country. We were disappointed we didn’t have time to take in yet another of the world’s great wine regions, but figured since we did several tastings in New Zealand we’d skip it for other things. They run about $150 per person for a day as well, so quite pricey.
  • Bondi Beach to Cogee Beach Hike. There’s a 6km coastal hike between the two beaches, which can be reached by public transportation from the CBD.
  • The New South Wales Art Gallery. We didn’t make time to hit any museums in Sydney but walked by this massive building in the park and it had free entry.

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