Sydney – New South Wales, Australia
Melbourne has been high on my travel list – beautiful city, intense cafe culture, originator of food trends, and right by the ocean – this spot is full of amazing things. In addition to the city itself, there is so much going on in every direction around Melbourne. Wine country, national parks, gardens, The Great Ocean Road, and so much more to explore. It is easy to spend an entire two weeks just in Melbourne. Having only five days was certainly a challenge but it certainly gives plenty to look forward to for future trips.
Our flight to Sydney arrived after 5PM as the sun was setting so our hours exploring today were numbered.There are multiple ways to get from the airport to downtown – the train, rent a car, or rideshare / taxi. While the train would seem like the most cost efficient, if you are traveling as more than one person it is actually cheaper to ride share so make sure to double check when you arrive – the train is $17 a person which is not inexpensive for a twenty minute journey.
The Airbnb was in the Surry Hills neighborhood, voted in 2021 as the top foodie destination in Sydney and one of the best spots for those living in the city. We have found that staying in a neighborhood outside the CBD comes with lots of character as well as better dining spots so we were happy to exchange some proximity convenience. This Airbnb was super comfortable and perfectly located. After a long day, we decided to stay local and go around the corner to Sydney Brewery where Kevin grabbed a beer and we shared a chicken schnitzel sandwich and a salad.
It was disappointing to miss out on exploring more tonight but we prioritized an early bedtime to get the most out of tomorrow.
Ready for a full day of Sydney! Breakfast and coffee were first up on the list and Kevin found Cupcakes on Pitt which seemed like an odd name to describe the business but my goodness what a highlight of the bakery seen this place is! We got a blueberry danish and a baguette with ham, cheese, and tomato. The baguette was exceptional – freshly baked with the most outstanding crust and fluffy inside. We talked about this sandwich the rest of the trip. The danish was also delish – more like a flatten muffin than a danish in the sense of the word but it was delicious and Kevin loved his coffee, which came in a fun retro inspired batman cup.
Off to the Circular Quay (pronounced Key) for the icons of Sydney – the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Both are stunning and magnificent pieces in architecture and design. The sun was just coming up so it was fun to be able to photograph these in various lights. After taking it all in, we headed first to the Harbour Bridge.
While climbing the bridge is definitely on many Sydney “must do” lists, it is an expensive activity at several hundred dollars a person. I found an alternative of climbing one of the bridge pylons – 200 stairs, it was free, and open at all times. We made our way over to the entrance, it was closed off for construction. When I pulled up the website, it was clear that my intel was outdated. It was only open for a few days of the week (Thursday was not one of them), only for a few hours on those days (10AM – 4PM), and there was an entrance fee ($13). Whomp whomp – this must have been post-covid changes that I just did not think to account for.
Walking through the streets of the city allowed us to get a feel for Sydney and I have to say, we were impressed. And the waterfront area here is equally serene and bustling with boats going in and out of the harbor.
So we walked back and forth to the Sydney Harbour House and admired it up close. What is fun is that at the Harbour Bridge, the view of Sydney Harbour House is great and then at Sydney opera House, the view of Harbour Bridge is great. We admired the architecture and design of the Sydney Opera House, reading about some of the history and progression of construction that is on display outside of the building.
We circled around to the farthest side to Mrs. Macquarie’s Point for an epic view of both the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge together. I read this is an amazing spot for sunset so we will definitely have to return to this spot.
We walked a little through the park making our way to Flour and Stone for some lovely looking baked goods before heading back to the Circular Quay to head out with Ocean Extreme for whale watching.
When I read whale watching starts at the end of May, I definitely did not want to miss the chance to see more whales in our life.
Read about our whale watching experience here!
I had to sit for a while post boat ride before feeling up for walking around. We sat at the harbor watching boats go by for a few minutes before getting some gelato from Messina – we were dreaming of that milk chocolate peanut butter fudge so we shared a cup. We wandered through the Gateway Plaza with various food courts to get a snack. Kevin got a small plate of chicken tikka masala and I got soup dumplings. That is such a great benefit of a good food court – everyone can get what they want without compromise.
With time before dinner but not enough to leave the area, we decided to explore the Royal Botanical Garden Sydney. This ended up being a bird watching dream – so many different birds!
Enjoy all the photos of the gardens, including the birds here!
We really enjoyed this stroll through the gardens! We made our way towards Mrs. Macquarie’s Point as it was getting close to sunset. The view from this area is so lovely at sunset, the view is only elevated – highly recommend!
After a very long day out exploring the Circular Quay and surrounding areas, it was finally time for dinner at Kitchen by Mike.
Read the dining review for Kitchen by Mike here!
Before heading home, we had to check out the Vivid Lights Festival. We had seen signs all over the city for it and knew this would be our best opportunity to come see it.
Read about the Vivid Lights Festival and see all the photos here!
What a wonderful way to awaken the wintertime season and take advantage of the early sunset by illuminating the sky. After being out all day, we were exhausted and had no problem sleeping tonight.
Ahh Friday. Today I had planned for us to visit the Blue Mountains – a mountain range two hours away, accessible by train, and featuring trails, views, and waterfalls. When I checked on the trails Thursday night, I noted the park’s website had several alerts of closures on it. I did not realize just how extensive the closures were – landslides, fires, and more have made much of the Blue Mountain inaccessible except for a few viewpoints. This did not make sense for a four hour round trip visit and that was really disappointing. Alas, I woke up early today to find some alternative plans that would be achievable without a car. There was still much of the city left unexplored.
Our first stop was Joe Black’s Cafe down the street for breakfast and we were craving some fruit. We got fruit over oatmeal and yogurt and these really hit the spot. This spot is definitely popular as the rotation of people was continuous. Great spot in Surrey Hills.
We decided to explore a different area of the city to start off our day. Darling Harbor is full of activity as not just a parking spot for the boats but also a working fisherman area.
After walking the boardwalk harbor, we made our way to the Sydney Fish Market. This was a legitimate market – this was not just for tourists but it was an active fish site with an auction floor and deliveries constantly being packed up and shipped across the city. The footprint for the activity is quite large but the market accessible to the public is only a small portion of the area.
Walking around here is super cool – we saw fishes we never see on display! Made us really wish we had a full kitchen and a free meal to buy up seafood to make a nice meal. Even though it was only 9AM, I really wanted a plate of food as each of the markets inside had their own prepared section. We ordered a platter of grilled scallops, prawns, and baby octopus accompanied by chips / fries.
This was an excellent decision as everything was delicious – how could we pass up all this fresh seafood? Second breakfast was complete and I was starting to think today was going to be a hobbit’s tale – a food journey through Sydney.
On our way out of the fish market, so many birds were flocked at a chance to get some of the fish scraps being discarded. Among the gulls were the most enormous pelicans we have ever seen – they had to be over 3 feet tall, waddling around not at all amused or concerned by the people running past them – just looking for an easy meal.
The next stop on our was the Bangaroo area on the opposite side of Darling Harbour. This area housed many different restaurants, museums, and shops along the boardwalk. The walk in this area is very peaceful and full of evidence that the VIVID Lights festival extends into this area as well.
We made our way to the Circular Quay to catch a ferry ride to Manly. We grabbed gelato at Zini Contemporary Gelateria (chocolate and peanut butter chocolate chip – elevenses) before making our way onto the ferry.
The ferry system is easy and expansive – there are so many ferries constantly coming in and out of the Quay that go all over. Tap to pay works on all public transit here and that includes the ferry – just tap your phone and off you go. The ferries are also a great way to see the harbor and coastline so even if you do not have a particular destination in mind, you should definitely ride a ferry while visiting Sydney. We decided to take a twenty minute ferry to go to Manly and explore the beaches.
Read about our visit to Manly here!
We took the ferry back to the Circular Quay, grabbed our final Messina Gelato (afternoon tea) before heading to Bon Fromage Festival of European Cheeses. We noticed a sign advertising this event the night before and we could not believe our luck that this weekend there was a free European cheese tasting. We figured this event would be popular- free cheese being offered in the most popular area of the city with VIVID lights going on means going at night is a non-starter. If cheese is free, people that do not even like cheese are going to be there. So my plan was to arrive at the very opening of the event – 4PM.
When we entered, we were both happy and sad that we had a dinner planned for this evening – sad that we could not take full advantage of the event but happy that it meant we did not gorge on cheese. The event space had booths on the perimeter selling wine, bread, charcuterie, desserts, and more while the middle of the area had a long table with the various cheeses. The cheeses were somehow free – some were presented in bite sized pieces while others were just the wheel. We were able to get one of everything to try (dinner) but dear lord you would think the cheese was cash for how much some people were taking. Displays were emptied very quickly and I can’t imagine how they were going to keep up with the demand for free cheese – unfortunately we could not stay to see the results but we pondered on it for the rest of the evening.
Dinner tonight was one we were looking forward to all trip and it was back in our Surry Hills neighborhood. The Blue Door (supper) opened recently in October of 2021 and has rave reviews online so we were very excited.
Read the dining review for The Blue Door here!
What an incredible meal – I fully expect this spot to blow up so if you are in the Sydney area, get in while you can.
Our final day in Sydney and also our final day in Australia! We took the morning easy, packed up a little and took our eMed Bianax Now COVID tests for re-entry to the US. This was our last set in the pack of six so we will definitely be purchasing more, assuming the US will continue to require covid tests for international travel.
We stopped by Paramount Coffee Project for breakfast – Kevin continued to be impressed with all his coffee for the entire trip as Australia cafe and coffee culture is excellent. We also shared a bowl of muesli before heading off for the day.
Read about our time in Bondi Beach here!
We took the ride back to the Airbnb to freshen up as we made our way to our final dinner of the trip at Farmhouse Kings Cross. We walked to get to experience different neighborhoods – walking through Darlinghurst and others to appreciate just how much there is going on in Sydney.
Read our final dining review for Sydney at Farmhouse Kings Cross here!
A lovely way to end not just our night, not just our time in Sydney, but our entire Australia trip! We finished packing up our things in preparation for an early departure and a 30 hour journey back home.
The competition between Melbourne and Sydney makes for a fun rivalry that tourists get to benefit from. Sydney has a bit more of a metro city feel like New York City while still remaining clean and safe like Melbourne. The skyline here makes for a wonderful view and the harbour area is every bit as beautiful as you hoped it would be. But what really made us love Sydney was all the neighborhoods that make up the city outside of downtown. They all have so much character and so much to offer. And having the most beautiful beaches just a few minutes away, we really could see the appeal. I hope this is not our last time together Sydney, see you real soon.