It’s hard not to fall in love with Sydney. It’s clean, efficient and modern, but with an old world charm that can’t be beat.
The Land Down Under, in general, has always been a paradox to me. On one hand, it is filled with old buildings and heritage houses and Victorian terrace apartments, and aboriginal carvings can still be found on the coastal suburbs.
On the other hand, Australia now has one of the best economies on the world, free health care and education, its own fashion ecosystem, and basically everything a modern man or woman could need and want from a progressive city.
For first timers, the city alone will provide you with lots of things to see, do and eat, but make sure to venture out of the CBD so you can see Sydney’s beautiful beaches, and do like the Aussies and go on an outdoor adventure. Aside from the prerequisite shopping runs, here are a few places to go when visiting Sydney for the first time:
Circular Quay and The Rocks—Home of the Sydney Opera House and majestic Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay is indeed touristy, but very much worth a visit. Have a drink or two at Opera Bar below the Opera House, then walk over to the Museum of Contemporary Art and have a look around.
From there, you can walk to The Rocks and have dinner at Lowenbrau, then coffee and a macaroon at La Renaissance Patisserie and Cafe. If you go on a Sunday, The Rocks has an outdoor market where you will find everything from Aussie souvenirs and food, to handmade crafts. This is also where you can tour Sydney’s historical quarter.
Darling Harbour—A trip to Sydney is not complete without visiting Darling Harbour, and there is lots to do for everyone in the family. Kids can play in the fairly new giant playground in Darling Quarter, while adults can sit in one of the many cafes or have a drink at a bar.
Sydney may not be a cheap city, but Happy Hour really make people happy in this side of town. Check out Toro with its $5 dollar Spanish beers and Sangrias and $10 tapas. There’s also an iMax theatre here, and it’s also home to the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Maritime Museum and the Chinese Garden of Friendship.
Chinatown—Possibly the smallest and cleanest Chinatown you will see. Dixon Street, where it is located, is chock-full of little, delicious and cheap gems. If in Sydney and craving Chinese food, this is definitely the place to go. On weekends, they also have little kiosks selling grilled food. Look for the stall that sells the spicy lamb skewers, you won’t regret it!
Coogee-Bondi Coastal Walk—If you want to get a work out in while in Sydney while also enjoying a wonderful view while you’re at it, the Coogee-Bondi Coastal walk is the way to go. It’s a three-hour walk that starts at Coogee Beach (there’s a bus that goes directly there) and ends at the famous Bondi Beach, but passing through other beaches such as Clovelly, Bronte and Tamarama.
Watch out for the beautiful Waverly Cemetery when you go through Bronte, and don’t walk too fast—you wa’t to enjoy the magnificent views. Remember to wear a swimsuit; you are going to want to jump into the water at some point!
Featherdale Wildlife Park—While Taronga would be the obvious choice to visit, Featherdale offers a more quaint and compact zoo that focuses only on animals that are endemic to Australia. Here you will find yourself face-to-face with koalas, emus, wallabies and kangaroos and can watch a dingo feeding session and get to know farm animals in their petting zoo.
It’s located in Blacktown, which is about a 40-minute drive from the CBD, but your hotel can arrange to take you there.
Bents Basin—If you want to experience the real meaning of Aussie outdoor fun, go on a picnic at a nearby national park. Try to find one with a lake or river so you can jump in on a hot day! Remember to check if the place you choose has a barbecue grill so you know if you can cook there or not. At Bents Basin, wood fired bbqs are provided; just bring your own wood. You can also opt to camp overnight, as well. This is located about two hours from the city, on the Napean River between Camden and Penrith.
Glebe Markets—Every Saturday, the Glebe Public School grounds turns into a market filled with a variety of interesting knick-knacks. Here you will find everything from vintage apparel and accessories, handmade soaps, and old books to start-up clothing brands. One can spend a good few hours here rifling through the merchandise and looking for good deals. Come early to make sure you get the pick of the lot!