I visited Australia for a week in November 2019. I spent half of my time in Sydney and the other half in Melbourne. November is springtime in Australia which was perfect for me considering it was very cold back on the east coast in the U.S.
I found an unbelievably cheap flight deal (via google flights) from D.C. to Sydney. My ticket was $535 roundtrip (YES! ROUNDTRIP!) on Delta and Virgin Australia. These tickets are usually $900 -$1000 USD. This is why it is best to check google flights once a day just in case a flight deal like this one pops up on your screen from your respective destination. You never know when a great deal like this will happen.
My first flight, from D.C. to Los Angeles, was operated by Delta and my second flight, from Los Angeles to Sydney, was operated by Virgin Australia. It was the same on the return flight as well. If you are visiting from the U.S., you will need a VISA for Australia. I applied online for an e-visa, the same day I bought my plane ticket, and was approved the same day. The cost was 20 AUD.
I stayed at the Hilton Sydney hotel which is centrally located in the downtown area near the shopping (Queen Victoria Building–see pic below), entertainment, and business district. It is also conveniently located next to the metro (Town Hall and St. James stations) and the light rail. Also, in walking distance, is the bus stop for the 333 bus that takes you directly to Bondi Beach. If you are traveling with family, this is probably not the area you want to stay in as it is very busy and can get quite crowded.
To get around the city I used the metro, bus, and ferry. To get to and from the airport, I took the metro T8 green line to St. James metro and walked from the station to the hotel which took about 5 minutes. You have the option of purchasing an Opal card and adding money to it to use for your entire trip. However, I think it is best to use a personal contactless card ( credit or debit card) which is what I chose to do.
If your card is contactless, you will see a wi-fi symbol that is rotated to the right, on the front or back of your card. Overall, I found the contactless card to be very efficient because I never had to worry about adding more money. Uber and taxis are widely available, but with the metro you will not have to worry about being stuck in traffic. You will also get to the city center and around the Central Business District much faster.
What I Did In Sydney
From my hotel, I took the 333 bus directly to Bondi Beach. The bus ride took about 30 minutes and the Bondi Beach stop is a short walk to the beach.
From the end of October to early November, the beach hosts an event called Sculpture by the Sea. This event is free and stretches along the coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach. You can walk to other beaches from Bondi as well (Tamarama, Bronte, and Coogee, which is the furthest one out). I found the sculptures interesting and very unique. Whether you visit during this event or not, going on the coastal walk is nice, calming, and very relaxing as its by the ocean and quiet (morning hours). It’s also not too hot in the morning but when the sun comes out, it is strong and you can feel the heat! Oh my goodness! If you go during this time, go in the morning or as the sun is setting. This applies to all of the beaches. The sun is very strong.
A few hours after I arrived in Sydney, I went on a food tour with Secret Food Tours (same company I went on a food tour with in Paris). I had to find a way to beat the jet lag so I figured this would be a great start! Well, the tour ended at 4 pm and I went to bed at 5 pm…could not fight going to sleep anymore! Keep in mind that Sydney is 16 hours ahead of D.C. and I came off the plane ready to hit the ground running and stay away. Epic fail!
Anyways, this food tour covered the Surry Hills district which is known for having some of the best food and cafés in Sydney. On this tour we stopped at a wine shop for a wine tasting and cheese parings, a vegan restaurant (Yullis), Artie’s butcher shop (for aussie burgers, but he went out of his way to customize a veggie burger for me which I really appreciated it–see below), a brewery (choice of beer and a shot of smooth to very strong liquor), a Greek bakery, and for the final stop a choice of ginger cider or beer. Great tour, definitely recommend!
I went to Circular Quay (via metro) to catch the ferry to Manly Beach around 7:30-7:45 a.m. The ferry ride takes about 30-40 minutes. As noted above, you can use your contactless card to pay the fee to board the ferry. When you get on board, you have the option of sitting outside or inside. I opted to sit outside and it was great, except for the strong wind. There is also a fast ferry (costs a bit more) that gets you to Manly Beach a little bit faster (20 minutes). My thoughts at the time…”I’m on vacation…traveling solo..definitely not in a rush to be anywhere…i’m taking the regular ferry.” I enjoyed riding on the ferry enjoyed having a different view (from the water) of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, and city skyline.
When you arrive at Circular Quay, you will see signs next to each Wharf to let you know where that boat is going (i.e. Manly Beach) and which Wharf goes to Manly Beach (i.e. Wharf 3). While at Manly Beach, I walked down to Shelly Beach which takes about 15-20 minutes (depending on how fast you walk, could be 30 minutes). It was a nice walk going (cool breeze) but walking back the sun came out and it was extremely hot. Again, visit the beaches in the morning or as the sun is setting.
I took a bike tour around the city to see different sites as it would cover more ground than a walk tour since Sydney is a big city. While biking around, I got to see sites such as Circular Quay, Darling Harbour (great place to dine for lunch), Sydney Opera House, Royal Botanic Gardens, the Rocks, Hyde Park, Luna Park, Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge (rode across it twice!). For the short time I spent it Sydney, it was nice to cover so many sites in such a short time. I would not recommend the company that I went with due to the guide’s negligence and poor maintenance of the bikes. However, I would recommend Bonza Bike Tours.
- Take a bike tour or rent a bike and tour the city on your own
- Although I did not have time to visit, I have heard great reviews about the Blue Mountains
- Have breakfast/brunch/dinner at Grounds of the City or The Grounds of Alexandria
- Purchase a foot swing for your long haul flight (especially if you are sitting in economy). Check out the link below.
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