Australia · Travel

A mini guide to Sydney, Australia

We’ve been away in Sydney for a couple of weeks. After having a fantastic time doing lots and having lots to go back for I thought I would do a summary of the best bits for you.

Places to go:

Art Gallery NSW – A fantastic collection of Australian art from traditional Aboriginal art work through to modern art and as we were visiting in August the Archibald prize was on display.

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The Botanical Gardens – A beautiful outdoor haven in the middle of the city, with lovely views from Mrs Macquaries chair.

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Observation hill – Grab a picnic or go just to soak up a little sun whilst map reading. A lovely free vantage point of the Harbour bridge and you could pop into the Observatory if you fancy.
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Taronga Zoo – It’s worth a visit purely for the stunning views back to Sydney itself. I would highly recommend attending the Bird show, which features many native Australian birds and teaches the importance of each within their own ecosystems. Now I am slightly on the fence about the principle of Zoo’s, however they do make it perfectly clear the fantastic research and projects that the Zoo funds helping animals across the world.

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Manly – The Ferry from Circular Quay to Manly is lovely on a calm day. Plus there are a great multitude to do once you’re over there from shopping, chilling on Manly, Shelley or Dee Why Beach and fantastic walks along to North Head – with some more beautiful views back to the city.

Darling Harbour – The plenty to see here from chinatown and the chinese garden on the southside, to the national maritime museum and shopping centre on the west and rows of restaurants on the east there is something for any time of day.

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Things to do:

Walks – and plenty of them, I have already mentioned one of the walks in Manly (and we were informed of an equally lovely – if not long – walk from Manly to Spit bridge). You cannot go to Sydney and not do the Coogee to Bondi walk – or there and back if you’re feeling particularly energetic, with some lovely café’s and restaurants at either end it really doesn’t matter which you start or finish at.

The Blue Mountains –

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Only a 2 hour train away from Sydney Central station. However, we decided to catch the rivercat from Circular Quay to Parramatta then the train – we saw several different cormorants and even a Pelican down the Parramatta river – we were reliably informed this is even more magnificent in November when the Jacaranda is in full bloom! The Blue Mountains are one of the most stunning places, with plenty of hikes to do. I was slightly overwhelmed by the sheer choice of tour companies, varying in price, length and level of activity. Life’s an Adventure seemed the best to me, offering a tour for all abilities with a great level of expertise. They were terribly helpful when I asked them what seemed 101 questions and I can see why they are the highest rated on Tripadvisor! Our guide pointed out plenty of birds, bush tucker and what you would use as a ‘bush medicine cabinet’. With views as pretty as a picture this is well worth a trip!

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We stayed overnight in one of the most amazing B&B’s just by the start of the tour that I cannot recommend enough. Valley of the Waters B&B is where we stayed – it boasts fantastic views, friendly service and full cooked breakfast – for which it did not disappoint. Marty and Janice are very welcoming hosts. Marty told us the route down to Empress falls – I’ll let you be a judge of its natural beauty.

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The Falls certainly were Empress-ive!

Randwick Racecourse – A great day out if you know anything about horses or not. You can eat the traditional Aussie Meat pie, sip wine or a cocktail and get involved in the whooping and the hollering My Fair Lady style. But promise me one thing? Please do not get drunk – it just does not look good darling.

City2Surf – I must have been feeling adventurous entering this! Seeing as I had never run 5km, let alone 14km prior to entering, but I chose a charity to run for, raised the money and trained hard and I can safely say this was an amazing addition to the trip. Seeing plenty of funny costumes and great supporters. My personal favourite was a sign saying ‘Go Random Stranger, Go’. Second Sunday in August.

Vivid Sydney – Unfortunately, we missed this with our visit, but by the sounds of it, it’s spectacular! Late May – Early June.

Places to Eat:

Sean’s Panaroma – No that is not a spelling mistake, that is how they’ve spelt it. This cosy little restaurant is awash with locals and often has a queue out the door. Serving perfectly cooked Australian food, with a menu that changes daily, written up on the blackboards over head and reeled off faultlessly by the staff.

Another less pricey Australian eatery is the aptly named Australian Hotel – serving some Australian classics alongside some exciting pizza’s with topped with Kangaroo and Emu.

Mr Wong – Chinese Cantonese restaurant, not serving food on the traditional Yum Cha trolleys – but don’t worry I have plenty of those to mention as well! Set back in an alleyway of sorts, and if I hadn’t of heard of it I would have never of found it. Here you order from their extremely comprehensive menu’s. You can see the Chefs working away in their open kitchens and observe the level of detail that has gone into the interior design from hand-painted mirrors and exposed brick work. They couldn’t step a foot wrong with any of the food they brought us, each dish as delicious as the last.

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Now I promised you Yum Cha and there is only one place to get it, that is Chinatown! – Yum Cha is the Chinese equivalent to Brunch or Afternoon Tea and I would happily have it as either (or both if I am feeling particularly naughty). We went to Eastern Ocean, on Sussex St. But Marigolds is meant to be equally as good, and twice as big.

Papi Chulo – Now jumping across the pond to food from the American deep south, served on Manly Wharf. We could not make our minds up over the menu so Patrick and I decided upon the tasting menu and never looked back! The Octupus was a little chewy – but then again most octupus is, but the Guacamole still haunts my dreams, made with peas and avocado, earth shatteringly good. This is also where the humble cauliflower came into it’s own for me, burnt round the edges on a BBQ, makng for a smokey flavour, then dusted in parmesan shavings and let’s not forget the Papi Chulo BBQ plater was the food of kings, topped off with a glossy brioche bun to pile high with meats.

Now for those of you more health concious I whole heartedly recommend The Grumpy Baker – absolutely amazing sour doughs baked on site, fresh out of the oven to your table! And for snacks or a Juice, Pressed Juices is your best friend – but we also loved the lovely little stall on Coogee beach which did fresh juices and Frappes to order.

Places to drink (and soak up the view):

The Opera Bar – Beautiful views as the sunsets and the city lights start to twinkle.

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The Glenmore Hotel, The Rocks – Equally lovely views, but this time back to the Opera house. Plenty of Aussie beers, pitchers, wines and a mouth watering menu to boot – but we were far too full after Mr Wong to even consider eating.

The Argyle, The Rocks – We went on a Sunday night and got treated to live music and good drinks in the beautiful cobble stoned al fresco area.

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Top tip for Sydney:

Best mode of transport: Ferry – gives a lovely perspective on the city and gets you within walking distance of most places.

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