Sydney is a phenomenal city. That harbour. That bridge. The opera house, the rocks, the beaches …. I love this city & a couple of years ago I seriously considered moving here. I now know that whilst I love visiting it’s not really somewhere I could call home .
Nonetheless I’ve had some good times here. I normally visit once-twice a year for work. This time I’ve combined a little work and play as my little sister c has flown in ahead of a planned mini-reunion with some of the group we met onboard a top deck tour a few years ago in Europe. Based on this catch up I planned a work trip to coincide & it’s been really beneficial as my agents have all been quiet giving me the time to actually find out some decent intel & build those all important relationships.
Because of my great love for Sydney here’s my top 10 tips if you’re planning a trip one day:
1. Stay somewhere central & book well in advance. Coming from a hotelier background I can tell you now if you want a good rate in a good location book in advance. Everyone is moving away from last minute selling…. We aim to reward guests who book in advance! Ps. When it comes to major events like NYE or Christmas it’s best book months in advance. This time I stayed at The Menzies – it’s right opposite Wynard train station and walking distance to the rocks, circular quay (opera house) and Pitt St Mall (major shopping hub).
2. Opal cards & public transport
Not as good as the UK tube, Sydney public transport does alright & is relatively easy to get around on. The best option is to go online a month before you arrive and order yourself an opal card. Melbourne has the Myki card and Brisbane has the Go card… So of course to be different Sydney has the opal card…. Can anyone say national standard??
You can’t buy opal cards from an outlet – currently you have to register online. I’m hoping they change this fast as the cards are a great way to use all public transport (bus, train, ferry). You just load money up onto them at selected outlets (another roadblock – you can upload more money to your Myki & Go cards at a number of stations throughout the cities as well as other stand alone outlets) and swipe the card across the opal disc at the entrance to each transport method. Then you swipe again when you finish your journey at the appropriate opal disc. Much better than buying multiple single or daily tickets…. Of course if you’re planning on a return trip from a certain point that’s great as you can get a daily pass. I use public transport a lot when in Sydney and have always found it good . Of course leaving the station is when it gets tricky because then you have to rely on your own sense of direction – mine is so bad I managed to loop C and I all the way around a station up to the shopping precinct before I finally found where I was meant to be…. Bonus tip: always grab a map from hotel concierge or a visitor info centre to avoid unnecessary detours to Pitt St mall… Though I guess I was just following my nose for shopping.
3. Do have a drink at the opera bar.
Night or day this bar at the foot of the famous Opera House has the best views over Sydney Harbour. A little touristy but equally loved by locals there’s the view, good food – pizza & snack size stuff but delish nonetheless, a huge array of beer/wine/cocktails/spirits/ciders and the non- alcoholic stuff for the fun police (or those under 18 yrs), and always a live band. Lionel Cole (yep he’s the great Nat King Cole’s nephew) played there yesterday … He’s just finished up as a finalist on the third au season of the voice.
4. BBQ king – it’ll change your life.
I found BBQ king a little hole in the wall place in Chinatown over 10 years ago and I’ve been raving about their duck pancakes ever since. Little bite sized morsels of divine fatty duck, a dollop of sweet hoi sin sauce, with a sprig of spring onion all placed into a
little crepe style pancake …
Perfect for eating with your hands!
The service here is pretty hit and miss but for those pancakes I’ll put up with it …. I will give them that the food is delivered promptly (once you’ve got their attention and ordered).
5. Beaches – bondi, bronte, tamarama… North shore.
Sydney’s beaches are spectacular…Fact: pretty much all of Australia’s beaches are pretty magical, but you might say I’m bias. Bondi beach is the most famous of Sydney’s beaches and yes it’s amazing. Best of all it’s 100% free… No private beaches and other than the transport or parking fees it’s free. Take a picnic and watch the surf, flirt with the handsome life savers (they’ve got their own show here – Bondi Rescue), walk the 4-6 km Bondi to Coogee or Bondi to Bronte walk along the coastline track. I have a soft spot for Bronte and Tamarama as this is where a dear family friend Sam lives – high up in the cliff/hills overlooking this beautiful coastline. Sam was also a best friend of my beloved late uncle Bernie.
6. Best hostels.
If you’re travelling on the budget side of things don’t fear there’s some great hostels in Sydney: YHA, Bounce & Wakeup. The YHA is located in the heritage area of The Rocks. Bounce and Wakeup are both located just near central station and are both award winning heritage style buildings with full re-fits inside to make them modern. A variety of rooms are available from dorms with shared bathrooms, through to private rooms and hotel style rooms starting from $34 per person per night.
7. Markets + shopping
Fact: When you travel, you shop. The best shopping places (in my humble opinion) are found in Pitt Street Mall, QVB (Queen Victoria Building), Bondi Junction, and Paddington. Pitt Street Mall has the major stuff you want – a range of Australian and International brand names from the very high end down to the more budget. In the middle of the mall is a large Westfield Shopping Centre with more shops – the only Westfield to be in the centre of any city in Australia. The whole 2-3 blocks around Pitt Street Mall are fantastic for shopping as it includes the QVB shopping complex – a gorgeous Romanesque style building complete with centre glass dome and marble floors, the High End boutiques such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior and much more are dotted around Castlereagh Street, there’s also Paspaley Pearls (the real deal – South Australian Pearls), Tiffany & Co, Burberry is nearby too…Diamonds, Pearls and perfectly made trench coats…Oh My!
Bondi Junction has a massive Westfield with a 5 level David Jones (the Barney’s/Harrods of Australia) including the David Jones Food Hall inside. The higher you go the more exclusive the brand. Therefore I was a level 2-4 girl. The best thing about Bondi Junction (other than it’s right beside a train station and therefore so very accessible, oh and the bus station that runs buses to that world famous Bondi Beach is there too) is over the Christmas shopping week they offer 24 hour shopping.
Paddington is the place where the cool kids shop. A bunch of trendy designers have boutiques here along Oxford Street (interspersed with BDSM leather style clothing shops – The Mardi Gras Gay and Lesbian festival and parade runs along Oxford Street in Feb-March annually). Keep following Oxford Street and you’ll find the famous Paddington Markets on every Saturday. These markets aren’t your usual cheap and cheerful – they’re more artisan and have a price tag to match. For more budget friendly markets check out The Rocks Markets (Sat & Sun) or Bondi Markets (Sundays).
8. They have fireworks every Saturday night…. Just because
9. Delights for big & little kids
Sydney is a city most adults will delight in – bars, food, shopping, nightlife etc etc…But it’s also got some little people stuff to do that the big people will enjoy also:
Taronga zoo is located just 12 minutes from Circular Quay via City Ferry – a great way to see the famous harbour, bridge and opera house from the water! The ferry costs around $6+ per person one way but there are family options available. Tickets start at $46 per adult and $104 for 2 Adults + 2 kids so very reasonable. My parents, little sister C and I went to the zoo last year and for 4 adults we were enchanted with it’s layout and selection of animals, my favourites were the giraffes and the penguins. There’s also a fantastic Roar & Snore option where you can stay overnight and hear the nocturnal animals as well as take a behind the scenes tour of the zoo after hours. Starting at $288 per adult and $184.50 per child it’s not budget to stay overnight but an amazing experience!
For more info on all things kid friendly check out Sydney.com.
10. Gelato Messina. Food Porn.
If I was going to number my tips with 10 = The Best; then Messina would be it! I first met the maestros of gelato Messina back in Surry hills approx 2 years ago. Back then they had just the 1 shop and really only the locals knew about it. Fast forward to now and Messina is a common name in reference to gelato/gelati. They have 3 stores in Sydney and have now opened one up in Fitzroy in Melbourne. My store is the one located in The Star Casino at Pyrmont (the area just behind Circular Quay and the Harbour Bridge) and whilst in Sydney last week I managed to get there twice for a hit of Messina goodness. With names like Robert Brownie Junior, Kevin Bacon (yes there really was candied bacon crunch in the gelato), C is for Cookie, Maltin Banana, True Romance and many more do yourself a favour…When in Sydney make sure you go to Messina! The best part is they update their menu every week to keep things interesting, I promise you I’ve never met a gelato I didn’t like there.
What’ve I missed? Who’s planning a visit to Sydney now (if only to try Messina) or who has been? Favourite spots…I’d love to hear from you……..