The travel life & Adventures of me; Brooke. 30 something. Loves to Travel ✈️. Drink scotch. Eat good food. Workout.



The winner is Sydney Part 1

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.


20140629-113653-41813024.jpgOpera House

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



Yep this happens at Darling Harbour every Saturday night.

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  

10. Gelato Messina. Food Porn.

Robert brownie junior c is for cookie Messina menu June 2014

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……..


I come from a land down under....

Hey there blogmates! Sorry for I haven’t been in touch. I was nursing the mother of all hangovers on Sunday and yesterday I had a surprisingly productive day in the office.

Today I’m back to normal, i.e. An expect in procrastination and distraction. Therefore I thought I would share with you something that caught my attention for 15 minutes… 

I follow the awesome Adventurous Kate on her many travels around the globe. Today I caught a piece on Air BnB and was so intrigued I’ve created a profile for Coco and I. I’m hoping that somewhere buried in the thousands of properties is a little place where Coco and I can escape to for a couple of days sometime this year or next. Has anyone used Air BnB whilst out travelling? Had any good or bad experiences…Let me know!

Then I stumbled across a piece she wrote on travelling in Australia and was pleasantly surprised to find a positive budget travel piece written about my home country. Being a local who also works in the tourism industry (and has done since I was a teenager) I thought I’d add to Kate’s info with the following tips:

– Australia is expensive. Period. The dollar value has risen since I last travelled to the States (back then it was .63cents per $1USD. Now it’s almost .90cents per $1USD) and its not dropping any time soon. Therefore make sure you save A LOT to travel here – you don’t wanna miss out on all of the awesome experiences we have to offer!
– Airfares are a HUGE cost but you can still get good value for money. Worldwide travel wholesalers offer early bird flight specials at least 10 months out from travel – try and grab one of these and save yourself a good $500-$700 straight up!

Case in Point: The First time I travelled to Europe we booked our flights in the May for August travel. The best deal our travel agent could get was $2700 return. When I went back to Europe a few years ago I saved over $750 paying just $1950 return for my flights by booking them 10 months in advance.

– Also don’t forget to use your points! If you have em, use em! You can put them towards an upgrade to premium economy or even business class – it’s a long flight to Australia and it pays to be comfortable.
– Do use online travel agents such as expedia, agoda, HotelClub and Wotif. They list all the major hotel chains along with independently owned properties and they always have specials! You aren’t always able to get these deals through your traditional travel agents either.
-Do consider staying in hostels! I know backpackers have a bad wrap but times have changed and a new wave of ‘flashpacker’ accommodation is emerging. If dorm rooms aren’t your thing (they certainly aren’t mine) there are private rooms. YHA and Nomads are both really reputable hostel companies that have some great properties throughout OZ and they’ll cost you the fraction of the price of a standard hotel. Plus both have a loyalty card program offering specials and bonuses to their members which is really worthwhile.

My motto is “It’s only a bed”. Spend less on accommodation as all you’ll be doing there is sleeping/eating so you can spend more on activities!


– For first timers do visit the East Coast and Uluru. The East Coast of Australia is home to some of the most stunning coastline in the world and it’s the place where you’ll see the 12 Apostles (Victoria), Bondi Beach (NSW) and yes it will be busy but it’s worth it – plus don’t miss the Bondi to Bronte walk it’s approx 6k return right along the ocean foreshore, visit Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast (QLD) where crocs rule (still a really special place for me as I lived on the Coast for almost 10 years and have visited the zoo many times for work and leisure), Watch the majestic Humpback whales play in the calm waters of Hervey Bay (QLD) which I love as it’s also home to World Heritage listed Fraser Island – the world’s largest sand island (the cover photo for this piece is from Fraser’s inland tracks). I know Fraser very well and I should – my parents have worked on this Island for over 17 years running guided tours and hiring 4WD vehicles for their business. Further north from here there’s the 74 islands of the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef and amazing Cairns with the Daintree rainforest.
– If you’re looking to do a decent East Coast trip it will take you at least 3 weeks. You can drive some of it but because this sunburnt country I live in is so very vast I recommend you break it up with some flights. I recommend flying Melbourne – Sydney. Then drive Sydney – Hervey Bay (it’ll take you approx days if you just drive but if you stop I’d allow 5+ days to have a night here or there to see the sights). Then fly Hervey Bay – Brisbane (I know I know it’s annoying to back track but it’s a regional airport) and grab another flight to Cairns! You will also definitely need to fly return to Uluru from one of the capital cities.
– If this is your second time in Oz I recommend visiting the magical West Coast of Australia and don’t forget Tasmania way down south.
– If you’re on a budget get smart with your food choices! Hotel breakfasts are normally at least $15 each and can rise up to $50 for 6 star properties like Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast. But you can always find cheaper options or even buy mini yoghurt/museli tubs in the supermarkets. Want breakfast with a view? Walk down to your nearest beach or River and enjoy!
– Do consider self contained apartment accommodation as it will allow you to cook your own meals. The same is said for most backpackers will have a communal kitchen where you can whip up something yummy. Otherwise you can’t go past the beachside BBQs most councils have installed along the East Coast. For a couple of dollars you can learn a great Aussie tradition and have some tucker with a view again! Also there’s a bunch of seafood wholesalers/outlets that sell fresh seafood at reasonable prices so you can indulge in Hervey Bay Scallops, King prawns (not shrimps), mud crab, and much more without a costly restaurant tag. It is important to note that drinking in a public place is illegal in Australia so if you’re planning your BBQ its best to be discreet if you want to try some South Australian wine or an Aussie craft beer with your food.
– If you love fine dining you can still get good value for money. Aria restaurant in Brisbane and Sydney sometimes offer a $50 a head 2 course weekday lunch menu (a fraction of the cost of the menu normally) – you’re on holidays so there’s a high possibility you’ll be visiting these places during the week rather than the busy weekends.
– Activities are expensive in Australia. But we have one of the best safety standards in the world and this is what you’re paying for.
– Public transport is fairly good in all capital cities in Australia which can save you $$ instead of taking taxis. Also in Sydney I never take taxi’s as they are notorious for getting lost. I use the private car service Omni Car – you will have to pre-book –  for longer distances (just $50 from the Airport to the CBD) and public transport for the rest. In Melbourne I live on the trams until around 10pm then I’ll take taxi’s to get me back to my accommodation.
– Accommodation will be the most expensive during the Australian school holidays and over Christmas. Also as a general rule Brisbane is dearer during the week versus weekends due to corporate travel, Sydney is always $$ and Melbourne weekend rates are highest!

I hope this has helped….If you’ve got any other tips to add or just have a question speak up!

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