I had always wanted to go to Sydney and see the famous sites but after going there in January 2017 I found it just didn’t quite live up to my expectations. What surprised me the most, after telling others that I didn’t really like the city, was how many other people also didn’t like it.
Overall I think it’s a real love/ hate city. I’ve had friends that lived there and adored it and others who couldn’t wait to leave. Compared to the rest of Australia it didn’t leave any lasting impressions on me and I probably wouldn’t rush back. On the one hand it was amazing to buildings as iconic as the Sydney Opera House in person but there were some downsides.
Let’s get the negative out of the way. First things first Sydney is EXPENSIVE. I seemed through burn through money in the few days I was there. Accommodation is wildly expensive here and that includes hotels. We were able to grab an Airbnb for EUR200 for the few days we were there. We stayed in a small room in a young couple’s apartment about a 30 minute walk from Sydney Harbour in an area called Potts Point. The couple were so welcoming and friendly (bonus points they also had the worlds cutest dog), but it was an interesting area to say the least. If casinos and strip clubs are your jam then this might be the place for you. It was definitely not my cup of tea however.
As we were staying in a couple’s home we (reasonably) weren’t allowed use the kitchen. This meant we had to have all our meals out which didn’t help our bank account. Now on the flip side Sydney has some seriously great bars and restaurants so I can’t complain too much about being stuck eating delicious food.
Finally due to work constraints we ended up travelling in Australia during January in the middle of their summer. It was over 40 degrees while we visited and our room in the Airbnb had no air conditioning which made it near impossible to sleep.
Now onto the good stuff! Richie got to his first ever skydive! He went with Skydive Australia which provide a 15,000ft jump (including 60 second free-fall) for $339 dollars on a weekday and $359 on the weekends. There were a couple pros and cons with this experience. On the one hand they do provide a bus to bring you to and from Sydney city center to complete the jump however you do need to call the office the day before to secure your spot on the bus despite booking the entire experience online. Additionally the jump takes place hour and a half away in Wollongong and the bus does not return to Sydney until everyone on the bus has done their jump. Given the size of group it means you can end up spending the entire day at the site if you are one of the final jumpers. Richie opted to get the train back to the city after he jumped as there were another 3 hours until the bus left.
Richie had this to say about the experience: “The company was highly professional, explained everything to us and they kept everyone relaxed. The jump itself is amazing and the adrenaline rush is second to none. The views of Wollongong and the surrounding areas are absolutely incredible on the way down . In saying that I would not recommend this skydive due to how long the entire process takes – from pick up in the city center until I returned on the train the entire experience took approx. 8 hours! If you’re considering doing this jump I would recommend booking in at a specific time and arranging your own transport to and from the site so you have less of a wait time. My second skydive in Taupo, New Zealand was much smoother, faster and infinitely more enjoyable”.
While Richie went to get his adrenaline kick I went into full tourist mode. First up was the Sydney Opera House which absolutely did not disappoint! It’s such an incredibly beautiful piece of architecture and the backdrop of the harbour on a sunny day only added to its charm. While you’re here head down to the Opera Bar. This is one the coolest bars I’ve been to. It’s situated right along the water and gives you insane views of the Opera House, Harbour and CBD. Be warned though this is a HUGELY popular spot with locals as well as tourists and it fills up really fast once 4pm rolls around on Friday evening.
Right next to it is the equally picturesque Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can do a tour that allows you to walk up on the top of the bridge but as it cost $168pp ($188 at the weekend) it was out of our price range. I decided to take the free option of walking along the bridge and taking in the incredible sights.
I also hopped on a ferry and headed out towards Manly Beach. This is considered by many as one of the best beaches in Sydney. It’s worth a trip over for the ferry ride alone. The ferry only costs a couple of dollars and takes 30 mins. During your trip keep that camera out because you’ll get some incredible shots of the entire harbour, the harbour bridge and the Opera House. Manly is a busy tourist spot that has a beautiful beach, lots of shops and restaurants. It’s a popular surfing spot and it oozes with that quintessential Australian laid-back surfer feel. Unfortunately, given it was over 40 degrees, I spent more time running into shaded spots and shops than being a beach bunny.
If you’re planning on using public transport a lot while you’re in Sydney considering getting an Opal card. This card will allow you unlimited travel for $15 a day per adult ($7.50 for a child and $2.50 for a pensioner). You can pick these up at any newsagent, transport info shop or convenience store and they work on all trains, buses and ferries in the city.
On your way out of Sydney Harbour head into the Botanical Gardens. There are free tours of the grounds as well as shops and cafes to enjoy. If all that walking has you exhausted you can go into full tourist mode and hop on the Choo Choo Express to get a train ride throughout the grounds. If you’re tired of the usual tourist spots head over to Darling Harbour which is a pedestrian area filled with great shops, bars and restaurants right along another of the city’s harbours. To escape the intense heat we headed to the Art Gallery of New South Wales where they have Aboriginal, Asian, Contemporary and European galleries to enjoy (bonus – its air conditioned).
Finally after growing up with Bondi Rescue on our TV screens we wouldn’t have been proper Irish tourists without checking out Bondi Beach. I couldn’t get over how small it was! The TV show makes it look enormous when in reality is much smaller with every inch of sand taken over by people. We met up with some friends here and, after people watching on the beach for a while, headed to their house for a traditional Aussie BBQ. I think that the best way to get around and see the city is by having some local help. Our friends brought us to an amazing art gallery that has open evenings to promote the artists and their pieces,. Here we got to hang out with some great people, have food and drinks in some beautiful surroundings. Sadly for us it was an early night as we had to be up at 5:30am to head to the airport for our flight to Melbourne.
I left Sydney with mixed emotions. It’s sprawling size means it takes a lot of time to get around to all the different beaches, harbours and attractions. Given we only had 3 nights it was rushed and to be honest as much as we complain about the cold in Ireland, rushing around a city in 40 degrees is actual hell. I left Sydney underwhelmed and in desperate need of some air conditioning. I’m glad I got to visit there but would i go back again? Probably not.