Sydney is by far and away the most iconic city in Australia. Millions of people flock there each year to snap a picture of three things – the Opera House, The Harbour Bridge and people surfing at Bondi. But with popularity comes an annoyingly high dosage of tourist traps. We visited for a long weekend just before Easter and stayed with friends in Bondi so I’d like to think we managed to strike the right balance between famous sights and local spots.
Arriving early on the Friday morning and feeling surprisingly fresh after a 15 hour flight from LA, we found it impossible to avoid the temptation to go and tick the big sights off our Aussie bucket list straight away. Don’t judge - I'd hasten to predict you’d do the same. So we caught an Uber into the city and I have to admit that the thing I love about Uber when I’m traveling (apart from the fact that I don’t have to faff around with local currency) is that the drivers are always keen to give their passengers the low down on the local area. When you’re new in a city and too weary from a long journey to try and figure out the public transport system on day one, or navigate your guide book, Uber is the way forward. Anyway, I diverge.
The Opera house has to be one of the strangest but spectacular buildings ever constructed and stands proundly at the edge of Circular Quay reflecting the suns rays onto the glorious water around it. Buzzing with tourists trying to get a selfie (guilty) in-between office professionals bustling to get a table for happy hour at the waterfront Opera Bar you immediately find yourself caught up in the excitement of seeing the famous landmark, up close and personal.
Having had our fill of photos we dodged through the swarms of travellers and commuters in Circular Quay and meandered around the harbour to The Rocks. Climbing up Argyle Street we found ourselves in a cute little market, selling our favorite South African Snack!
Which was the perfect accompaniment to the beers we ordered at the Glenmore Rooftop (recommended by the Uber driver and an AWESOME spot!) shortly afterwards to quench our thirst.
We spent the afternoon (and most of the evening) out on the terrace admiring the view in the changing light as the sun faded behind the cities high rise. As day turned to night, old friends came to meet us after work for more drinks and food and the evening ran away with us!
The next morning, recovering from a hangover and a bit of jet lag, we decided to hang out in Bondi and live like locals in the funky beachfront suburb. I say local but I really mean expat as the population is made up almost entirely of Brits living the dream. Our first stop was the weekly farmers market, hosted in the grounds of a local primary school, where you can enjoy fresh juices, organic fruit and veggies and just about any food item you can think of with the gluten removed. Apparently the way to blend in around Bondi is to wear active wear (being on route or post exercise is optional) and grab a coffee with a gluten free snack and a side of avo. One cafe we walked into actually had a whole separate menu dedicated to the green fruit!
As the market started to wrap up at lunchtime we set off on the famous coastal walk from Bondi, around the headland to Coogee. Starting from just behind Icebergs swimming pool and life saving club, the path takes you around the cliffs above the surf, offering spectacular views across the rocks back towards the beach and the city. In the morning’s its brimming the fitness enthusiasts and during the day, tourists and locals strolling in the warm sunshine.
We crossed over the cute bay of Tamarama beach, past the incredible houses which perch on the clifftops and look out to sea, before passing through Bronte. We were making good progress however before we reached our goal, we were distracted by a heated contest at the Clovelly Bowls club between the home team and the closest rivals at Coogee. We settled in for a beer or 3 on the grass to cheer on the oldies before retiring back to Bondi to watch the sunset.
Sadly that was the last of the sunshine we saw in Sydney but we made the most of rainy days by cruising on ferry’s to Darling Harbour, Watstons Bay & Manly, seeking refuge at bars and café’s when the rain fell. Ferry's are a great way to get around Sydney (and the most fun!) and offer some of the best views of the Harbour - even on stormy days!
Watsons Bay Hotel, on a headland at the mouth of the harbour and only 15 minutes from Circular Quay, is famous for it’s Sunday sessions on the terrace and had a great atmosphere, even during a torrential thunderstorm, but the jewel in Sydney’s culinary crown was The Pantry in Manly. It's the only place you can sit and enjoy a drink or snack while enjoying unobstructed, panoramic views of the surf beach and we could have stayed all day. Located in what used to be an information kiosk, and changing rooms before that, the Pantry’s location on the beach cannot be beaten but what happens in the kitchen is just as special as the view. Delicious fresh food from cured meats, pates, seafood, pastas, cheeses and deserts will delight any foodie, accompanied by refreshing cocktails and an impressive wine list. Open from 7am until 10pm you cannot go to Manly and not stop in – it’s a truly special place.
Reluctantly, we left The Pantry at sunset to sail back to the city, and get ready to head to New Zealand. So long Sydney!