Do you have a travel Bucket List? I definitely do! Because I’ve traveled so extensively in the U.S., most of my list is focused on international destinations, and Australia, until a couple of weeks ago, was at the very top. As a teacher I have the summers to myself, and for the past three I’ve been taking both a domestic trip (usually for hiking purposes, but that’s another blog!) and an international trip. This year, my big summer overseas journey was to the Land Down Under, my sixth continent.
Many people would try to see several parts of Australia if they were going to sit on a plane for twenty hours plus, and I completely understand that. However, being that I plan to visit Australia and New Zealand several more times in my life, I chose to focus on one area, and it made the most sense to me to start in Sydney, Australia’s sparkling capital city.
I don’t always travel alone, but this summer I was solo on both trips. Australia makes every list I’ve seen of safest places for women to travel alone. Personally, I’ve felt perfectly fine just about everywhere I’ve gone by myself, including the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and out in the middle of nowhere in the Mojave Desert or Grand Canyon. But Australia (and New Zealand) definitely have a feeling of being away from a lot of the world’s problems. Which is not to say these places don’t have issues of their own. I encountered rude bus drivers, impatient and fast drivers, and street people and beggars just like anywhere else. If you’re looking for perfection, you aren’t even going to find it this far from home. But Sydney has a lot more to offer than that, and more than the average city. Here are a few suggestions.
Everything pretty much starts at Circular Quay, pronounced Circular Key. From there you can catch a bus, train, or ferry to other parts of the city, or across the harbor. My first fabulous views of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House were from Circular Quay. Starting there gives you quick and easy access to the transportation hub of Sydney, and you’re a short walk away from the Opera House and Royal Botanical Gardens, neither of which should be missed.
I’m not one to be impressed by major tourist attractions, (case in point: I liked the Taj Mahal, but didn’t love it!) but I have to admit to being taken by the Sydney Opera House. With a love of taking pictures, every step I took around the Opera House gave me a new and exciting angle of the compelling architecture. In my humble opinion, the best view I got was from the ferry coming into Sydney from Watson’s Bay. The picture at the top of this blog was taken from said ferry. It’s perfectly acceptable to get on the ferry at any point and just ride it from stop to stop. Even the locals do it! You’ll need an Opal Card which can be “topped up,” as they say Down Under. The card can be used for most public transportation in Sydney.
Once you’ve had your fill of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge, enter the Royal Botanical Garden right behind the Opera House, and take in the incredible blooms and relaxed atmosphere. Pack a lunch!
The Sydney Bridge Climb was an absolute must for me. Expect to pay $200 plus for the experience, but believe me when I say that it’s worth every penny. When in Auckland I did the bridge climb there, but Sydney is the original!
Sorry, not the greatest shot on Earth! That’s because it’s a picture of a picture. For safety reasons, you will not only be given a breathalizer test, you’ll also be required to leave phones and cameras in a locker, and your guide will take pictures of you. What you buy at the end is up to you. The prices are very reasonable, but if you don’t want to purchase the package you’ll at least get a group shot as part of the price for the climb. I don’t recommend this climb for people with heights issues. At times I felt like I was climbing a roller coaster!
Bondi Beach is a pretty famous place, and the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk gets a lot of attention. While it was stunningly beautiful, the walk was also loaded with pedestrian traffic. If you’re looking for a quieter day with a beach that’s as amazing as Bondi, I highly recommend taking the ferry to Manly and checking out the coastal walk there. The town is only a half hour across the harbor, everything is surprisingly cheaper, and Manly is much more laid back than the slick Bondi. Expect also to see tiny, secluded beaches out of dream with next to no one on them!
The Blue Mountains are a short ride out of the city. Just a warning: our summer is Australia’s winter, and yes, it was cold in the mountains! I understand there’s a hop-on, hop-off bus, but I chose to take a day tour to the Katoomba area. Various tour companies in Sydney offer different itineraries. I chose one (on Expedia) that included a stop at Scenic World and a ride on the world’s steepest passenger railway in the world, boasting a 52 degree incline, as well as a stop at Featherdale Wildlife Park. The trip ran me about $150, and an extra $20 Australian (about $15 USD) to be photographed with a koala. That included a very nice photo with a few extras to give to family and friends, and they took more with my phone to make it easy to share on social media.
By the way, if you’re concerned that you’re bothering the little darling, don’t be. Koalas sleep for twenty hours a day. This guy didn’t even open his eyes!
I was very satisfied with my trip to Sydney. A lot to do, and the weather was between 60 and 70 sunny degrees nearly the entire time I was there.
Thinking that my next trip to the Land Down Under is going to be the Outback!
Time to get back to writing books until the next adventure!