australia

Coastal Walks & Opera Houses: We Finally Got To See Sydney Properly

I’m not a huge fan of Sydney. There, I said it.

I felt like it was an unfair judgement of such a diverse city though, based on peeks and glances into the surface on day trips that were barely even a day. I first visited last June, passing through after our worst job in the world ever, but arrived in the late afternoon and left again the following lunchtime.

We then spent New Years there, which involved sitting in the botanical gardens all day for the fireworks. That was more interesting than it sounds given that we were with a LOT of great friends, not to mention it’s where Ash & I got engaged (!!), but it wasn’t exactly a tantalising insight into the city itself.

So all in all it hasn’t been a great way to cast judgement on a whole city, of course.

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This time, we finally got to spend a little longer there, and I was excited to explore the city properly on our weekend break. We spent the first two nights in the CBD (city centre). By the second night, I was ready to move on and I decided to book a hostel in Bondi for our last night instead.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love Sydney harbour! It’s one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, and I could quite happily sit around there all day just people watching and taking it all in. The Rocks is a charming little area next to harbour bridge, and I loved the walk along by the park area underneath.

In fact, it was extra-awesome because we visited over the Chinese new year, and there were some shows going on with this incredible backdrop.

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Darling Harbour, meanwhile, houses some really cute gardens, trendy bars and a shopping centre, as well as the maritime museum where you can see huge submarines and even a pirate ship – but it’s all very up-and-coming at the moment. Construction is everywhere, and I’m sure it’ll be a lovely area once it’s all finished, but it’s not exactly the place to be as it stands.

Still, it was nice to get the ferry back around to Sydney harbour, under the bridge.

Also, again because we were there over Chinese New Year, there were animal lanterns scattered all over the city centre which I loved. Here is one of my favourites:

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Unless you’re staying in King’s Cross (the “dodgy end” of Sydney but popular with backpackers for its multitude of bars and cheap accommodation), chances are you’ll be around George Street and Pitt Street. I’ve now stayed on both of these bustling streets – it’s loud and hard to get away from anything, but they are in an ideal area for exploring.

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It’s not that Sydney is a bad city, but here’s my honest opinion: the centre is too busy for the charm that it lacks.

I mean, I adore the Queen Vic building, and some of the shopping precincts are pretty cute. Chinatown has a nice atmosphere and the Paddy Markets are awesome. But as soon as you get away from the harbour, it’s just like any other city – big buildings. Concrete blocks. Shopping centres (most of them underground). Hundreds of people clamouring to cross every road. It’s so different to the rest of Australia, yet that’s what takes away what it should have going for it.

…Until you get to the beaches, that is.

We spent New Year’s Day at Manly beach, and I really enjoyed our brief time there. There wasn’t much to the suburb, but the beach itself was beautiful and bustling with activity. Knowing how touristy Bondi is, I delved in with a very open mind.

Read more: A Road Trip to NYE in Sydney

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And, guess what – I LOVED it. The beach is supremely clean, while the area is very laid back and a world away from its neighbouring city life.

Oh, and the street art is pretty cool!

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I was finally starting to enjoy Sydney for what it is, and all it took was getting out of the city centre.

My favourite part was the famous six kilometre walk between Bondi and Coogee beaches too, and it was ABSOLUTELY worth it. The rugged coast backing onto the turquoise water doesn’t seem real. The little beaches and coves make you feel as if you’ve come across a hidden secret.

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And then there’s the cemetery, sprawled over the hillside.

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The walk takes around two hours, but you can break it up with beach stops. After all, there are four beaches on the walk – Tamarama Beach, Bronte Beach, Clovelly Beach and Gordon Bay – as well as the two either end. Six beaches in a day? Maybe Sydney is paradise after all.

We had a really, really good day with spectacular views around every corner, and after some fish and chips at a creatively named Chish and Fips on Coogee beach, we headed back to Bondi and caught up with two friends from Brisbane, at a lovely but slightly expensive place called The Bucket List. Adorned with lots of colourful lights and a lovely outdoor area by the beach, it’s well worth checking out. (Unfortunately I didn’t take my camera and my phone died during the evening so I didn’t take any pics.)

The reason we went to Sydney wasn’t actually to see Sydney, though. We were going with a friend to see one of our favourite bands, Funeral For A Friend, on their last ever tour. They were playing two shows, and we had a great, sweaty time at both.

Here we are with the singer (left) and lead guitarist (right). Kris is one of my favourite guitarists ever and I’m glad I finally got around to meeting him! We didn’t even talk about music – we chatted about how overrated Breaking Bad is (my second controversial opinion in this post, right?!) and how Blackadder is one of the best TV shows ever.

So it took a few visits to really “get” Sydney, and while it’s still far from one of my favourite cities, it’s so worth a trip, if just to see all the iconic landmarks. If you want to experience the “real” Australia? There are so many more places to visit. (Sorry, I hate that term about seeing a “real” place too, but I honestly think it’s accurate because Australia IS unique, and Sydney… is not?)

A lot of people love either Sydney or Melbourne, and in fact there are many heated arguments as to which is better, but for me, Melbourne wins out on everything except beaches.

Read more: Three Days In Melbourne

Anyway, to round off this post with something truly amazing, I leave you with a picture of a seal. Outside the opera house. With the harbour bridge in the background. It’s okay, the seal is being monitored for its health and wellbeing!

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HOOOWWWW cute is he?!? Just wanna smoosh that little nose.

So I’m curious – what do YOU think of Sydney? And more importantly – Sydney or Melbourne?

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