We flew into Sydney on a predictably uncomfortable overnight flight, landing just as dawn broke over the city.
Our first impressions were firstly that the city – even out by the airport – looked as if it had been washed clean in honour of our arrival. The river we crossed to get to the local train station sparkled blue and clean; the park with fresh, bright green grass. Secondly, that Sydneysiders got up early. Really early. At 6am on a Saturday, I mistook the traffic for a Monday morning rush hour. At 9am on a Synday you’d think the whole town was out jogging and drinking green juices. They ooze good living.
We’d had some inkling that Sydney was going to be expensive. Our accommodation – the Blue Parrot hostel in Kings Cross – was our first shared dorm; a private room (even in a hostel) was the best part of $100 per night between us. Thankfully all of our dorm mates were pretty decent! Coming back to the rules of hostel living (which focus primarily on the importance of drying the dishes and not lingering in the showers) was a bit of a jolt from L Hotel though!
Our five days in Sydney were action packed to say the least – we had my friend’s hen do and wedding preparations to get involved with, and we managed to fit in a bit of sightseeing too!
Our first adventure was out to the suburb of Cronulla, where The Bride (and her fiance!) live, for a bridesmaid dress fitting (me, not Craig). The Sydney transport system is incredibly easy to get your head around with a good network of reliable trains, plus buses and ferries. We bought a MyWeekly travel pass at the station which meant we could use every bus, ferry and train, and worked out cheaper than buying individual tickets or daily passes.
Once we had completed our fitting, we headed out for breakfast overlooking the beach in a chichi local cafe, which was delicious. It also gave us our first taste of that famous Aussie cost of living: our breakfast had cost us 25% of our daily budget!! Oops. We cooked our own food from therein!
Happily, Sydney has plenty to please a broke backpacker. After our breakfast, we headed back into the city and then out to the famous Bondi beach, where we watched – rather bemused – as a tour group of Japanese people took part in a sandcastle building competition whilst wearing matching green jackets (why? Do they try and escape?).
We then walked the beautiful coastal path from Bondi to Coogee beach, which was a great way to spend a sunny spring afternoon.
On Monday morning, we did a free walking tour of the city centre with an incredibly cheery tour guide, which was a brilliant way to see the city centre. I was surprised to see a number of quite Victorian shopping arcades – I imagined Sydney as all glass and shine but it actually has some lovely old buildings and parks – not dissimilar to Leeds city centre!
We had been told to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge (and it did look very awesome) but alas, our budget was a bit short of the $250 asking price. So we did the next best thing and walked across the bridge, which was completely free. The views might be a little less spectacular, but they still aren’t to be sniffed at!
This historical neighbourhood was the first settled area of Sydney and traditionally housed the docks workers; there were even some archaeological digs unearthing their original 19th century terraced housing. Given this kind of housing is still the backbone of most inner UK cities, it was a bit surreal to see it presented as a rare historical artefact.
On our final day in Sydney, we had some final “wedmin” to do (pick up Craig’s suit – I didn’t recognise him wearing it!) and then we took a walk through the lovely botanical gardens to Circular Quay.
We used our MyWeekly pass to get the commuter ferry out to Manly beach. This was far cheaper than the expensive tourist ferries, and we still got a lovely view of the bridge and opera house, as well as seeing dolphins playing in the bay. The ferry was well worth a trip; Sydney Harbour is an uncharacteristically modest name for what it is. Harbour (for me, anyway) conjures up images of a large marina, but in fact the harbour carves the city right in two for some 16 miles. The scale of it took me by surprise.
Manly is a lovely little beach with a nice esplanade leading up to it. Alas, it’s rather shaded in the afternoon so we didn’t stay too long, but we did get the evening ferry back in time for sunset. Tourist ferry eat your heart out!!
Despite the challenge to our wallets, we didn’t feel like we missed out on anything during our time in Sydney. We would have liked to go to the zoo, but time constraints were the main thing that put the kibosh on that plan. The only thing we didn’t do was experience much of the nightlife; partly because we couldn’t justify the expense and partly because
we are old our days were so busy. We did treat ourselves to a few supermarket beers over dinner one evening. I know. We spoil ourselves.
Even on a tight budget, we both loved Sydney. The city is incredibly clean, friendly and our Sydney friends raved about the good quality of life. Five days is plenty to see all the sights, but I hope we’ll get a chance to revisit again one day. I can definitely see why so many Brits choose to make it their home.
Things we loved