Sydney: Our New Favo(u)rite City


Sydney Opera House and Harbor at dusk

As most of you know, Alex and I aren’t city people. Despite spending almost four years in Seoul, one of the largest cities in the world, we just don’t like “living on top” of other people. Were there perks to living in Baltimore, New York, and Seoul? Yes. Barhopping in downtown Baltimore was how Alex and I initially hung out. In New York, you can’t beat the amazing, eclectic, ethnic food. We enjoyed watching the glimmering city lights and North Seoul Tower every night (well, when the air was clear-ish) from our 32nd floor apartment.

But, if we had to choose a place to spend our time as young professionals (so, in our twenties… yeah that was a decade ago), we would definitely choose Sydney. It’s just such a cool, vibrant, and yet livable city! It has the diverse restaurants/bars of New York City and the coastline/harbor of San Francisco or Seattle (actually, Sydney’s coastline is really interesting — take a look at a map!). But it also feels safe, walkable, and quaint.

I started off planning our itinerary using TripAdvisor’s (yes, I LOVE TripAdvisor!) 3 Days in Sydney guide:

And, since we had Baby M, we cut out about half of what we wanted to see/do. Unfortunately, we were in Sydney while there was a tropical storm, so the rain kind of slowed us down a bit. But, we still managed to have a great time!

Day 1: Arrived in Sydney in the AM, after a redeye flight, the Rocks, Manly Beach


Sydney Opera House and Bridge, as viewed from our ferry to/from Manly Beach

We checked into our hotel early, had lunch, and took a two-hour long nap. Afterwards, we walked to the Circular Quay station at the Harbor, and took a ferry to Manly Beach. The view of Sydney from the ferry was great (especially on the way back, when it was about sunset, and the skies had cleared)! We didn’t have too much time to explore Manly — we mainly walked around the boardwalk and tried to find a diaper changing table. (While I found many bathrooms in Sydney with changing tables, they looked highly questionable — covered in graffiti and dirty. We proceeded changing Baby M’s diapers in her stroller or standing up. Luckily for us, no poopy diapers while we were out!)


Clockwise from upper left: I liked the sign with a Chinese panda and Australian kangaroo!|Dinner at Darling Harbor|Lunch at the Rocks|Bavarian Dinner

We walked around the Rocks, a historic neighborhood with cobblestone streets, and had a nice Bavarian dinner (although we both felt slightly sick afterwards — too much meat and grease).

Day 2: Sydney Opera House, Botanic Gardens, Chinatown, and Darling Harbor


Sydney Opera House

We walked around the grounds of the Sydney Opera House in the morning. Alex and I were both surprised by the actual material used for the outside of the Sydney Opera House. We always thought it was made of a continuous (or at least a larger) piece of material, but it’s actually composed of small tiles, and it’s not a uniform white color (some tiles are matte finish, and some are glossy). And, there are actually three structures, not just one. The two larger ones are the concert hall and theater, and the smaller one is a restaurant.


See the two-tone tiles of the Sydney Opera House?

[Note: When there aren’t any performances, the elevator inside the building only goes halfway up — we walked outside, and had to walk up a bunch of steps. And we were scolded for leaving our stroller at the bottom of the steps — a security concern.]


View of Sydney while walking to the Botanic Gardens

Next, we walked to the Royal Botanic Gardens. We enjoyed a nice lunch at the cafe (good sandwiches and salads) before walking all the way to Chinatown for… second lunch (by now, you should all know that Alex and I are big eaters). Chinatown itself isn’t actually that big, but the area around it has tons of restaurants. We grabbed a couple of bubble teas, and headed to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. It was actually one of the highlights in Sydney. Very peaceful and secluded, in the middle of the city, this garden provided a nice refuge (it was also nice because while we were there, under a covered pavilion, we dodged a downpour). And, we happened to be at the garden for the afternoon feeding of the koi! Baby M really enjoyed throwing food pellets into the water (well, sometimes they landed on the bench, and Daddy had to sweep them into the water). There weren’t many tourists there, so the staff gave Baby M cups and cups of feed. If I remember correctly, I think she said there were over 200 koi in the pond. It was a fun experience for everyone!


Chinatown and the Chinese Garden of Friendship: feeding koi and a bright orange rooster for Year of the Rooster!

We then walked to nearby Darling Harbour (what the hey, I added the extra ‘u’… when in Rome…) for dinner. Since we were early, we took advantage of one restaurant’s ‘Early Bird Dinner Special’ — it was delicious, and Alex and I actually had trouble finishing it (even with Baby M eating all my broccoli and half of the calamari!).


Darling Harbour

Day 3: Sydney Harbor Bridge, Bondi Beach, and Queen Victoria Building

On our last day in Sydney, we walked from our hotel to the Pylon Lookout at Sydney Harbor Bridge. Since a). we had Baby M, and b). we didn’t want to spend the money on the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb (it costs a lot and not sure we could have carried Baby M in the Ergo, anyway…), Alex and I opted to learn about the history of the bridge and view it from a pylon lookout. It only costs $15 AUD per adult. There are quite a few steps to get to the lookout, but there are places to rest along the way. We were able to store the stroller next to the ticketing desk (1/3 of the way up).

The view from the lookout is spectacular. We could see people doing the bridge climb (I think you’re wearing a harness, and there are a LOT of steps). It was a wonderful (and cheap) way of getting a 360 degree view of the city!


Pylon Lookout: we could see the bridge, the opera house, and the harbor!

After a quick lunch (delicious sandwiches), we hopped on the train to Bondi Beach (there was at least one transfer, but there are elevators!), and then took a bus from the station to the actual beach. It was a really windy day (and kind of brisk), but there were people in the water, mostly surfing. We walked along the boardwalk for a bit, got some ice cream (Alex and I ate it quickly, behind the stroller so that Baby M couldn’t see… yeah,  we know our days when we can get away with not giving Baby M ice cream are numbered…), and then headed back to Sydney.


Bondi Beach

[There’s a coastal walk, touted as “Sydney’s Best” from Bondi Beach to nearby Coogee Beach: We didn’t do this, but it’s very highly recommended.]

Back in Sydney, we had dinner at the Queen Victoria Building. Originally built as a concert hall, it’s now an upscale shopping area. The building itself is gorgeous!


Inside the Queen Victoria Building (QVB)

We really enjoyed our (short) time in Sydney. It’s definitely a city we would love to explore in more detail, maybe once the kiddos are a little older!

Sydney is an expensive city. Hotel prices reflect that. For the price, I thought that the Quay West Suites (centrally located, very close to the Circular Quay train station) was a great choice for us. We put Baby M’s Pack and Play in the living room, and she slept really well because of the black-out curtains (amazing!!) and because we were in the bedroom. The kitchen is fully equipped so we were able to make breakfast each morning before heading out. And, there’s a washer and dryer in each suite! We didn’t splurge for the harbor views, but the pictures look amazing!

Word of advice: The Opal transportation cards are for just that: transportation. We didn’t understand, and on our first day, loaded up our Opal cards with way too much money, thinking that if we didn’t spend it on transportation, we could spend it at convenience stores, etc., like the Octopus card in Hong Kong. Nope. And what’s worse: you can’t get a refund unless you have an Australian bank account. “But it’s good for 10 years!” the guy behind the Opal desk at Sydney airport reassured me. Um, yeah. Not sure I’m going to be flying 24+ hours to get to Sydney, not anytime soon. So, be smart and don’t overload your Opal card!

Another note: One of my friends, who recently visited Sydney with her toddler, recommended renting a car, since she thought the public transportation system wasn’t that convenient, and the city wasn’t that walkable. Alex and I didn’t rent a car, and are so glad we didn’t! We thought the city was very walkable (yes, it’s not small, but budget plenty of time for breaks) and walking a great way to explore the city! Also, parking at most hotels is NOT free (usually a $30 – $50 AUD per day charge) and city parking isn’t cheap.


There were so many posters and ads about not being a “tosser,” which in this case means someone who litters. Alex and I thought the word “tosser” was hilarious.

To read a summary of our trip to Sydney & New Zealand: Our 3.5 Weeks in the South Pacific

Stay tuned for our adventures in New Zealand! 😀


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