Here’s what we did in Sydney, Australia!
Travel Dates: 21-22 Nov 2014
Airline: China Airlines (booked on Expedia)
We flew into Auckland and out of Sydney. There was 2 stops coming in and 1 stop flying back. Roundtrip the flights cost $1,922 total for 2 people including taxes.
Hotel: We would not recommend our hotel.
We found an inexpensive ($100 still!) hotel on Orbitz hoping it was as good of quality as it claimed. We learned that quite a few of these big cities (like Singapore and Auckland) offer 3-4 star hotels that are not the same as 3-4 star American hotels. The location was fine (Chinatown), but the room was a bit dirty (definitely needed a paint job, leaky faucet, and cheap furniture).
Transportation: Public bus (or train)
Buy the unlimited pass! We didn’t buy it at first, but we learned if you buy their transportation card, it will never subtract more than $15 per day. So we took the bus to our hotel, and the bus to Bondi Beach, then the ferry to Manly Beach, and a bus back to our hotel (all for a max. of $15). You can only put $10 increments on the card, so technically we “lost” $5, but it would have cost more than $20 if we had purchased individual tickets. You can buy, or top-up, the cards at local convenience stores.
After disembarking the cruise ship and dropping off our bags at the hotel, we took the 1030 “I’m Free” walking tour of the city. Afterwards, we walked across the Harbour Bridge. We didn’t not pay for the Bridge Walk, as we thought it was overpriced. I’ve heard it’s worth it, but we were still able to walk across the public sidewalk and get a great view of the opera house.
We took the public bus to Bondi Beach. It was about 45 minutes one-way. It was a big beach with hundreds of people, but since we live on a beach, it wasn’t too special for us. Lots of surfers and students. (But also lots of flies!)
Then we got back to Circular Quay and took the ferry to Manly. The ferry ride is beautiful (great pictures of the bridge and opera house) and really gives you a sense for how large the harbour is. Manly is a cute little town. We walked through it to get to the beach. It was smaller than Bondi, but we liked it better. (Again, a beach is a beach, but there were nice waves for surfing and some shops along the edge.)
That evening we walked through The Rocks and ate dinner at their street markets. Lots of food stands and some evening entertainment. They had a weekly Friday night festival.
We took a day tour to the Blue Mountains and Koala Park (about $112 each). I really wanted to pet kangaroos and koalas, so the Koala Park was a good option. It’s about 10 minutes outside of Sydney. They’re in a zoo-like setting. The koalas were very soft. The kangaroos were a bit sleepy (maybe sedated?), but it was fun to be around so many of them. They also had wallabies, wombats, and other native animals. We stopped in a small village for lunch and then headed to the famous 3 Sisters Lookout at the Blue Mountains (similar to the Grand Canyon). I didn’t expect it to be so covered in trees (not desert). We hiked a path and enjoyed the views. On the way home, our tour guide drove us through the Olympic Village before we boarded a river taxi back to Darling Harbour. (The river cruise wasn’t anything special since it wasn’t a view of the opera house or bridge.) Overall it was a decent tour for the price. I would recommend doing some research on which company to use because there were a lot of companies offering the same tour. We didn’t know that and just used the one that our hotel recommended. (They were 1/2 hour late to pick us up and they wasted some time by making a separate stop at a park to collect payments.)
Other options in Sydney include the Taronga Zoo, doing the Bridge Walk, seeing a performance like The Lion King, taking an Opera House tour, or going up Sydney Tower.