Sydney

We chose to fly from Melbourne to Sydney with Tiger Airways as we decided that there was no where between the two cities that we needed to visit, these guys do pretty cheap flights too and it’s only an hour long journey. Once we landed in Sydney airport we bought a My Multi (train, bus and ferry ticket in one) for the week, this was around $40-$50 but it is definitely worth it for getting around Sydney. We took the City Circle train from the airport and hopped off at Circular Quay so we could get the ferry to Manly for a couple of days free accommodation with friends.

Manly is a gorgeous part of Sydney with an amazing beach rivaling Bondi, great shops, restaurants and bars (not a huge night scene but it’s still worth a visit – it has a bit more class than the city center). The surfing is red hot here, very popular indeed and there’s alot of surf shops and centers that will do you a pretty good deal if you’re after lessons or rentals. The only downside to Manly for us was the fact that if we were spending time in the city we had to take a half hour ferry ride to and from Manly, and we had to keep track of time to ensure we didn’t miss the last ferry.

For the rest of our Sydney experience we stayed at Maze Backpackers, on Pitt Street just off George Street, which is currently part of Nomads however I believe it’s trying to branch away from this – regardless, don’t stay here. We paid $19 a night for an 8 bed dorm and then switched to a 3 bed private for $20 a night (I personally prefer staying in dorms). They advertise free internet when you book which you don’t get, it’s a listed building so there are no plugs or mirrors in the rooms, the hostel its self is old and could do with a re-vamp, the “free breakfast” is only between 8am and 9am (realistically, who gets up at this time?) and consists of beef stew on toast, or so we heard. They also advertise free dinner on a Monday and a Wednesday which is not the case, the only upside is the location.

Instead of staying here, hop over the road to Westend Backpackers (another Nomads) which is directly opposite Maze and where it is only $17 a night in a dorm, it is very similar to the Nomads in Melbourne – much more modern and welcoming than Maze. I’d advise staying around this area, it’s very central and bustling – rumour has it that Kings Cross is a pretty unpleasant place to stay in Sydney even though there’s alot of cheap accommodation there, instead of staying at Kings Cross take a stroll up to Hyde Park, take Liverpool Street along to Victoria Street and stop for a coffee and a browse in the abundance of vintage shops along the way.

To see the best bits of Sydney just jump on the city circle train, most of the main attractions such as the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, The Rocks, the Museum of Modern Art and the Botanical Gardens are located at Circular Quay. The Opera House was smaller than I expected but looks great at night when lit up, they often project images onto the roof which is quite impressive. The Harbour Bridge is a great sight either during the day or in the evening, you can walk across it for free and take some impressive snap shots of Circular Quay, this gives you a perfect view of the Opera House too. Ensure you walk through The Rocks to get to the bridge, the buildings here are so quaint, and you can stumble across a variety of markets, especially on a Saturday. I believe it costs a couple of hundred dollars to actually climb the Harbour Bridge – needless to say we skipped this option and went for the free entry into the Museum of Modern Art which should only take you a couple of hours to walk around but it’s still very impressive and has some fantastic exhibitions on. The Botanical Gardens are in my top 3 favourite parts of Sydney along with Manly and Bondi beaches – take an hour to wander around the whole place on a sunny day and take a picnic, they encourage you to walk on the grass, smell the roses and touch the trees (be aware, many have bats hanging from them) – it’s beautiful, and far superior to Hyde Park.

Another great sight to see in Sydney is Darling Harbour where you’ll find the worlds largest IMAX cinema (8 stories high – prepare for neck strain) where we watched Avatar in 3D, pretty impressive! Darling Harbour also offers some of Sydney’s finest dining, especially when it comes to seafood, there is also the Aquarium, Wildlife World and the Powerhouse Museum which we visited to take advantage of the 1980s exhibition they had running – plus this only costs $5 with a student card. Darling Harbour also had the FIFA Fan Fest up and running whilst we were in Sydney which is basically a huge screen set up on the harbour where crowds can gather and watch the World Cup for free. Staying up until 4:00am to watch football is something I will only do once in my life.

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As I previously mentioned, Bondi is one of the nicer parts of Sydney. Catch the 333 bus from Circular Quay (included in My Multi) and this will drop you off at Bondi beach within half an hour. Go on a nice day and pick up some fish and chips or an icecream and sit yourself on the beach to check out the surfing, even in Winter when the weather is a little chilly, if the sun is out the surf will also be out. There’s also quite a few nice surf shops and vintage shops dotted around Bondi if you don’t fancy getting sandy.

Staying on the subject of shopping – hop off the city circle train at the City Hall where you’ll find the majority of Sydney’s best shops. Try the QVB (Queen Victoria Building) and The Strand if you’re into flashy shopping centers, or wander down George Street and Oxford Road – especially to check out the huge glass fronted Apple Store (packed full of brand spanking new iPads for me to play on!) The General Pants Co. is a pretty cool shop which I think is specific to Australia, it resembles Urban Outfitters, and we also stumbled across an American Apparel on Oxford Road. Sorry Topshop fans, it hasn’t made it across the pond yet.

A couple more tips for Sydney, grab a chinese in China Town if you’ve got the cash (a set meal should only set you back $18) or head to Paddy’s Markets any day of the week for bargains and a very impressive food court. If you’re not feeling so flush I’d advise shopping at Woolworths (not the same as our Woolworths before you get excited) or Coles and eating out of your hostel for the entire duration as Sydney is pretty pricey when it comes to eating out.
When it comes to drinking grab some Goon before heading out (standard), or you may find your hostel has some deals going on with free wine and snacks, and then take a trip to either Maloney’s for a British pub feel, Scubar (next to Central YHA) which is pretty cool and underground and is great for a game of pool, and finally Sidebar which is next to Wake Up Hostel on the corner of George Street and Pitt Street and is very popular on a Friday night.

One final tip – we organised the rest of our trip from Wicked Travel in Sydney, apparently these guys are the cheapest and it’s also pretty good value if you’re looking to either just travel up the coast, or even if you want to add in a couple of trips such as Fraser Island and Whitsundays. We booked these along with a hop on, hop off Greyhound bus ticket which set us back around $600 for the whole lot.

That’s it for Sydney at the moment, on to Newcastle and further up the coast!

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