Travel Tips from Locals in Your Fave Cities: Sydney, Australia
Travel Tips from Locals in Your Fave Cities
Looking for iconic beaches, wine regions and all-around cosmopolitan vibes? Look no further! Sydney is one of the largest cities in Australia. Famed for the stunning Bondi Beach, Sydney Opera House, the Blue Mountains and more, the city is home to a surprisingly diverse range of attractions. It is also a backpacker-friendly city, with a wide variety of accommodations and activities on offer. Having lived there since his early childhood, when his family migrated there in the ’70s, Filipino Sydney resident Johmar Gazo, says Sydney is truly a beautiful city. Here, he shares his tips and insights on getting around the capital of New South Wales.
Before you go
Make sure you have the required visa. Sydney has a mild climate, but the seasons can also be misleading, so bring layers of clothing that will be ok if the temperature drops or rises. If you’re visiting in the summer, swimming gear and sunscreen are essential. Bring a good pair of walking shoes because Sydney is a city to explore by foot to be able to find the many hidden gems.
Must do’s and must see’s
Sydney is a beautiful and vibrant city with its stunning harbor and waterways, sandy beaches, and green national parks. Sydney siders enjoy their food and their coffee, the arts and the outdoors, and being near the water.
When in Sydney, strolling around the steps of the Opera House and the beautiful grounds of the Royal Botanical Gardens is a must. I love to spend time at the Art Gallery near the Royal Botanical Gardens. Apart from the art on display, the architecture and space of the gallery are remarkable.
Walk around the historic laneways of the Rocks and explore the history of the old convict days. On the weekends, the Rocks Market has a colorful array of stalls for souvenirs and gifts to bring back home.
On a sunny day, it’s nice to walk across the Harbour Bridge to North Sydney to watch the boats underneath. If you have the time and the courage, climbing the Harbour Bridge is a breath-taking experience – especially at dusk when the sun is setting.
On the Northside of the Harbour, walking along the foreshore of Kirribilli and Milson’s Point and Luna Park is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon, especially when the sun is setting.
Take a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly and enjoy both the ferry ride in Sydney Harbour as well as the sands and cafés at Manly Beach. Another beautiful way to spend the day is to catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo. Apart from seeing the unique Aussie animals, Taronga Zoo has impressive views of Sydney Harbour.
You can’t visit Sydney without sinking your toes into the fine white sands of Bondi Beach. Walk along the popular cliffside from Bondi to Bronte Beach. In Spring, during mid-October to early November, the annual ‘Sculptures by the Sea’ showcases the works of artists throughout the Bondi to Bronte walk and it’s always a fun way to spend the day.
What to avoid
Sydney is a generally safe and culturally diverse city that is accommodating to tourists from all countries and backgrounds. However, there are a few things to take note of. For one, shopping centers are not open as late as other cities in Asia, particularly on Sundays. Also, public transport doesn’t accept cash. Pre-paid Opal cards need to be purchased before getting on trains, buses, and ferries.
Traveling on a budget
Sydney can be an expensive city, but one can make their dollar go further by doing a few things like using public transport to get around. Also, many tourist attractions are free to the public like the Art Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art, and walking across the Harbour Bridge.
There are a variety of places to eat from high-end restaurants to simple cafés. Sydney water is clean and drinkable from the tap. Carry a reusable water bottle that you can refill at different places, so you don’t have to buy water, and you can keep hydrated too.
Best way to get around
The trains, buses, and ferries are easy to use and will get you to most tourist attractions. The new Metro now makes it easy to get from the North-West side of Sydney into the lower North Shore. Uber is also popular, and if you have to catch a taxi, they are readily available but are generally more expensive.
Best foods and places to eat
When in Sydney, you’ll have to experience a pub lunch that includes an Aussie steak, meat pie and chips, or fish and chips and a local beer in one of the many historical pubs in the Rocks. For a classic Aussie Pie, the signature “Harry’s Tiger” pie at the legendary Harry’s Café de Wheels in Woolloomooloo can’t be missed.
If you fancy more traditional Asian cuisine, you can’t go wrong wandering about in Chinatown. The Super Bowl on Dixon street is one of my all-time favorites for simple, fast and tasty Chinese dishes – and they’re open until late. If you like a more hip Asian food scene, Spice Alley in Chippendale is a cool area with many cool restaurants to choose from.
Aussie seafood is delicious. And it’s hard to find fresher and better seafood than at the Sydney Fish Markets in Pyrmont. It’s a great place to have an early lunch of fresh oysters, mussels, fish, and calamari.
For a modern Australian meal with a beautiful water view, one of my favorite places to eat is Bathers at Balmoral Beach whether it’s in Summer when you can also spend time swimming at the beach, or in Winter watching the boats from the coziness of the indoors.
For a wider vista of the harbor, another favorite place to eat and watch boats on the water is Burnt Orange at Mosman. It’s an excellent place for lunch or afternoon tea to watch the sun going down.
The Grounds, a culinary oasis just outside the city in Alexandria, is a great place to have breakfast or lunch. The coffee and desserts there are amazing.
In my bachelor days, I lived in Lavender Bay and would often spend time in Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden. It’s a magical garden by the harbor with lots of nooks and crannies to explore.
Walking or riding around a bike around Darling Harbour, Barangaroo, and Pyrmont is a great way to capture the sights of the city.
I enjoy hiking and kayaking, and the Spit Bridge to Manly walk is a favorite to enjoy the sun and the foreshore of the northern parts of the harbor. I often set off with my kayak from the Spit Bridge and paddle to Balmoral Beach for a coffee and a swim. Sydney Harbour Kayaks at the Spit Bridge rents out kayaks every day, except during the cold winter months. Another exhilarating walk is at Palm Beach and the Barrenjoey Lighthouse in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
For day trips outside of Sydney, there are some excellent options. Exploring the many vineyards and cellar doors of the Hunter Valley wine country is a must if you like wine and cheese. The Blue Mountains and Katoomba is a haven for bushwalkers and nature lovers where they can see forests and waterfalls through expanses of mountains and valleys.
When is the best time to visit?
Sydney’s temperate climate makes it an easy place to visit all year round. It really depends on one’s preferred experience. During the summer months from November to January, the warm and long days mean a lot of time spent outdoors – and in the water. January is the time of the Sydney Festival, and there are plenty of activities around the city.
The colder months are great for hiking and long walks. During May and June, the annual Vivid Festival showcases Sydney and its buildings through the magic of lights and is spectacular.
There aren’t a lot of many Filipino restaurants, but the ones I can recommend are Mama Lor in Rooty Hill and Rey’s Place in Darlinghurst. There are also Filipino festivals throughout the year, like the Filipino Food Festival and the Filipino Cultural Festival. Dates vary every year, so check online to see when these celebrations are going to be held.
Having lived there since his early childhood, when his family migrated there in the ’70s, Filipino Sydney resident Johmar Gazo, says Sydney is truly a beautiful city.
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