When on vacation there’s a balance to between splurge and stinge. It’s called good value. Getting the best that you can at good prices, for as little effort as possible — and it can be done in Sydney.
For something completely different consider Cockatoo Island (www.cockatooisland.gov.au) ($109), the only Sydney National Park that you can sleep in. It’s a novelty, but an idyllic one, and lets you be both in the vibrant city and at one with nature. If you’re keen for a kitchen and the ability to self cater, there is Adina Hotels (www.adinahotels.com.au), who offer apartments of varying sizes all over the city, each clean and well equipped. And if you want to brag to your friends about the trendy trip you are undertaking, go straight to 1888 (1888hotel.com.au) in Pyrmont, the world’s first Instagram hotel, although its photogenic comfortable warehouse fe el and deliriously good breakfasts may leave you reluctant to visit the stunning Syd ney.
To be honest, Sydney’s public transport isn’t the easiest. If you’re in town for a few days it’s best to pick up the travel pass for seven days unlimited travel across all buses, ferries and trains (www.sydneypass.info). The ferry across to Manly, on the north, and widely known as the best surf spot (sorry Bondi) is a sight seeing tour in itself, and amongst local commuters on the bright yellow boat you will find snap happy tourists taking in the cityscape view. Hop on the 555 tram for a free tour through the city, taking you from the north to the south of the CBD.
Sydney is beautiful. Glamourous and supermodel like. The shine is the harbour, the largest natural one in the world, and its glitzy lights that shine off the waters of Port Jackson. A walk along Circular Quay finds you in the middle of the two icons, the arched white tents of Sydney Opera House and the vast steel span of the famous Harbour B ridge. Behind the Opera House (www.sydneyoperahouse.com) is the large and lovely Royal Botanic Gardens (www.rbgsud.nsw.gov.au) where you are encouraged to ‘walk on the grass….smell the roses talk to the birds and picnic on the lawn.’ It’s part of the expanse of greenery at which Macquarie’s Point lies. Here you get unparalleled views of the harbour from the east, whereas the Observatory (www.sydneyobservatory.com.au) on the other side of the bay, just behind The Rocks, opens up a vista in the other direction.
In the city it’s lovely just to wander, the t umeric toned sandstone buildings catching the light perfectly late afternoon and making a walk through the buzzing city particularly pretty. Centred around George Street, there is the central oasis of Hyde Park, the city hub of Martin Place, Town Hall and the lavish State Theatre (www.statetheatre.comaum $13). See but don’t shop at the Strand Arcade and Queen Victoria Building where the wrought iron balconi es, staine glass shop fronts and ornate floors rival the boutiques and designer goods housed within for your attention. Whilst you are down here, also make sure that you swing by the City Recital Hall (www.cityrecitalhall.com.au), where live music of all genres is performed, from free to vastly less so. Sydneysiders are proud of their city, and keen to tell you about it, and so it is that a free walking tour operates, running daily at 2pm around the city and 6pm at The Rocks, and you can also learn about the history of this once convict dominated and now commercially dominated area at the Rocks Discovery Museum (www.rocksdiscoverymuseum.com.au). For tours around other areas hit up Two Feet & A Heart Beat, who offer informative walks around King’s Cross with it’s seed and secrets, a stumble through Sydney’s small bar scene and its underground thrills, as well as a true Aussie dining experience. (www.twofeet.com.au)
The State Library is not just for bibliophiles, but home to exhibitions and events, as well as being a beautiful building to eye from the Domain, the big grassy recreational space just opposite that holds events throughout the year. On the way down Macquarie Street visit Mint (www.hh.net.au) and Parliament House (www.parliamenthouse.com.au), both free, and the Australian Museum (www.amonline.net.com.au) for a dose of history for only $10. The Art Gallery of New South Wales (www.artgallerynsw.gov.au) is packed to just the perfect amount with contemporary and traditional art from around the world, whereas as the name suggests the Museum of Contemporary Art (www.mca.com.au) tends to focus on the latter. Both run weekly ‘lates’ where the usual 5pm close is extended to 9pm, and music, entertainment, special talks, and drinks are on offer. The Museum of Contemporary Art has a rooftop cafe and bar right on Circular Quay, the amazing view and trendy ambience somehow not pushing prices up, at only $6 for a glass of Australian wine.
Sydney’s cosmopolitan population mea ns that there is a diverse range of restaurants to match, and if you want to eat well, head to where the locals do. There’s the obvious Chinatown, the paella loving Spanish Quarter, hit glitzy and gutsy Newtown for Thai, the more laidback Glebe for Japanese, and amongst the backpacker bars some delicious Italian spots in Darlinghurst, including Bar Reggio (www.barreggio.com.au) and Gelato Messina (www.gelatomessina.com.au). In town again check stop by Foxhole, a stylish bar and eatery just by Darling Harbour that dishes up $1 dollar dumplings on a Tuesday. At The Morrison Bar & Oysters (www.morrison.com.au) on George Street the trendy, dark wood and retro decor hides a daily $1 Oyster deal, again between 6 and 7pm. And on the other side of Darling Harbour by Pyrmont Bridge is Sydney Fish Market, where catch of the day is served either to you to cook at home or in one of the nearby resta urants.
Here, it’s all about being smart. And embracing that most cheerful time of day, happy hour. You’ll probably think that you have to give The Establishment (www.merivale.com.au) a miss. Ludicrously expensive, this 4.5 star hotel on George Street is something of a jewel in Sydney’s sleeping and drinking scene. On Thursdays between 6 and 7pm they run ‘Shaken & Stirred,’ with complimentary canapes, bubbles and Heineken available. The Pyrmont Bridge Hotel (www.pyrmontbridgehotel.com.au) not only has a great rooftop bar but does $4 wines before 8pm and $8 steaks. In fact nearly everywhere in the city has some kind of deal on early evening, worth keeping your eyes on.
And when your feet are sore, you’ve had a long day, and you’re sat in the bar with your cold beer, raise it. This is your holiday, and you’ve earned it.
Francesca is a dabbling smiley music loving creative journalist and marketeer. She’s curious and excited about life. Her musings can be found on her website And So She Thinks.