Wow have I been absolutely loving my time here in Australia! This is such a beautiful country, full of friendly people, delicious food, and endless adventures.
When I landed in the Sydney airport two months ago to start my solo journey, I was both nervous and excited. Sydney turned out to be the perfect city for me to start this adventure in, as it was safe and clean, easy to navigate, and there is always something to do here!
I got to swim at beaches I’d seen in movies, eat amazing food from all different cultures, dance at a music festival, wander through parks, gardens and neighborhoods, meet people from around the world, and experience so many different things in this beautiful city.
I’ll give you the full run-down on my favorite things from the 10 nights I spent here, so you can make the most of your time down under!The Sydney Opera House
When you arrive at the airport in Sydney, you can easily get to the city on the train. Purchase an ‘Opal Card’ and put on at least $20. The train ride to Central Station is about $18. You will use your Opal Card to take the train or bus anywhere in the city, so go ahead and put on as much money as you’d like. You can always “top-up” when you need more funds on your card as well.
It’s really easy to speak to anyone in Australia as they all speak English. You will notice that Aussies love to abbreviate any words they can (see what I did with ‘Australians’ there?!)
Breakfast = brekky
Alcoholic Beverage = bevy
Downtown = CBD (central business district)
So on and so forth. Have fun with the abbrevs and the beautiful accents, you’ll get the hang of it 🙂
Where to Stay
As I split my stays in Sydney between 2 different weeks, I stayed at two different hostels here. I would recommend WakeUp! Sydney to anyone traveling here, whether in a group or solo. WakeUp! is by far the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in. It’s got hotel-standard amenities (hello air-con!), but it’s full of young travelers who are all looking to make friends and have a great time. There are social events both daily and nightly every day of the week, so you are guaranteed to meet new friends throughout your stay. It’s also perfectly located in the heart of CBD (downtown) right across from Central Station.
If for some reason you can’t book a bed at WakeUp! you could stay at the YHA Sydney next door. The rooms here were also very nice, but the vibe was much less social and the average guest was a bit older here. It’s a good second option due to it’s central location and clean facilities.
What to Do
Sydney is easily the cleanest major city I have been to. It’s considered a “working city” as most people live in the surrounding suburbs and commute into the CBD (downtown) daily. Therefor, it is a relatively quiet city at night. Luckily, there are so many beaches and neighborhoods to explore you won’t be getting bored!
** I always take a free city walking tour when I get to a new city so I can learn about where I’m at and get some local recommendations. Simply google “free walking tour” and you’ll get tons of options. Make sure to bring cash to tip your guide!
Sydney is infamous for its gorgeous coastline full of turquoise beaches and tanned models. Here’s a few of my favorites:
- Manly Beach – to get to Manly from CBD you will need to take the ferry across the harbor. It’s only a few dollars each way, and you just tap on/off with your Opal card. I’d recommend going earlier in the day to beat the crowds. Don’t forget to treat yourself to fish & chips after all the swimming!
- Bondi Beach – probably Sydney’s most famous beach, complete with the Bondi Icebergs. The beach is free to access, and a day in the pool at the Icebergs runs about $7. Make sure to walk the coastal trail from Coogee to Bondi Beach to see the best views of the coastline!
- Watsons Bay – this is a sleepy lil neighborhood with a beach on the bay that you will access from the ferry as well. I went here on an afternoon that had extreme surf and rip currents at the other beaches, as you are protected here with the bay.
Royal Botanic Gardens
I spent half a day wandering through the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and was blown away by all the different species of plants, trees and flowers. They have changing exhibits as well, so you are sure to see something new each time. It is free to enter the gardens, and you can walk through these and over to the Opera House along the water for a really nice view!
Food & Drink
I’ve been in Australia for nearly 2 months now, and I don’t think I’ve had a bad meal yet. The food here is all fresh and locally sourced, and the portions are appropriately sized (not good for backpackers on a budget but good for the waistline.
A few standout spots:
- Pancakes on the Rocks – yummy brekky
- Sweethearts Rooftop – fun pub with rooftop, DJs and good eats
- Bare Grill on Bourke – raclette burgers, need I say more?
- Sash – popular day and nightclub
- Coopers Hotel – pub in Newtown
- Pomegranate Cafe – brekky in Katoomba when you go to the Blue Mountains
I ate and drank at sooo many other delicious pubs, cafes and restaurants in Sydney, I just didn’t write down all the names! There is good food and cold drinks on every street, wander around and see what you find!
The Glebe Markets in Sydney are a fun way to spend a Saturday morning. It is a collection of local vendors selling drinks and snacks, jewelry, new and vintage clothing and more. If you want some local shopping, this is your spot! The markets are only open on Saturdays from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, so plan accordingly, and don’t forget to bring cash and a shopping bag!
Day Trip to the Blue Mountains
If you have the time, consider a day trip up to the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are a UNESCO World Heritage site, with some 87 miles of hiking trails through native bushland that native Aboriginals called home for hundreds of years.
Catch the early train from CBD and you will arrive in the quaint town of Katoomba. From here, grab brekky at the amazing Pomegranate Cafe, pick up a trail map at the info center, and get hiking!
I spent the morning hiking on my own until I met the cutest local older couple who adopted me for the day! They took me around to all of the best spots and pointed out tons of wildlife that I would have never spotted, like the Echidna pictured below! It’s amazing who you can meet when you’re on your own.
Neighborhoods to Check Out
Newtown is a funky neighborhood full of bars, restaurants and op-shops. I really enjoyed walking around here!
Make sure you pop in to Young Henry’s brewery. They are a local Sydney brewery, and they make magic in a pint or can! Try their cider, it’s considered a “cloudy cider” and it has no added sugar. I never drink cider because it is usually too sweet, but I am HOOKED on theirs.
Surrey Hills is a neighborhood known for stylish cafes and yummy restaurants. You can easily spend a day wandering the streets here, sipping coffee, eating local foods and shopping at vintage shops as well as high-end boutiques.
This is a really nice historic area of Sydney, near the harbor bridge. The architecture gives you a feeling of being somewhere in England, with historic buildings and cobblestone streets. Make sure to head over here during happy hour so you can enjoy some cheap drinks out in the laneways with tourists and locals alike!
Planning a Trip?
Let me know if you have any questions, or if you’ve been before!
See you down under (:
Happy trails & happy travels,