Last weekend I jetted off to Sydney for a brief visit. When we booked our 6am flight there and 9pm return, we thought we were being really smart as it would pretty much give us 3 full days. What we didn’t take into account was that Jetstar flies from Avalon Airport – closer to Geelong than Melbourne – and that with both of us living in the suburbs, actually getting into the city and back at those times can be quite difficult. So despite our cheap flights, we wound up having to fork out for taxis, not to mention get up at 2:30am to get to the airport.
All of that aside, we arrived in Sydney at 7:30am on Friday, and one slightly crazy taxi driver later we made it to the hostel where we were able to ply ourselves with as much free food and, more importantly, coffee as we wanted. We were staying at the Hump Backpackers Hostel in Darlinghurst. Known as a bit of a party hostel, the emphasis was definitely on drinking and socialising rather than comfort and cleanliness, but it was perfect for what we needed and in a really cool and convenient area. After waking up and re-fueling a little, we walked into the city centre where we decided to do a free walking tour. These tours are run by I’m Free and I had also done the one in Melbourne a few weeks ago. They last around 3 hours and are a great way to get your bearings and a bit of an overview of the city, as well as getting heaps of information and tips from the guide. Unfortunately our first impressions of Sydney were slightly spoilt by the rain, though it was at least noticeably hotter than Melbourne!
After the tour we headed back to the hostel to check in, freshen up and dry off a bit. We had opted for a 4-bed dorm and were sharing with a German couple, which was definitely better than being in one of the 12-bed rooms. We ventured out again and decided to go down to Darling Harbour. It is one of the more touristy areas, being home to attractions like the Sea Life Centre and Madame Tussauds, but it was still a nice area to explore. Originally we were trying to find the famous Sydney Fish Market, but after a lot of searching and walking the exhaustion was starting to set in, so we made our way down to the area around Central Station in search of dinner. Lured in by the promise of $5 pizzas, we ended up at Scubar. The pizzas weren’t great, but you get what you pay for and we were so hungry we didn’t care. The bar itself was pretty nice though, as were their cocktails, so that kind of made up for it. Back at the hostel we had some more drinks and ended up taking part in a beer pong competition, which started off well but we quickly lost. Having been up for about 20 hours by this point we decided to call it a night, especially with our sights set on a trip to the Blue Mountains the next day.
With the weekend’s weather having turned out to be completely unpredictable and constantly changing, we didn’t know what we were going to wake up to but luckily the sun was shining so we quickly caught a train out to the small mountain town of Katoomba. The Blue Mountains are also part of the Great Dividing Range, which I ventured into last weekend in the Grampians, but the eco-system and plant life are so different you wouldn’t think they were in any way related. Most noticeable is that the mountains really are blue because of the way the light reacts to the dust and oil off the eucalyptus trees in the valley. We caught a bus from Katoomba down to Gordon Falls Lookout, and from there opted to do a bush hike to the Three Sisters. With the previous day’s rain, this felt a lot more like walking through a rainforest than the mountains. During most of the hike we passed a few other people, but it was nothing compared to the crowds when we arrived at Echo Point. Compared to the Grampians it was insanely touristy, yet everyone just seemed to come to this one lookout point rather than actually walking in the mountains which seemed a bit sad to me and also meant they were missing out on some of the best sights.
Despite a long day of even more walking, when we arrived back in Sydney we decided to walk across the Harbour Bridge to see the city by night, and oh my god am I glad we did this. From the previous day I was still undecided about Sydney – yes it’s nice, but I didn’t have that same instant attraction to it as I did with Melbourne. But walking around Circular Quay, through The Rocks, and along the Harbour Bridge on a hot, early Autumn night, I began to see what all the fuss was about. Sydney is definitely more of a Big City, and like New York or London I always feel like they look a lot nicer by night. The ugly skyscrapers which clutter the city during the day are transformed by lights at night, and the Opera House which I actually thought rather unimpressive and ugly when were first saw it looked so much more alive.
Back at the hostel we sat outside, enjoying the day’s remaining heat while chatting to people from all over the world, eating sushi and drinking cider, and I realised how much I had needed this little break.
By the next morning the rain had cleared up and the sun was back, so we were able to do the walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach along the coastal trail. If I had planned ahead and ignored the weather forecast of constant rain for the weekend, I would definitely have got some surfing in on Bondi but I guess I’ll have to save that for next time! The rest of the afternoon was spent revisiting some of the things we’d seen on our first day, like the Opera House and Queen Victoria Building, and a wander through the Botanic Gardens. We also went back to explore The Rocks properly and to visit the market. The Rocks was the first place that people settled in Sydney and used to be a fairly run-down area known for crime and prostitution, but now it has become a really cool, quirky area.
Eventually it was time to head back after what felt like much too short a time in Sydney, which I was actually really starting to like though I’m definitely still a Melbourne person!