So the weather was perfect for spending lots of time outdoors without having to deal with the sweltering heat of an Australian summer. We went to Sydney and this is, without a doubt. my favorite vacation destination in the world.
My husband and I stayed at the Menzies Hotel, which was fabulously located for easy access to so much of what the city had to offer.
We caught a live show down at Darling Harbour, wandered for hours taking in the historical architecture and outdoor markets in The Rocks, and spent far too much money shopping along George Street (I can't resist opals).
Walking around the relatively flat city was easy and led to the discovery of lots of quiet, character-filled alleys (many overlooking the water), but the public buses and trains were also very simple to use on the rare occasions when our feet gave out on us.
The multicultural nature of the city meant there were lots of outstanding dining options to fit any budget, including inexpensive meals in Chinatown, midrange Aussie pubs and Thai cafes, and upscale sushi bars and French restaurants.
And while the accents and slightly different traditions made me feel as though I was someplace exotic, the fact that everyone spoke English ensured the trip was stress-free.
There’s so much to do in Sydney that it would be impossible to cover everything here. When I visit, I love to start my trip at a rock bench in the Royal Botanical Gardens called Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair.
The Opera House and Harbour Bridge are both visible from this vantage point, and the photos I took here are among my favorites.
Taronga Zoo is an incredible place to visit, both for the animals and for the views. As a huge animal lover, I splurged for the personal behind-the-scenes zoo tour, which was a highlight of my vacation.
When it comes to splurges, however, I think my absolute favorite was the Bridge Climb. I’d done a daylight climb during a past visit, but this vacation I opted for the night climb.
Standing atop the bridge overlooking the city skyline all lit up was the most amazing feeling. (Even my husband, who’s afraid of heights, loved the experience.)
The best part about a vacation to Sydney, in my experience, is that the trip doesn’t have to be limited to city activities. There are so many less urban options that are only an hour or two away but feel like a whole separate vacation.
We took a short ferry ride over to Manly Beach and hiked along Shelly Beach and also enjoyed another hike up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach.
On another day, we joined a wine tour to the Hunter Valley – it was astounding that only a couple of hours drive from Sydney were miles of vineyards, olive groves, and even some dirt roads!
The most memorable place we visited on our entire trip was the Blue Mountains. There are organized tours that go out there, but it’s much faster and cheaper to just hop on a commuter train out of Central Station (we chose to get off in Katoomba, but there are many other tiny mountain villages along the same train route).
We took in the views of the Three Sisters rock formation and then spent the rest of the day hiking down into the valley.
The plan was to hike back up, but a sudden thunder and hail storm made us grateful there was a rail option up from the valley floor. Looking back on my vacation, it’s incredible I was able to experience so much in such a short time.
I feel like Sydney had so much to offer all my personalities – the foodie, the shopper, the hiker, the animal lover, the architecture hobbyist, the photographer, the wine enthusiast, the ocean worshipper, and perhaps most of all, the girl who spent years admiring scenes of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and dreaming of someday seeing them in person.
I would without hesitation recommend Sydney to anyone looking for vacation ideas…I just hope you’ll consider taking me with you on your Sydney Australia vacation!