It is hard to believe we have come to the end of our Australia travels, and what better way to conclude the adventure than here in Sydney, one of the most visited cities in the world.
We rented a charming apartment in the inner-city neighbourhood of Woolloomooloo, so we could walk everywhere and leave the car in the parking garage. Our views of the CBD were perfect!
We only had 4 days in Sydney and a lot to see in such a short time, we probably should have stayed longer. Fortunately we have already seen Bondi Beach and Manly during our week in Dee Why.
Day 1, Blair planned a full day walking route around the CBD to see the highlights, all within walking distance of our apartment. The red pin shows the location of our apartment in Woolloomooloo.
First was Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, and while not exactly a must-see it is the views from here over the harbour that are famous. In the morning light, the view of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are stunning. The “chair” is a bench cut into an exposed sandstone rock on a peninsula in Sydney Harbour. It was hand-carved in 1810, by convicts, for the wife of the then governor of New South Wales.
From Mrs Macquaries Chair we continued along the waterfront pathway, skirting the Botanic Gardens to the Sydney Opera House. One of the most famous and distinctive buildings in the world and the image that comes to mind when we hear the words Sydney, Australia. The unique series of gleaming white sail-shaped shells as its roof ranks it one of the most photographed buildings in the world. The opera house is still closed so we did not have the opportunity to see the interior or attend one of the many performances. Originally we had planned to be in Sydney for part of the Vivid Light Show but sadly the events were cancelled this year due to COVID…we’ll have to come back another year 🤞
After viewing the opera house from every angle we took a walk past Government House and although the 12-acre grounds are closed we could admire the building from afar. Government House is the official residence of the Governor of New South Wales. Constructed between 1837 and 1843 it was designed in a romantic Gothic revival style using stone, cedar and marble from various areas of New South Wales.
Our next destination was Circular Quay, a busy ferry harbour surrounded by apartment buildings, shops and endless restaurants. We made the split decision to jump on the Manly Fast Ferry for two reasons, first, the ferry was there and second, it was a sunny day and we did not want to miss the opportunity in case the weather deteriorated. Every person we have spoken to has recommended the Manly Ferry for the best views of downtown Sydney, the Opera House and Harbor Bridge, we were not disappointed. The Manly Fast Ferry takes 18-20 minutes from Circular Quay to Manly and a one-way ticket costs AUD $9.90 (USD $6.80) each. It happened to be mid-day when we rode the ferry to Manly so we decided to have lunch while over there. After a quick search on Google Maps, we settled on seafood restaurant Garfish. The atmosphere was enjoyable with gorgeous views over the bay and our lunch was outstanding. We satisfied our seafood cravings with salt and pepper squid and Moreton Bay Bug soft shell tacos. What the heck are bay bugs?? My question exactly, they are a type of slipper lobster found in the Indian and Pacific oceans and were delicious if you like lobster, as we do 🦞
Returning to Circular Quay from Manly after lunch we carried on walking through The Rocks neighbourhood towards the Harbour Bridge. The Rocks was the original settlement site of Sydney but much has been demolished so few historic buildings remain. Due to COVID restrictions, the Sydney Bridge Climb experience was not operating but we could walk to the Pylon Lookout. Unfortunately, the stairs to the top of the pylon were also closed but we did have fantastic views from the bridge deck, of Sydney and the Opera House. It was a busy first day!!
Day 2 in Sydney we drove out to the Blue Mountains, an hour and 45 minutes from our apartment. Growing up next to the Alberta Rocky Mountains, our idea of mountains are sky-high peaks reaching upwards from the valley floor. The Blue Mountains are quite the opposite, the area is a dissected plateau with deep gorges, forested valleys and majestic waterfalls. The Blue Mountains National Park has 140 km of walking tracks throughout the valleys and cliffs, it’s a shame we did not have more time to get out hiking.
On the recommendation of our Airbnb host, we went to the town of Blackheath first, then worked our way back towards Sydney the rest of the day. Our first stop was Govetts Leap lookout, from here you can see a majestic 180m waterfall, sheer cliff walls and sweeping views down the valley filled with blue gum trees. Just a short distance away is the Evans Lookout with similar views down the Grose Valley from a different viewpoint.
From Blackheath, we drove to Katoomba and probably the most famous lookout of all, Echo Point and the Queen Elizabeth Lookout featuring the Three Sisters, a famous landmark of 3 weathered sandstone peaks. Photographs advertising the Blue Mountains all feature the Three Sisters prominently as the highlight of the region. This was the busiest place we visited all day, I can only imagine how crowded it would be under normal circumstances. From Echo Point, we descended the steep and narrow Giant Stairway to Honeymoon Bridge which connects to the first of the Three Sisters. This is a popular walking track that descends to the valley floor if one was inclined to tackle nearly 1,000 stairs 😲
Day 3 in Sydney was another walking tour through the CBD, our first stop being St Mary’s Cathedral which stands on the site of the first Catholic Chapel in Australia, and is the largest Cathedral in Australia. Constructed in local honey-coloured sandstone, the English-style Gothic revival style of its architecture reminded us of the great medieval Cathedrals of Europe. Although construction of the church began in 1866, after the original church was razed by fire in 1865, it was a continually expanding project with the southern spires not built until 2000. Our visit was limited to the exterior of the building with the church still closed to worshipers and visitors. Across from the Cathedral is the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park. The fountain is a dramatic circa 1932 art deco design with lots of bronze statues. At the other end of Hyde Park is the Anzac Memorial, a national war memorial built in pink granite with a lovely reflecting pool in front.
Our next stop was the historic Queen Victoria Building, or QVB for short, a gorgeous Romanesque-style 18th-century arcade building with pillars, arches and domes outside and stunning wrought iron railings adorning the interior. Fronting the building is a large statue of Queen Victoria. Large stained glass windows allow light into the central area in addition to skylights running the length of the ceiling. The building encompasses an entire city block and houses over 170 exquisite boutiques, cafes and restaurants. The central stained-glass dome is stunning to view from below and we were mesmerized by the Great Australia Clock. This clock weighs four tonnes and stands 33ft tall, it includes 33 scenes from Australian history. A 3 masted ship circles the clock representing the never-ending passage of time. The QVB is one of the grandest buildings in Australia and well worth a visit as you wander through Sydney’s CBD.
Leaving the QVB we made our way to Darling Harbour, another inner-city harbour filled with cafes, bars, restaurants, shopping arcades and hotels. The Australian National Maritime Museum as well as the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium are also located here. It was lunchtime and a happening place when we arrived at Darling Harbour so we perused the endless array of restaurants, settling on Zushi Bangaroo for an awesome sushi lunch. More and more restaurants are opening up, granted with limited seating, encouraging more people to get back outside. In addition to limited seating under the social distancing rules, Australia has mandatory contact tracing in place so every restaurant we have been in requires your name and phone number. That way if a customer is found to have COVID, all customers can be contacted and advised of their exposure.
After lunch, we meandered our way through the city and the botanic gardens on our way back to the apartment. It was fortunate we crammed everything into two days touring Sydney’s CBD because on our final day it was cool and rainy. We did not venture far from our immediate neighbourhood, instead spending the day packing and preparing for the long journey to Canada the next day.
After 3 months in New Zealand and 5 months in Australia we are sad that our time here is over, but we feel that way about most places which is a really good indication we enjoy where we are 💕 We have made many memories and had some once in a lifetime experiences that we will never forget, the animals we encountered in Australia were a big highlight for us. Until next time we say farewell to the land down under…
We recommend staying in the neighbourhood of Woolloomooloo, walking distance to all of Sydney CBD, and less expensive than the CBD.