Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia was the culmination of our 31 day cruise crossing the Pacific, all the way from Vancouver, Canada.  It was fun to get up and see the city lights and the familiar outline of the magnificent Sydney Opera House as we cruised into port at 5:30am.  Well…it turns out that it was 4:30am because I forgot to turn my clock back the night before 🤔

Sydney is the capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia with almost 5.5 million residents. It’s location on the east coast means there is an abundance of beautiful beaches not far from the city. In early 2020 we spent 3 days in Sydney and this time decided to spend almost 3 weeks here. There is a lot to see beyond the popular tourist attractions and we wanted the time to leisurely explore.  Lucky for us we just caught the end of the jacaranda trees blooming.

With over 3,500 passengers to disembark everything took longer than anticipated but we finally made it off and through customs by 11:15 am, ordered an Uber and were at our apartment by 11:30 am.  Unable to check in until 3pm, we made our way to a Vodafone store in the nearby Queen Victoria Building, locally known as the QVB, to buy a 28-day prepaid SIM card, it was super easy and done in 10 minutes.  The cost for this was AUD $25 (USD $16.23) including the SIM card.  Now we have loads of data, messaging and an unexpected bonus, 1,000 minutes to call Canada.   After checking in to our apartment at the Meriton Suites, Pitt Street I spent an hour cleaning while Blair went out to get a few groceries.

Having to clean the apartment was just the first indication this place was not what we had hoped. We mainly use Airbnb, but this time decided to splurge on a “luxury” apartment in the heart of the city. Well, luxury is not a word I would use! They have very creative writers in their marketing department, and we were disappointed to find out that our 22nd level apartment was physically 11 floors above street level with no view. They have the audacity to count the 10 floors underneath the building with the ground level lobby called the 11th level. Talk about misleading!!! The list goes on of the numerous things wrong with this place and how poor the staff is, suffice it to say we will never stay at a Meriton Suites again, nor would we recommend them for any longer than one or two nights.

Two blocks east of our apartment lies Hyde Park, Australia’s oldest park, 16 hectares of wide-open green space in the heart of the city.  The park is bordered by many significant buildings and contains fountains and statues of famous Australians.  Also in Hyde Park is the Anzac Memorial commemorating the WWI soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.  The interior dome is studded with 120,000 stars, one for each NSW soldier who served.  Beneath the dome on the lower level is Rayner Hoff’s sculpture ‘Sacrifice’ honoring all who served, and their families.  Hoff also created the sculptures and reliefs on the exterior of the memorial.

  • The Anzac Memorial and reflecting pool


On the far side of Hyde Park is St. Mary’s Cathedral, a magnificent Gothic structure built from 1868-1928 on the site of the first Catholic Chapel in Australia, it is the largest Cathedral in Australia. Constructed in local honey-colored sandstone, its architectural style reminds 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 in 2020 was limited to the exterior of the building because of covid, but this time we could see inside. It’s stunning and certainly rivals many of the European Cathedrals we have visited. The stained-glass windows were crafted in Birmingham, England from 1881 onwards and the crypt beneath the Cathedral is notable for the beautiful terrazzo mosaic floor.

  • St Mary's Cathedral


The Sydney Opera House is considered one of the world’s most famous and distinctive buildings, and since it’s completion in 1973 is considered the iconic image of Sydney.  The unique series of gleaming white sail-shaped shells of the roof ranks it as one of the most photographed buildings in the world.  I should know, I have a few hundred photos myself!!

Adjacent to the Sydney Opera House is the 74-acre Royal Botanic Garden.  Opened in 1816, the garden is the oldest scientific institution in Australia and one of the most important historical botanical institutions in the world.  Access to the gardens is free and its stunning location on the Sydney Harbor make it one of the most visited attractions in the city.

On the eastern point of the Botanic Gardens is Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, a sandstone bench carved by convicts in 1811 for the then-governors wife.  From this vantage point the views back towards the Opera House and Harbor Bridge are breathtaking.  Looking the other direction you’ll see a few ships in port at the Royal Navy Fleet Base East.  As we were admiring the views we watched an aircraft carrier pulling into the base.

During one of our walks we passed by The Art Gallery of New South Wales and on the spur of the moment decided to have a look inside. Founded in 1871 it displays a variety of contemporary, modern and indigenous art. Our visit was very brief, it could take a few hours to fully appreciate the items on display. The gallery is free to visit with a fee charged for any special exhibitions which may be running.


One block from our apartment is 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 statue of Queen Victoria, located and brought over from Ireland.  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 this time of year a huge Christmas tree reached upwards towards the dome.  The Great Australia Clock hanging in the hall weights four tonnes, stands 33 ft tall and 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 worth a visit.

  • The QVB


Watsons Bay was once a small fishing village but today it’s a popular and expensive suburb of Sydney.  One of the best ways to see Sydney is from the water so we took a ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay.  Spending the day hiking from the wharf to Hornby Lighthouse, strolling along Camp Cove Beach then on to Doyle’s Takeaway for some fresh fish and chips.  The red and white striped Hornby Lighthouse was built in 1858 following two devastating shipwrecks along the perilous coastline in 1857 which claimed 142 lives.  It is the oldest navigation aide in Sydney harbor and the second oldest remaining lighthouse in NSW.  After 165 years the lighthouse is currently undergoing major restoration to preserve this historic site.  Just up the hill from Watsons Bay is Gap Park with stunning views of the coastline and the dramatic cliffs of North Head.  Watsons Bay is a perfect day trip from Sydney!  The ferry for Watsons Bay leaves Circular Quay every 30 minutes and takes around 30 minutes, with a stop at Rose Bay on the way out.  The trip back to Circular Quay from Watsons Bay was non-stop and only took 20 minutes.  Round-trip tickets cost AUD $13.58 each (USD $8.85)

  • On our way to Watsons Bay


The UTS Business School Building 8 is the first Australian building designed by Frank Gehry, one of the worlds most celebrated architects.  It has been referred to as “the brown paper bag building”.  Next, we came upon the Darling Square Birds Nest building, a 6-story building wrapped with wood strips evocative of a bird’s nest, or so they say!  Our next stop was in Darling Harbor at the Woodward Water feature, a downward spiraling fountain built in 1988 as part of the harbor redevelopment.  A good spot to sit and watch the world go by!  Further along Darling Harbor we passed by a replica of Captain Cooks ship Endeavor before arriving at the Pyrmont ferry terminal, where we decided to hop on a ferry bound for Circular Quay.  The one-way ferry ticket cost AUD $6.79 each (USD $4.44).  Ferries are the best way to get fantastic views of Sydney from every angle!

  • Frank Gehry designed building


Ramses and the Gold of Pharaohs exhibition was on at the Australian Museum while we were in Sydney so we booked tickets to see the treasures.  Ramses II, known as Ramses the Great, was the most celebrated and powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom – Egypt’s golden age.  Believed to be a god on Earth, he ruled for 67 years as part of the 19th Dynasty, erecting enormous temples, obelisks, and statues and expanding Egypt’s empire.  The exhibition featured the greatest collection of Ramses II objects and Egyptian jewelry ever to travel around the world.  We saw a lot of Ramses II monuments during a 2001 trip to Egypt which obviously was much more impressive.  Tickets cost AUD $45.48 each (USD $29.20) and I can’t say we enjoyed our visit.  Despite having timed entry tickets, the place was so jammed with people it was almost impossible to see the artifacts and we were stuck in huge unmoving crowds most of the time ☹️

  • The carved cedar coffin of Ramses II


One of our favorite places around Sydney is Manly Bay so we hopped a ferry and headed there for the day.  It’s a short 20-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay and from the Manly ferry terminal a 10 min walk gets you to the stunning Manly Beach.  It is simply gorgeous here!!  Manly Beach is a bustling and popular surfing destination with restaurants and takeaway places lining the boardwalk.  We strolled the length of the beach before choosing Manly Grill for lunch, where I had my favorite dish…crispy soft-shell crab 🦀 Absolutely yummy!!  After lunch we sat on the seawall and whiled away a couple of hours watching the surfers and a group of athletes training for an event we are unfamiliar with.  It’s called Surflifesaving and includes ocean kayaking, swimming and board paddling with your hands.  In a competition these events are followed by a run.  Based on the various tasks performed by lifeguards on a beach, the sport originated in Australia and is popular in New Zealand also.  There were rather large waves in Manly and we were impressed how well the ladies completed all the water events.  A return trip ferry ride between Circular Quay and Manly costs AUD $16.98 each (USD $11.10)

  • Manly Beach


Unfortunately, because I was sick for most of our time in Sydney, we did not get out as much as we had hoped for.  I previously mentioned I had covid 2 weeks into the cruise, well I was starting to feel pretty good after about 7 days but then we both got an upper respiratory infection right before the end of the cruise.  I was much worse than Blair so after 5 days in Sydney I went to the Myhealth Sydney CBD clinic, saw Dr Steven Vo and emerged with 2 prescriptions and a nasal spray to buy.  Dr Vo was really thorough and told me not to fill the antibiotics prescription for a couple of days in case I got better and did not need it, well I needed it the very next day because I got worse overnight, and it was clear I had a sinus infection.  I did not improve with the antibiotics and developed worse symptoms so 5 days after my first appointment a second visit to Dr Vo was necessary.  This time I emerged with 3 more prescriptions!  A different antibiotic, drops for the eye infection that has developed, and a prescription cough medicine to hopefully calm this stubborn cough.  Thankfully these prescriptions worked, and I was feeling pretty good after another week of rest and recuperation.  Each visit to the Doctor cost AUD $85 (USD $55.50)

Not only was I unwell, but my Kindle e-reader vanished while we were in Sydney.  I think it was on the bed under a sheet and I assume the cleaning staff did not see it and bundled it up when they changed the bedding.  Numerous phone calls to the previously aforementioned poor staff at Meriton Suites and they say it has not turned up.  I was devastated 😢 but Blair was a superstar and found Kindles for sale at an electronics store just around the corner, so I had a shiny new Kindle the very next day.  I don’t think he could bear seeing me so sad for more than a day!  That was an expensive mistake costing us AUD $269 (USD $171.35) for a new Kindle!!

Despite having less time than planned to explore Sydney, we had an enjoyable stay here and got a lot of R&R 😂 There is still more to discover in Sydney so I am sure we will be back again.  Until then we are off to see friends in Batemans Bay for a few days before jetting off to Singapore and the start of our Asian adventures…..







Ferries, trams, trains and buses are all part of the Opal card system. You can buy a card virtually anywhere and top it up or just use a credit card, which is what we did.  You tap your card before you get on the transit system then tap off at your destination so you only get charged for the distance you traveled, it was easy to use but don’t forget to tap off or you will get charged a maximum fee for that route or day.



4 thoughts on “Sydney, Australia

  • December 13, 2023 at 7:33 pm

    Excellent post! We just loved Sydney! Our accommodation was disappointing, too — we stayed at Annam Serviced Apartments in King’s Cross. The apartment was clean and there was a view, but maintenance could have been better and there was no sofa. Quite a downgrade from the ship. The location was pretty good, though.

    • December 13, 2023 at 7:59 pm

      Thanks! Sorry your accommodation was disappointing as well, but like us, you were in a good location which can make up for the shortfalls. We really enjoyed being in the heart of the city and walking distance to everywhere. I think we all got pretty spoiled on the ship!!!

  • December 13, 2023 at 4:19 am

    Great post! Reminded me of happy things we did and added a little to my list for when we return to board our next cruise😊. Sorry about your Merton Suites experience—we almost stayed there because of good recommendations?!—so glad we didn’t!

    • December 13, 2023 at 4:57 am

      Thanks! Enjoy your second visit to Sydney. Not sure all Meriton Suites are this bad, Pitt Street is a very old property but maybe other locations are newer and would not have the same issues we encountered.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.