The flight from Melbourne to Sydney is about 2 hours on Virgin Australia. We arrived late in the evening and took the train to the downtown Darlinghurst neighborhood where we had an Airbnb booked for two nights. The train is very nice and easy to navigate but we were surprised it cost $36 AUS for the two of us on a relatively quick ride. Super clean and comfortable though so no need to be intimidated to use it.
It was dark when we arrived so we checked in, chatted with our host and hit the hay.
We’ve used air Bnb traveling before this trip but have always rented private spaces. Our budget is much lower on this journey so we have been mainly renting hostels or shared homes from air Bnb. Renting a shared room in a locals home has been such a rewarding experience (except Christchurch). They have intel for you that would otherwise be impossible to source.
We had the next four days to explore Sydney but we wanted to spend one of those days driving down to Wollongong, not only to see our new hometown but Nate had some business to attend to. The dates we were in Sydney fell on Easter weekend, which to Australians mean a four day weekend. Good Friday and the Monday following Easter are considered public holidays. For that reason, we had to be in Wollongong on Thursday before everyone checked out for their holiday weekend.
We rented a car and drove south of Sydney, the highways are easy and the signage led us right there. On our walk through Darlinghurst, we snagged a delicious “breaky” and iced coffee sans ice cream.
We drove into Wollongong and the first meeting was at WIN Stadium. This will be the location of all of the Wollongong Devils home games. The stadium is in the heart of downtown Wollongong and overlooks one of their many beautiful beaches.
We toured the facility, and enjoyed lunch and a beer overlooking the water at the stadium.
We went to one more meeting at the nearby university to look at their facility for practices and meetings. We were happy to learn that our new town has extremely friendly people that are excited to welcome us and American Football.
The drive back was more scenic, we took the highway that runs along the coast and through the national forest before popping back out to head back into Sydney.
The views are breathtaking.
Pretty wiped from the day of travel and meetings we stopped for dinner at a sushi place before calling it a night.
At this point, we had spent very little time in Sydney so we really didn’t have a feel for it yet. We checked out of air Bnb stay and dropped our bags off early at our next stay in the inner suburb of Merrickville. The accommodations are really expensive in Sydney. The first place was actually reasonable for being central but only had two nights available, everything else in the CBD was over $100 per night which is just not in this trips budget. The next two nights were in an up and coming neighborhood about 15-20 minutes via train to the Sydney Harbour.
When we checked in to drop our bags, our host greeted us. He was extremely knowledgable about the area and the city and gave us a lot of places to check out. Armed with information, we took the train down to Circular Quay (Key) to begin understanding this great city. I snagged a free latte at a cool cafe in the area and it lived up to the expectations. Coffee is an art in this part of the world.
Unfortunately for us, the Australian’s really take their public holidays seriously. We walked around Sydney’s famous harbor and the Rocks in search of a great lunch spot but it was like a ghost town. Almost every place was closed. We found a spot to have lunch and discussed how to attack the day knowing that the city had essentially shut down. We would have gone to the beach but the weather was sprinkling and overcast.
Side bar: This happened to us in Tokyo as well. We planned a long layover coming home from Vietnam. We wanted to see the city and eat great sushi. It happened to be a public holiday as well, National Sea Day!? So everything was shut down and we ended up eating very bad sushi in a train station. Such is life.
We downloaded another walking tour and figured this would be a good day to stay on foot and see as many neighborhoods as we could. We walked through the entire CBD, the botanical gardens, Hyde Park, the neighborhoods of Darlinghurst, Paddington and Surrey Hill.
Any establishment that was open, would close by 10 pm for the holiday, so we chose to head back to Marrickville, grab food and hang out at out hosts apartment. To our pleasant surprise, when we returned to the flat both hosts James and Trish were drinking wine on the sofa. Not only did they let us share in their wine but they stayed up and chatted with us for hours. It was so refreshing to socialize! They are newlyweds who we really enjoyed getting to know. We look forward to meeting back up with them when we move to Australia!
Marrickville is a melting pot of diverse cultures, people and ages. It’s a developing neighborhood but with that emerges great coffee shops and restaurants that can’t afford their start in the expensive parts of the city. I already knew the coffee was good but we found an amazing breakfast joint as well at Kelbys. Nate ordered a ricotta omelet with sweet potatoes and chorizo and I ordered the veggie breakfast. The portions were huge so we bagged them up with plans to finish the next morning for breakfast.
Over another delicious latte and breakfast we deemed the gorgeous weather to be a perfect beach day. I had arranged a meeting in Bondi Beach with a designer, so we knew we needed to be in that area later in the day anyway.
To our luck, James and Trish were also going to the beach and let us tag along. They took us to Cloverly Beach where they like to snorkel. We all hung out in a rock pool because the waves were to rough and choppy for snorkeling.
When our new friends went back home, we stayed and went swimming in one of the natural pools that Australia is famous for.
Then we did the 30 minute walk to Bondi Beach taking gorgeous photos along the way.
We kept pinching ourselves that we were going to be living so close to such amazing beaches in no time. We made it to famous Bondi Beach and played in the big waves until it was time to get ready for my meeting.
We had committed to spending the whole day out not wanting to waste time commuting back to our accommodations. We each brought a small day bag with a change of clothes and toiletries to shower at the beach. I met with a designer at a cafe in Bondi Beach to pick her brain about the industry and the design world in Sydney.
I met back up with Nate and we took an uber from Bondi to Watsons Bay, which is ten minutes. Since it was 4 pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch yet, the first thing we did was split some fish and chips along the water. We then confirmed that we could take the ferry back to the city and catch it around sunset. All public transportation in Sydney can be paid for using an Opal card. You can pick them up at convenient stores and simply load money onto them. We purchased our opal cards and went to the Watson Bay Hotel for cocktails on the terrace. It had a summer in the Hamptons vibe…beautiful well dressed people all sipping fancy cocktails enjoying the good life. We tried our best to fit in.
Our air Bnb hosts recommended that we check out the Newtown neighborhood for our evening out, and pushed the hamburgers at Mary’s. Mary’s is not easy to stumble upon, it’s off the main drag and has a red light over the door. It was busy with a line of 15-20 people waiting for a table but the bar is first come first serve. A group finished up while we were in line so we snagged their bar table. Marys is a grungy bar that plays heavy metal music but with a mixed crowd of tourists, students and yuppies. After a couple beers we ordered a cheeseburger to split.
Nate thought it tasted like McDonald’s but I disagreed. I thought it was better than Fergburger. It was scrumptious! I wanted to order another one immediately. We checked out a few more bars in that area before finally turning in. That neighborhood was a great suggestion, it was by far the busiest area we got to see in Sydney and is very lively on a Saturday night.
We woke up early to do a load of laundry and pack up for the next adventure. We split an early breakfast at Bee Jays to tide us over because we had our eyes on a Bahn Mi shop nearby that had a line and smelled great when we passed it the day before.
We had the best Bahn Mi in Hoi An last Summer in Vietnam and have been on a search to recreate that experience whenever possible. We ate this sandwich in our car to the airport. It was worth the hassle, our second favorite of all time. Our time in Sydney was short but we are looking forward to living nearby soon. Until then Sydney.
Wheels up, for a long journey to Sri Lanka