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The first leg of our trip was all Australia, so here’s a quick recap to give you guys some insight into how we filled our days! Because there is no doubt that Alabama to Sydney involves some long flights, but from the second we landed, the next ten days flew by. In fact, our flights might have felt longer than our whole time in the land down under, because as soon as we landed we hit the ground running with things to do and places to see.
During our time in Sydney, we were visiting friends, and they are the ones who actually planned out our days and took us around to a lot of amazing sights. So can we really take credit for this itinerary? Nope. But can we share the heck out of it, ‘cause it was amazing? You betcha! And a big shout out to Andy and Nicole who took us around the city (and beyond!) and let us experience Australia like a local.
Day 1 – Bondi Beach
Fresh from our morning arrival we headed out to Bondi Beach. Here’s where we got our first experience with the “Australia is expensive” warnings we’d read about before our trip – it took Ian a couple hours to get over his initial shock of paying 5 bucks for half an avocado that wasn’t even on toast. Bondi beach is a fun beach town with one of the world’s most famous beaches. Although we didn’t end up going for a swim while we were there, we did enjoy just strolling the sandy beach and trying to see what the lifeguards were up to.
This might sound weird, but a couple weeks before we left I discovered the show Bondi Rescue on Netflix and watched way too many episodes in way too short of time because it’s fascinating! And since it follows the stories of lifeguards on Bondi Beach, naturally I was trying my best to catch a glimpse of the action (as casually and cool as possible of course ;)) And seriously, if you haven’t seen Bondi Rescue, go check it out on now, and thank me later! While we were at Bondi we also strolled the Bondi to Coogee walk – a 6km urban coastal walk with stunning views of beaches, rock pools, homes, and coves.
Day 2 – Northern Beaches
We jumped in the car and drove north up the coast about 45 minutes to hit the Northern Beaches. Side note: one thing we loved about the beaches in Australia is that each one was nestled into its own little cove with cliffs on either side – it was so cool. Anyways, we started with a stopover at Bilgola Beach and continued north, driving through Avalon and Whale Beach and eventually ended up at Palm Beach.
It was a pretty windy day, which also made for really choppy waves, so before going for a swim we hiked up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse. It was a steep uphill hike, but not terribly long, and at the top, we were rewarded with amazing views of the ocean and the surrounding beaches! After hiking back down we finally found a spot safe for swimming and took the chance to enjoy getting in the water and walking over some rocky alcoves.
By this time it was mid-afternoon, and one of my favourite memories from this day was seeing all the local kids coming down to the beach after school for their surf lessons. All the little kids were in the water floating around trying to kinda catch some waves, and all the parents were just chatting and catching up on the beach (remind me to add surf lessons to my future child’s activity list!).
Our last stop of the day was dinner at the Newport Arms, and we would definitely recommend it! Not only is it a fun place to hang out and get dinner (they have a ton of different mini restaurants), but the surroundings were stylin’, and it all overlooked the water!
Day 3 – Sydney City Center
This is the day that we got to explore the downtown core of Sydney. From Lavender Bay, and walking the Harbour Bridge, to the opera house and strolling the botanical gardens, we covered a lot of ground! We loved exploring the downtown sector of Sydney and getting to see all the iconic Sydney hotspots up close was really neat. In the evening we hopped on a ferry over to Manly beach to enjoy some more beach culture and dinner.
As a side note, to get in and around the city center we used public transportation, which was made even better by having an Opal card. We could easily top it up and use it to get on trains (and ferries!) around the city. If you’re staying in the Sydney area we’d definitely recommend this for easy transportation around the city.
Day 4 – Relax and Recoup
Our first couple days were non-stop and jam-packed, so having a relaxing day at our friend’s house and with their family was the perfect way to rest and relax and still get to learn more about Australia and its culture.
Day 5 – Blue Mountains
Early in the morning we hopped in the car and set out for the Blue Mountains, which are a mountain range about an hour and half west of Sydney. They get their name from the blue tinge that the mountains have when you see them from a distance, and it’s believed to be caused by all the eucalyptus trees.
Our first stop was hiking the Grand Canyon Walking Track that took us deep into the canyons and then back up again to an amazing scenic viewpoint. This was our first real experience with being in the Australian bush, so yeah, I’ll admit I was a bit nervous about what we might end up encountering on our walk (hello random poisonous and wild animals roaming about). But luckily for me, the only things we encountered were pretty trees and plants.
Day 6 – Taronga Zoo and Darling Harbour
Being that we were in Australia, we had to get in a good zoo day at some point and I’ve gotta say, the Taronga Zoo was pretty great! It’s located across the harbor from the Sydney Opera House and is on a hill, which means you and all the animals have amazing views of the city center across the harbor. Our highlights were definitely the gorillas – there was a whole adorable family of them from the Silverback, to a little tiny baby just hanging on his mama’s back.
Following the day at the zoo, we ferried on over to the city center and then walked to Darling Harbour for the evening. There’s a large pedestrian-only area and tons of restaurants and entertainment in the area, so we spent the evening exploring the harbor.
Day 7 – Macquarie Center
This was on the schedule as a relax and recoup day, but since we were staying close to the Macquarie Center – a large shopping mall – we decided to head there for a few hours and explore. After we caught a bus back in late afternoon, it was time to pack our bags for our two nights in the Hunter Valley – one of Australia’s major wine regions and only a three-hour drive from Sydney.
Day 8 – Hunter Valley
Our first day in the Hunter Valley was such a relaxing and perfect time. The weather turned out great, and we spent our day relaxing poolside, hitting up a local brewery, doing a wine tasting, and going to a local chocolate shop (I don’t drink wine, so the chocolate factory was my only stipulation!).
In the evening we were also greeted by a little friend stopping by the patio of our apartment and yeah, that little friend was a kangaroo! We were so surprised at how close we were able to get from him (it was only about 7 feet away from all of us) and how long it hung around just chewing on the grass. We can officially check off experience Australian wildlife and see a wild Kanga from our bucket list!
Day 9 – Hunter Valley & Newcastle
We left Hunter Valley mid-morning and drove out to Newcastle where we stopped and went on a Sand Dune Quad Tour, which was such a neat experience! Everyone in the tour gets their own quad bike to ride and during the tour, you get to drive up and down through giant sand dunes. It was incredible! From there it was back down to Sydney for our last night in the city.
Day 10 – off to NZ
Okay, so this was not really an official full day on our itinerary since this was the day we flew out from Syndey to New Zealand. It was pretty much get up and head to the airport, though we did get the chance to enjoy our last vegemite breaky, our last Australian sunrise and our last taste of Sydney traffic! Some of those things, we will miss; some we will not 🙂
The Simple Summary
There you have it, folks! I hope this quick recap provided a glimpse into our trip, and it is by no means an exhaustive list. We had a great time exploring Sydney and learning about Australia in our 10-ish days in the country. If you have any questions or are looking to plan your own Australia trip, ask below or check out our Financial Review for tips!