- 10 days
- Coogee Pavilion – renovated old pavilion in Coogee with a variety of food and drink option and great for families
- The Grounds in Alexandria – great coffee and brunch at this farm to table spot
- Harry’s Cafe de Wheels – food “truck” (permanent) for excellent pies, mash and mushy peas
- Doyle’s, Watsons Bay – nice seafood restaurant right on Watsons Bay
When we arrived in Sydney on a chilly, rainy evening, we had just spent a month in South Africa, exploring Cape Town and surrounding areas. We didn’t realize until we arrived in Australia after two 10-hour flights, that we were a little burnt out. It didn’t help that we only had two sunny days during our 10-day stay in Sydney. Since most activities focus on being outdoors and the weather was crappy, we didn’t mind taking a break. We realized that we hadn’t taken a day off to do nothing since we started this trip, so we were overdue.
We split our time between the suburb of Coogee and the area of Potts Point. Coogee is a beach town that is pretty quiet during the low season, especially when it’s raining and the winds are blowing at 35 mph, but it is beautiful. Potts Point was a bit more our style and let us take advantage of exploring on foot, but it was a much more expensive stay. Because of our budget (Sydney is crazy expensive) and our desire to slow down (which is so important with long-term travel), we probably didn’t explore Sydney the way most people would. Of course, we didn’t just sit at home sipping coffee the entire time, either. Here are some of the highlights of our stay in Sydney.
The first really sunny day, we decided to take the ferry to Watsons Bay, a recommendation of our local friends. The main reason was to see the Sydney Opera House up close, but the best part of the day would be enjoying the views of the bay. Standing to the side of the ferry, we watched the landscape change from the high rises of downtown Sydney, to the densely packed houses and apartment buildings along the shore. At Watsons Bay we took a path through a park up to The Gap (not the store). With the sun to our backs, we had an amazing view of the cliffs and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The water was a vibrant blue which I poetically described as toothpaste blue. It was pretty spectuclar to be standing at what felt like the edge of the world. On the way back we wandered around the Opera House exterior a bit more. Did you know the exterior is covered in loads of tiles?
While it’s not a difficult walk, it is a long one. It was a beautiful day, which meant the entire city was out walking or a running along the path, sunbathing on the beach, or surfing. We started in Coogee and walked our way to Bondi since it made more sense to hop on a bus back to Potts Point from Bondi. There is a well-maintained boardwalk that hugs the shore and wraps around some public tidal pools, exposing you to drastic cliffs and some of the best beaches in the world. We had a great time leisurely making our way to Bondi before stopping for a burger (the quickest way to cancel out a 3-hour walk).
Sitting in an industrial area that felt a lot like Redwood City in California, The Grounds of Alexandria is a garden, a tiny farm (a few goats, chickens, and a pig named Kevin Bacon), shops, and restaurants. It’s a nice place to walk around and have a hot cup of coffee, but it is a popular spot that can get crowded at lunch time. It’s worth a look around even if you aren’t shopping or hungry. Nearby is Mitchell Road Antique and Design Center, a HUGE warehouse of antiques that is amazingly curated. Ryan had to drag me out of there.
Wanting to get more of a feel for neighborhoods in Sydney, we took a long walk from Alexandria through Erskinville to Newtown. I kinda love the ornate wrought iron of Australian rowhomes and there are a lot of great examples here. In Newtown, we walked along King Street, the main shopping drag there. There are a ton of restaurants and interesting shops tucked into turn-of-the-century buildings.
Surrey Hills is a really trendy neighborhood (read: expensive. Just kidding; everything in Syndey is expensive), and it was a great area for a couple of designers to drool over reasonably priced mid-century furniture or have a cup of coffee while people-watching. There were other local design shops, but to be honest, it was rare to see something unique; it reminded me of the Bay Area a lot.
When it was just too cold and rainy, but we wanted to go out, we went to the Queen Victoria Building. If you can look past the fact that it’s just a mall with a bunch of stores selling stuff you don’t need, you see some pretty amazing architecture. We were probably the only people admiring staircases and taking photos. But hey, it’s warm inside and you can watch a giant ornate clock/diorama from a cushioned bench.
Looking back several weeks later, we would defintely want to give Sydney another chance when we have more energy (and disposable income). There was perhaps some bad timing because of the weather and where we were at in our trip. Still it was an excellent stop on our trip and the bad weather was really just a good excuse to slow down.
Have you been to Sydney? Share your thoughts and experiences here or on Twitter @retreat2movefwd.