Done with my last overnight bus for Australia! I arrived in Sydney at 6:20, a full hour before schedule and way too early to check-in to my next hostel. Wake up! Sydney is a multi-level hostel, clean and modern and directly across the street from Sydney’s Central Station, where I got dropped off by the Greyhound. It was only a short walk to the hostel, much more bearable with less stuff in my bags, and I was able to leave my luggage in storage until check-in time.
It’s almost winter here, so I was forewarned that the further south I go, the colder it would be. Byron Bay was a little chilly the night I left and all I was wearing was a pair of swimmers as shorts and covered my legs with a blanket on the bus. When I arrived in Sydney, the temp was 56°. Literally went from beach town to sweatpants. Holy moly, winter is coming indeed.
With at least seven hours to kill before check-in, I did the obvious thing… I walked to the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. First impressions. Walking along the city streets, Sydney feels like to NYC of Australia, except it’s the city that sleeps. There were only a handful of people walking around at 0700 and city workers out and about. Lots of streets were barricaded d/t construction and for Vivid, a music and light festival going on for the next few weeks.
Finally made it to the wharf where the ferries dock, Circular Quay, and then rounded the corner to catch my first views of the Opera House. It is truly a beautiful building to admire in person. After getting all my tourist pictures, I walked back towards the Harbour Bridge and had breakfast at Pancakes on The Rocks. Everything has been “on the Rocks” this week, food-wise.
After breakfast, it was still barely 0900 so I decided to catch a ferry to Manly Beach. The ferry ride was nice and goes right around the Opera House for some more great photos! I walked down to the famous Manly Beach, then headed to Peter Pan’s for some free wifi.
Travel tip. Get yourself an Opal card as soon as you know you are taking public transportation in Sydney. It is widely sold in stores, newstands, even the hostel was selling them for $10 minimum. The benefit of the Opal card is that fares are 20% cheaper than the single fare tickets and literally every bus, train and ferry accepts them. I think the fare maxes out at $15 daily, which if you take the Manly ferry alone, already saves you money.
This Saturday happened to be a foodie event, Taste of Manly, set on the beach and along the esplanade. Of course, I had to browse between the different restaurant tents to see what everybody was selling and bought a chicken skewer for lunch. Then, I caught the ferry back to Sydney.
The day was still young. I checked-in to my hostel and had a shower before having an early dinner. I walked to the Spice Alley, which is a cool, hidden alley filled with multi-cultural Asian cuisines, everything from Thai, Singaporean, Malaysian, Japanese, street food and dim sum. This place has something for every Asian craving. The prices were pretty standard for Australia, so I decided to treat myself to dinner at Din Tai Fung instead. If I was going to spend money on food, it might as well be on a Michelin-starred restaurant. Definitely did not disappoint.
After dinner, I decided to walk off all the dumplings and noodles by checking out Vivid. First stop, Harbour Bridge. The bridge was lit up entirely and along the way different buildings had light shows projected upon them. The Harbour Bridge had a good view of the Opera House so I watched the show from there for a bit before heading closer for a better view. The harbor was packed with people! It was such a pain trying to walk from one place to the next in the crowd. I didn’t stay at the Opera House very long because I hate crowds and headed straight into the Royal Botanic Garden. That was a mistake, the garden does have trees that are lit up on display but there were way too many people and only a sliver of walkway crowded with strollers and groups of people linking arms. The display was cool but so hard to enjoy so I quickly made my way through it to the park exit. Overall, the whole Vivid experience is something that I would probably only do once. If you have tickets for the cruise then that would probably be cool but if you’re somebody that hates crowds of mindless people, or if the decision came down to Vivid or something else less packed, I’d say just skip it.