18 days of beautiful beaches, friendly locals, a couple of roos and some exceptional wine! Australia is one of our favourite places in the world.
Having been an avid Home and Away fan throughout my teens, worked for an Australian company and had several Aussie friends, Australia had been on my travel list for a long time. So it was only natural that it formed part of our 10 week travels – and it just so happened to be the start of our trip! We had just less than three weeks in Australia, but within a few days we regretted not having spent longer!
We arrived in Sydney, tired and a bit cranky, after more than 25 hours of travelling. Our hotel was in Potts Point – a super easy 30 minutes from the airport by train. We’d booked Hotel Challis for our first few nights; fronted by a smart colonial-esque exterior and a stylish lobby area. Our room, although nicely decorated, was most definitely the smallest hotel room I have ever stayed in! With a strip of space surrounding the bed, part of which was occupied by our suitcases, moving around the room involved careful manoeuvring and occasionally rolling across the bed! Whilst rather small, the bedroom was perfectly formed and, given the extortionate cost of other hotels in the area, it meant we could spend the first few nights of our trip in a hotel instead of a hostel.
With jet lag waking us early, we set off in search of breakfast. Walking through Kings Cross, we ended up in Darlinghurst. Sprinkled with an abundance of cafes and restaurants, we stumbled across Son of Frank and, whilst many others came close, had the best breakfast of our whole 10 week trip! Taking advantage of the novelty of sunshine in February, we settled into the cute courtyard and sank a couple of delicious coffees to combat the jet lag.
We ordered a toasted croissant, stuffed with chilli scrambled eggs, ricotta, tomatoes and harissa and pork belly with mushroom sauce, potatoes and eggs. Over a year later, I still pine after that croissant!
Ambling through Kings Cross, we came across the Anzac memoria and arrived just in time for the Service of Remembrance. Taking place at 11am every day, the Last Post was played during the moving ceremony, with a one minute’s silence to commemorate those who served and died at war. The building itself is a beautiful monument, with a reflecting pool at the base.
The memorial park leads into the lush, green Hyde Park, where we spied our first Australian wildlife! A couple of possums canoodling in a tree, followed by several white ibis – known locally as bin chickens, for their fearless bin foraging! Perhaps not the most exciting wildlife spot, but it was a start! Past the grand, gothic St Mary’s Cathedral, we mooched into The Domain, another huge park. With rain on the horizon, we ducked into the Art Gallery of New South Wales for shelter. Although we generally have little patience for art galleries, our attention was captured by the aboriginal artwork exhibition and the opportunity to learn a bit more about Australian history. The museum is currently undergoing works to almost double in size by 2022 – the visuals and plans for which I found almost as fascinating as the artwork!
We headed to Darling Harbour in search of lunch, but it felt like a strange mix of business and tourism and we didn’t find anything particularly exciting there. Continuing along the harbour, we walked through Barangaroo – a new development, created on land reclaimed from the sea. Very impressive and a stark contrast to other areas we’d visited, but very office-heavy so there was no real reason to dwell for that long!
With growling stomachs, we headed to The Glenmore Hotel, which reportedly had great views of the Opera House from the roof terrace. Whilst the rest of the floors were a little shabby and pub-like, the roof terrace was bustling and much closer to a Shoreditch rooftop. We snacked on Tempura prawn tacos and wedges, which were tasty but not particularly exciting and a little pricey. And unfortunately the promised view of the Opera House was blocked by a cruise ship! In hindsight, whilst great for a drink, we’d suggest grabbing food elsewhere! The views of Sydney Harbour Bridge from the front of the pub were great, so after a few snaps we headed across, for a brilliant view of Circular Quay and a long awaited glimpse of the Opera House! We decided against the Bridge Climb (across the top of the bridge) – due to a fear of heights, coupled with the £90pp price tag!
Just a few streets away from the bridge lies The Rocks – one of the most historical neighbourhoods in Sydney and flush with cobbled streets and stone buildings. We stumbled across The Rocks Discovery Museum and spent an hour or so in the tiny building. Detailing the history of the area and the first settlers, it was extremely interesting and worth a visit, but by this point our jet lag had started to surface, so concentration was not our strongest skill!
After a quick recharge at the hotel, we headed out for dinner, through the tiny Embarkation Park which had great views of the City. We were aiming to walk through Wooloomooloo (purely based on it’s name), however, we got a little lost on the way and ended up central. After struggling to find somewhere for dinner and rain starting to fall, we were feeling a bit desperate! We literally stumbled across Cubby’s Kitchen, having already walked past it twice and not realised it was there, tucked half underground.
We were greeted by a warm, bustling restaurant with a cosy, shabby chic interior. The menu offered an enticing selection of Lebanese food which, in our jet lagged state, was rather overwhelming, so we just picked a few items at random! Cubby’s special hummus, topped with pieces of lamb, Cubby’s Fried Chicken, crispy squid, ‘ladies fingers’ lamb and burnt corn were all delicious and the service was super friendly. Definitely add it to your list for Sydney, and try as much as possible!
We were pretty unfortunate weather-wise in Australia, as our planned route basically had us directly following the same route as a typhoon up the coast! But not to be deterred, and with great British spirit, on our second day we headed off to Bondi Beach to see what all the fuss was about!
Jumping on the metro to Bondi Junction, we then hopped on a bus, which took us to the beach. It was sadly a bit too windy to actually sit on the beach but we were happy to experience our first paddle in the Tasman Sea. Poke bowls at The Bucket List were super tasty and overlooking the beach was a good compromise for not being able to sit on it! We briefly thought about a dip in the notorious Icebergs pool, but the waves crashing over the sides deterred us! Several people recommended the Bondi to Bronte walk and whilst we didn’t make it the whole way around (blame the weather) the scenery was beautiful, so it’s a definite must!
Back in the city later that afternoon, we then headed out from our hotel in Potts Point, following the coast west until we reached the Royal Botanic Gardens – a beautiful, scenic walk with sunset views of the city, Opera House and bridge. The gardens lead to the base of the Opera House and we grabbed a drink in one of the bars on the terrace at the front – a very photo-worthy stop and not as extortionate as you’d expect, for the views!
We’d decided that The Rocks would be a good shout for dinner, however after scanning the menus for several rather touristy-looking restaurants, we remembered a well-reviewed restaurant near our hotel, so hopped back on the tube before we both got too hangry to funcion. Miss G’s serves Asian-fusion cuisine and was extremely popular that night, so we were really lucky to grab one of the last available tables. Definitely book if you plan on going!
The gyozas were deliciously crispy and the pork belly was great. We also ordered Kingfish – which we expected to be hot, but arrived ‘cerviche style’- which seemed to be something the chef had done on a whim, as it wasn’t mentioned on the menu! Tasty but just a little disconcerting when you’ve been expecting a cooked piece of fish! We ate in a bit of a jet-lag-daze, but would 100% recommend a visit to Miss G’s – and when we one day return to Sydney, we’re aiming to visit whilst fully-awake!
Our final day in Sydney arrived and we decided to head to Manly Beach. The ferry leaves every 20 minutes or so from Circular Quay and takes just 30 minutes. We’d pre-researched and found a brunch spot, so headed straight to The Pantry, a building located right on the beach, where we snagged the last table at the open window, with a picture perfect view. Two Pantry Breakfasts were fairly simple but effective, accompanied by delicious Aussie coffees. We strolled up and down the beach but didn’t find a huge amount to do in Manly. The weather was a hindrance for us, but ordinarily a sunny day on the beach would have been perfect!
A warning on the ferry – we’d obviously been lulled into a false sense of security on the way out, with a fairly smooth journey. The way back was the complete opposite – waves crashing, the boat rolling… stomachs rolling! It wasn’t enough to make us regret the trip but we were a bit wobbly afterwards!
Our time in Sydney had come to an end. We were sad to leave after just a couple of days, but excited for what was to come! We grabbed a taxi out to Jucy car hire and were super impressed with the speedy pick up. Jucy are really popular in Australia – they’re good value for money, the car was pretty new and we were able to pick up in Sydney and drop off further up the coast, in Brisbane.
Grabbing our bags from the hotel, we grabbed a quick Banh Mi from Bun Mese in Darlinghurst – and it was the best Banh Mi we’ve had since leaving Vietnam! Delicious fillings and fresh bread – once we’d finished we were really tempted to get another for the road!
Our journey along the East Coast was about to begin!