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Australia


o Must-do’s

The cheapest way to get around is public transportation, it’s super reliable. Once there, get an opal card and refill it as you need to. You can use this card to tap on and off of any ferry, train, bus, or kangaroo, you’ll use to get around.

 

o Must Do's

Sydney is one of the most iconic places on the globe, however, once there, you'll realize there is much more to this town than just the harbor.


  • Darling Harbor

For starters, there’s Darling Harbor, a quick 2 km (or 1.24 miles for us Americans) from the Sydney Harbor. Darling Harbor was one of my favorite places. There was a Chinese New Year Festival happening when we first arrived in February and it’s the first time I tried kangaroo! If you are in Australia and don’t try Kangaroo, you are doing yourself a disservice. It is actually better for you than chicken, and it tastes like chicken and you can’t tell the difference. Just try it.

  • Featherdale Wildlife Park

The Featherdale Wildlife Park is a must-see, because, even though you might have just eaten the guy, there are dozens of kangaroos to hang out with all day long. They’re literally like dogs, they will just lay there with you and take pictures. To get here using public transportation from the city: take the North Shore and Western line to Blacktown Station, bus stand E is located right outside the station, take the 729 bus for a 10-minute ride which will drop you off right outside Featherdale. You can also find Koalas here, however, you can’t hold them anywhere in southern Australia. If you want to hold a koala, head up to the Gold Coast and visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane.

  • Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb

Climb the bridge. That one’s obvious.


  • Manly Beach

There’s a ferry you can take from Sydney Harbor (this port is known as Circular Quay) to Manly Beach. Manly beach is not only a great beach, but you get to ride through Sydney Harbor on a boat to get there, a pretty cool way to get to the beach. Hangout at Manly for the day, shop around, and take the ferry back at sunset. Your opal card will work on the ferry. (Photo on Manly ferry)

  • Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach is a STUNNING place to watch the sunrise. I went to Australia in 2015 and I can still, in 2020, vividly remember the colors. This may also be because I took a time-lapse of it. That was one of my favorite mornings ever in my life… it's worth it to wake up a little early and catch the world's natural beauty at work. If you’re athletic (or want to try), run the 3.5 miles long Bondi to Coogee walk! It’s a struggle but it's fun and you’ll see some stunning running course views. If you’re not up for the challenge of a run, just walk it. (Photo of sunset on Bondi to Coogee walk)


  • Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are something you don’t want to miss. Use your opal card and take the train from Redfern station to Katoomba station. It’ll take about two hours. We did a day trip, even if that’s all the time you have, it is worth the journey. While in the Blue Mountains there are many trails to follow, pick whichever suits your time best. You'll be able to see The Three Sisters right as you walk in from Katoomba station. From there, we went to Wentworth Falls. It's a hike, but it's do-able. (Photo in Wentworth Falls)

  • Surfing Lessons

SURFING! You can’t go to the most iconic place to surf and not try it. My

instructor was hungover, had two Bloody Mary’s before the lesson, and made sure to tell us that while 5 ft tall waves were crushing us and a storm was approaching. Wonderful. While this all seems terrifying; life begins at the end of your comfort zone. I remember laughing my butt off and being filled with joy AND learning a new skill on top of that. Get yourself out there and experience the freedom and accomplishment of walking on water! You may even surprise yourself and have a blast. There are plenty of lessons to choose from, we went with “Let’s Go Surfing”. Make the memory, try it.

 

o Nightlife

  • Side Bar

Since you’re a tourist you should definitely do some touristy things. This includes Side Bar. Holy “Americans living it up in Australia”. You’ll see what I mean when you get there, and you’ll have a blast. I know what you’re thinking: "why would I want to go to a bar with Americans when I’m trying to get away from them?" but the DJ will rope you into playing some ridiculous Aussie bar game, you’ll lose against some Aussies who will kick your butt, and you’ll make Australian friends.


  • Soda Factory

If dive bars aren’t your thing, head over to Soda Factory. GREAT music. Amazing drinks. Fun atmosphere. Many, many, full-hearted memories here. 10/10

  • The Ivy

Sydney is alive in the nighttime. We went multiple times to a club called The Ivy. While details are a little fuzzy for obvious reasons… I remember a swimming pool on the top floor (which is very welcoming for you and your drunk friends to jump on in), four floors, EDM music, and a party vibe. It’s huge, you’re bound to meet some Aussies and have a great time.

 

o Foodies

  • Henry's Cafe de Wheels

Australians love their meat pies, personally, I thought it was okay. You can get an authentic one at Henry’s Café de Wheels. There are a few locations, we went to the one in Chinatown, but you can google it to see which is closest to you. If you choose to opt-out of meat pies, no biggie. If you want the FULL food culture experience: add some Vegemite to your breakfast toast. I never tried it, and from the looks on people's faces when they do… I will continue to pass on this one. It’s made from leftover yeast extract and apparently tastes salty, bitter, and malty… yum. When you add it to your toast, add the smaaalllllest amount you can imagine. Less than a dime size. Make sure you have butter too. Smear it all together and… enjoy…


  • Pancakes on the Rocks

Some of us are big pancake fans. If you are, then head on over to Pancakes on the Rocks. It’s a chain restaurant. We went to the one in Darling Harbor and I can still remember how good those pancakes taste, 5 years later! So good, and they’re huge!


  • Gardens of Alexandria

The Gardens of Alexandria were okay in my opinion. Good food but overpriced. It's basically cool markets, homemade soap and honey, and hippie stuff like that. Go more for the experience. It’s a fun thing to do on a Sunday morning. If you’re on a time crunch, feel free to skip this.

 

o Extras

  • Watsons Bay

You can cliff jump at Watsons Bay which is just across from Sydney Harbor. There is public transportation to this location, use that opal card. Hike up the path to the right of the beach. If you can’t find it, ask some local Aussies. They’ll be sure to point you in the right direction. (Photo of cliff jumping at Watsons Bay)

  • Lady Bay Beach

If you didn’t know, Australia has lots of topless beaches. Eight minutes from where you were cliff jumping you can let the girls be free to soak up the Australian sun. Head over to Lady Bay Beach and live your life.

  • National Rugby League Game

If you’re a culture buff, go to a rugby game (NRL; National Rugby League)! Nothing better than watching huge Australian men charge at each other. You won’t understand a single thing happening in the game, but it’s a blast to be in the atmosphere with the Aussies cheering on their team.

  • Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney: If you can plan to be there around Vivid, do it. It’s a beautiful artistic festival that happens annually around May. However, it does get a bit chilly around this time. If you want your warm Australian beach experience, then plan on going in March or April, their autumn, it'll be in the 70s (Fahrenheit) during the day.

  • Bondi Markets

These Markets are awesome!! Get some vintage jewelry and clothing, fresh fruit, or doughnuts, pretty much anything you can think of can be found here. These hidden treasures will make for much better souvenirs than the touristy stuff. Head over on a Sunday morning.

  • Royal Botanical Gardens

If you are looking for a place to relax and be outside, take a walk around the Royal Botanical Gardens. A beautiful well-kept massive garden, and a great place to picnic, or read.

I was in Australia from February to June. I am a beachy summer person so I definitely preferred the earlier months there. It got chilly by the end of my stay. Be aware of the weather to expect for the time period you want to travel there. I’d say the best time is around March!

 

o Trips outside Sydney

  • Uluru

The outback. All I can say is WOW. The Uluru will be an experience like nowhere else on planet earth. Book. A. Tour. Do not venture out there on your own. You WILL get lost and there is no cell reception or civilization for miles. It’s also more fun when you’re with someone who knows all the history of the land and can explain the Aboriginal stories hidden in the Milky Way. I went there in early June and felt it was the perfect time. It was cold at night, but summers here can be brutal. Daytime was a great temperature for hiking and the only animal we had to worry about were ants. There were no poisonous ginormous spiders or anything trying to eat you at night in the wintertime. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life. We rode a camel, made bonfires, and hiked around historical land. It was a trip I will never forget.

  • Cairns

Oh Cairns (pronounced Cans), what a crazy time. Snorkel and go see what is left of the great barrier reef. No, it’s nothing like what it used to be, but still beautiful to be submerged underwater with creatures you’ve never seen firsthand before, like sharks. You’ll learn to scuba dive in all of two hours and then they send you off! Not like in America where it takes weeks to become certified. They have ginger pills on the boat, take them. Even if you don’t get motion sickness, take them. And if you do get motion sickness, take six. Go discover the world beneath, it’s wonderful. If you’re down for a party, stay at Gilligan's. It’s a hostel with wet t-shirt contests and drinking competitions daily at 2 pm. It is quite the experience. (Photo of Great Barrier Reef)


Take a trip up to Cape Tribulation, stay in the cabins (we stayed at PK’s Jungle Village), and immerse yourself in the Daintree Rainforest. If you have never experienced complete darkness, you can here. We went on a night hike and when we were far enough into the forest, our guide had us turn off our headlamps. D A R K N E S S. It is insane how dark nature can be, you can’t see your hand 5 inches in front of your own face. Don’t go on hikes alone, just don’t. Experience Aboriginal culture here. Your hostel can give you advice on what tours to take.

  • Melbourne

GO TO MELBOURNE (and pronounce it Mel-bun). This was one of the most creative cities I have ever been to. Art flourishes here. Between the themed bars, graffiti artists, and food, this is an experience you do not want to miss. The Great Ocean Road is stunning, take a tour of it for sure. There’s a cage bar, an asylum bar (The Croft Institute), an underground speakeasy, rooftop bars, and more! Your best bet here is to walk around the city for a day, visit the graffiti alleys, and go to Queen Victoria Market; everything is close by. Visit the bar called Section 8, it’s a vibe you’ll have to experience to understand. I am a big fan of Halloween so when we wandered into The Croft Institute, I was in awe. Talk about atmosphere. The drinks are given to you with a syringe in it, there's a psychiatric hospital bed in the women's bathroom. It's insane. If that is not your cup of tea, GO TO STATE OF GRACE. Find the correct book that you pull in the wall to lead you downstairs to the secret underground bar. That’s all I’ll say, you go figure out the rest :)

 

***PSA: it is much cheaper to buy a plane ticket to Bali, with a layover in Australia, and think you can just get off in Australia and not get on your last flight to Indonesia. Yea don’t do this. You will not be allowed to get your luggage, it will continue to your final destination. Even if you have a long layover in AUS, you cannot enter the country without a travel visa specific to Australia. They will not let you out of the airport, your luggage will be in Bali, and you will be s.o.l. Learn from me. Don’t do this. ***

 

o Suggested Trips:


3 days in Sydney:

Day 1: Explore the heart of Sydney, see the Opera House & Sydney Harbor

Take the ferry to Manly (optional surfing lessons here)

Featherdale Wildlife Park

SideBar or Soda Factory. It’s a hostel with wet t-shirt contests and drinking competitions daily at 2 pm. It is quite the experience. (Photo of Great Barrier Reef)

Day 2: Blue Mountains (this will take most of the day)

Dinner at Pancakes on the Rocks in the Sydney Harbor

Day 3: Sunrise at Bondi or Coogee, if it’s a Sunday hit the Bondi Markets

Walk Coogee to Bondi

Relax on Bondi for a bit

Climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Royal Botanical Gardens

Darling Harbor for dinner

The Ivy

6 days in Sydney:

Day 1: Explore the heart of Sydney, see the Opera House & Sydney Harbor

Take the ferry to Manly and shop/hang out on the beach

Side Bar

Day 2: Featherdale Wildlife Park

Climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge

Dinner at Pancakes on the Rocks in the Sydney Harbor

Soda Factory

Day 3: Watsons Bay for cliff jumping

Lady Bay Beach

Catch an NRL game or whatever is seasonal for when you go

Day 4: Sunrise at Bondi or Coogee

Walk Coogee to Bondi or vise versa

Relax on the beach

Surfing Lessons

Darling Harbor for dinner

The Ivy

Day 5: Blue Mountains

Day 6: Visit any market close to your accommodation

Lunch at Blackbird Café in Darling Harbor (try the Kangaroo)

Explore the Royal Botanical Gardens

Spend your last night watching the sunset in Sydney Harbor


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