The Best of Sydney
When you arrive in Sydney (Bondi Beach, specifically), one of the first thoughts you’ll have will be something along the lines of: how the hell is everyone so freaking fit here? And when I say fit, I mean both in the Canadian and English sense of the word; aka good looking and athletic. Beyond appearances, Sydney does have a lot to offer visitors. Like what, you ask? The most delectable and drool-worthy vegan pancakes I’ve ever eaten, the most expensive cocktail I’ve ever ordered, and the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever laid eyes on. What more could a tourist ask for?
When Sarah and I first landed in Sydney, we did the most obvious thing a tourist could do, and we spent time taking Snapchats and Instagram worthy pictures in front of the infamous Sydney Opera House. Of course it’s touristy, but that’s what makes it fun. We also attempted to run around the Botanical Gardens sea wall the next morning and soaked in the rest of the harbour views while simultaneously sucking wind and trying to keep up with the locals. A run may have not been the best idea, but it was probably the only exercise (besides 20-30k steps of walking per day) that we’ll get this entire trip. I think we’ll stick to eating and drinking for the time being.
Other than our first night spent in Surry Hills, the majority of our time in Sydney has been spent in Bondi Beach, where my sister has spent the last 10 months living and working. This place is insane. If I lived here, I wouldn’t do anything besides eat, drink, workout, work (to afford my $350/week rent..) and sleep. Because really, other than surfing, which scares the bejeezus out of me, that’s all you really need here to be fully content with your life. Sounds alright if you ask me.
There’s a decent mix of locals and tourists here, and you can always spot the locals like a sore thumb. They’re either shirtless, fit, barefoot, tanned, or more often than not, all of the above. They’ll say things like “sweet as”, “champs”, “the lift”, “I reckon”, “how you going”, or “heaps”. If they’re a new mother, they’ll look more in shape than you did during your best beach bod days, and if it’s a Friday or Saturday in the early afternoon, they’ll be sitting pretty at an outdoor patio sipping drinks and getting their weekend started early.
Basically, this place is incredible.
So what should you do, eat and see in this magical surfer’s paradise?
Watson’s Bay/The Gap:
Costal Walk: This 14km round trip walk starts at Bondi Beach and ends up at Coogge. Walk or run, but go early if you’re running to avoid crowds.
Gordon’s Bay (part of the Costal Walk):
Sunrise on Bondi Beach:
Manly: A definite must-do day trip near the city. Get there by ferry and beach hop between Shelly Beach, Manly Beach, and Fresh Water Beach.
Sunset at Observatory Hill:
Walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge:
Sydney Opera House (an obvious candidate):
Figure 8 Pools (Garie Beach): Rent a car for the day and drive to Garie beach for low tide (search this up before you go) to see these natural ocean pools, shaped like an 8. There is a price to get into the park ($12/car), so make sure you pay at the information booth at the entrance to the park. The walk to the pools is 3.5km (30-60 minutes) from the parking lot.
Bondi Icebergs: This instafamous pool only costs $6 to get into, and makes the perfect sunny day outing. Pack a lunch and swim some laps while you stand in awe of the beautiful harbour views.
Newtown: This funky neighbourhood is the perfect escape for uni students, or basically anyone, really. Lined with vintage stores, quaint cafes, and cheap Asian restaurants, Newtown is a great afternoon outing. Pair your visit with a trip to the University of Sydney.
Visit the University of Sydney:
Eat lunch at the Grounds of Alexandria: Although this spot is a bit of the way from the city, it truly is a magical place. There are multiple food vendors to choose from, but not all of them will be open on any given day. If you want to eat at the main restaurant and there’s a long line, order takeout instead and sit at one of the many tables in the grounds. It’s quite a bit cheaper and the menu is different. Pro tip: the cookies on the tray below the kitchen window are free, a server came up and told us to help ourselves.
Bondi Markets: Visit on Saturday for food and Sunday for clothing and accessories.
Coogee Pavilion: This bar/restaurant is located at the end of the Costal Walk and is a lot bigger than you might expect. Think chill, but beachy; you will want to spend a night out here reminiscing at the views of the ocean from the second floor balcony. Head downstairs for pizza straight from a wood burning oven, fish and chips, or ice cream.
Opera Bar: Situated right below the opera house and beside the ocean, this bar will make you feel like you’re right in the action of the harbour without the tourist crowds to block your awesome Instagram.
Doughnut Time: Doughnut ask me how much this doughnut cost (okay, fine. It was $6). But zero regret was felt after. Vegan options available, hallelujah!
Bangkok Bites: Expect authentic Thai food served in a mound the size of your head. Worth the $16.90 price tag and the crazy bustle of the restaurant. If you finish your entire meal without needing to take home leftovers, props to you.
Cali Press: Order the Le Chocolate smoothie. You’re welcome.
Gourmet Slice Pizza and Soup Co: Calling all frugal travellers. This place offers a small-ish individual pizza with a glass of wine on the side for a mere $10. Vegan pizza available.
Ryan’s Bar: A corporate feeling outdoor bar with a water fountain in the middle. Stand up, sit down at a table, or wander around looking for eye candy; it’s really up to you! If you’re looking to splurge, order an espresso martini. You can thank me later. (Wine/Beer: $7.5-$14)
The Char Rotisserie: If you’re veggo (vegetarian/vegan) like me, do not be mistaken by the name of this place. Besides rotisserie chicken, they serve up one of the largest selections of mixed salads I’ve ever seen (noodle salads, quinoa salads, bean salads, stir fry etc.). If you order a large for $11.90, they will stuff the takeout container with up to four salads. And when I say stuff, I’m not exaggerating. I’ve never had a food coma from salad prior to eating here.
Speedos Cafe: Expect craziness and a 10% weekend surcharge on Saturdays and Sundays. But, I assure you, you will not regret pushing through the mad rush of this cafe. The food is well worth it, but make sure you flag down a waitress to order. Table turnover is high, so don’ let a long lineup (queue) fool you. Many people are probably waiting for their coffee orders to-go.
Aldi: Okay, so it’s not a restaurant, but it is a really cheap grocery store that also exists in the UK. If you’re running low on money (which is inevitable considering the crazy prices here), it’s a good idea to stock up on a few essentials and cook in your hostel/hotel if you can.
Bohdi: This Asian inspired 100% vegan restaurant is located on the outskirts of Hyde Park, and has a fantastic patio surrounded by lit up trees and red lanterns. Expect dumplings and Asian fusion dishes, all at a reasonable price. For three people we ordered four sharing plates (starters) and the bill came to $42. Order 5 or 6 if you have a large appetite. Beer and wine: $8-15.
Palmer & Co: This bar is owned by the same guy who owns the Coogee Pavilion, and is one of the most difficult Bars I’ve ever tried to find. The bar itself is underground and the sign looks like something out of Harry Potter. 10/10 would recommend.
The Glenmore: You’ll find views galore at this rooftop patio, located in the Rocks (near Circular Quay). Pitchers of beer are $24, and sparkling wine/wine by the glass is about $10.
Mad Mex: Cheap eats for when your wallet is crying and begging you to give it a rest. Burritos are $11.50 and if you’re vegan, guac is included (definitely a first for me)! The burrito is definitely enough to fill you up. If you’re not in the mood for Mexican, there’s also a burger joint next door (at the Crown Street location) that looked really good. The prices were the same and they also had many veg options.
Happy Hour at Darling Harbour: Cheap drinks are a rarity in Sydney, but if you’re in Darling Harbour at between 3-6pm you’ll want to grab a beer or glass of house wine at one of the waterfront restaurants for $5.