Beautiful, gorgeous Sydney; our final stop in Australia & a stunning city. It didn’t hurt that we finally had decent weather after days of rain, but I think even in the gray clouds of downpour you wouldn’t be able to hide its charm.
Sydney Opera House
I’ll get right down to business & give my reading public what they want…the one & only Sydney Opera House!
First off, it didn’t look as big as we expected, based on all the pictures we’d seen. Don’t get me wrong, of course it was big, just not as gargantuan as one might think. I suppose it’s because so many of the pictures are straight on & feature only the opera house, not so much the surrounding buildings.
When you step back & look at it amongst the backdrop of the city, it fits nice & snug right on the edge of the harbor. Also, I swear its more cream rather than white, another trick of the light.
This is why travel friends are the best friends, we got an amazing scoop on the perfect place to snag night shots of the opera house. Our friends we visited in Wollongong had recently popped up to Sydney for some experimentation in night photography. They got some amazing shots so naturally Ben wanted to try his hand at it too. We couldn’t believe the top of our little tower was completely empty despite the touristy day crowds. It was lovely as we could take our time & set up the perfect shot without being rushed or knocked over by the ever-present selfie stick groups.
We arrived in Sydney on the day of the emphasis Melbourne Cup. Yes, I realize the irony that we were in Melbourne just a few days prior but hadn’t timed our visit well enough to be in town for the actual race. But perhaps that was for the best.
Think of the Melbourne Cup as the Kentucky Derby, arguably the most well-known & most anticipated horse race of the season. However, there is one major difference – it’s a holiday in the state of Victoria. You read that right, the entire state gets the day off & takes a hiatus for race day. So, take our Kentucky Debry, put it on a Tuesday instead of the weekend & give everyone the day off. It’s a massive party.
For those geographically challenged, Sydney is not in Victoria but the state of New South Wales. Therefore, it wasn’t “technically” a holiday but it may as well have been. The streets, bars & our hotel were jammed packed with partygoers in their festive attire, fascinators (arguably Britain’s greatest world contribution). Given the raucous party happening in the hotel bar by a major consulting firm that shall remain nameless, many well meaning companies go ahead & grant a reprieve for their employees anyways.
One afternoon, we decided to hop on one of the abundant ferry options in the harbour & take a day trip out to Watsons Bay. The waterway system is incredibly easy to navigate & extremely affordable. Due to this plenty of little “towns” have popped up along the numerous smaller bays linning the harbour. I am still baffled as to why the U.S., especially the D.C. area, cannot make better use of its natural waterways for transport. Legit – if anyone from D.C. planning is reading this please contact me for ideas.
Surprise number one we learned about Sydney’s beautiful beaches is that a few of them are nude beaches. We’d trekked all over Europe but apparently our only experience with nude beaches would be in Australia.
No, there are no photos, so you’ll have to take my word for it that locals were indeed basking in the sun at Lady Bay Beach. Despite its name, there were no ladies to be found. We did not choose to join in this native activity.
But the bay is gorgeous - a well-maintained walking path will lead you out to the point & old Hornby Lighthouse.
Before your return trip, stop into the quaint Milk Bar & General Store for a coffee or ice-cream treat.
Here in Sydney we had our last chance to enjoy our beloved Free Walking Tours. You may recall we did these almost every other day in each city we visited throughout Europe. As it was our last, we weren’t going to skimp out, we double dipped hitting up both the AM & PM tours. We got crazy with it.
We strolled through the beautiful city sights - Queen Victoria Building, Circular Quay, the “Rum Hospital” & learned the slightly messed up history of building the Opera House. The architect, Jørn Utzon, never even got to see his final masterpiece after he was more or less forced out of Australia. Kinda harsh guys don’t you think?
But the delicious bits were in the evening tour of “The Rocks”, site of Sydney’s first European settlements. This walk down memory lane is littered with tales of bank robbery, murder, prostitution & other sorts of debauchery; an ode to Britain’s idea of sending its best & brightest to it’s new colony. It was fascinating to learn of the area’s history, especially as its colonization was just beginning while we, the U.S., had just recently won our independence.
Or if general history bores you “The Rocks” is also home to three separate pubs that all claim to be the oldest in Sydney. You can take your own historical self-guided pub crawl.
It felt weird to be closing out our time in Australia, sad in a way. It all seemed so familiar, so comfortable, that we easily could have set up shop & never left. This beautiful & vast country is so diverse, full of many wonderful things to see & some of the nicest people we’d come to know. It isn’t a hard bet to make that we’ll be back someday for another adventure down under.