The people of Sydney were really the highlight of my trip. I experienced so much generosity and kindness throughout my trip in Australia. Even though Sydney is a huge city, most people are patient and more than willing to make you feel at home. I loved talking to people and hearing their perspective. It is a travesty to lump in this city as being “American.” It is far from it. The phrase “no worries” really sums their attitude. They are so easygoing and refreshing to be around. My Sydney Guide highlights why the people make Australia so great.
This is part 3 of 3 of my Sydney Guide. Part one focuses on setting up your trip to Sydney and training while there (where to bike, swim, and run). Part 2 focuses on the best places to see and the best places to eat and drink. This post includes the best night life, what to see, and a view into the local culture. Make sure you check out the previous 2 posts!
Grab a Beer at the Pub and Have a True Australian Experience
Going out at night in Sydney does not mean getting trashed. Australians love to go to the pub and chat. It is a great chance to go and catch up with some mates. Most conversation is had over a beer and Australians love having a few (you won’t find them drinking Fosters!). Most of the beers are on the lager side similar to a Budweiser. Aussies sit and enjoy a drink while catching up on a good conversation. The pub atmosphere is great for this. You can head to a pub and easily meet countless Aussies. Great pubs are all across the city.
My favorite pub was The Wanderer in Surry Hills. They had great beers on tap (they even brewed their own APA and IPA). The bar could be considered “hipster” especially since they have video games in the back. However, the atmosphere is really fun and relaxed. I felt at home immediately. They also have great food specials. I had carnitas with tots. It was actually really good and only $10 AUD. I really enjoyed hanging out at The Wanderer. Surry Hills in general has a lot of laid back bars and pubs. Newtown is like this as well. Make sure you check out to grab some great beers with friends.
The hipster Wanderer Pub – from their site
Hit the Club to Dance the Night Away
The club scene is Sydney is also quite happening. Oxford Street is the gay street in Sydney. Here you can find all sorts of different experiences. From craft beer bars to full on clubs. Of course most of these are gay clubs. I had a great time with my friend checking out Arq on Oxford Street with my friend. The music was amazing and people were there just to dance and have fun. It was such a break from the typical club scene where you have “guys on the prowl.” Don’t be afraid of checking out a few gay clubs; they are really fun and different. I had a blast. Any Sydney Guide would be incomplete without them.
If you’re interested in more of a typical club experience, Kings Cross is the spot. Here you can find all sorts of dive bars and cheap drinks. Also there are some fun clubs. I did not get a chance to check it out, but I heard it was a good time. It can be a little more on the seedy side so keep that in mind. Ivy in the CBD is also a good time (think pool bar combined with rooftop bar).
Ivy Rooftop Pool Bar in the CBD
Clubs close around 4 am, but they have a “lockout” rule at 1:30 AM. This basically means you can’t get in after this time. So make sure you are where you want to be. They also have weird rules about buying certain drinks after certain times. Yes, Australia is a bit of a nanny state! Crocodile Dundee wasn’t saying throw me the knife. It was more like wrap it in plastic and duct tape and hand it gingerly to me.
Awesome Architecture: The Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge
The sites around city are all really well kept and beautiful. You can tell people really care about their city. There is little trash on the ground and everything is maintained very well. You can’t go to Sydney without a trip to the iconic Opera House. The Opera House history is incredible in itself. The foresight and development that went into it was groundbreaking. The design was actually rejected at first, but on further review it was accepted. The structure is awe inspiring inside and out. It has changed the image of the entire country.
You can take a tour of the inside of the Opera House which is truly incredible. All the glass is pitched at such an angle so that you will never see a reflection. Every detail was accounted for as all the rooms are airy and open. You can spend hours admiring the curves and styling. The largest opera room is one of the highlights. It contains the largest functioning organ in the world. If you can catch a symphony there, you will be in for a once in a lifetime experience. After exploring, be sure to grab a drink at the nearby Opera Bar.
Get to Know the Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is another iconic piece of Sydney history. It was built in the 1920s yet had the foresight to include eight lanes for traffic and two rail lines! No one died in its construction despite the lack of safety harnesses. The bridge is an amazing testament to Australian work ethic and construction. You can do the bridge walk although it is really expensive ($280 AUD). This involves walking on top of the bridge and checking out the harbor views. You can also climb the Pylon Lookout for a lot cheaper (insider Sydney guide). Probably the best way to experience the bridge is to walk or run across at night. You will have amazing views of the harbor and The Sydney Opera House. The lights of the skyline are inspiring. Do not miss out on checking out this inspiring piece of architecture.
Explore the Historic Rocks and the Royal Botanical Garden
The Rocks Area contains a lot of history. This is where you can see buildings that have existed since Australia was founded. Many businesses still operate out of these buildings making them living history. Juxtapose this area with the skyscrapers around Sydney and you find a welcoming area of the city. The best place to explore The Rocks is on foot. Wander the small allies and check out the shops. There is also a market there on Saturdays boasting all Australian made merchandise.
Near The Opera House you can find beautiful Botanical Gardens. I ran through here and wanted to stop every five seconds to take pictures. There are beautifully tended flowers, plants, and trees. There is also a lot of cool sculptures. It is definitely a place to wander through aimlessly. Get lost in the flowers and beauty.
Get High and Go Find the Hogwarts of Sydney
Westfield Tower is a really cool experience. Seeing the city from 80+ floors up is a trip. I went there and had a nice meal in the evening time about an hour before sunset. The whole tower actually rotates so you get a view of the whole city. The food was ok, but it is definitely worth going to check out the views even if you just get some drinks. Go just before sunset so you can get day time views AND sunset/night views. It is a really fun experience and one of the first things you should do.
The view from the top of Westfield Tower
Walking through the old part of The University of Sydney is literally feels like walking through Hogwarts. The school is in the heart of Newtown and if you’re in the area, you should definitely check it out. The buildings are heavily influenced by the British architecture style and they have been maintained beautifully. It is worth walking through the halls to feel like a wizard J. While you’re in the area check out all the cool little shops Newtown has to offer. Coffee is super abundant here and worth a taste.
Hop on a Ferry
Sydney decided to add ferries as part of its public transit system. As if they did not already have enough transportation options. It only costs $5 AUD to get on a ferry and you can use your Optus card. You can go all the way to Manly beach or even to the Olympic village. The Olympic village is a fun ferry ride because it heads down the river and is pretty far. It is a good time to relax and enjoy the sites. If did not get a chance to do this, but if you have time I would do it.
The ferry to Manly beach is also very popular. It takes an hour on the city ferry, but you can take a fast ferry if you want to pay more (only takes 30 minutes). I was a bit limited on time so I took a ferry across the harbor from Circular Quay to Darling Harbor. Even this little trip was incredible. The views of the city were fantastic especially at twilight. Timing your ferry ride with sunset would be a pro move. You can take ferries everywhere across the city. Other popular destinations are Taronga Zoo and Cockatoo Island. Ferries are a great way to get around the city and see a lot. Try to take as many as you can.
Sunset view on the ferry
Become a Beach Bum
If Sydney didn’t have enough already, it also has some iconic beaches. Bondi Beach is the most well-known. The best way to get to Bondi is by bus. I could see from my first views of Bondi that there was a reason for this. Its half-moon shape sticks out in all pictures. It is a great place to sit and chill. If you’re adventurous you can grab a surf board and ride the iconic waves. There are plenty of surf shops nearby for lessons. Keep in mind the water is not tropical and cool. The swimming is limited to a small area between the flags. Stay in this area! People need to be rescued at Bondi all the time due to the strong currents.
From Bondi, you can walk towards Bronte Beach along the coast. This is an awesome walk and a must see. I also recommend getting up to Watson Bay. The best way is to take an Uber or taxi. There are some beautiful walking tracks along the coast. I could have sat and watched the waves crashing on the cliffs forever.
Iconic Bondi Beach
Manly Beach is another huge destination. Grab the ferry as mentioned previously. Manly is a bit more built up than Bondi. Here you can find great shopping and better restaurants. You can easily spend a whole day here. Don’t skimp on the sunscreen (for real there’s limited ozone in Australia) and hit the beaches. The culture is even more laid back. The beaches are a great break from the hustle and bustle of the city. They are so close and easily accessible.
“No Worries Mate”
This iconic Australian phrase embodies Australia and Sydney. The people here are so friendly and laid back. They seem to carry a different attitude about life than Americans. Everything they do is to enjoy their lives. They definitely work to play. Aussies are not afraid to help with anything you need. Whether it is what beer to get or where to go. Ask and people will surprise you! They really live with no worries and they want your visit to be the same.
I got to experience the generosity of Aussies multiple times. Whether it was an Aussie on the beach letting us use his surfboard to return later while he ran an errand or the girl in charge of the bike shop letting us return our bikes well after hours, Aussies were beyond friendly. I really felt at home in Sydney and I almost forgot I was traveling. Everything was so easy to get to and I never felt unsafe. I was never worried to ask for something or talk to someone. People bought me many drinks and made me feel at home anytime I went to the bar.
Living the “no worries attitude”
I enjoyed meeting many Aussies across Sydney since they always had something intelligent to say. They were so welcoming and I was just happy that I was able to share their culture. Make sure when you visit that you connect with locals. They will make you feel at home and more welcome in a foreign land than any other place you have visited.
Are You Booking Your Flight to Sydney Yet?
I hope I convinced you of how amazing Sydney is. It is a healthy, vibrant city with a new surprise around every corner. If you want to keep training for your race you can. If you want to explore cuisines from around the world that’s easy. Best of all you can go relax on the beach when you’ve had too much of the city. Sydney really brings it on all fronts.
Sydney is a must visit and an easy one at that. You will feel at home immediately. It really won’t even feel like traveling. The best places to go out and sites to see are:
- Check out the awesome pubs in Surry Hills and Newtown (check out Hogwarts while you’re there)
- Get your dance on in Kings Cross or the CBD (classier)
- Check out the Opera House, The Rocks, The Royal Botanical Gardens, The Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Westfield Tower
- Grab a ferry to just about anywhere
- Check out all the awesome beaches
- Connect with local and see why it is so different than the US
Sydney is really unique and beautiful. It is really a cosmopolitan city that has something for everyone. Try to spend as much time as you can soaking up everything. I hope you enjoyed my Sydney Guide Blog series. Check out the parts one and two if you haven’t yet!
Opera House at night from the Harbour Bridge
Let me know what you think about visiting Sydney. Are you planning a trip there? Where is Sydney on your bucket list? What are you must visit destinations? Let me know in the comments. As always email me with any questions. This was part 3 of my Sydney Travel Guide. Part one focuses on setting up your trip to Sydney and training while there (where to bike, swim, and run). Part 2 focuses on the best places to see and the best places to eat and drink. Make sure you check out the previous 2 posts!
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