AUSTRALIA pt 2: MY ‘SYDNEY TOP 10’


Across the world, countless bloggers have majored on Australia as a destination; there’s also a ceaseless stream of toned and fashionable Australians who dominate a casual perusal of the Instagram ‘Explore’ screen as if the algorithm is calibrated to go overweight Aussie beauty! My experiences, however, are just that; my own, not ‘new’, but just from me. That said, I sure as hell did my research before arriving in Sydney, systematically surveying every single Australian I know, then distilling their collective output into a one-week, extensive plan of attack! Indeed, having done-and-dusted with my experience in the Great Barrier Reef, pursued my full Sydney scheme precisely as it was sketched out, it gives me great joy to recount and depict the choicest of experiences here to you dear reader, whether you’re just curious or are planning an adventurous ‘Active Escape’ of your own! This post makes up Part 2 of the Australia series – and I sense there will be countless more parts to follow upon my future return to that magnificent country! I discovered an outdoor-dwelling society, predisposed to health and fitness, blessed with supreme weather and a fresh fish-based diet, in a culturally diverse and well-invested city where inhabitants genuinely smile. In fact it’s so good, this could conceivably be ‘home’ one day! Click MORE to discover my Top 10 experiences in Sydney…

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  1. POWER-WALKING THROUGH THE ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN…

Just south of the iconic Circular Quay, and with an unconstrained view of the key landmarks from Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, a walk through the lush and fertile exotic gardens both lifts the sense and culminates with as good a view from the Rocks as you’ll get of the Harbour. For a clear empty run of it, going early in the day seems to be the trick to avoid tour-bus overload, but if you do go around lunchtime, you’ll see dozens of Sydney-siders running sprint circuits up and down Mrs. Macquarie’s Stairs!

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2. HIKING FROM COOGEE TO BONDI…

Not for the faint of heart, and requiring somewhat of a comfortable pair of shoes, THIS is an 8.1km hike, lasting around 100 minutes. The wind howls on this part of the rugged coastline, the waves are treacherous, but the views are breathtaking and really quite awe-inspiring. Whether you just want to take in the coastline, breathe the air, bask in the sunshine, or admire the ocean-view properties, it is a superb walk. The path takes you through the lush and verdant Gordon’s Bay, the tranquil and striking Waverley Cemetery in which thousands of souls proudly look eternally out to sea, the Hunter Sculpture park, Bronte Bay (a surfer’s mecca), ending up on the iconic Bondi Beach.

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3. OBSERVING ICEBERGS…

An iconic saltwater swimming pool, supplied and replenished by the crashing waves below; positioned at the commencement of the sweeping Bondi crescent, Icebergs is somewhat of a must, and is the natural conclusion of your Coogee-to-Bondi excursion, welcoming you as a refreshing iceberg after the desert hike! Note, it’s empty Thursday mornings for cleaning, so avoid it then (d’oh!). If you want some other epic places to swim, try North Sydney Pool (under the north side of the Bridge), or Andrew Boy Charlton pool on the far side of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

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4. DINNER AROUND BONDI BEACH…

…wandering the length of the crescent, I stumbled upon an understated beachfront joint called Sean’s Panorama, which I later discovered is somewhat of a hard-to-book legendary institution. We happened upon an early table outside for sunset, bathed in the enrobing crepuscular light, and whiled the evening away with delicious fresh Australian fish dishes, typifying the relaxed approach to life, serving what’s caught on the day, per the Chef’s whim. At the other end of the spectrum, the 6 am Bondi Rush is something to behold, as the locals walk dogs, swim before work, and generally recouple with their beloved outdoors lifestyle before the day begins. Learning to surf is somewhat of a tourism box-ticker here, so if you haven’t, why not…

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5. VISITING THE OPERA HOUSE…

…But not just seeing it, actually going to a performance in the cavernous Sydney Opera House ‘Concert Hall’. Same day concessionaires tickets were literally 20 GBP per head for central stalls seats, to see the country’s most distinguished orchestra (Sydney Symphony) present their rendition of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Which was unusual, but utterly stunning, and a sonic treat to hear this remarkable sound-stage turned up to full texture and max volume! It struck me how much of a difference there was between the building from a distance (stunning), and the building up close (just like The Barbican in EC2, all brutalist and concrete). There’s a pretty stunning bar under the facility, with a terrace that looks directly at the Bridge, and is a sublime choice for a sunset tipple. Just beware of the confident seagulls!

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6. CLIMBING THE BRIDGE…

Something I didn’t do. Why? The prohibitive cost of the activity, and the prohibition of any photographic media or even mobile phones! It’s basically as expensive to climb as it is to fly over in a private helicopter, which doesn’t sound right to me! So instead of climbing it, I took a lunch or two directly beneath it at the exquisite Park Hyatt, and snapped this shot of some chaps at the summit!

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7. TAKE THE FERRY TO MANLY BAY…

Leaving from Circular Quay, almost regardless of the destination, this is one of the best ways to see the headline sights of Sydney, per the below images 😍

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8. GO ON SAFARI…

… well perhaps not quite, but Taronga Zoo is hands down the best zoo I’ve ever visited. There are many who are conflicted about the concept of animals in captivity, including myself; what I saw at this zoo was the greatest effort being made to provide an environment as close to the natural one as possible. There were exceptions, of course, some of which I struggle with, but as an admirer of nature, I was thrilled and exhilarated to see such a broad repertoire of incredible creatures, up so close. There are a significant number of photos included below to show you just how personal the encounters are with some of the most majestic beasts.

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9. SEEK OUT COFFEE…

I love the stuff. Every Australian worth their salt loves the stuff. This place would seem to be the source of the hipster coffee shop invasion which took over London around 2-3 years ago, chief amongst them being Taylor Street Baristas. I tried around 10 of the most recommended coffee shops in Sydney, and through a totally unscientific, unmethodical approach involving randomness and amateur tasting notes, I have crowned a winner; Motown Coffee, details HERE.

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10. SAMPLE LUNCHES…

Two iconic venues I discovered:

  • Catalina – Rose Bay. (http://catalinarosebay.com.au ) Sublime fresh food, and pure theatre inside. Clean white lines and a vast glass panorama revealing the sea-plane landing strip before you in the bay (the restaurant takes its name from the class of iconic seaplane https://www.catalina.org.uk), guests are just fabulously clad, wearing extravagant and exquisite dresses even for a light brunch. Unaware of this, I wasn’t! The food itself, however, is presented in no less spectacular a fashion, with a dedication to the symmetrical and ordered. The entire place feels extremely clean and fresh, with a light, vaguely hedonistic vibe pervading the volumes, never straying into the ostentatious. This is a slam-dunk great ‘occasion’ lunch for a trip to Sydney!
  • Otto Ristorante. (https://ottoristorante.com.au/sydney/) Just on Cowper Wharf in Woolloomooloo, and from the fringes of the CBD, this is the best place at which to recover strength after a stroll around the Botanical Gardens. Delivering fresh Italian inspired Australian fare, the Humpty Doo baby barramundi with lemon and evoo was a particular hit for me!
  • Other venues repeatedly recommended to me:
    • Eastern Suburbs: Lox, Stock and Barrell (Bondi Beach), Bondi Tratoria, Trio (Bondi Beach), Speedo Cafe (Bondi Beach), Brown Sugar (Bondi Beach), Three Blue Ducks (Bronte), Bake Bar (Randwick).
    • Inner City: Kepos St Kitchen (Alexandria),  The Gorunds (Alexandria), Aqua Dining (above North Sydney Pool),
    • North Shore: Thelma and Louise (Neutral Bay), Burnt Orange (Mosman), The Boathouse Balmoral Beach, The Boathouse Shelley Beach (Manly), The Boathouse Palm Beach.

That’s my list! Now, I bid you, do go and explore this fabulous, versatile playground!!!

Faya x