Australia March-April 2016 Trip Report, Part 1 - Sydney

Hello everyone,

At the end of March Jon and I took an epic trip Down Under for the very first time! It had been my dream for a very long time to visit Australia, but because of our continually hectic schedule, and the cost and amount of travelling involved, it had not really been possible up until now.

We flew to Sydney from Washington Dulles via San Francisco (and the same in reverse), which amounted to about 29 hours door to door travelling each way, and nearly 20,000 miles total roundtrip milage.

About a week before, we had ordered our Australian dollars.

On the way out, in San Francisco before the long haul part of the flight, we used our United Club passes to take advantage of the free food and drinks, comfy chairs and decent internet connection. It was a nice way to start the trip. We also were lucky enough to fly in Economy Plus and have extra legroom/exit row seats, which made a big difference on such a long journey.

On the outbound flight we had to fill out landing cards for Australia. I don't usually go into this kind of detail, but Australia was a big deal for us, so I wanted to document everything. Upon leaving we also had to fill out a card, which I thought was a pointless process, but it is what it is.

When we arrived at Sydney airport, we took a taxi to our hotel. Our hotel for the first part of our Sydney stay was the Wyndham Asia Pacific Resort, which was pretty close to Hyde Park and the main downtown areas. The taxi cost AUS$52, which included the "tip". We discovered that airport taxis have a built in fee, and therefore you don't actually tip the driver, like you would in the US or some other countries.

I'm going to put this next part here, even though it was a little later in the trip, because it fits with the airport theme before we move on. Later in the trip we went back to the airport to rent a car, and while there I saw these guys greeting people arriving. I'll admit, I never caught the name of the group they belonged to, but they were actually native Australian people, who just happened to work at the airport in their traditional wear! I thought that was really neat. There were more of these guys, but I could only get a photo of these three.

Keeping with the airport theme, when we left Sydney at the end of our trip, I thought these M&Ms displays in the duty free area were funny, with their distinct Australian twist. Speaking of departures, we were a little surprised at the lack of food options on the departures side of the airport because, as I'll go into in the next part of my report, dining in Sydney was really good.

So, back to the taxi! We arrived at our hotel pretty quickly, and thankfully, even though it was early in the morning, our room was ready. We were grateful to be able to go and freshen up after such a long journey. We were both really impressed with the room. It featured separate living/dining and bedroom areas, and a kitchenette.

Now, for the sake of easiness, I'm going to break each part of Sydney down into sections, because we did go back and forth a lot, and if I was to write everything in order, you would be reading about the same places over and over. So it's best I keep things together.

I'm going to start with the Botanic Gardens. The Botanic Gardens take a large amount of land on the northern tip of the main downtown Sydney core. They contain an abundance of plants, trees and wildlife, and run all the way down to the waterfront, where you find yourself at the Sydney Opera House and the harbour. Walking through the gardens on several occasions, we were amazed at the different kinds of trees and plants, and the birds! There were such beautiful exotic birds just flying freely around - and not just in the gardens, even in the city areas, too (as seen by the white bird on the streetlight in the one photo below)!

As I said, from the Botanic Gardens you arrive at the Opera House and the harbour. We didn't see a show at the Opera House on this occasion, but someday when we return, it would be pretty neat to do.

Around the harbour area were shops and restaurants, and of course boats. You could take numerous ferries and tours out from the docks around the harbour, which visited places such as Darling Harbour, Manly, and Watsons Point. We took the ferries out numerous times. It was a really scenic and actually affordable way to travel. The fares were capped each day at AUS$15 (or close to it if it wasn't exactly $15), and so once you made about three trips (destination depending, of course) the rest of the day was free. The transport network in Sydney is on the Opal network, which is available throughout much of New South Wales. With this system, you only need one pass, which you can top up, and you can use it as far as the network goes. I've included some additional photos below of when we took the ferry further afield, seeing as it fits under this one topic nicely.

South of the Botanic Gardens, and near our hotel was Hyde Park. It was a pretty park, but didn't offer too much. There were however some funny signs about trees (below). Walking through Hyde Park was one of the first things we did, as it was close to the hotel, and so one of my first thoughts about Australia was about the trees and weather. It occurred to me while walking through the park that there were leaves on the ground. I know that Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, and of course the seasons are flipped, but I was actually surprised to see autumn leaves on the ground in such a tropical climate.

With regards to the weather I mentioned above, you'll notice in some photos above, and coming below, that some days it was quite overcast and on one occasion was rainy. The weather was still very warm though, especially for autumn, and we didn't let some clouds stop us from having the best time!

Across the harbour from the main core of Sydney, there was an amusement park called Luna Park. It was situated almost directly under the harbour bridge, on the waterfront, with its own ferry stop back to the city. We visited one day for a couple of hours just to look around, and while it was just a small city amusement park, it was a pretty fun place. The highlight though was the fact that they had the Angry Birds there greeting! We also had lunch there, and were impressed with the quality and quantity of the food for a small scale amusement park. We also tried their hot donuts, which were nice.

We walked up to the Sydney Observatory one afternoon to take a look around and take in the views. The observatory isn't that big, but it was interesting nonetheless, and the views were indeed really good.

Near Chinatown was a place called Paddy's Markets, which was part of a larger marketplace/mall complex. We went there one Saturday to take a look around, and actually ended up buying a lot of souvenirs there. In a strange way, it reminded me of some of the markets you can find in Hong Kong. It had a similar vibe to it.

Finally for this part, as it is getting quite long now, I wanted to mention one other hotel. On the return part of our journey we stayed one night at the Adina Apartment Hotel near Sydney airport. It wasn't bad at all. Not as nice as the Wyndham, but we really had no complaints, and it was very close to the train station for ease of access to both the main downtown part of the city and the airport.

Ok, that's it for part one! In a few days I'll post part two, which will cover more of Sydney before we move on to our road trip up through New South Wales!

Have a great day everyone,