When I decided to head to Sydney, Australia for five and a half days to visit my friend and fellow travel blogger, Ali, I knew I had to be very strategic about how I used my time. After all, how does one spend just five whole days in one of the most dynamic cities in the world? Well, you have to prioritize.
Before arriving in Sydney, I sent my friend a few things I was hoping to check out while Down Under:
- See the Sydney Opera House
- See a kangaroo and/or a koala
- Visit Bondi Beach and the Icebergs Club
- Hike in the Blue Mountains
- Go wine tasting
These are somewhat reasonable requests for a five-day visit, right? Right.
We ended up doing everything on my list and more — a feat that resulted in an incredible stay in Sydney and my vow to one day return and explore more of this Australian gem. Here's how we spent five days in Sydney, Australia:
Unfortunately my first full day in Sydney started off with very shaky weather, but that didn't mean we couldn't do anything. After a quiet morning indoors watching the rain come down, we headed for The Grounds, a popular place comprised of a cafe, restaurant and a resident pig (yes, a live one). Known for their signature avocado toast and Instagram-worthy dishes, The Grounds is a great place to go for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just dessert.
After spending a few hours walking around the young and hipster-ish neighborhood of Newtown, we headed to happy hour at King Street Brewhouse, a bar situated right along the King Street Wharf with views of Sydney's Darling Harbour. An alternative to this (and something I did my first non-full day in Sydney) is to explore the Rocks District, Darling Harbour and the Central Business District, making sure to pass by the Sydney Opera House during your walking tour.
Our day ended with what is now one of my favorite travel moments of 2015 (and ever!) — a sunset sail around Sydney Harbour with OzCat Luxury Catamaran Cruises and Travel Massive. By the start of our sail, the pouring rain from the morning was a distant memory as sunshine and blue skies emerged from behind dark clouds. It was an incredible way to see the city and something I highly recommend for anyone visiting Sydney.
After enjoying one of my many chai lattes (Sydney makes amazing chai lattes! And coffee, but I'm not a coffee drinker), my friend and I headed out to go to see some koalas. Instead of Taronga Zoo, we decided to visit the Koala Park Sanctuary. I admit, it's a little far from the city center and there were only three koalas at the time of our visit (not sure three qualifies as a sanctuary), but it was a fun experience to see my very first koala and pet a few kangaroos.
We then went to Paddington Markets to check out the wares of local designers and artists. I love markets, particularly ones that showcase the items crafted by residents of that city. Paddington Markets gave me the opportunity to stroll around a new neighborhood and buy something unique from one of the market stalls.
After all that market shopping and koala/kangaroo petting, it was time for a drink. Luckily, The Paddington, named after the neighborhood, was nearby and provided a list of delicious cocktails in a trendy yet approachable setting.
We then walked over to neighboring Darlinghurst, home to many a cute restaurant and the Buffalo Dining Club aka cheese and pasta heaven. The menu is small but mighty, full of cheeses, prosciutto, vegetables and pasta. This indulgent and delicious form of heaven was followed by the BEST gelato I've ever had (sorry, Italy), Messina. Anyone who visits Sydney needs to go there and order the pannacotta gelato with fig jam and amaretti biscuit. Your life will change for the better.
Beach day! After my habitual chai latte, my friend, her roommate and I set out to Coogee Beach, one end of the famous Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. We started in Coogee, mainly because it was closer for us to reach and also because we wanted to eat at Coogee Pavilion, a massive space with beautiful views of the beach and fun activities for the whole family.
After lunch, we leisurely walked along the coast, stopping every few minutes to take pictures of the incredible scenery and beaches. My favorite areas were Gordon's Bay, Clovelly Beach and, of course, Bondi Beach. The Icebergs Club, situated right next to Bondi, was as stunning in person as it is in pictures (and by pictures, I mean Instagram).
Our beach day ended with a stop at Bondi Junction and dinner in Newtown. The neighborhood's main drag, King Street, has an endless array of restaurants — ranging from Thai to Spanish tapas to modern Australian and even a vegan restaurant where you pay what you'd like.
This was our wine tasting day in Hunter Valley, one of Australia's well-known wine regions. We took a tour that left Sydney around 8 a.m. and drove about 2 1/2 hours north to the valley. Our day consisted of wine tastings at four vineyards (full recap coming soon!), a chocolate tasting and one of the best memories of my trip — feeding raw carrots to wild kangaroos. It was amazing!
After our tour, we headed back to Sydney and walked over to the popular neighborhood of Surry Hills, where we strolled around and had great sushi at Katsu Yachiyo.
My last full day ended with a trip to the gorgeous Blue Mountains. The scenic journey takes two hours on the train and offers several Blue Mountains stops along the way. My friend and I decided to exit at the Wentworth Falls stop, where we had lunch and then hiked for almost three hours. This particular route included countless waterfalls, where people swam and cooled down from the hot weather, and unbelievable views of the mountains. It was an amazing way to end our trip, and it's something else I highly recommend for anyone who visits Sydney.
After our hike, we headed back to Sydney for dinner, once again in Newtown (can you tell my friend lived there?). The latin fusion restaurant, ExotiK, while interestingly named, was delicious and the perfect last meal for my stay in Sydney.
While it was a busy five days in Sydney, it was also a really fantastic five days. Thank you, Sydney and Ali in Oz, for an unforgettable time Down Under. Can't wait until my return!