If it’s a Friday afternoon and you are heading towards one of Australia’s biggest cities without any booked accommodation – don’t expect to find any.
We had spent the last 2 months out on the beautiful blue water of Cairns or up high in the Atherton Tablelands, so if I’m totally honest I wasn’t really looking forward to visiting the highly populated urban sprawl of Sydney. We naively thought that we could just rock up to somewhere and stay without any problems, which luckily we did, but not before trying 5 or 6 other places that were fully booked!
We were lucky enough to come across the YHA ‘Railway Square’, a spotless, recently refurbished and air–conditioned hostel. We happily paid for 4 nights at $131 per night for the 5 of us. It couldn’t have been in a better location, extremely central, adjoining the central train station and most interestingly offering bedrooms that were converted railway carriages. It was great for exploring the city and also relaxing by the hostel pool, using their free wifi and lighting up a BBQ whenever we wanted.
The main reason for venturing into Sydney was to ‘tick it off the list’, and however much a reputation that phrase has – Sydney has one of the most famous landmarks in the world – The Sydney Opera House. Our first day was full of all things ‘touristy’ – we caught a train into the centre and hopped on the ferry towards Manly Beach, past the spectacular Opera House, looking back I wish I had captured that moment with more photos and detail in my journal. The weather was fantastic and everything about the structure of the Opera House was mesmerising. We enjoyed lunch on the promenade and a day lazing around the golden coastline, only coming out of the sea to avoid the next wave of Blue Bottle jelly fish! It was exactly how I had always imagined Australia, bikini clad women and bronzed surfer dudes everywhere…
I was fortunate enough to get in contact with another British friend who was in Sydney at the time for a family wedding. We met up for the day and being Chinese New Year the celebrations were in full swing with parties and boat races everywhere. The Harbour was a hive of activity and everyone was out for a good time. We explored the markets and then decided to sign our lives away and spent $40 dollars to be taken by speed boat passed the famous opera house, we were strapped in and the captain enjoyed testing us with fast speeds and turns almost tipping us over at one point. A wicked adrenaline rush, that made us hungry, so we headed to ‘The Rocks’ to enjoy the stunning views of Darling Harbour and have drinks in the sunshine, followed by some of the best pancakes I have ever had at ‘Pancakes on the Rocks’.
That evening we, of course, wanted to see the Harbour at night and headed straight to The Royal Opera House. We wondered around this impressive building trying to photograph its awesomeness. It looked just incredible lit up in the dark blue sky; absolutely nothing I write could ever do it justice. Not long after we spotted a restaurant on the harbour and headed towards it to grab an outside table with that stunning view. Now, we had noticed that Billy Connelly had been doing a few Opera House shows over that weekend, but we were not expecting to bump into him at that very moment. Dressed all in black and clean-shaven (for once) he strolled casually with what looked like a friend but more likely a bodyguard towards his Saturday night gig. He is known to scout the area before his show to gather ammunition for his local audience! We stopped him briefly to say hello and tell how much we admired him, he graciously greeted us back. As an avid fan it naturally made my dad’s trip, especially as some of our trip was inspired by Billy’s wild adventures!
Although I hadn’t been that excited for Sydney it ended up being one of the most fun, vibrant cities I’d visited in Australia, a far cry from the ghost city of Canberra and the European feel of Melbourne. I would genuinely return any time to explore more of the city, with its hot, sandy beaches and glamorous Darling Harbour – it’s got so much to offer!