Welcome back to another edition of The Classic Rock Lifestyle! In this post, I’ll be talking about the first part of my honeymoon (after getting off the plane of course since that was a journey itself). My husband and I spent a week in Sydney and we loved it.
In this post, I’ll talk about some cool things to do in Sydney: the neighbourhoods, restaurants (mostly vegan/vegetarian of course), landmarks, shops, and of course, beaches.
Getting to Sydney from the airport is quite easy and fast. A little too easy and fast, considering the price. It didn’t take long to experience sticker shock.
We arrived very early in the morning (like 5-6 AM) and we couldn’t check into the Airbnb until noon so we sat around in the airport for about an hour to get a plan. We would take a train to Central Station, store our bags at the bag storage place and walk around for a bit to kill time.
It’s great when a city has a direct train link to the airport. I loved that about Chicago, New York, and London. When you take a train to the airport, usually it’s more expensive. In Chicago, there’s a small airport fee (an extra $2.75) when you leave the O’Hare Airport from the Blue Line L station (not when you go to the airport though, which is nice), no fee if you’re leaving from Midway though, which is nice.
I knew Australia was going to be expensive, but $16-17 to get from the airport to Sydney expensive? No, I would have thought you were joking about the price. Even taking the airport train to Oslo was (slightly) cheaper. The station access fee alone is $13.80 for adults and $12.40 for kids, then you add on the fare which is $3-4. It took maybe 20 minutes to get to Central Station from the airport. It was cheaper to go to the Blue Mountains, which was about 2 hours away by train. It cost about $5 to go there (off-peak).
I could talk all day about the specifics of Sydney’s public transport, but that’s a bit boring. In a nutshell, the further you travel, the more you pay (generally); if you travel during off-peak time, you pay less; there’s daily and weekly fare capping and a $2.50 cap on Sundays; and there’s no need to take the touristy guided ferries or water taxis – the public ferries are nice and offer the same exact views of the harbour for way less. Read about the history beforehand and then just sit back and enjoy the view. Another travel hack: if you have say $3 left on your card before you leave for the airport you can get out at the airport station and have a negative balance on your Opal Card, which you can then throw away or keep as a souvenir.
The reason things are more expensive in Australia (and Scandinavia) is because the wages are way higher than in the US or Ireland. The national minimum wage in Australia is $18.29. Some employees get higher pay on weekends and public holidays (in the US however, that’s up to the company: I’ve never heard of people getting extra pay for working on Sundays, and as for public holidays, sometimes).
The focus here is on cheap/free because getting to Australia is expensive as it is. Sydney has a wide variety of neighbourhoods.
Darling Harbour and Barangaroo is a nice area with lots of expensive shops. There’s a pirate ship there that looks cool and a ferris wheel. Lots of expensive shops around there, but the architecture is nice.
The Royal Botanic Garden is also a very beautiful place to walk and you can get nice views of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. I saw the sunset here and it was the nicest place to view the sunset. When we went (very beginning of spring), there wasn’t as many flowers as there would be in the summer, but it was still very nice. Not too far from here is the Art Gallery of New South Wales (it’s free). You’ll find lots of Australian art and art from around the world. Take a short walk from there and you’ll find historic buildings, like The Mint and The Hyde Park Barracks Museum, and Hyde Park. Walk through Hyde Park and you’ll find the Anzac Memorial.
Sydney is beautiful day and night:
The Rocks has some nice architecture and there’s a free museum called The Rocks Discovery Museum. There are also some gift shops around here.
Circular Quay is next to the Rocks and it’s guaranteed you’ll be here at some point (probably more than once) while you’re in Sydney. You can see the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge and you get nice views of these on the ferries. There are also a few cafes here with nice views of the harbour. The Museum of Contemporary Art is here (it’s free). One exhibit stood out to me here. It featured Australian artist Jenny Watson’s art. Some of it was punk themed. You’ll also find lots of gift shops here. I’ll take some time here to talk about gift shops:
You’ll find lots of products made of kangaroos or with kangaroos printed on them (if you’re not interested in touching a dead kangaroo). Many souvenirs are made in Australia too. If you want any Aboriginal Australian arts and crafts, do your research and make sure you’re buying the real thing and that the artist was paid fairly. Want kangaroo or koala plushies made in Australia? You’ll find them easily. You’ll also find so many Ugg boots (you’ll find them all over the country, and they’re on sale in September because it’s spring). Almost all of the Ugg boots are Australian made, unlike the ones you see in the mall that say “UGG Australia” on them that are made in China – they’re about as Australian as Hollister was founded in 1922 in California. My dad lived near Hollister and laughed when he saw the beach themed stores because Hollister isn’t even close to the beach, it’s not in Southern California, and it’s a small town with a lot of farms. In Australia, the term Ugg is not trademarked. The takeaway is this: If you want Uggs, buy the real thing in Australia. They’re more ethically made and more affordable.
Darlinghurst is the gay district of Sydney. The most famous part of the gay district is on Oxford Street. The neighbourhood is vibrant and youthful. We visited while the marriage equality plebiscite was going on and there were especially a lot of rainbow flags here and flags supporting the Yes vote. If you walk down the road from Kings Cross Station, you get a nice view of the skyline. Sydney unanimously Town Hall was even lit up pink in support of marriage equality. I was even around for the marriage equality rally there, with 30,000 people supporting marriage equality.
Bondi Beach is famous and it gets very busy during the summer or when there’s an event, for example, the Kite Festival. When I was there it wasn’t that busy, the day was cloudy and it was after the Kite Festival. On the boardwalk, you’ll see lots of art. Bondi Beach is also really popular for surfing. What’s really cool about Bondi Beach is there’s a pool that is right on the ocean. That’s right! You can visit the Bondi Icebergs Club Pool (you don’t have to be a member). My favourite part wasn’t Bondi Beach. If you don’t walk to at least Bronte Beach (if you want a longer walk, you can continue to Coogee Beach), you’re missing out! It’s a beautiful walk and the water is so blue. I wouldn’t say that Bondi Beach is the best in Sydney. I liked Manly better.
Newtown reminds me a bit of Queen Street in Toronto. Funny enough, the main shopping street here is King Street, instead. It’s hip, there’s lots of vintage and new age shops, lots of restaurant and bar options. Fair warning, if you’re on a budget, the vintage shops are very expensive. I couldn’t find anything I liked that I could afford. If you’re a vegetarian, you’re in luck here. On the weekends there are also markets. I got this fuzzy 70s style jacket there. If you’re looking for records, check out Egg Records (recommended to me by @vanillaismexican on Instagram). Every year in September, there’s the King Street Crawl with lots of free gigs. I didn’t go because I was exhausted, stupid jet lag.
Cities are nice, but sometimes you want to get away from the hustle and bustle for a bit. You’re in luck because Sydney has a few day trip options that are perfect, even if you don’t have a lot of time. The two I’ll talk about are The Blue Mountains and Manly. If you’re in Sydney for a week, you can definitely do both. Now if you only have time for one, I won’t recommend one over the other because only you can decide that. There are many options for day trips in Sydney. For some of them, it’s easier to get there by car, but here are two great options for those who aren’t renting a car and want someplace easy and cheap to get to via public transport.
Blue Mountains: It’s two hour train ride away and it’s absolutely worth seeing. You can either get off in Katoomba or Leura, which are both nice towns, if you don’t just want to see the mountains. Katoomba has a few antique shops and bookstores that were cool to check out. A lot of tourists go to Scenic World, which has a cable car, walkway, and a train for all one price. Eoin and I opted instead for the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus. You’ll be doing a lot of walking as it is in the Blue Mountains National Park so walking to all the sights will be even more exhausting. The long walks are worth it. During our day trip we saw Katoomba Falls, Narrow Neck Lookout, Echo Point and The Three Sisters, Honeymoon Lookout, and Leura Cascades. We got very lucky the day we were there. It was warm enough that we didn’t need a coat, but the next day it was supposed to be cold and possibly snowing.
Manly: Just a ferry ride away. The ferry ride is beautiful and you get nice views of the city. It is a nice getaway from the big city. The Corso is the main street there and it is only a short walk to Manly Beach and Shelly Beach. Both beaches are beautiful with very clear water. The sand in Manly Beach is very soft, while Shelly Beach lives up to its name. Near Shelly Beach there is a nice walk you can take and you get nice views of Manly Beach.
Most restaurants we went to were 100% vegetarian/vegan, however, we did go to a few omnivore restaurants. Australia is a great place to go if you’re a vegetarian or vegan because there’s so many options. So much better than America, where the vegetarian option is often pasta without chicken or a grilled cheese sandwich and the vegan option is often just a side salad.
Golden Lotus: 100% vegan Vietnamese food. You can have meat substitutes, veggie dishes, or soup. Whether you’re a vegan that loves meat substitutes or prefer to eat more “natural” you can find something you like here. Their lemongrass chicken and pho are amazing. This restaurant was so good we had to come here twice. Thank you @vanillaismexican on Instagram for recommending this restaurant and Lentil As Anything to us.
Mother Chu’s: Vegetarian Chinese food. I’ve been craving Chinese food for a long time and it’s so hard to find good Chinese food in Ireland because it’s not like what I’m used to and the vegan options are few and far between. I wasn’t very hungry so I didn’t order very much. I had a fishball soup and a seaweed salad.
Lentil As Anything: A pay what you can vegan restaurant in Newtown. Suggested donations are $5 for a drink or if you’re needy; $10 for a meal and drink; $15 for your meal and basic restaurant expenses; and $20 for your meal and another person’s. The restaurant is not for profit and volunteer-run. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I preferred their breakfast to their dinner (we went here twice). I ordered tofu cauliflower scramble with a side of sweet potatoes and my husband ordered pancakes. To drink, we got chai (we drank a lot of chai during this trip).
Gelato Blue: Don’t worry, the vegan police won’t take away your vegan powers if you get gelato here! Everything is vegan. If you want more than just gelato, you can get a gelato and brownie sundae or a milkshake. I ordered the dark chocolate and dulce de leche flavours it it was amazing. My husband got a mint chocolate chip milkshake. Yes, I went here twice, you know I love vegan ice cream!
Govinda’s: Hare Krishna Restaurant/Cinema combination. The cinema is really different from any other I’ve been to because there are beds that you can lie down on and relax. Hope you don’t fall asleep like I did! I was also really cold because I decided not to bring a jacket. The restaurant is an all you can eat buffet, but drinks are extra. We ordered chai and it was delicious. If you’re vegan, make sure you request it with soy milk. The buffet had plenty of vegan options and it was a good mix of salads and hot food.
Yulli’s: This restaurant is 100% vegetarian and they have a separate vegan menu if you ask for it. The vegan menu isn’t something with just two options. You can also get wine and beer here that is all vegetarian and mostly vegan. My husband and I didn’t drink. My husband ordered the grilled halloumi and I ordered the hot pot, which was so big I had leftovers for the next day.
Funky Pies: Near Bondi Beach. This restaurant is 100% vegan and serves, you guessed it, pies! The pie is a very Australian thing, but it’s usually not vegetarian friendly. My husband and I ordered a mock chicken pie with a side of mashed potatoes, gravy, and peas. We also had a raw chocolate mint dessert pie. Inside the shop you can buy vegan ice cream and vegan cheese or get some of their pies to take home and bake.
Pancakes On The Rocks: Not suitable for vegans, unfortunately (but you’ll probably be okay if you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian). This place reminds me a lot of Walker Brothers Pancake House in Wilmette, as mentioned in Mean Girls. Unlike Walker Brothers, they don’t have the giant apple pancake that is a day’s worth of calories and is basically a dessert. Before going to Sydney I watched a video talking about places to go in Sydney and this restaurant was mentioned. My husband loves pancakes and I don’t think we’ll be going to Chicago anytime soon, so this is the closest he’ll get to Walker Brothers, well, not distance wise. There is a wide variety of pancakes here and you can eat them with ice cream. The pancakes are very fluffy and my husband really liked them. He ordered the Bavarian Apple pancake.
The Hold: A bar in Manly that serves burgers. Each burger here can be made vegan. The vegan patties are very good and to me they were more meaty in flavour (what do I know? I’ve been a vegetarian for the past 7 years). I also ordered a side dish of vegan macaroni cheese, which was very nice.
Lord of the Fries: Vegetarians crave fast food too! This chain of fast food restaurants in Australia and New Zealand is 100% vegetarian and you can get pretty much anything made vegan. I ordered a veggie burger and a chocolate peanut butter milkshake.
Next post, we’ll talk about Byron Bay and Nimbin. See you soon!