Australia: "Home" for the Holidays

Dec 27th, 2016, 10:37 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
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Glad you tried Din Tai Fung in Sydney - I recommended it to someone else on this board well the Melbourne one. I love it.
Haven't heard of the Circus performance I'll look out for it.
northie is offline  
Dec 27th, 2016, 11:30 PM
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Wonderful to hear you're having a great time here TP.
You clearly have way more energy than me, but, as many Aussies would say "goodonya". Enjoying your report from my couch.
sartoric is offline  
Dec 28th, 2016, 02:52 AM
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I'm so glad you made it to St Mary's, TP. Just a wonderful atmosphere, isn't it?

If you go back to Barangaroo, you might like to take a walk with one of the Aboriginsl guides.

I've only done a short 1/2 hour walk, but it was certainly interesting enough to ensure I'll do the full tour when I get a chance.
While you're in Millers Point, check out the Palisades Hotel. After sitting neglected & empty for years, it has had a squillion spent on a renovation & lives again. Lovely glass alcove upstairs looking west over Balmain, & nice balcony bars.

Under the heading of "Locals' gem", you might also like the Manly Skiff Club. Off the ferry & follow the bay around to the east ( your right).
Bokhara2 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2016, 04:15 AM
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Yestravel, you're welcome. Good alternatives to the BridgeClimb are a visit to the southeast pilon of the bridge, from where you could climb to the top for gorgeous views of the harbor, surrounding areas of the city, and the bridge itself.

Melnq8, yes, you are correct that we performed the BridgeClimb on the day of our arrival. Given that it was Christmas Day and few places open, we thought it was a good way to spend part of the afternoon - and it was. We made sure that there was enough time between the landing of our intercontinental flight and the climb that it caused minimal worries.

Northie, we first ate at Din Tai Fung when we were in Taipei in 2012. Having visited the World Square location both yesterday and 3 years ago, the food was well-prepared and enjoyable, which is why we keep on returning again and again. Regarding Circus 1903, it's definitely a light-hearted, fun evening out. You should see it while you can. Here is some more information on the circus:

Bokhara2, you are absolutely right about the Christmas display at St. Mary's; the atmosphere was fun-loving and festive, which I adored. We did check out the Palisades Hotel during our time in the Rocks on Wednesday. Thanks for the tips on Barangaroo and the other information you have to offer.

Sydney Old and New

As you could probably gather from this trip report so far or perhaps you've followed along with me on another adventure, you know that we are fairly fast-paced travelers. We like to fill our days with multiple activities and experiences each day; our typical day also usually includes a good amount of walking or hiking. This vacation has been and will be no different. At the same time we do also enjoy traveling at a slower pace - at least slower in our minds - from time to time, especially on our longer trips. On a trip that is more than three weeks long as this one, we frequently incorporate a slow-down day every 4-6 days. Day three in Sydney was our first slow day on this trip. We focused on only two parts of the city: the Rocks and Barangaroo.

We spent our morning wandering about the Rocks, Sydney's oldest neighborhood dating back to the early days of European settlement. We followed a walking tour put together by the City of Sydney that highlights life in the city as an early colony ( The tour took us to historic landmarks such as Susannah Place (although the museum is closed in the mornings), Sydney Observatory, the Lord Nelson Hotel, the Hero of Waterloo, the Walsh Bay wharves, and Dawes Point. In addition we visited the Pilon Lookout on the Harbour Bridge. We also ate a good lunch of schnitzels, pork knuckles, and sausages at the Munich Brauhaus, a German restaurant complete with waiters and waitresses in traditional garb and a traditional band.

From the Rocks, we walked through the Argyle Cut and continued onward to Barangaroo, Sydney's newest neighborhood. Barangaroo currently consists of two sections - a public reserve and several new streets of commercial highrises and shops - and ongoing construction on the rest. We enjoyed the opportunity to walk around the reserve; it was a relaxing way to spend an hour or so in the afternoon. We also visited the commercial section of the neighborhood and browsed a few shops.

From Barangaroo we headed into the central business district and did some light shopping at the Queen Victoria Building and Pitt Street Mall. We picked up a couple of Aboriginal artwork and some cheap souvenirs. We then continued south towards Chinatown and the renown Golden Century Restaurant for dinner. Golden Century focuses on Cantonese-style cuisine and is well-regarded for its seafood dishes. Tonight we ordered a live rock lobster, a fish, and some vegetables. Everything was prepared to our satisfaction, just as it had on our previous visits.

After dinner it was back to our hotel.

Next up is Sydney's East although it will have to wait. It's off to bed for me right now.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2016, 05:50 AM
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I agree that it was probably an ideal way to spend Christmas Day, and I also try to get as much fresh air as possible after a long haul flight, but I don't think I could have done that after 15 hours on a plane! In fact, I know I couldn't have.

You obviously fare better on long haul flights than I do! On my many flights from Perth to the US, I was lucky if I could form a complete sentence upon arrival
Melnq8 is online now  
Dec 28th, 2016, 06:51 AM
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I think I fall more along the lines of Melnq8 when it comes to travel recovery--I am impressed you had the energy and stamina to climb the bridge on your arrival day.

Again loving your TR as it's giving me ideas for our week stay in Sydney.
yestravel is offline  
Dec 28th, 2016, 10:57 AM
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Melnq8 and yestravel, I hear you about partaking in strenuous activity on the same day of arrival and I agree it could be exhausting. For instance I would not attempt the same feat if we had traveled from Australia to the United States. For whatever reason we typically fair better when we travel west. When we fly east, even to Europe, which isn't very far from the East Coast, all we pretty much could manage is a short walk followed by something to eat before we're ready for bed. It could also be that we are in love with Sydney so much that we have more energy when we're here.

Yestravel, I am glad that my report is helpful to you. Let me know if you would appreciate additional details or clarity on any of the information I present. I also live in the DC area and could easily pick up some materials for you to bring back if it's helpful.

Sydney's East

Today we focused on Sydney's eastern suburbs. We traveled from Rose Bay to Bondi via Vaucluse, Watson's Bay, South Head, and Dover Heights - all on foot.

Our day began with a ferry ride from Circular Quay to Rose Bay, where we started our walk. The ferry we were on was an express and made no other stops; we were at Rose Bay about 15 minutes after departure. At Rose Bay, we followed the shoreline into the neighborhood's main drag, in search of breakfast. It was only steps from the ferry terminal that we happened upon Empire Lounge, which looked very attractive. Empire Lounge is located on a pier alongside Sydney Seaplanes, which offers scenic floatplane flights over Sydney Harbour. We enjoyed a very satisfying breakfast and good coffee there before continuing along. From Empire Lounge we made our way through Rose Bay, admiring the architecture and peeking into some of its shops. Along the way we also caught nice views of the city skyline and its two most prized icons. This area would also be a good spot to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks, I thought to myself, although I don't know if Rose Bay receives the same traffic that night that other locations closer to the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House receive.

With the foreshore to our left, we continued our way to Vaucluse, weaving between residential streets lined with big, beautiful (and probably very expensive!) homes and the bushland pathways. We enjoy ambling among the residential streets and alleyways as much as the scenic walkways as it provides us with an opportunity to appreciate the local architecture and better understand how people live, work, and play. Along the way we try to interact with locals, whether it's just a friendly "hello" or "good morning" to sometimes greetings that lead to longer casual conversations. To me, one of the joys of travel is to get into the "real" parts of a location. The interactions provide me with a better understanding and appreciation of a place.

We joined the Hermitage Foreshore Trail at Strickland House and made our way north towards Vaucluse, but not before passing several soft, sandy beaches, beautiful coves, and quiet shoreline. We eventually made our way to Vaucluse House and toured this hidden gem. The home and garden was a wonderful addition to our day of exploration.

From Vaucluse, we wound our way north passing a couple more beaches. We arrived at Watson's Bay in short order just a little past noon. We stopped at Doyle's on the Beach of a seaside lunch. The barramundi and chips we ordered were the yummiest fish and chips we've had anywhere! We would definitely come back to Doyle's the next time we're in the area.

Stomachs filled, we continued north and onto South Head. The walk in this section is all paved wooden boardwalk, which made walking a breeze for us. We circumnavigated the trail and enjoyed the views over to Manly, North Head, and the Pacific Ocean. From here we retraced our steps to Watson's Bay and headed east to the Gap for more lovely views of seaside cliffs and beautiful, blue Pacific waters.

Starting in the Gap we would trace the Coastal Clifftop Walkway all the way to Dover Heights, enjoying more expansive views on both the Pacific side and the Harbour side. At Dover Heights the coastal trail ends so we detoured into residential streets for the rest of our journey to Bondi.

We arrived at Bondi around 4:30 PM and spent a good 2 hours walking along the beachside promenade, dipping our toes into the fine, soft sand, and exploring some of the nearby shops. We also enjoyed viewing the surfers maneuvering out in the water. We capped our day with dinner at Icebergs. The meal we had was excellent and every bit as enjoyable as we had experienced when we were here 3 years ago.

From Bondi we traveled by public bus back to Circular Quay.

With this installment, my report brings us to the present. Today we will set out for Sydney's northern suburbs. We intend to visit Manly, North Head, and at least the Manly to Spit walk if not more. Again, thanks for following along so far.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2016, 02:23 PM
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Thanks for the offer. At the moment I cant think of anything we might need foryou to bring home. Your TR has got me thinking about what I'll be taking. Your comments on shoes as you progress thru Tasmania would be appreciated.
yestravel is offline  
Dec 29th, 2016, 03:16 AM
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Yestravel, you're welcome. We usually make do with a good pair of well-broken-in tennis shoes but I will make note of what others are wearing.

Manly and North Head

Once again we set out with an ambitious agenda: Manly Beach, North Head, and the Manly to Spit walk.

Our day began with a ride on the fast ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, which took less than 20 minutes. The ferry terminal is located on the harbor side, which is connected to the ocean side by a pedestrian mall called the Corso. We walked along the Corso and happened upon Three Beans Cafe, which was where we settled upon for breakfast. The place was packed and the menu looked good; the food did not disappoint.

After breakfast we took a leisurely stroll along the ocean beach. Manly and Bondi are two of Sydney's most famous beaches but apart from its fame the two could not be more different. Manly seems to have more of an upper-class feel to it; there is an air of refinement to the place. In the meantime Bondi seems more accessible. I especially like the seaside cliffs south of the Bondi Beach - and of course there's Icebergs. Manly holds a special place in my heart with its tall and stately Norfolk pine trees that I very much enjoy.

We walked the length of Manly's ocean beach and continued onwards to Cabbage Bay and Shelly Beach. From there we climbed up the peninsula on which North Head is located. Even though I've pored over maps of Sydney Harbour numerous times I've somehow neglected the expansive geographic land area of North Head compared to its southern sibling. While a circumnavigation of South Head from Watson's Bay could be done in under 30 minutes, a proper walk around North Head takes 4 hours. Out the window was the Manly to Spit walk, I immediately thought upon realization of my blunder. No biggie though as I wanted to invest the proper amount of time to experience the area and we've already completed the Manly to Spit walk on our prior visit; we didn't have to choose.

Unlike South Head, the North is green with vegetation. What North Head does not have are views of rugged sandstone cliffs that line the Pacific coast. The highlights of North Head are views of the city center (sans its two icons) as well some of leftovers from its days as a military outpost. Also within the park on which North Head is located is the former quarantine station through which numerous immigrants in the early 20th century passed. There is a lovely museum telling the story about the place's historic significance at the quarantine station-turned-hotel as well as a quiet little beach that is open to the public. In all we spent about 4 hours at North Head and another 2 hours at the quarantine station before making our way back to the wharf for the ferry trip home.

Tomorrow we're off to the Blue Mountains, focusing on the area around Wentworth Falls and Leura. Until then...
tripplanner001 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2016, 06:53 AM
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Thanks! That's what I was thinking of taking, but wasnt sure. Appreciate hearing what you observe on others esp in the Blue Mts and Tasmania.
Can't wait to hear about the Blue Mountains!
yestravel is offline  
Dec 29th, 2016, 03:36 PM
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Not sure if you like markets but I always go to Paddington market when I go to Sydney.
northie is offline  
Dec 30th, 2016, 01:57 AM
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Yestravel, you're welcome. An overwhelming majority of hikers to the Blue Mountains - about 85-90% that we saw - wore simple tennis shoes. The rest mostly wore sturdier hiking boots and very few had walking sticks. One crazy couple was wearing flip-flops; very poor decision.

Northie, we do very much enjoy markets and try to visit whenever we can. In fact we are thinking about stopping by Paddy's Market near Chinatown before or after dim sum at Marigold. We won't have time for Paddington but will definitely keep in mind for next time.

Featherdale and the Blue Mountains: A Day of Incredible Highs and Worrisome Lows

As much as we love Sydney we also always enjoy a day out to the Blue Mountains. We originally had not planned a day trip to the geologic wonderland until our plans for a visit to Featherdale Wildlife Park were finalized. Among the options we considered, an afternoon of hiking in the Blue Mountains appealed to us most even though we've visited on two other occasions.

We started our day today early, with a 7:00 AM train departure out of Circular Quay for Blacktown, where we would transfer to a bus for the short ride from the train station to Featherdale Wildlife Park. For the past couple of years one of us have been sponsoring one of the koalas at Featherdale and we were able to arrange an interaction with our adopted "son" a couple of months ago, so we could not miss the chance.

Even though the encounter was brief we felt so lucky to be able to visit our "son" in his home and know that he is happy and well and building a fairly large family. In addition to koalas and kangaroos, the wildlife park specializes in Australia fauna. We saw emus, wombats, a crocodile, a dingo, and numerous birds and other native animals. In all we spent just more than 2 hours at Featherdale and could probably spend another.

Featherdale Wildlife Park is not as well known to tourists as Taronga Zoo, but I found it more enjoyable. The park only focuses on Australian animals and give them their due with multiple exhibits devoted to the iconic creatures. However Featherdale is popular with tour companies that stop on its way to the Blue Mountains and could get quite busy in the mornings, which we experienced. The only downside is its location, which requires a long train ride and a bus ride, while Taronga Zoo is easily accessible by ferry.

Following our visit to Featherdale was a bus ride back to Blacktown train station from where we would board our transport bound to Wentworth Falls; the journey took about 1.5 hours on public transportation. As a result we arrived at Wentworth Falls later than anticipated.

We had planned on attempting the National Pass hike but unfortunately it did not work out as intended. From a small grocery store across the street from the train station we purchased several bottles of water and snacks for our hike. We concentrated our visits to the Blue Mountains around Katoomba, the Three Sisters, and Scenic World on our prior visits and aimed for something different. We settled upon the National Pass hike as the information I gathered made it sound worthwhile and it was different from the trails we've already undertaken.

From Wentworth Falls station National Pass is best accessed by a short but easy trail called the Charles Darwin Trail from a small park just down the street. We started at the Charles Darwin Trail at around 1:30 PM and would hike its length, enjoying the flora and small waterfalls along the way.

At the end of Charles Darwin Trail are multiple tracks leading to Conservation Hut, a focal point for hikes that serves good and beverages. There are National Pass, an Overhill track, and Underhill track, a Wentworth Falls track, Valley of the Waters, and others. Our aim was to follow National Pass to Conservation Hut and possibly over to the pretty town of Leura.

The first portion of National Pass took us to beautiful cliffside views, Jamison Valley, Mount Solitary on the opposite side of the valley, and spectacular Wentworth Falls. In my opinion Wentworth Falls alone is worth the hike. From here the trail leads to a Grand Stairway cut into the sandstone mountains that wind down towards the valley; hiking down was fairly easy although we saw the strain on fellow hikers trying to make their way up. From here, I believe, is where I goofed, to my physical detriment and to the physical detriment of my traveling companions.

Instead of following the trail west towards Conservation Hut, we hiked down a series of metal stairways called the Slack Stairway onto what we would later find out was the Wentworth Falls track. I noticed our error when the trail led back to a lower section of Wentworth Falls, which did not make sense based upon the research I've done. We met up with several travelers but none of them were able to provide us with the information we were seeking except for four friends who at least confirmed that the trail we were on would eventually lead to the Conservation Hut. We followed this trail west; I at least knew that this was the general direction we sought.

Unlike the cliffside views that National Pass supposedly offers, the Wentworth Falls track followed closer to the valley floor and was mostly bushland; most sections were less exciting and I was simply annoyed at what we may have been missing. The wrong detour combined with our mood at the time slowed us down emotionally and physically.

Eventually we made our way to the Valley of the Water trail where we saw several waterfalls including the very impressive Empress Falls (it does not surpass my opinion of a Wentworth Falls though). By now we accepted our fate and tried to make the best of it. Perhaps we were meant to undertake the struggles that we had, with several sections being a bit more challenging to navigate. We had the admit that each waterfall that we saw was worth it. And at the end of the day we still experienced some of the views that we most think about when we think about the Blue Mountains. Perhaps we did not miss much of National Pass after all.

Exhausted and spent (don't worry, as we brought enough food, water, flashlights, and basic safety needs in case, and we always knew we would make it out before nightfall), we stumbled out of the mountains just after 7:00 PM, and made our way back into Wentworth Falls town. It was too late by now to continue on to Leura for some shopping and dinner. With almost all of the establishments in town already closed, we headed back into Sydney.

Tomorrow is our last day in Sydney, and we cap off our visit with New Year's Eve celebrations at the Opera House. We are so excited!!

It will probably be 2017 before I post another installment so I want to wish my fellow Fodorites and travelers a happy and healthy new year. May 2017 bring you many joyful moments and rewarding travels.
tripplanner001 is offline  
Dec 30th, 2016, 02:50 AM
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Glad you arrived back safely .
northie is offline  
Dec 30th, 2016, 12:03 PM
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And my very best wishes to you & your family for a very happy New Year too, TP.

Your comments on mixing up the connections on the Nationsl Pass & Wentworth Falls walks show just how easy it is to get lost . And the necessity of taking ample supplies of water, food etc., even if one is just planning a short walk.

Hope you have a fabulous time at the Opera House tonight.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Dec 30th, 2016, 12:05 PM
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Unless you're looking for cheap, imported junk - forget about Paddy's Market. It's nothing like Paddington, Balmain, or any other of our good outdoor markets.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Dec 30th, 2016, 12:55 PM
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Too bad. We had a similar mishap hiking in Colombia this past January...very frustrating. I still feel regret about what we missed.

Glad to hear I will be fine in tennis shoes and can avoid brining hiking boots. Thank you.

Have a happy New Year and enjoy the opera house celebration.
yestravel is offline  
Dec 30th, 2016, 06:58 PM
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Here's a little treat for you, trip planner
Bokhara2 is offline  
Dec 31st, 2016, 03:15 AM
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Love reading your report, hope your NYE is spectacular.
FromDC is offline  
Jan 1st, 2017, 02:43 AM
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Northie, thank you. Hope you enjoyed your New Year's Eve with loved ones.

Bokhara2, thank you for your well wishes. You are right about Paddy's Market. We were there for a few minutes following lunch at Marigold and found nothing that interested us. I will hold onto your suggestions for other outdoor markets the next time we visit Sydney.

Yestravel, thank you. Happy New Year to you too.

FromDC, thanks for tagging along.

An Evening to Always Remember

We spent our final morning in Sydney getting back out on the water for one more ferry ride on the harbor, traveling from Circular Quay to Pyrmont, taking in the sights and sounds of our favorite city one last time - for this trip I mean. At Pyrmont we walked through Darling Harbour and were spectators to final preparations for tonight's New Year's Eve celebration. We spent an hour visiting the Chinese Garden of Friendship before heading over for dim sum at Marigold in Chinatown.

The Chinese Garden was a great way to spend a leisurely morning. I really enjoyed the meandering path around the man-made lake with one classical view after another. It was also enjoyable to sit at different benches and pavilions throughout the gardens just drinking in the beauty that surrounded me. Given its location and proximity to surrounding buildings, you could see high rises all around you from the gardens, which may be a negative for some. We didn't mind as the architects of the garden did a good job of trying to incorporate the surrounding structures into the garden design.

I was surprised that there was no wait at Marigold despite it being a Saturday and also New Year's Eve. The food we had were all very good. In fact it tasted better than what I had remembered from our previous visit.

Following lunch we made our way back to our hotel on foot. Along the way we noticed streets becoming busier with people and less so with vehicles. Organizers also deployed staff at different points through the central business district letting folks know that certain gathering spots were full and recommending alternatives. Police and other security personnel were everywhere. Barriers were also being set up throughout downtown and were especially prevalent around Circular Quay.

We arrived back at the hotel around 2:30 PM for a bit of rest and freshening up before changing into our fancier clothes for the evening we've been anticipating for nearly a year. We walked from our hotel to the Opera House at 4:30 PM and passed several security checkpoints, all without any hassle.

We purchased the platinum package, which included a pre-performance dinner, an opera gala show, and a midnight party. Dinner was served in the northern foyer of the Opera House overlooking the Harbour Bridge between 5:30 PM and 7:30 PM. We were seated in tables of eight and the organizers tried to pair guests together according to their nationalities and languages. We enjoyed our tablemates very much. The excellent food - crab salad, steak with potatoes and arugula, and cheesecake - was catered by Aria, and it could not be more perfect.

After dinner we were treated to over 2 hours of some of opera's greatest highlights from renowned works such as The Barber of Seville, Carmen, and Turandot. Also part of the show is fine comedy offered by the emcee, which was very enjoyable. My favorite was a stirring performance of Nessun Dorma, which was followed by a most memorable conclusion to the program.

The show ended at 10:30 PM and we headed back to the outdoor balcony of the northern foyer to wait for the midnight fireworks display. The only downside was the amount of people packed into the tight space of the balcony that made it uncomfortable at times. However we had no reason to complain as we were at the Sydney Opera House with the Harbour Bridge right in front of our faces waiting to ring in the new year; we could not be more fortunate. The show itself was absolutely incredible; there are not enough words to describe it or do it justice. I cannot think of a fireworks display more spectacular than what I saw on this night.

The party went on until about 1:30 AM. There was good food and drinks, fun music, good company, and an awesome setting. A few years ago we would never have dreamed of being at the Opera House in Sydney on New Year's Eve. We could not be happier.

Next stop: Hobart...
tripplanner001 is offline  
Jan 1st, 2017, 02:59 AM
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What a super way to welcome in 2017, tripplanner. Happy New Year & thanks for another interesting instalment. I'm glad it all lived up to your expectations. Those packages aren't cheap - but it's a spectacular experience & one fo the memory bank, for sure.
Bokhara2 is offline  

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