Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Australia & the Pacific (
-   -   Places (out of town) worth visit while in Sydney? (

Nikica Sep 21st, 2005 09:49 AM

Places (out of town) worth visit while in Sydney?
Hallo everyone...

We are planning our trip to Sydney from October 30th till November 11th (we are a family with 9 year old daughter-who adores animals :-))We will be staying at the Ibis Darling Harbour Hotel which looks like very convenient for its location (and is also affordable).
I have decided to purchase the See Sydney and Beyond Smartvisit Card(s) for us, it looks like many attractions are included in and out of town (like visiting Blue Mountains for instance).

However, the card is valid for 7 days, so we will still have a few days left. I was thinking about visiting Port Stephens and maybe take one of those whale/dolphin watching tours... or maybe visiting one of national parks...
Are there any regular bus lines connecting Sydney and Port Stephens, I would rather go by bus than rent a car.
What do you think? Any other ideas?
We would greatly appreciate any help!
Thank you in advance!

lizF Sep 21st, 2005 12:29 PM

Take a trip to Canberra, Australia's Capital city, and spend some time there seeing the sites - of which there are many.
May I say that the last place I would stay is at the Ibis in Darling Harbour. I had the misfortune of having to stay there for 5 nights and it is really dreadful and I had to stay there to be near the Convention Centre which is opposite - however in retrospect I would have preferred somewhere else even if I had to commute. I think the rooms are made for midgits ( no offence to little people) but if they had put the beds one on top of the other it may have been better with enough room for a suitcase. As it is it is the smallest room that anyone could possibly have built, the services are non-existant, the place is noisy, the beds are not great, but oh dear you cannot even pass another person along the 2 ft of room between the wall and the bed. Its a disgrace! There are so many other places in Sydney which offer a better location, better accommodation and better service than that place and at a better price. I would rate the Ibis there at 2 out of 10 - a 1 star or even less!

Nikica Sep 21st, 2005 01:03 PM

Thanks lizF

the reason we will be at Ibis is the same as yours - the Convention Centre is so close.
I hope we will survive the hotel :-), we plan to spend most of the time sightseeing and having fun (plus my visits to the Convention Centre).

Neil_Oz Sep 21st, 2005 02:58 PM

Normally I'd recommend a couple of days in Canberra myself, but I have reservations this time on the grounds that much of what's worth seeing may not appeal to a 9-year-old girl who loves animals (in Canberra we keep most of ours locked up in Parliament House, but they're not always here - they have migratory habits and escape regularly to return to their home hunting grounds :) ).

Unfortunately I can't answer the question about travel to Port Stephens. Does anyone know? You can certainly get most of the way there by fast(ish) electric train to Newcastle -the trains leave from Central Station, which is not very far from Darling Harbour. I don't know the bus situation at all though.

Bokhara Sep 21st, 2005 04:29 PM

Hi Nikica,
Can you please advise what's included in the Sydney & Beyond card?

I'm assuming you're already going to the Zoo here.

There's a charming Ferry trip from Palm Beach around to Brooklyn that you might like. You can either take a picnic & hop off enroute for a picnic & swim, or just stay on for the round trip. You would just take a bus from Wynyard to Palm beach & back to the city at the end of the day. Can't find the link I'm looking for just at the moment, but will have a look later & post it.
(Someone else will probably know, anyway :)

There are also some lovely wildlife sanctuaries, Rainforest walks etc., on the central coast, but I think you'd really need a car to get there easily.

pat_woolford Sep 21st, 2005 05:00 PM

Was thinking of that too, Bokhara - it was 190 bus from Wynyard-Palm Beach when I lived there.

Nikica, ferry from Palm Beach (Pittwater side - Palm Beach is on the end of a peninsula with ocean one side and still water on other) over to the Basin. There's an amazing fish and chip shop over the road from the ferry at Palm Beach. Or stay on bus a bit longer to go to beachside, there's a nice walk to lighthouse up the Barrenjoey headland. Palm Beach is Sydney's premier metropolitan beach, far nicer than Bondi, or even Manly.

Gardyloo Sep 21st, 2005 06:58 PM

We drove around the Port Stephens region and stayed a couple of nights in the area last month. I have to say that in general it was nice, but (a) really needs a car to see much, and (b) might not be the best use of scarce time. Nothing wrong, just not up there on the wow scale compared to other areas we saw, including things available within Sydney itself.

Stories and some pix at my RTW website,

lizF Sep 21st, 2005 08:39 PM

Well if you are there because of the Convention Centre Nikica PLEASE change to the Novotel which is actually a little closer to the Convention Centre anyway and at least your suitcase will be able to be in the room at the same time as you are OR there are other accommodation places across the road from the Ibis.

Nikica Sep 22nd, 2005 03:54 AM

Hi Bokhara,

here is the link about Sydney Smartcard

so please take a look!

And thank you and the others for your ideas!

longhorn55 Sep 22nd, 2005 05:41 AM

Since your daughter loves animals, you will want to go to Featherdale Wildlife Park near Sydney. I know you can get there by public transportation, so check out their website. It's been a few years since we were there, but my kids loved it. Also, I have stayed with my family at the Ibis at Darling Harbour and we had 4 in our room and I don't recall feeling crowded at all. Besides, as you say, you won't be in the room much anyway. It is a great location and they serve (or at least did when we were there)an excellent buffet breakfast!

lizF Sep 22nd, 2005 01:53 PM

I don't agree with Neil about Canberra - at least for Australian's. I reckon being armed with the Latham Diaries and a pair on spy glasses you could have a great deal of fun - daughter or not - down there. A bit like " Pick the Sleeze" ;0) Hi Neil!
Seriously though, in reply to the above poster and talking about the Ibis Hotel, the breakfast was "ok" but you could get much better down at the restaurants on the water. As for the size of the room, we had two single beds in ours and we had to put the suitcases in the bathroom when in the room and if we wanted to go to the bathroom they had to come out into the room. Now call me TOO FAT but to me that is way too small whether or not you are there only to sleep. I at least like some creature comforts for the price they charge!

WallyKringen Sep 22nd, 2005 03:35 PM

If you go to Canberra - it's a uniquely designed city, I suggest you read up on it and decide if this might be your cup of tea. It feels awfully sterile, not like a real city, but the layout and the artificial lake etc. are, well, unique.

If you stay the night, realise that Canberra is for politicians and business people with fat expense accounts. Nearby Queanbeyan (just across the NSW border) is a country town where motels still charge realistic prices, and along the main street there are a few nice restaurants.

A nice way to get back to Sydney (but involves quite a bit of driving) is to head towards the coast from Q. and then turn up the scenic coast following Highway 1, through many fishing towns and such, lots of them with great beaches (Berri for one - ask for the turnoff from the highway at the north end of town, it's not obvious).

While in the Blue Mountains (train to Katoomba, Blue Mountains Trolley Tour from there -, don't miss the Leura Everglades Gardens ( ), and the lookout called Echo Point for the Three Sisters etc.

Ask how to get to the Jenolan Caves ( without your own car, they're awesome - quite possibly a local coach operator can take you there.


christellefv Sep 22nd, 2005 03:53 PM

I agree, Jenolan Caves day trip is a great idea! I was in Oz 4 months. My aussie friend wanted to take me there. But I didn't. Didn't really see the interesting thing in visiting a cave. The day before I left Oz I decided I wanted to see the Caves. So he brought me! It was a great day trip, even better than the Blue Mountains!

There is tons to see in/around Sydney. No need to go to Canberra. It was a flat/too symetrical/bit boring city...

Neil_Oz Sep 22nd, 2005 07:30 PM

I have the impression that Nikica doesn't want to rent a car, which would make Wally's no doubt well-intentioned advice of limited relevance.

I must say that Queanbeyan's charms have always eluded me. It's really a dormitory suburb with a country-town hangover. I'm told the pub does a nice line in girl fights on Saturday nights, but entertainment is otherwise limited.

For anyone who may be thinking of visiting Canberra, the comment that its accommodations are only for politicians and businesspeople can be passed over, I think. For one thing, the pols usually maintain a pied-a-terre such as a shared apartment, and as I keep pointing out they're only here for half the year anyway. The fact is that tourists vastly outnumber both these groups, and there's a wide range of accommodation to suit most pockets.

As for the rest - I think we should all bear in mind that our own tastes may not always reflect what others enjoy. A stalagmite may induce raptures in some, for example, but be a crashing bore for others who may be much happier in a museum or gallery.

I'm well aware that Canberra doesn't fit everyone's idea of a "city", for instance - but then, it wasn't meant to. You may need to adjust your frame of reference to appreciate it.

I know that visitors from other places may suffer withdrawal symptoms when deprived of asphalt, environmental pollution, traffic jams and road rage. Factor that in by all means, but realise that some people actually might find it quite stimulating.

And thanks for letting me know that Canberra is "flat", christellfv - unlike, presumably, Melbourne, Adelaide and a few other cities I can think of. You must have some kind of hill-cancelling vision.

Paul_S Sep 23rd, 2005 04:20 PM

Hi Nikica,

Yes there is a bus that can take you to Port Stephens which is a very popular location for all kinds of water and beach related activities. They have a nice fleet of dolphin watch vessels, some fitted with underwater cameras.

Her is a link to a bus that runs from Sydney taking in a dolphin watch cruise departing from Nelson Bay at Port Stephens:

If you just want a public transport bus then here is a link to a bus company that operates from Central Station in Sydney.

However due to the times of the service you would need to stay two nights in Port Stephens to make use of this service.

An alternate way of doing this would be to take the train to Newcastle and use the bus service from there to Port Stephens or simply hire a car in Newcastle and drive the 30 mins to Port Stephens.

I think however the best value for money is the Wonder Bus tour which has all the cruise fees, meals and tavel fees built in to the tour price and no need to stay overnight in Port Stephens.



Paul_S Sep 23rd, 2005 11:45 PM

Hi Again Nikica,

In case you feel the Wonder Bus tour is too expensive then there is the following tour with AATKings which are a large tour company here in Aust. It is reasonably priced:



wheretonext Sep 25th, 2005 07:47 AM

port stephens is a great place to go. it has a lot of stuff but i do think you need a car to get around.

ditto canberra, which btw is way exciting for kids. you have questacon, childrens trails for the old parliament hous and dressups in pollie outfits, kids activities at the museum. blacktower to feel like you will be blown off the edge, which is great fun for 9 year olds to feel ,if a little scary for their parents. cockington green a minuture world. but you will need a car. even for the day or two. also their is lots of accommodation at all sorts of levels and the cost of attending many of the national things are free, which gives you some leeway for more money to spend on where you stay.

christellefv Sep 25th, 2005 06:06 PM

Ok. The city is surrounded by hills. But itself, when riding along on the city roads it's flat. Not like say a Sydney suburb when you go up and down hills every street.

And whatever... I didn't like Canberra because it was empty. But sure... Others might like it.

And if I would be allowed to go back to Oz but only live in Canberra, I'd still go back right away! :D


Neil_Oz Sep 26th, 2005 05:05 PM

christellefv, you'd be welcome in Canberra.

Your comparison actually illustrates an interesting difference between a tourist's-eye view and a resident's-eye view of a city. The fact is that the western and south-western parts of Sydney, where most people live, are in fact mostly flat, and the areas most Canberrans live in (the Belconnen, Gungahlin, Woden Valley and Tuggeranong Valley areas) aren't at all flat. But these are the areas that tourists don't usually see, just as few visitors to New York see Queens.

Personally, I'm not a fan of the open design of the central, institutional part of Canberra, which does mix too much open space with buildings and people. This wasn't intended by the city's original designer, the Chicago architect Walter Burley Griffin, but the influence of the British "garden city" school of urban design (Griffin, like Joern Utzon, was shafted by smaller minds). The effect was later compounded by a decision to avoid central congestion by decentralising commercial activities across a number of widely-separated town centres.

Canberrans are conscious of the need to inject more urban buzz into their city, and now that we have our own territory government with planning powers this is being addressed with more infill, commercial redevelopment and higher-density housing. But it won't happen overnight, and we can't touch Commonwealth-controlled areas like the Parliamentary Triangle.

Having said that, past decisions did make Canberra arguably the most liveable city in Australia, albeit one that's too dependent on the car. While obviously we don't have the arts and entertainment choices of a Sydney or a Melbourne we do pretty well, thanks to a highly-educated, well-paid and discerning population that includes large academic and diplomatic communities.

And what we have is much more accessible for most people. When I last worked in Sydney I lived 90 minutes from the city (not unusual) and most of the city's attractions were off the agenda except in very rare circumstances. In fact with Sydney a 180-minute drive from Canberra, we're not much worse off now. And it doesn't take much longer for us to get to the beach either - 160 km vs. 100 km in Sydney!

Geordie Sep 26th, 2005 10:44 PM

I certainly agree with Neil about Canberra, I think it makes a very good 2-3 day trip especially as you can take the train.

I've only been to Jenolan Caves once and they are impressive but the part I didn't like was that you have to go on an organised tour with a guide in a group of about 30. From recollection it took a bout 1 1/2 to 2 hours to complete and once you've seen one impressive cave you've seen them all. So in short I got cold and bored pretty quickly and for the time it took to get there and back from Sydney, I didn't feel it was worth it.


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:51 AM.