Sydney Itinerary - Need Help

Old Jun 9th, 2004, 08:11 AM
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Sydney Itinerary - Need Help

We will be travelling to Sydney in January (21-27) and need some help on planning our itinerary. I've acutally extended our stay an extra night as I realized Jan. 26 is Australian day and I thought it would be fun to experience it.

We are planning on spending one day in the blue mountains, and one day in the hunter valley. That leaves us 3 full days and 2 half days (day we arrive and day we depart) to see everything else Sydney has to offer. Any recommendations on how to plan each day so we are as effective as possible and see as much as we can.

Obviously we want to see the usual tourist sights, Opera House, Bridge Climb, Aquarium, Rocks, etc. What about Bondi Beach and the zoo? Are they worth checking out? Also I've seen several people on the site talk about the Manly walk...what is this? Also any recommendations for tours to the Hunter Valley and Blue Mountains. We are thinking Visit tours for HV, but heard Red Carpet is good too.

We are staying at the Intertercontinental....cheapest we could find with a good view. Any thoughts?

clz221 is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2004, 03:14 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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The Intercontinental has been discussed frequently on this Forum and gets mostly very good reviews.
I have stayed there quite often and have found it to be excellent in all areas.
The view is wonderful and I gather they have recently opened a Club Lounge at the top which must be spectacular.
I will leave it to Alan to tell you the details of the Spit to Manly Walk which is certainly worth doing -
prue is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2004, 03:46 PM
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Hi, clz221!

You have chosen a great time to come to Sydney! The activities in the week leading up to Australia Day (a terrible misnomer, by the way, as Australia was actually founded on January 1, 1901; however, January 26 certainly could be called "Sydney Day", as it's the founding day of Australia's biggest and best city) will keep you fully-occupied with concerts, outdoor dance festivals, dsplays, and the inevitable fireworks. It will, however, be hot and bright, so your planning should keep that in mind. Go nowhere without a hat.

The "Manly walk" is the walk from Spit Bridge (reached by bus from Wynyard Station -- Stand C -- to Manly Wharf (it comes out right at the shark aquarium), via half a dozen beaches (a couple of them quite secluded), some aboriginal carvings, terrain ranging from forest to open scrub, and some of the best views in the southern hemisphere. It is one of the best things to do when you're in Sydney, and, while you can do it either way, it's best taken from the Spit, so that you can finish the day with a ferry ride from Manly back through the entire length of Sydney Harbour, past the Bridge and the Opera House, to the Intercontinental. The walk takes around four hours, but in January, with all those beaches and enclosed pools beckoning, it will probably take you a full day.

You could easily spend another day on Sydney Harbour doing various commuter ferry runs just for the fun of it. You can buy a day pass for $AUD15, and this will allow you to change ferries as often as you like, and also to travel on trains and buses. Recommended routes: Watson's Bay, Balmain, Mosman, Taronga Zoo (and, of course, Manly... but you will have done that on a different day, won't you?) The zoo is certainly worth a few hours of your time, only so that you can marvel at the peculiar logic of the Sydneysider's mind: we pay a king's ransom to get just the glimpse of a view from our tiny little bedsitters... and here we have a zoo where the giraffes and the elephants can laze around all day looking at some of the best scenery in Sydney. You won't see any animals that you can't see in other zoos, but that location is a world-beater. One tip: go in the morning, as, in January, it gets very hot after lunch, and the zoo is a very hilly place.

You will want to spend one full day just walking around Sydney. The Intercontinental is a great place to base yourself, as it's in one of the best walking streets in Sydney: MacQuarie Street, which is worth a couple of hours on its own, with Parliament House, Government House (open for tours regularly), the old Mint, the Barracks, the Conservatorium of Music, old Sydney Hospital, and the Botanical Gardens all fronting it. Stroll down this street (which, by the way, is a hive of activity on Australia Day, with a display of vintage cars)as far as the Conservatorium and Government House (you can detour to the Art Gallery if you choose) and then enter the Botanical Gardens, which takes you to the water's edge. Heading left, you come to the Opera House. Continuing around Circular Quay (towards the Bridge)you will come to the Rocks, Sydney's "old quarter", which will occupy you for a couple of hours (just don't be tempted to shop there, as the prices are geared to tourists). A smart thing to do now might be to climb the stairs to the Harbour Bridge entrance (anyone will direct you) and walk across the Bridge. On the far side, spend a few minutes taking in the view from Milson's Point, and then catch the train from Milson's Point Station back across the Bridge to Town Hall Station. After you've admired our Town Hall, stroll through the Queen Victoria Building, Sydney's four-level "belle epoque" structure. Then, going back past Town Hall, head down George Street past all the cinemas until you come to Chinatown. Heading right through Chinatown will take you to the Chinese Gardens and the entrance to Darling Harbour. There will be a thousand activities happening at Darling Harbour (they have about four different outdoor stages which are seldom used, but in January they are running simultaneously, and (virtually) continuously) and you might like to visit one of the two museums there (the Maritime or the Power House) or the Aquarium. From near the Aquarium you can hop a ferry that will take you under the Bridge and back to Circular Quay, from where you can walk back up Macquarie Street to the Intercontinental. That's quite a day, but at the end of it you will "know" Sydney. And I didn't include Hyde Park and St Mary's Cathedral in that itinerary, because you will want to save the park for Australia Day, when there will be entertainment and food and wine tasting all day.

Bondi? Well, it has a reputation, but the main beach at Manly is easily its equal, and to get to Bondi you have to take a very ordinary bus, which takes thirty minutes out of your day each way. With so much going on, will you have time, and will you think it's worth it? I reckon the place to be around Australia Day week is in the city itself. I might stretch a point in favour of the Blue Mountains for a day (but only if you promise to walk down to the valley floor, where it will be cool and delightful... on top it will just be hot and sweaty and full of tourists), but, unless you're a wine fancier, I don't think I'd bother with the Hunter Valley, either.Get a few miles from the water in Australia in January and it starts to look hot and dusty, and the flies come out.

Oh, and finally, bring extra money for shopping. The end-of-year sales officially start on December 27, but, as every Sydneysider knows, the first two weeks of these sales aren't cheap at all -- just well-marketed special lines brought in to attract people who are off work for Christmas/New Year and have money in their pocket and time on their hands. By late January, when the rush has passed, and the large stores (Myer, David Jones) start to look around at what's left from the post-Christmas sales and how they're going to find space for the incoming autumn stock, THEN the prices really fall, often as much as 75% or even 90% off. The Aussie dollar being what it is at present, you'll think you've died and gone to shoppers' heaven.

Have a great time at this special time of year!
Alan is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2004, 08:12 PM
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I agree with prue that the Intercontinental is a very good hotel in a great location and a short walk to all the local sights. Just returned home from 5 weeks in Oz and spent 5 nights at this hotel. Have no complaints at all as the service was excellent, the accommodations were good and the new Club Lounge does offer wonderful amenities and fabulous views of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Botanical Gardens ( has large windows on three sides ).

In regards to Bondi Beach, we did take the 45 min. bus ride as we had heard how fabulous the beach etc. is ( a must see ) and to be honest it was really rather disappointing and IMO not up to all the hype.
I've seen many nicer and larger beach areas in Australia. We also took the ferry over to Manly one afternoon and did enjoy this little trip. The beach is very nice and the area is quite scenic and also has a nice little shopping area with some charming looking buildings. We were there on a Sunday and they had a smaller version of the open market area like at the Rocks with people selling there goods. All in all it was a great way to spend an afternoon.

If you really want to enjoy the Hunter Valley, it might be better if you could stay the night as this would give you much more time to explore this lovely region. We were fortunate to have spent 2 nights in a wonderful guest house. The area is full of nice wineries, good restaurants and some lovely shops and galleries.

I'm sure you will enjoy your time in Australia.
DJE is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2004, 08:57 PM
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Thanks Alan, Prue and DJE for all of your advice. I guess we'll skip Bondi, doesn't sound like its worth giving up a day to do. Plus we are from So. Cal so we have plenty of beach time, I just didn't want to pass it up if it was a "must do."

I'm glad to hear you all think the Intercontinental is a good choice. I was a little hesitant on booking there as everyone seems to suggest staying at the Rocks. The Park Hyatt, however, is way out of our budget at 600AUD a night!

Alan- I was surprised to hear you suggest skipping the Blue Mountains as I thought they were one of your favorite. We were planning on taking the train as you recommended to other travellers. If you think our time is better spent in Sydney, then perhaps we'll pass. I just hate to miss anything, and I thought it might be a nice break from the city. With everything else you've suggested, I think we'll have a pretty busy schedule! Can't wait - Jan. seems too far away!
clz221 is offline  
Old Jun 10th, 2004, 05:47 PM
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I didn't want you to skip the Mountains, I just wanted you to promise that you wouldn't -- as so many do -- give up a full day at this great time of Sydney's year to just sit for two hours in a train, take a couple of photos from the Echo Point lookout, and then sit for another two hours. As Mucky will tell you, the Blue Mountains (on top, anyway) can be feverishly hot in summer. The view is nice, but I'm sure you have views at home that are just as good. But the great thing about our Mountains is that in under an hour you can be at the bottom, walking past forests of tree ferns and even under waterfalls. It's cool and dim and beautiful, and in January that's the only place to be in the Blue Mountains. Don't tell that to the people who come by coach, however! They just get out of the coach, take a few group photosd, and then allow themselves to be herded into a nearby air-conditioned restaurant where there's a souvenir shop selling "hand-made local products". Sydney in January can do better than that!
Alan is offline  
Old Jun 10th, 2004, 05:50 PM
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Of course, by "on the bottom" I meant in the valleys below Echo Point, not the foot of the mountain range, which is Penrith (which is not a tourist spot... please!)
Alan is offline  
Old Jun 10th, 2004, 07:59 PM
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Based on Alan's last reply, I think we'll add the Blue Mtns. back in and we'll be sure to get down to the bottom. Is there a road down to the bottom, or is it a hike? Also, will we know how to get down it clearly marked?
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Old Jun 11th, 2004, 06:51 AM
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There is a road, but you won't be using it. There are several tracks, all clearly-marked, from Katoomba (also from Wentworth Falls), and there are plenty of maps to show you where the tracks meet and cross and how long it will take you to walk them. This can be as little as ninety minutes or as long as three days (that's the walk to Jenolan Caves). Probably the best one for you, with your limited time, is to walk past the Three Sisters (you actually walk on one of them) down what is called the Giant Stairway. When you get to the valley floor, you can go left for a short distance just to stop at the bottom of the Katoomba Falls, then double back and head right from the bottom of the stairway until you come to the lower station of the Scenic Railway. You will apprecitae not having to climb back up again! It comes out twenty minutes walk from where you went down (a disadvantage if you parked your car there, but this isn't relevant in your case); there are buses to take you from there back to wherever you wish to go. You won't get lost, there will be lots of people around, and the only down side of this is that, apart from a few birds, you won't see any wild life -- it knows better than to hang around the tourist paths!
Alan is offline  
Old Jun 11th, 2004, 08:19 AM
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Hi clz221,

I was just reading this thread and I started to think of the days when I used to live in Richmond at the base of the Blue Mountains. I remember we used to go to a place in the Megalong Valley to go horse riding and so I thought I would check to see if it is still in operation. Well it appears to have become quite a place and worthy of an overnight stay. The link below will take you to the Megalong Heritage Centre.

You will find a range of activities and accommodation at reasonable prices. Certainly not the Ritz but if you want to experience a little of the Aussie bush life well this would fit the bill.


Paul_S is offline  
Old Jun 11th, 2004, 08:53 PM
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Thanks again Alan for all the valuable information!
clz221 is offline  
Old Jun 13th, 2004, 03:19 PM
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If you go hiking down to valley in the Blue Mountains maybe plan your walk to end near the coal miners railway so can hitch a ride back up. (steep walk back up). The explorer bus passes by quite freqently so you can then get back to Katoomba.
Jane_47 is offline  
Old Jun 22nd, 2004, 12:51 PM
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My wife and I just returned from a trip to Sydney (I'll have to post my full thoughts/experiences) and we did set aside a day for a trip to the Blue Mountains. We took the train to Katoomba, then walked through town to Echo Point. Alan's right: the views are nice, but I live in Arizona and can find a few places just as nice. But a hike down towards the bottom is something else altogether. The Giant Stairway was closed when we were there (a couple weeks ago) due to a landslide, so at the advice of the girl at the visitor's center, we took the Prince Henry Trail (I believe that's the name of it), which was wonderful. You'll descend into cool, dark rainforests and see waterfalls and a lot of assorted greenery. We followed the trail to the scenic ascender (which we were more than willing to pay to take back up...whew!) which deposited us at Scenic World, which we couldn't get out of fast enough (yikes, what a tacky tourist trap).

We actually walked from Scenic World back through Katoomba - maybe a little too much walking for one day (especially since it will be hot for you guys), so you may want to take the Explorer bus. I think you can buy a package in Sydney that includes train tickets and Explorer bus tickets.

By the way, we stayed at the Intercontinental. The hotel was wonderful and the location was absolutely perfect.

mitchgx is offline  
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