Sydney-Things to Do

Nov 28th, 2015, 03:16 AM
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Sydney-Things to Do

OK, we know what "the guidebooks" say and I'm all for guidebooks, to a point but be nice to have some personal input.

We have 6 nights (arriving from Perth on the Indian-Pacific on the 30th) and staying in the Radisson Blu in the CBD.

We have a matinee opera performance one day and I have, perhaps foolishly, resisted the various venue offers for "great viewing points" such as the roof of one of the museums I think it is) for the fireworks. I gather that is going to be some sort of mob scene (to be expected) and we were warned by the hotel about street closures in case we had a vehicle.

We like museums; not much into so-called "modern" art. Churches and other houses of worship are of interest for the decoration. I am wondering if a trip out to Bondi Beach is worth the time. Am considering a train trip up into the Blue Mountains, too.

Something off beat would probably be appealing. I am assuming things get "back to normal" after the New Years Eve stuff.

Suggestions/thoughts are appreciated.
Dukey1 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2015, 04:38 AM
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I was in Sydney during the winter, so my experience would be a bit different, but one of our favorite things was going to Manly Beach on the ferry and getting fish and chips. If you'll excuse the indulgence in slightly old memories, I'll quote from my trip report:

"Having done our Woolworths' run (helloooo, Caramello Koalas on special offer!) and some souvenir shopping, we spent our afternoon getting the amazingly picturesque ferry to Manly Beach.

Now, let me just say here that Sydney Harbour is ridiculously, over-the-top beautiful, especially in the sparkling sunlight and 70 degrees that we had that day. It just dances. My first glimpse of the Opera House was less than overwhelming, but the way it dominates and focuses the harbour area made me appreciate it more and more. (There are some buildings that have an immediate resonance with me, but this wasn't one; it's the context that made me connect, I think.) The stately green ferry pulled out past it and into the sun-sparkled waters that were dotted with sailboats. Who is out on all those sailboats on a Wednesday afternoon in the winter, anyway? Does somebody pay them just to be picturesque? (Because they do a mighty fine job of it.) We chugged across to Manly in about half an hour, then followed the "Corso" with its lovely pastel facades and varied/tacky souvenir etc. shops to the beach.

It was a bit cold for swimming--we dunked our toes in a bit--but we and kids in school uniform and others stayed on the beach for a while, then did some more shopping and >>TAH-DAH<< the best fish and chips EVER from Manly Fish Market on Steyne Street. (Take-out counter) I don't even really know how the chips were, to be honest, because I was having a holy experience of revelation with that fish."

My nieces still talk about it, the 98 pounder particularly. She did quite a number on that fish and chips; I had a hard time stopping her enough to get this picture:
Amy is offline  
Nov 28th, 2015, 05:05 AM
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Thank you very much for this response. This is exactly the sort of thing we would be interested in. For a variety of reasons we are not particularly "into" running around and trying to do everything (and at the same time would never really criticize anybody who does that since it can BE done).

Really, really appreciate your input and thanks for the link to those great pictures, too.
Dukey1 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2015, 12:10 PM
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Two of our favourites. A wander around the Queen Victoria building - incredible architecture, great shops and lots of little places to have a coffee. It was totally derelict when some clever people did a fantastic job of restoring it.

Another favourite is the café on the top floor of the Museum of Modern Art right at Circular Quay. It's by the cruise terminal with great views over the harbour.
I'll endorse the suggestion to take the ferry to Manly and enjoy fish and chips.

Incidentally, if you are a senior, check to see if you qualify for the seniors public transport bargain - I think we paid $2.50 a day when we were in Sydney earlier this year. We hopped on and off ferries, buses and trains all day.

Hope you have a great time in our country.
marg is offline  
Nov 28th, 2015, 02:12 PM
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Hi Dukey,

The Radisson is a good choice for your visit. Well located & has a particularly good restaurant & bar ( neither owned by the hotel, nor the sometimes pretty ordinary "hotel restaurant).

Are you ok with a walk of about 1km?
If so, I think you'd enjoy a stroll through the Botanic Gardens to the Art Gallery of NSW. If not, you can take a bus or taxi.

The Gallery is open until 9pm on Wednesdays for Art after Hours.

Nice casual restaurant on the entry level ( Matt Moran - Aria, Chiswick at Wollahra ) and a cafe with outdoor area on the lower ground floor.

With the exception of the MCA, whose 4th floor terrace has good views of the Harbour, our Museums have artefacts & Galleries / Art Galleries house art.

Churches & other interesting buildings - St Mary's Cathedral (Catholic), St James (Anglican) are near each other on Macquarie & College streets. Between them, the Hyde Park Barracks is an interesting museum.

The Great Synagogue is particularly interesting, I think. Unfortunately, the world being what it is these days, you can't just stroll in for a look - but they do tours (1st & 3rd Tuesdays & every Thursday)

A good number of our historic government & other administrative buildings are located on & around the Macquarie & Bridge street areas, so an easy walk. is a useful link to some of them & other historic houses.

The Harbour & ferries are very much a part of our lives and I endorse others' recommendation of taking the Manly ferry ( NOT on Sundays, when the $2:50 & Sunday Funday freebies for kids fill them to the scuppers).

I'm a Northern Beaches local these days, so my view will necessarily be different from that of a visitor.

Here's a link that you may find useful.
The brochure has good maps to give you a perspective of proximity of various things & some other useful info.

Things I like in & around Manly include
Manly Art Gallery - around to your left along Manly Cove as you exit the ferry terminal.

Note: you need to walk down The Corso ( directly in front of the ferry wharf/terminal ) to get to the beach.

Don't scoff! People have alighted, thought Manly Cove was Manly Beach & wondered what we were all raving on about the sand, surf etc for.

The Corso is touristy, a bit tacky, has a few pubs & serves a purpose. Avoid the restaurants along The Corso. You can do better.

If you're looking for take-away Fish & Chips, here's the place: Manly Fish Market. Just off South Steyne ( street abutting the beach), in Wentworth Street.

At the end of The Corso, you're on the beach - veering to the south (right) is a lovely 10-15 minute walk to Shelly Beach. Lovely little bay.

There are a couple of cafes/ restaurants. The Boathouse is newish, a bit Hamptons in style, nice atmosphere & quite good menu. But, it's also popular, busy, can be noisy, AND doesn't take bookings. I like it but ...

The Bower Restaurant, about 1/2 way along that walk does take bookings, is smaller, quieter & usually where I end up. I don't usually book, but good to be able to do so.

As you're walking back from Shelly Beach, notice the exquisite little silver marine animals, divers & other locals depicted in tiny sculptures set into the stone retaining wall along the footpath.

You'll probably also see some of our beautiful water dragons sunning themselves & posing for photos along the wall & in the bush.

The imposing building you see above the southern end of Manly Beach ( and located in Darley street) is the old St Patrick's Seminary. It's now the International school of Hotel Management.
It's well worth a visit and although you can't go into all of the rooms, you can certainly walk along the colonnades & through the grounds. The entry is a bit before Manly Hospital, but take a bus & ask the driver to let you off at St Patrick's. we used to call it the Cardinal's Palace / Priest Factory.

Former PM Tony Abbott & author Thomas Keneally both has a flutter with their vocation there before deciding the call of the outside world was stronger. In a nice circle of life, Tom & his wife now live on the Estate, following its sale some years ago.

North Head & the old Quarantine Station are also worth a visit.
Accor have a hotel on part of the site, but you can certainly do tours etc.

One more thing, while you're on the Northern Beaches & while I think of it.

A nice day trip is to take the bus to Palm Beach and then the ferry to Ettalong, bus to Woy Woy. ( Spike Milligan's old stamping ground).
Lunch at Woy Woy Fishermen's Wharf.
Book a table. Or at least give them a call, let them know what day you're coming & see if they're busy.

You mentioned Bondi beach. You have 5 or 6 days here and it's only going to take 45 mins in a bus to get there.

If you're up for a walk, the Bondi to Bronte walk is nice ( and has a few steps & stairs) 3kms each way. I like to start at Bronte, walk to Bondi. Bus to Watsons Bay. Ferry back to the city.

That's enough for now. My iPhone battery is on 12% & you'll be over my rabbiting on.

Let me know about walking - that'll influence other things I & others might suggest.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2015, 05:37 PM
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Wow, what a fantastic post Bokhara. I suddenly want to fly to Sydney!
Melnq8 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2015, 09:10 PM
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Check the ferry schedule from Watsons Bay. We didn't and found that the last ferry was quite early and we missed it, so had to take the bus back to Sydney.
martharap is offline  
Nov 28th, 2015, 09:35 PM
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Dukey1- all the talk of the Sydney ferries (wonderful trips) reminded me of another ferry trip an hour or so out of town. To the north is the Hawkesbury River & there is a ferry run where the boat delivers mail etc. to those living on the river. Check If travelling by train you would need to leave Sydney Central railway platform 12 around 8.45am for the 10am ferry. Lunch & morning tea are included in the price of $50pp $44 senior. I have done this trip twice & have found it a wonderful relaxing trip. I have also taken interstate/overseas visitors on the trip & they have enjoyed it immensely. Enjoy your visit
trotsky is offline  
Nov 29th, 2015, 12:23 AM
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The Spit Bridge to Manly walk is wonderful if you're feeling energetic. Bus to Spit Bridge and you can return by ferry.
dreamon is offline  
Nov 29th, 2015, 02:28 AM
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we liked Watson's Bay too - the cafe at the Library is very good [but don't be fooled - though it class itself a TeaShop it closes at about 3pm] and there is a great seafood cafe on the pier. if you walk straight ahead as you get off the boat you walk across a small park and up a gentle hill where you can admire the view from Watson's Gap [where there are some quite off-putting anti-suicide warning notices!] and catch a bus to Bondi, which we didn't like as much as Manly. and there is a very good ice-cream parlour just by the bus stop to refresh you when you get off the bus on the way back.

another thing we liked which I don't think is mentioned upthread was the tour of the Governor's Mansion, which you access through the top of the Botanical gardens. it's free but you have to provide a passport or other form of identity. The guided tour is compulsory but you can spend as long as you like in the garden afterwards [wonderful views] and we found it very informative about the early history of the settlement of Australia.

with 5 days, you might want to think about a day trip into the Blue Mountains - we didn't quite have time for that but were sorry to have missed it .
annhig is offline  
Nov 29th, 2015, 02:33 AM
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oh yes - if you like pubs, the Old Nelson Brewery at the top of the Rocks, advertised as Sydney's oldest hotel - is worth a visit:

we had a nice meal there with some local friends and is had a great atmosphere.
annhig is offline  
Nov 29th, 2015, 05:16 PM
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I will do my best to reply appropriately to what can only be described as an embarrassment of riches in terms of suggestions offered. I honestly didn't expect many replies so I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point.

Marg, thanks very much. The whole "restored" (if that is the right term) building idea is always appealing. We have seen such efforts both here in the US and elsewhere and it is always interesting, and often fun, to see how these projects turn out.

And the cafe atop the museum sounds interesting as well. Sometimes just taking in a view is memorable alone.

As to the transit fares, I was not under the impression that just anyone of a certain age could take advantage of the senior fares but I will pursue that. I suspect we will end up with the Opal since we tend to use public transport once we understand how it works/where it goes, etc.

Bokhara2, as to the Radisson as a hotel choice: I knew that the New Years Eve fireworks thing would certainly fill the hotels within direct viewing distance so when I started planning this trip back in January of this year the first thing I did was look at Sydney hotel space.

Places like the Four Seasons and the Park Hyatt were already sold out! I thought we were lucky to get the Radisson and despite the requirement to prepay the entire 6 nights I went for it. I am certain it will be more than just fine; I've read the reviews and some of the things which seem to impress some are of little importance to us.

Good to hear about the restaurant, though.

Yes, definitely OK with a walk of that length; botanic gardens, really good ones, are always of interest as are art museums. Walking there has its advantages, too, so thanks for that suggestion and any others you think of.

Ditto thanks for the churches/synagogue suggestions.

I am definitely thinking this Manly excursion MUST happen in some form or other!!!!

Will post this initial reply now...have not forgotten all the other suggestions and will say more about all of those tomorrow.
Dukey1 is offline  
Nov 29th, 2015, 06:49 PM
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Dukey - you are correct. Seniors Opal cards are available only to NSW residents.
The $2:50 seniors & pensioners' day tickets, which will phase out in January, are also only for NSW residents who qualify.

That others choose to break the law by buying, selling or using them is a matter for them. And the authorities if they are caught.

NYE. There will be very good coverage of the fireworks on TV. I imagine a bottle of something celebratory in your hotel suite would be just fine. I've not stayed there, so don't know about their room service menu - but have eaten at The Bentley quite a few times & am happy to recommend it if you want to stay in house. Book early, though.

If you fancy a picnic, DJ'S (David Jones) Market street store ( Cnr Market & Castlereagh) has a good selection.

I've been to many of our NYE fireworks, seen them from lots of vantage spots, including one fabulous night at the Opera House & other fantastic nights on a friend's rooftop terrace. Enjoyed every one of them.

As I will enjoy having dinner with friends & watching the midnight fireworks on TV, champagne in hand, seeing the New Year in on their deck this year.

One more for your list - Cockatoo Island
Bokhara2 is offline  
Nov 30th, 2015, 03:24 AM
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My thanks to Martharap, Trotsky, Dreamon, and Annhig for the additional and interesting suggestions.

Thanks, Bokhara2 for the additional NYE thoughts. I suspect my husbear is going to want to wade right into the thick of things.

And Peter_Hasdon21, thank you as well. Much appreciated.
Dukey1 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2015, 09:55 AM
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that's both of those flagged.
annhig is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2015, 01:31 AM
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The Aussie dollar is in your favour. Its nice when that happens. Have a wonderful visit here.
october_fun is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2015, 02:43 AM
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Yes, we are fortunate that both the Australian and New Zealand dollar have favorable exchange rates compared to our US $. And despite those surcharges I plan to use a credit card as much as possible to pay for things not yet pre-paid. I just compared the exchange rates for Travelex and the bank rate ( and wheras I have no problem with people making money but the Travelex commission is to be avoided IMO.
Dukey1 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2015, 11:01 AM
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Most people find ATMs are the best bet when they need some cash.

Fees will be less if your bank has an affiliation with one of ours/ no o'seas transaction fee. Even if it doesn't, the convenience is generally worth the small cost.
Bokhara2 is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2015, 12:08 PM
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Some great info. Definitely bookmarking for our trip next Sept.
TravelerKaren is offline  
Dec 4th, 2015, 05:42 PM
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I'd also recommend visiting the Chinese Garden of Friendship near Darling Harbour. I stumbled across it when I was in Sydney 10 years ago and it is gorgeous. They have tea rooms inside and I brought my book and just sat in the gardens for a few hours reading.

I also did a day tour to the Blue Mountains and it was great (and I'm not one for tours but I was by myself on this trip so decided it was the better option than a self tour).

One thing I did do which was a great experience was heading into Kings Cross one night and seeing a drag show. I know not everyone's cup of tea but I met up with a old friend and he took me (and his Mum) there and it turned out to be a great show. I was in my mid 20's then, but I remember by friends Mum thoroughly enjoying it too.
rellie2 is offline  

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