Sydney Trip Report

Feb 2nd, 2004, 06:06 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Feb 2004
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Sydney Trip Report


Hello, everyone. I have decided to send a trip report since this board was extremely helpful in our first trip overseas.

The wife and I flew from HNL-SYD on QF4. First of all, as others have said on this board, flying out of HNL international was an extreme hassle. The airport had 2 lines only through security and the line was massive. For one of the lines, the "general" line was stopped to allow others who had more immediate flights or flight crews to
go through security quickly. 45 minutes later with myself being in the "general" line we had not gone through security. The whole situation was frustrating to say the least. In any case, Qantas in my limited flying experience is the BEST airline in the world expecially compared to US carriers. The FA's were friendly, food was great even where we were in the "back of the bus", and this plane was just recently retrofitted with the new entertainment configuration.
I thought 10 hrs was going to be brutal but I slept most of the way and the great experience helped tremendously.
Upon arrival, the wife and I "hired" a car from Budget which looking back upon was really unnecessary. Needless to say, driving on the "left" was an adventure. I would compare driving in Sydney to driving in New York on the "wrong" side of the street. The wife and I after many harrowing right turns finally reached our destination, the Four Seasons and immediately went to the spa for a massage to relax.
The Four Seasons in Sydney is a good hotel with great service but not necessarily deserving of the Four Seasons moniker. The rooms are the same (small compared to other FS) with different views and the breakfast buffet was AUD$36 each and AWFUL..Also during our stay all three elevators did not work so 17 flights of stairs was a regular occurance. Probably next time the Park Hyatt will be our choice. The Park is in a prime location under the Bridge and probably has bigger rooms. Dinner was at a Chinese Restaurant in the Rocks area that was mediocore at best and roughly AUD 100.
Day 2 I decided to give driving another try and head out to Featherdale Park. Featherdale was one of the highlights of our trip. Petting the koalas and having the 'roos hop around you while looking at the tas devils, wombats, fairy penguins and dingo was an experience we will always remember. Later that day, after becoming an expert driver, we went to the QVB for some shopping. Absolutely amazing how all the shopping outlets close around 5 pm except on Thursdays where they are open until 9 pm. After asking a few locals why this is, some answers were shops are open late for other workers to attend once a week and wednesdays are usually paydays. Wife and I still do not know why this is true.
Day 3: Took the Ferry to Darling Harbour which was another highlight and a must do. Although Darling Harbour is not much of a harbour, DH is a nice place to be with a lot of activity. Despite given advice to the contrary, the wife and I visited Star City. Star City was by far the unhappiest place I have ever been to with a handful of people playing the pokies and looking very depressed. Next was the Aquarium which is a definite highlight. The seals and sharks were outstanding and the sea turtles were massive. Dinner was at Prime. Not bad but not even close to the Smith and Wollensky comparison stated in the guide.
Day 4: Tour of the Opera House. Another highlight with an informative but cranky guide and the inside to the Opera House is just as impressive as the outside. Lunch at the bar in AquaLuna was great. Next time we will try the restaurant upstairs. Even at lunchtime, the bar was a buzz with activity and a great place to people watch while drinking a VB.
Day 5: Went to find the Hard Rock Cafe. Not the easiest place to find but we found it. The HRC is not in a prominent place as others and tends to blend in with the rest of the neighborhood. On to Chinatown and the factory outlets. The factory outlets were ok and nothing compared to the massive outlet centers the States offer. Lunch was in Chinatown where for AUD 12.00 you get 3 entrees, soup, rice, and a beverage. An excellent bargain with good portions and tasty food. Also in Chinatown we found a wool blanket which was 189 AUD in the factory outlet for AUD 80. An excellent bargain. Dinner was at a "Diner" next to the Manly wharf in Circular Quay which is a great place for a reasonable dinner with decent food.
Day 6: The Manly Ferry which is the best highlight of the trip. Manly beach reminded me a lot of Southern California with excellent surf and incredible beach. The town of Manly reminded me a lot of a mellow Hermosa or Manhattan Beach in California. The summertime sun was INTENSE at the beach where 30 SPF was not nearly enough even for someone with a tan all ready.

Flew back to HNL on QF 3 which was again a very pleasant experience. Can not see how HA could survive the route from HNL-SYD? The Qantas level of service is unmatchable.

Can not wait for our next trip to Melbourne next winter.
Thanks and would like to answer any quesitons especially those travelling overseas the first time
hawaiidick is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2004, 08:14 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi, hawaiidick!

It was interesting to read your report, and there are a few points you raised that need to be borne in mind by others planning the same trip.

First, "petting the koalas" at Featherdale. I'm glad you did this; two people recently wrote to this forum saying it was, in fact, illegal in Australia to pat a koala and that it couldn't, therefore, be done at freatherdale. I argued with the first poster, but when the second one responded with a verification, I thought maybe I was going mad, and gave up.

Next, I was also pleased to read that you thought Star City was a waste of time. So do I. I've been warning people off it for years. All the glitz of Las Vegas without a shred of character. Why would you come to Australia and go there, when you can see it just as easily much closer to home (and maybe have the consolation of a "name" cabaret star)?

Third, the nine o'clock closing on Thursdays. It's really quite simple. It was going to be Friday, the end of the week, because then you can shop late and sleep in on Saturday morning. But the thousands of people who work in the shops pointed out that late night shopping on Friday would prevent them from getting away early for a long weekend. So Thursday was the next choice.

Last, the Four Seasons. That is really outrageous. In fact, your report has sent the Four Seasons to the top of my hate list, narrowly above the Four Points (or is it "All Points"?) which advertises "harbour views" when it actually looks at ugly Darling Harbour, not beautiful Sydney Harbour.... but, once you're booked in, most people just grin and bear it.
Thirty six dollars each for a breakfast! It's a wonder they didn't agree to take it in AMERICAN dollars!! Trust me, it is ONLY the American tourist that this kind of rip-off is aimed at; the word has gotten around that all Americans are as rich as Croesus and won't complain about a blatant rip-off (in fact, they'll probably tip the organisation, to compound the felony!) I bet you won't find many Aussies paying thirty-six dollars for a hotel breakfast, especially of the buffet variety, which, in my experience, is notorious for re-using yesterday's food (one hotel I stayed in in Canberra served yoghurt that was thick with mould on the top.... this was another one of those high-priced US chains, where everything is balance sheet and the client is merely a pawn. When I sent it back, pointing to the mould, the maitre d' didn't even look shocked.) As for your seventeen flights of stairs, well, words fail me. Did you actually PAY for your accommodation in this place? They should be paying you!
Next time you come I will tell you about a hotel less than a kilometre from the Four Seasons where you can get a double room for less than the price you paid for two breakfasts. Of course, they won't serve you breakfast... but they'll direct you to the nearby fast-food Woolworths where you can get your own breakfast for less than $4. You might meet some Sydneysiders there -- more likely, anyway, than in the Four Seasons!
Alan is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2004, 10:43 PM
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Hi Allan - the koala cuddling question is rather confusing - the Koala Foundation says that the handling (not necessarily patting) of koalas in wildlife sanctuaries and zoos by the public in the state of NSW is illegal and has been for at least 10 years. As yet, there is no ruling in Queensland but the practice is becoming less and less and there are very strict guidelines for those that still do, ie no more than half an hour a day and no more than 3 consecutive days. Rainforest Habitat in Port Douglas, Queensland will not allow it as it flies in the face of their eco-accreditation. If anyone wants more details suggest they contact National Parks and Wildlife.
pat_woolford is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2004, 02:28 AM
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Sorry, forgot to mention - also illegal in Victoria, too.
pat_woolford is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2004, 07:10 PM
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Hello, all. I was in Oz in August 2003 and also visited Featherdale. I do not know what the law is in NSW, but the staff did not allow holding koalas. They did allow me to pet a cute koala for a photo op. They are very soft!
I also stayed at the Four Seasons in Sydney, but fortunately did not have such a bad experience. I was disappointed in the size of the rooms, but I did not eat meals there so I do not know about the prices. The drinks in the bar were pricey but I expected that because of the location and type of hotel this is. Alan, I would be VERY interested in the alternative accommodations in the Rocks you mentioned. I plan on returning to Sydney this year and am already planning my trip.
I just adore Australia and Australians, it was the best holiday I have had so far.
melinca is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2004, 09:47 PM
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This post will probably anoint me as resident grouch, but I don't know why anyone would WANT to cuddle a koala. They only look cute because they're dopey, the result of a very poor diet and extreme stupidity. The only reason they don't sink their fangs into you (like their nasty cousins the possums -and I speak from experience) is that they haven't got the energy. They have been known to urinate on people, though, as an Australian minister for tourism found to his disgust. He's no longer a koala fan either, needless to say.

Why don't the zoos think laterally and keep a stock of stuffed koalas for people to hold? I mean, even the person holding the thing would have trouble telling the difference, let alone their friends and relatives back home.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Feb 4th, 2004, 07:39 PM
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Well, Neil, I do appreciate your lesson to all the ignorant tourists in Oz. I understand the issues you raise, but you should also understand that people from other countries view the koala as a symbol of Australia (Qantas is no fool). Our foolishness is really a strange gesture of respect to your country and its unique wildlife.
I am mostly responding to your tirade to top this message so maybe Alan will see and respond to my previous query above regarding nice quarters in the Rocks.
melinca is offline  
Feb 5th, 2004, 04:03 AM
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Hi, Melinca! I didn't see your original question, but I am glad to respond now -- even though I really don't have anything to add to what has been said on other posts. The cheap-as-chips hotel I mentioned above -- less than a pair of thirty-six dollar breakfasts, is not in the Rocks, but up at the Town Hall: the Criterion, which (when I last checked a couple of years ago) had rooms for around $AUD60 a double. That's share bath -- but the location (near the best shops, near the Queen Victoria Building, near the George St Cinema Centre, near the Monorail, and near Hyde Park) would be hard to beat. If you want another slightly more upmarket hotel almost adjacent, the Coronation at just over $AUD100 might be the one you want.

In the Rocks, the cheapest I know is the Palisade, and what's good about it is that the rooms have a view -- it's on a crest with nothing around it, and one side looks at the Bridge and the other side at Darling Harbour. Rooms are around $AUD118 a double. The down side? Well, it's a peculiar looking place, built as a sailor's hotel early last century, and the old wooden fire escape, which looks like it hasn't been touched since the place opened, is a bit of a turn-off. The whole place is solid and "bricky" and ugly, but it is still a rare bargain, and it would be my first thought if I were spending a weekend in Sydney.

Almost under the Harbour Bridge and for a similar price is the Mercantile. This is the very heart of the Rocks, and, while there's no view, it's hard to fault the location; but it's a rowdy Irish pub, more popular for drinking than staying in, so you may, on a busy night, be put off by the racket downstairs. Only two or three storeys tall, so you can't get far away from it.

The Australia Hotel is in a quieter area, often overlooked by tourists. Not very swank, but VERY genuine, and if you're planning to climb the Harbour Bridge, this one is only about 150 metres from the entry office.

In a lovely area at the back of the Rocks (just near the Palisade) is the oldest hotel in Sydney: the Lord Nelson Brewery. Rooms there are about $AUD180, which is approaching the price for some of the "chains" -- but this is far nicer, and more "Austrailan", than a chain hotel! Very quiet location, which hasn't been tarted up for tourists, and just near a great old church. Highly recommended.

In the middle of the Rocks is the Old Sydney Holiday Inn. Apart from its great location, it's ... well, it's a Holiday Inn. Usually highly-priced, it apparently has some mad specials sometimes -- one writer to this site boasted getting a room for $AUD165. I presume that was a room without a view.
Or maybe without a door!

I could never afford to stay at my last, and best of all, selection, but it's the one that (in my opinion) beats all for location, and for quaintness. The little 150-year old, three-storey building is Sydney as it was back when Lincoln and Sherman were arguing about the future of America, and the easter half of Australia was still called "New South Wales". The down side of this is that (like the Lord Nelson Brewery and the Palisade) it has not been modified with anything so modern as a lift, which occasionally offends people who think that the Four Seasons or the Marriott is the last word in service and ambience. The name of this gem is The Russell, and a google search will turn up its website (you can find most of the others on google also) so you can see what it looks like. Position? Well, step outside the door and you are right near where the ferries come in at Circular Quay. And you are looking straight at the Opera House. All of this comes at a price (I think maybe around $AUD240 a room) but if you were on a honeymoon or something like that, this is the place to stay.

Had enough? I could go on and on, but this really takes care of the best. As for the rest -- well, there's the Marriott, the Shangri-La, the Park Hyatt (great view), the Quay West, and the Four Seasons, which is almost adjacent to the Russell, and (sometimes, at any rate) has a working lift. Have fun choosing!
Alan is offline  
Feb 5th, 2004, 07:19 PM
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Thanks so much, Alan. It is great to hear about local hotel options. I am trying to avoid the chains this time around and many of your suggestions sound spot on for me. Your time and effort in replying will not be forgotten!
melinca is offline  
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