Trip Report - Sydney

Old Apr 25th, 2004, 11:46 AM
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Trip Report - Sydney

Just returned last night from 13 nights in Australia and as I spend many hours researching on this forum before we left, I wanted to give back and share my experiences!
Departed from DC Friday evening, 5 hours to LA on United, 3 hour layover, 13 hours on Qantas to Sydney. Ended up with no major jetlag, as we were able to sleep on the plane quite well; arrived early Sunday morning. Best way into downtown is DEFINITELY the train, easy to do, $11 per person one way to Circular Quay. It takes less than 20 minutes and I hear is faster and easier than a cab. The walk from CQ to the Lord Nelson Hotel in the Rocks was not too bad, we are both 30 and were huffing and puffing a little, as you climb a gradual hill to get to the hotel (15 minutes with luggage, 10 without). We did really like the Lord Nelson, recommended by Fodors posters. I liked that it was not on George Street, the main street in the rocks, as it seemed that area was a bit noisy. The room was clean, bed comfortable, bathroom newly renovated; no hair dryer in the room (I guess I could have borrowed one from reception) and only a desk drawer for undies. The pub itself was great with lots of character; our hotel was 2 floors up from the pub and wasn?t noisy at all. Breakfast is included and very adequate (cereal, toast, fruit).
The first morning we walked around the Rocks; Saturday and Sunday is the outdoor Rocks market which I would recommend! We had a lovely basic breakfast on George St (can?t remember the name), then headed to Circular Quay to jump on the Sydney Explorer Tour Bus. This was an excellent way to spend our first day and I highly recommend doing some sort of hop-on-hop-off bus (there?s another red bus tour, double decker like London?s busses) as you can go at your own pace, get a good overview of the city and the sights to see. This tour took us by Hyde Park, St. Mary?s, Sydney Hospital, the Barracks, Mrs. Macquarie?s chair (great view of the Opera House and the bridge), King?s Cross, Potts Point, Wooloomooloo, to North Sydney and back over the bridge, then to downtown, Chinatown, Darling Harbour. We went to the viewing platform of the Centrepoint tower - skip this as the view is OK, when you climb the Sydney Bridge you are not as high but also get a nice view. Also, unless you are with kids, the other attractions at Centrepoint (included in the price of the ticket for the view) are hokey. ($24 total pp I believe). In Potts Point there are lots of lovely cafes with good lunch food; we ate at Spring which was yummy. This is a nice residential area.
Near Darling Harbour, I?d recommend the Chinese Meditation Garden. Darling Harbour itself is a little tacky I think, I wouldn?t want to stay in a hotel there. For dinner, we went to the Loenbrau Keller in the Rocks, on Argyle street. Eat inside as they have a fun Oktoberfest-like show with 3 guys playing OoomPahPah music, doing German dances, then enlisting audience members for ringing bells and beer drinking contests. It was actually a lot of fun and the food was quite good too.
Monday we walked to the BridgeClimb office and booked our Bridge Climb for Tuesday - wait until you get to Sydney to book as you wouldn?t want to go in the rain(or check weather reports just before you leave). I think any time of day would be good to do this - it was pricey but WORTH IT!! This was one of our favorite activities on the 2 week trip. Anyway, we then took a ferry to Taronga Zoo which was good but we liked Featherdale Wildlife park better (I?ll get to that later!). It is still obviously worth a trip though, as the views are nice and the ferry ride is nice. Granted we were out to see native animals, and skipped the bears/monkeys/lions, as we had been to San Diego Zoo in January. From the Zoo, we went back to circular Quay and took a ferry to Milson?s Point, in hopes of going to a restaurant called Ripples recommended by a friend who lived in Sydney. It was closed, but we wandered up the hill in North Sydney and found a WONDERFUL little sidewalk café called Trios. Back to Circular Quay after lunch, then an afternoon tour of the Opera House. Interesting, if you like theatre/architecture. For dinner, we went to Zaffran, a ritzy Indian restaurant in Darling Harbour. Nice view, decent B+ food (we LOVE Indian food and were not excessively impressed, but worth a try nevertheless.)
Bridge Climb - fantastic. Afternoon - Sydney Aquarium; at first we were indifferent about the aquarium, but once we got to the underwater tubes/tunnels, we decided it was worth it. It was neat seeing the platypus, but the other fish displays were underwhelming (I was unfortunately comparing it to the Monterrey Aquarium, the best in my opinion) but the shark tank and the seal display were fantastic. Definitely worth a visit. Dinner: Arthur?s Pizza on Oxford Street in Paddington - recommended by my friend who lived in Sydney as the best pizza in town and it certainly was splendid. It was nice to see a different part of Sydney, more residential, artsy area. We had tried to go to a restaurant called Sea Cow which was closed for the night, according to my friend has great reasonably priced seafood. Before I forget, one night we ate at Billy Kwon?s, a nouveau Asian cuisine restaurant in I think Darlinghurst - also highly recommended.
Wednesday we took the train out to Blacktown to the Featherdale Wildlife Park. I had heard about this from a friend who had gone to Sydney last year and she raved about it. I hadn?t found it mentioned very much on this forum, and when we got to Sydney, I asked some locals about it. Most had either not heard of it, or said Taronga Zoo was better. My theory is that locals don?t get thrilled about seeing Kangaroos, Crocs, Koalas and flying foxes becaue they get to see those more often than bears, tigers, and monkeys. We absolutely LOVED the Featherdale Wildlife park (email me if you want info on how to get out there) - got the chance to pet a koala (have our picture taken with it), feed kangaroos and wallabies (they are out in the open with you), see a taipan (very deadly snake) eat a dead mouse (great reptile house), see a croc jump for a dead chicken, see tons of native birds up close as well as the flying foxes(essentially a bat). I would highly recommend a half day trip out there if you get excited by the animals mentioned above. We also saw Tasmanian Devils, white kangaroos, a cassowary, dingos, and wombats.
That afternoon we did the lovely Spit to Manly walk (Thank you Alan!!). The weather was perfect and the walk was wonderful. We didn?t start until 2pm and felt a little rushed so I?d recommend you allow yourselves a bit more time. Alan has excellent directions on this forum somewhere for how to get there. It takes you past lovely coves with clear blue water, fantastic views of downtown, aboriginal carvings, and some nice beaches. Plus the ferry from Manly to Circular Quay just past sundown was spectacular.
Thursday morning we took a leisurely stroll through the Sydney Botanical Gardens. How enchanting a way to spend a morning! We were amazed at the thousands (yes!!) Of flying foxes hanging from the trees above us, and the chatter of wild cockatoos and kookaburras soaring by. If you want to splurge, I?d recommend our afternoon activity: a friend had given us a gift certificate for Sydney by Seaplane for a flight to the Cottage Point Inn, an fantastic and romantic restaurant/B&B on the Hawksberry River north of Syndey. We had a 3 hour lunch on the bank of this lovely river with sailboats passing by, 70 degree cloud-free skies, and A++ food. At 3:30 the plane picked us back up and we flew over Sydney and the suburbs. From there (Rose Bay) we took a cab to Bondi and walked to Coogee - a marvelous 90-120 minute walk along the cliffs. Another must do for any trip to Sydney!! That night we met up with friends for dinner at the Lord Nelson. Friday we flew to Port Douglas, check out that report on a separate posting. After Port Douglas and Ayers rock, we returned to Sydney for one last night, where we ate at Quay - FANTASTIC view of the Sydney bridge and Opera House/Circular Quay - food was also very good but VERY!!! expensive. It was our last night and we wanted to splurge....Another recommended food splurge is breakfast at the Park Hyatt, great food and great view.
Email [email protected] with any questions. Julie
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Old Apr 25th, 2004, 03:20 PM
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July, I compliment you not only on your excellent report, which I will read again as soon as I have typed this short reply, but also on your choices -- that's a good way to spend a few days in Sydney! I confess I am in awe of anyone who would START the Spit Bridge to Manly walk in the afternoon! As the sun began to plunge behind the hills and the end isn't even in sight, you must have started to wonder if you might be spending the night camped out at the Squatters' huts! I'm so glad that you made it before dinner time -- but anyone reading Julie's post, please remember that this is a walk to start on early in the day!
I was pleased to hear your positive comments about the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel, which is a place I often think I'd like to stay at -- the immediate area, before you get down to George Street, is quite lovely, I think. I also agree about Centrpoint Tower -- it's a lot of money for a view, when so much of Sydney boasts beautiful views for free (I know I say the same thing about the Harbour Bridge climb, when you can walk across the bridge for free, but at least the climb is an experience to remember -- going up the lift to the top of Centrpoint hardly rates as a memory to cherish!)
Your views on Featherdale vs Taronga were interesting, even though I must comment that it seems that you visited Featherdale on a good day. And you cuddled a koala! Several people have written to this site saying that Featherdale has refused this service of late on the grounds that it was against Australian law (!!!) You seem to be living proof that this isn't so (of course, if Interpol knocks on your door next week, get back to us, will you?)
Anyway, Julie, I am glad that you had such a great time, I thank you for a report which I reckon is really worth reading, and my wish now is that you come back for a return visit.... and soon!
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Old Apr 25th, 2004, 04:43 PM
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Alan, "cuddle" is a strong word (and I'm not just saying that for Interpol). It was more like "pat pat" as we said "cheese". They don't let you hold them.
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Old Apr 25th, 2004, 11:22 PM
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Julie

Great trip report. Glad you had fun in our city!

Thanks for posting!
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Old May 12th, 2004, 09:40 AM
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jck4 - can you email me specifics on how to get to Featherdale as I want to go in mid-sept. Email address is [email protected]. Thanks
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Old May 12th, 2004, 07:04 PM
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lets see... we walked from the rocks 15 min to the Wynard train station, 60 min train ride to blacktown. once in blacktown, head to the exit where the busses are - there is only one bus heading to featherdale, second row, all the way at the end. dont remember the number. from start to finish the journey was about an hour and a half but very worth it in my opinion.
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Old May 13th, 2004, 06:47 AM
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Thanks JCK4 much appreciated!
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Old May 13th, 2004, 02:14 PM
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Brazoo, just to add one small point to jck4's excellent directions.... your best bet is to get off that Wynyard train after two stops, at Central (which is the local name for Sydney Terminal) and go upstairs to Platform 12 (or thereabouts) and catch the Interurban train which will have as its ultimate destination either "Lithgow", "Katoomba" or "Mt Victoria". There's only one train an hour for most of the day (more at peak hours), and it goes at 3 minutes after the hour, so you'll need to plan this... but the train is much more pleasant than the usual Sydney "garbage cans on wheels": airplane-type seats, chilled drinking water, air conditioned, tinted windows. It will get you to Blacktown in only about four stops, and in two-thirds the time that jck4 took. No extra cost for this train.

Also, if the bus to Featherdale is not imminent, there are taxis waiting on the southern side of the station -- it's only 2 km from Blacktown to Featherdale, so this would not be too much of a shock to the wallet... and it's important, with Featherdale, to get there early so as to beat those hordes of tour buses (sometimes there are ten or twelve at a time in the car park) which can make it hard to get close to the cages.
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