Sunday, 22 May 2016

Most under-rated attractions in Sydney

Obviously, this one is very much a matter of opinion. There will undoubtedly be many people who rate these attractions quite highly. Given that I am listing them here, it is no surprise that I am one of those people. However, these are all attractions which don't tend to get mentioned quite as often as some of the more high profile attractions in Sydney. They are all excellent attractions though, and well worth a visit.

Ku-Ring-Gai Chase

Ku-Ring-Gai Chase is a national park area located about 45 minutes drive from Sydney CBD. It doesn't feature on too many holiday-maker's itineraries, but it is a beautiful area with no shortage of spectacular places to get some quality relaxation time. There are secluded beaches, stunning viewpoints, outstanding walking trails and fantastic picnic spots.

Watching Home and Away live, and from a safe distance
Many locals have their own secret spots, and it is a great way to get back to nature without having to travel too far from the city. Considering it is so close to the city, it is surprising more tourists don't take the time to explore it.

Camp Cove

In a city of world class beaches, visitors have no shortage of choices. The most famous are probably the highly acclaimed Bondi, Coogee and Manly beaches.  Each of these are great beaches in their own right, but Camp Cove is definitely a beach that is worthy of some more recognition. It is easily accessible from the CBD, being just a 10 minute walk from Watson's Bay wharf, which can be reached by a direct ferry from Circular Quay.

Not a bad spot to have as your back garden
It is much smaller than it's more famous cousins, but is a sheltered bay, with nice soft sand, and views back towards the city skyline. It is flanked by a millionaires row of houses, and there are glorious walks available around South Head, as well as a host of cafes and restaurants back at Watson's Bay. Definitely worth checking out for those who prefer a smaller, quieter beach.

Sydney Observatory

Being a typical modern city, with all the light pollution that involves, Sydney Observatory is not really one of the best places in the world to indulge in some stargazing. However, assuming that you are not a hardcore astronomer, then there is more than enough to see from Sydney Observatory on a clear night.

The view from Observatory Hill at dusk - sorry, didn't get any good star shots...
Night tours are available that take you around the observatory, giving some background information, and introducing you to some of the equipment. It would be disappointing if they didn't also let you spend some time peering through some giant telescopes, and thankfully they don't disappoint. They finish up with some time outside, where the guides point out some of the constellations that can be seen with the naked eye.

Obviously, on a cloudy night, the live stargazing is not possible, and is replaced with other activities instead.

Rocks Discovery Museum

Sydney has no shortage of museums, and the Rocks Discovery Museum often doesn't get a mention. Part of the reason for this is that it is that it one of the smallest museums in Sydney. Unlike larger rivals, you can thoroughly see everything inside the Rocks Discovery Museum inside an hour. If you are not a huge museum fan, like me, then this is a bonus, as is the free admission. Just for clarity, I mean I am not a huge fan of museums, although I am not a fan of huge museums either.

The public phone box in the middle of the room is an unusual feature...
Regardless of size, the Rocks Discovery Museum is well organised and gives a good background to the history of the area. If you don't really want to waste a whole afternoon wandering around some vast museum full of stuffed birds and paintings of ugly monarchs, but still want to at least include some attempt at culture in your time in Sydney, then this is an option worth considering.

Powerhouse Museum

When people are looking for indoor attractions in Sydney, they are often drawn to the attractions that are included in the many package deals that are available. Specifically, Madame Tussauds, Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife Zoo Sydney and the Sydney Tower Eye. These are all worth visiting, but an often overlooked option is the Powerhouse Museum.

Insert evil laugh here
Located a 15 minute walk from Darling Harbour, the Powerhouse Museum is a vast museum, with a broad range of permanent exhibits, and some ever changing temporary exhibits. The exhibits have a bit of a scientific slant, making them a lot more interactive than many of the other museums in Sydney. There is more than enough to fill a good few hours of the day, and those with young kids especially should take a look when thinking about indoor options for a rainy day.

The Gap Park

The most common options for tourists looking to get out of the CBD are to head to the beaches around Bondi, or to hop on a ferry towards Manly. These are both great options, but one of the best places to spend a sunny afternoon is the Gap Park. You can easily reach it by bus, or by taking a ferry from Circular Quay to Watson's Bay, followed by a 10 minute walk.

The view from the Gap Park over Watson's Bay and Sydney Harbour
The Gap Park includes stunning views in all directions, with clifftop views of the crashing waves below on one side, and the city skyline in the other. It is a fantastic place to spend an afternoon walking and enjoying the fresh sea breeze, followed by a picnic or fish and chips from Doyle's on the Beach in Watson's Bay, before catching the ferry back to the city.

West Head Lookout

Located within Ku-Ring-Gai Chase national park, West Head lookout is a great viewpoint, and starting point to a number of excellent walks. The view includes spectacular views over Pittwater and over towards Barrenjoey and Palm Beach - better known as the Home and Away beach.

The view from West Head beach towards Barrenjoey
It requires a pleasant one hour drive from Sydney to get there, and once there, there is parking available near to the viewpoint. If you are feeling energetic, you can then take a walk down through thick bush to the secluded West Head Beach, and on to Mackerel Beach.


Newtown is one of those hipster places that is so hip, just mentioning it on a list like this makes is slightly less cool. It is packed full of the type of quirky cafes, bars and shops that people with bushy beards and 'ironic' hats just seem to love. There is an abundance of street art, which is like graffiti, only cooler. It is great place to spend an afternoon or evening exploring, and soaking up the vibe.

Now I have the album cover, I just need to make some music
Get there quickly, before it becomes mainstream and some other place takes over as the new hipster location in Sydney.

Susannah Place Museum

On the face of it, the Susannah Place Museum really didn't sound like my kind of place. It is a bunch of old houses in The Rocks, which have been preserved or restored to represent different periods in its history. This sounds like exactly the type of thing I would generally make all kinds of excuses to avoid.

Some of these tins look suspiciously past their sell-by date to me
However, the daily tours are actually very well run, and bring the stories to life in an interesting and entertaining way. The stories are based on the real people who lived in these houses, and give some real insights into the way of life in the days before Sydney became the bustling metropolis it is today. Surprisingly good fun.

White Rabbit Gallery

This place is nuts. Obviously, I have never taken illegal substances of any kind, but I imagine if you were to partake in some mind-altering chemical fun, then the world would look a lot like this museum. It is located in Chippendale, which is about a ten minute walk from Central Station, and is remarkably good value for the entry fee of... absolutely nothing.

I won't insult your intelligence by explaining what this represents

The exhibits are generally contemporary Chinese art, but be prepared for absolutely anything. It closes twice a year to completely refit the space for new exhibitions, but you can be guaranteed that whatever is in place will be suitably insane. The White Rabbit Gallery really deserves a bigger audience.

Helicopter Tour

OK, I said these attractions were under-rated, not cheap. Even a quick 15 minute flight from the airport to the Harbour Bridge and back will cost you upwards of 125 dollars per person, while a half hour flight will be more like 250 dollars or more. This isn't cheap, but isn't much out of line with the Bridge Climb.

The Bridge Climb appears high up on many tourists' wish lists when they visit Sydney, but in many ways, a helicopter tour offers an even more spectacular way to view the harbour. There are a range of tours available, but most will take you up to the Harbour Bridge, giving you a truly spectacular birds eye view of Sydney Harbour and the majestic Opera House. You generally do a couple of loops to see the sights from a couple of different heights.

Depending on the tour, you may head back to the airport, or head out towards the beaches for some more incredible opportunities to view some of Sydney's best sights from a unique vantage point. A helicopter tour is a genuine alternative to the Bridge Climb, and a fantastic experience for those who can afford it.

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace

Admittedly, going to the cinema doesn't tend to be too high up on most people's holiday to-do list. However, if you do fancy catching a flick while you are in Sydney, then you could do a lot worse than head to the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace. There are a few of the typical large chain cinemas in the centre of Sydney, but the Hayden Orpheum is an art deco cinema, bursting with character.

Yeah, sorry - at least you know my pictures are real, and not just professional pictures downloaded off the internet
In addition to the interesting architecture and décor, it also runs some unusual movie choices, including a monthly showing of 'The Room', which they describe as 'the Citizen Kane of bad movies'. It is located in Cremorne, which is about a 20 minute bus ride from the CBD.

Centennial Park

This is another one which doesn't make it on to too many tourists itineraries. However, Centennial Park is a great space located close to the city centre. It is hard to build up too much, since it is just a really big park. Assuming you are familiar with the concept of parks, then there is nothing in it that will blow your mind.

Open air cinema in Centennial Park in the summer
There are a range of nice walks and activities to keep you entertained on a nice summer's day though. In particular, if you have young kids, then this is a great place to come to get some fresh air and space away from the city.

Sydney Jewish Museum

I have to confess that the Sydney Jewish Museum is not exactly a barrel of laughs. As you would expect, it covers the subject of the holocaust, and as such, is fascinating and educational, but a bit harrowing at times. It is extremely well presented, and does a good job of presenting information about a truly horrific subject without becoming morbid or uncomfortable.

No cameras allowed inside - sadly tight security is required at the Sydney Jewish Museum
It's probably not one to squeeze in between pubs on a pub crawl, but it really is a high quality museum, and well worth a visit.

Pylon Lookout at Sydney Harbour Bridge

It is always surprising how many visitors are not fully aware of the Pylon Lookout. The Bridge Climb tends to hog the headlines, and many tourists don't even realise that you can climb up the interior of one of the support pylons.

There are various exhibits on the way up containing information about the bridge and its construction, but the real appeal of the Pylon Lookout are the views from the top. Unlike the Bridge Climb, you can bring your own camera, so this is one of the best spots in Sydney to get your postcard quality pictures of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House.

Sydney - scrubs up well
It doesn't quite have the same psychological appeal as standing on top of the arch, but the views are very, very similar, and at just 13 dollars, it is a very appealing option for those who can't afford the Bridge Climb. Note also that a ticket to the Pylon Lookout is included in the Bridge Climb ticket price, giving you the opportunity to get some additional photos to remind you of your experience.

Watson's Bay

Most visitors who want to experience a ferry ride across the harbour tend to choose the option of the ferry to Manly. This is a fantastic choice, but many people don't even consider Watson's Bay. The ferry journey is similar, but Watson's Bay tends to be a bit quieter than Manly.

There are a couple of beaches to visit in the area, including Camp Cove mentioned above. There are also some great walks around South Head, and along the clifftops at the Gap Park. In addition to all this, there are some great cafes and restaurants to enjoy a relaxing meal or a nice refreshing beverage. All in all, it's an area that should be on every tourist's radar.

The seafront at Watson's Bay Wharf - great cafes, but the better beaches are ten minutes walk away
Whether you would prefer Watson's Bay or Manly depends on your own tastes, but Watson's Bay is definitely worth consideration.

So that is my list of the most under-rated attractions in Sydney. Is there anything you think I've missed? Please let me know in the comments.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Itinerary - one day in Sydney

Technically, if you have one day in Sydney, you could stay up all night and spend a caffeine fuelled 24 hours squeezing in as many sights as you can.  For the purposes of this itinerary however, we'll assume that you wake up at a reasonable time somewhere in Sydney, and want to go to sleep at a reasonable time at some point later that same day.  

There is a lot of walking in this itinerary, so if you are a bit lazy, then you might want to check out the 'lazy day in Sydney' itinerary instead.  If you have genuine mobility issues then that one is probably more useful as well, and please accept my apologies for lumping you in with the people who just can't really be bothered using their own two feet for transport.

Sydney - let's see how much we can squeeze in in a day (I know, the two 'in's next to each other just look wrong)
In any case, for those who don't mind a healthy dose of walking, here is my recommended itinerary for one full day in Sydney.  As always, this is unlikely to fit exactly into your own needs, but hopefully it provides a good starting point for your plans.


Get up (I usually find this is a good first step in any day of sightseeing), and make your way to Coogee Beach.  Check the Transport NSW website for the best way to get there from your hotel, which will almost certainly involve a bus or taxi.  Once there, head to one of the many cafes near the beach front for some breakfast.  Either just go for a wander and see what takes your fancy, or check out TripAdvisor in advance if you're quite fussy about your food.

Coogee Beach - a nice spot to start the day

Have a quick wander along Coogee Beach, then start following the path on the North side of the beach.  This is to the left as you are facing the ocean, and is the start of the Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach coastal walk.  I haven't reviewed this walk, but I have reviewed the Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach coastal walk, which is eerily similar.  The path is pretty easy to follow, but if in doubt, just stay as close to the ocean as you can.  If you find your feet start to get wet, you've gone too far.

Gordon's Bay - technically there is a small beach there, but I don't think it generally counts
You'll pass a number of beaches along the walk.  The first one is Clovelly, followed by Bronte, then Tamarama, and finally Bondi Beach.  There is slightly over 2 hours of walking for someone of average fitness, but take your time and stop for a rest or a swim on at least one of the beaches.  If you need to grab a snack to keep you going, then all the beaches have at least one café or kiosk with food and drinks available.

Bondi Beach - you will be very lucky if it is this quiet

Take the 380 bus from Bondi to the Gap Park (takes about 25 minutes - again, check the Transport NSW website for details), alight at Old South Head Road near Derby Street, and make your way to Christison Park.  Follow the path around this, and then follow the coast North (to the left as you face the ocean) until you reach the Gap Park.  Enjoy the views here, and then head on down to Watson's Bay, and enjoy some well earned lunch from one of the cafes in the area.  Doyle's on the Beach is famous for its seafood if you feel like a seafood lunch, but there are other options around.

The view from near the Gap Park, over Watson's Bay and back to the city - nice

After a relaxing and leisurely lunch, get on a ferry from Watson's Bay Wharf to Circular Quay.  The journey takes about 20 minutes, depending on where it is stopping, and takes in some spectacular scenery along the way.  When you arrive at Circular Quay, head to Macquarie Street, which is the first main street to the East of Circular Quay.  Look for a set of stairs as the Cahill Expressway passes overhead.  They will have a sign next to them that says 'Cahill Walk'.  Go up these stairs, and as you reach the top, turn right and start walking along beside the expressway. 

Circular Quay, hiding behind a giant cruise ship

Stop at the bus stop about 50 yards past the top of the stairs to take a few pictures as you get a great view from in between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.  The traffic screaming past a few feet behind you isn't the most peaceful experience, but the view is outstanding.  Then continue walking in the same direction, and just follow the path round until you reach a set of stairs that takes you down to the Harbour Bridge itself.  Then walk across the bridge, stopping as you reach the first support pylon.

If it is as dark as this when you are walking across the Cahill Expressway, then you are probably running behind schedule


Inside the first support pylon is the Pylon Lookout.  Enter this, pay the 13 dollar entry fee, and make your way up lots and lots of stairs (exactly what you want after a morning spent doing lots of walking).  Once you get to the top, it is worth the effort.  Enjoy the incredible views, and take plenty of pictures.  The view is only marginally different from the view at the top of the Bridge Climb, but for a much lower price. 

The view from inside the Pylon Lookout - no wonder they didn't bother fitting curtains to this window

Of course, the view from the outside isn't too bad either

Once you can tear yourself away from the amazing view (really, it is even better than it looks in pictures), head back down the stairs and continue across to the other side of the bridge.  Go down the stairs at the other side, walk under the tunnel at Milson's Point train station, and turn left to head down to Milson's Point.  Take a wander around Luna Park if you're interested, and even jump on a couple of rides if that's your thing.  Then head to Milson's Point wharf, and jump on a ferry to Darling Harbour.

Milson's Point - a chance to view the Harbour Bridge from yet another angle

Take your pick of the many restaurants in Darling Harbour for dinner.  There is a full range from cheesy tourist traps to high quality establishments.  If you are like me and have a palate with all the sophistication of a fart joke, then just see what you like the look of.  If the thought of a meal in the Hard Rock Café makes you want to choke yourself with your cravat, then check out reviews in advance.  You shouldn't have any problems finding somewhere suitable.

If you do this on a Saturday, you can enjoy the free fireworks, usually around 8pm

After a hearty and satisfying meal, find your way to Kent Street, and head North until you reach The Lord Nelson pub.  If you feel the need to complain about your poorly advised itinerary over a refreshing alcoholic beverage, then pop in for some of their beer brewed on site.  If you're feeling up to it, finish up the night by making this the start of a pub crawl.  Try the Hero of Waterloo on Fort Street, the Mercantile Hotel on George Street and / or the Glenmore Hotel on Cumberland Street. 

The Lord Nelson - one of the many 'oldest' pubs in Sydney
And don't forget to check out the Australian Hotel on Cumberland Street, where a plaque containing the names of my wife and I proudly adorns the wall beside the bar (it's not just our names, it is a plaque commemorating everyone who completed their 'Beer Passport', which involves trying over 140 different Australian beers).

The blur is not a mistake, that's just how this looks once you've drank enough to be on it

Stagger out of the Australian Hotel after far too many drinks, foolishly decide to grab a taxi to the Star casino, and proceed to gamble away your life's savings.  Wake up hungover the next day, realise you've missed your flight home, resulting in you getting sacked from your job, and begin a slow spiral descent into alcoholism and crime, as you turn to increasingly desperate measures to obtain the money to get back home to your family, who have now disowned you anyway.

This last step is optional.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Best free things to do in Sydney

So you arrive in Sydney for a 2 week holiday, enjoy your first day wandering around the Royal Botanic Gardens and The Rocks, then head on to Darling Harbour for some dinner.  After a hearty and thoroughly enjoyable meal, you head over to the Star Casino, just to check it out.  You see a seat become available at a roulette table as you walk past, and think 'what the hell?' - you are on holiday after all.  You take a seat, stick a cheeky $5 on black, and wouldn't you know it, it actually comes up. You allow yourself a satisfied smile as you generously toss a 50 cent chip to the croupier as a tip.

Sydney Harbour in all its glory
Half an hour later, and you're standing there with your shirt soaked with sweat as you place the last $10 in your account on black, having already exhausted both your holiday fund and the money you had saved for your children's school fees.  The croupier is now nervously glancing at the several burly security men in ill fitting suits, who are now standing uncomfortably close to your back and speaking into their cuff links.  With bitter resignation, you watch helplessly as the little ball bounces around tantalisingly from red to black several times, before coming to rest on the green 0.  

If only you'd quit when you were ahead, you could have enjoyed the Bridge Climb
As you trudge out of the casino, wondering how you'll break the news to little Britney that she might need to downgrade her future dreams of becoming a doctor, to dreams of basic literacy, you can console yourself with the fact that the rest of your holiday needn't be wasted.  You may have to cancel the helicopter tour, and the Bridge Climb is out the window, but as it happens, Sydney has no shortage of attractions that cost absolutely nothing.  

For the purposes of this list, we will conveniently ignore any costs of actually transporting yourself to any of these locations, but each of the following attractions can be enjoyed without having to part with a single shiny penny.

Shelley Beach

Who needs big bucks when you have glorious beaches that don't cost a penny?
While you once mocked the beach bums for their lack of drive and ambition, you can now sit on Shelley Beach and dream of one day being able to climb your way back up the rungs of society to reach beach bum status.  Sit on the beach and entertain yourself by watching people stand up paddle boarding, and laugh at how silly the people in scuba equipment look trying to walk along the sand.  Shelley Beach is just a few minutes walk from Manly Beach, but generally offers a slightly calmer and more sedate atmosphere.  Ideal for recovering from your recent trauma.  For a detailed review, read #26 Shelley Beach.

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

You might want to steer clear of those cliffs until you've come to terms with your loss
This one is a fantastic way to spend a day.  You get to experience two of the best known beaches in Sydney in Bondi and Coogee.  You can also enjoy the smaller, but arguably more appealing beaches in Bronte, Tamarama and Clovelly.  There are no shortage of spectacular Cliffside walks, although you may want to wait until you have mentally recovered from your night at the casino before getting too close.  The walk can take from a couple of hours, up to a full day, depending on how much time you spend relaxing along the way.  For the full review, check out #2 Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach Walk.

Sydney Opera House

The outside is the best bit anyway
Ok, so you can no longer afford to actually attend an opera or event, or even buy a coffee from the Opera Bar.  That doesn't mean you can't enjoy Sydney's most famous attraction.  The highlight for most people is just the sight of the Opera House, and you can get some fantastic views without having to pay any entry fees.  You can get close enough to touch the tiles and press your nose up against the glass of the windows.  You can walk around the entire building, and get some of those unusual shots of the Opera House from some of the less common angles, assuming you didn't pawn your camera to get some extra chips at the casino.  You can read the full review at #4 Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Bridge Climb may be out, but doesn't mean you can't still cross the harbour bridge on foot
 It's always hard to mention the Opera House without immediately thinking of the Harbour Bridge, and vice versa.  Thankfully, the Harbour Bridge is another attraction you can enjoy for no cost whatsoever.  You can of course enjoy the views from various view points in the harbour.  And while the Bridge Climb and Pylon Lookout are great ways to enjoy the view, you can walk or cycle across the bridge without paying a penny.  The view is through a mesh fence for much of the way, but it is still every bit as spectacular as it looks in pictures.  Read the full review at #3 Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Royal Botanic Gardens

Acres of exotic plants and trees, and I take a picture of a metal cage
The more entries you read in this list, the more you start to wonder why anyone pays in to any attractions in Sydney, given the wealth of activities that are available for free.  The Royal Botanic Gardens offers countless walking paths through well manicured gardens, and all are blessed with glorious views of harbour or city skyline.  You could easily spend half a day just wandering around and literally stopping to smell the flowers.  For more details, go to #8 The Royal Botanic Gardens.

Mrs Macquarie's Chair

Ok, the chair itself is just a big lump of stone
I admit that this one is essentially a subset of the Royal Botanic Gardens.  However, Mrs Macquarie's Chair is an attraction in its own right, and is worthy of a mention.  As mentioned in the full review at #56 Mrs Macquarie's Chair, the chair itself is not really worthy of too much attention.  The area round about it however, is one of the best points in Sydney to enjoy the views of the aforementioned Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

Walking Tour

You can find out who this General Macquarie, who has his name everywhere, really was
You probably thought once you had blown your life savings on the whim of the roulette wheel that any kind of organised tour was out of the window.  However, there is actually a tour that operates for free.  The descriptively titled 'I'm Free Walking Tours' are, as the name suggests, free walking tours.  There is a three hour city tour during the day, and a one and a half hour night tour of The Rocks.  I would normally recommend that you take the opportunity at the end to donate a fair sum to compensate the guides for their excellent work, but since you are literally penniless, that won't be an option for you.  See #87 Walking Tour for the full review.

The Rocks Discovery Museum

You'll need to go for yourself to find out what's inside the weird glass phonebox
So I've managed to squeeze in an organised tour into this list of free things to do, but surely museums are out of the question?  Again, you're in luck.  First up, is The Rocks Discovery Museum.  This is a small but well organised museum about the history of The Rocks area.  It's not going to keep you entertained for a full day, but might keep you away from the pokies for an extra couple of hours.  Read more at #67 Rocks Discovery Museum.

Museum of Contemporary Art

I think this is really a statement about the futility of war.  And wearing trainers with suit trousers
Right, maybe we can get into a small museum for free, but what about the big boys?  Well, I'm sure you are smart enough to have seen this coming, but yes, the Museum of Contemporary Art is also free entry.  Located in a prime position in between Circular Quay and The Rocks, the MCA is a large collection of, you've guessed it, contemporary art.  It even offers free guided tours, usually at 11am and 1pm each day.  For the full review, see #83 Museum of Contemporary Art.

White Rabbit Gallery

Just what exactly are those pink things on the bed??
If you prefer your art to be certifiably insane, you might want to check out the White Rabbit Gallery instead.  This is another free collection, this time focused on Chinese modern art.  While all modern art seems a bit crazy to me, the Chinese really seem to take it to the next level.  This place is suitably nuts.  It is located in Chippendale, near to Central Station, and also offers free guided tours, at 11am and 2pm, Wednesday to Sunday.  If you want to read more, go to #40 White Rabbit Gallery.

Darling Harbour

Stalking the fireworks from the bushes, like a paparazzi
This one might be a bit painful during the day, since the main attractions around Darling Harbour involve eating or drinking, neither of which you can afford to do, following your casino exploits on your first night.  You can still do a bit of people watching, and watch the boats and ferries coming and going.  The real reason this is on the list though is the free fireworks show on a Saturday night.  It is not just a couple of rockets and a Catherine wheel either, this is a professional, coordinated and comprehensive display.  It has music and everything.  Read all about Darling Harbour at #18 Darling Harbour.

Centennial Park

Ok, so the cinema isn't free, but you can probably stand nearby and listen to the movie
Of course, the last thing you may want is to be surrounded by people spending money.  If you would rather escape from the hustle and bustle, and get some time and space to reflect on your foolish and irresponsible behaviour, then Centennial Park might be a good option.  Located to the South East of Sydney, Centennial Park is a huge park area, with lots of ponds for you to pensively skim stones as you contemplate the full horror of your opening night escapades.  Get some further information at #34 Centennial Park


I'm saving this picture for my next album cover
Instead of peace and solitude, you may want to reflect on your new pauper status by wandering the streets and admiring the grungy graffiti in Newtown.  If you haven't washed or shaved since your casino exploits, then this will only help you fit in even better in Newtown.  Just be careful when you stop for a rest and sit on an upturned trash can on a dimly lit side street that you haven't accidentally sat down in the latest hipster bar, where they'll probably try to charge you about $20 for some beer brewed in one of their old boots.  For the full lowdown on the hipster heaven that is Newtown, go to #47 Newtown.

Watson's Bay

Getting as far away from the scene of the crime as possible
One of the best things to do in Watson's Bay is to enjoy a drink or meal at one of the cafes and restaurants near the waterfront.  Since you've blown all your money, that sadly isn't an option.  It is still a beautiful area to spend some time walking around though.  Take a walk past Camp Cove, then up and around South Head to the Gap Park.  There are plenty of stunning view to take your mind off your lack of cash.  For a full review, see #15 Watson's Bay.

Manly Scenic Walkway

More distant views of the skyline, this time from North Head
One of the best ways to enjoy Sydney Harbour is to walk along one of the many routes that takes you along the scenic coastline.  There are plenty to choose from, but I've went with the Manly Scenic Walkway for this one.  I normally recommend to do it in parts, as the whole walk is over 20km long.  However, if you have the time and the fitness, then it's not unthinkable to do the whole walk in one long and enjoyable day.  See the full review at #19 Manly Scenic Walkway.

Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach - a glaring omission from the top 100, in my opinion
Last, but not least, I'll finish up with another beach.  It's an obvious option, but genuinely, if money is tight, there are a lot of worse ways to spend your time than by beach hopping around Sydney.  I've actually picked one here that didn't make the top 100 list.  Balmoral Beach is located in Mosman, near to Middle Head.  It's not the most popular with tourists, but it is a beautiful beach, and actually our favourite in Sydney.  There is no full review yet, as this wasn't in the top 100, but here is a link with some more information:

So there you go.  You may have lost your life savings and decimated your child's future, but at least you'll be returning home with a nice tan, having seen many of the best sights that Sydney has to offer.

Do you know of any free attractions that should have made the list?  Worried that I may have downplayed the negative impacts of excessive gambling?  Please put some words in the comments box to convey whatever it is you would like to convey.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Itinerary - Stopover in Sydney

Ok, so you have never been to Sydney before, but you have a layover there between flights.  By the time you have made your way through customs, you will have less than 5 hours before you need to check in again for your next flight.  The question is, is it worth bothering to leave the airport and head in to Sydney, or would you be better relaxing and spending your time enjoying free samples of whisky and entering contests to win sports cars at the airport instead?

This, or several hours browsing the duty free shopping - I know which I would go for...
As with everything in life, it obviously depends on your own preferences and views, but for the vast majority of people, I would say that the answer is a resounding yes to heading in to Sydney.  The airport in Sydney is not too far from the city, and many of the best sights in Sydney are located in a small area within the centre.  There are a wide variety of options if you want to do a flying visit to Sydney, but here is my suggestion for a 5 hour trip from the airport.

How could you sit in an airport for hours, when all this is just a short train ride away?
Check-in minus 5 hours

Get a train from the train station in the airport, to Circular Quay.  No need to worry about times, the trains are frequent and you should not have to wait more than 10 minutes, assuming you are travelling between 6am and 11.45pm.  It costs about 16 dollars, and takes just over 20 minutes.

Check-in minus 4 hours 30 mins

Get off the train at Circular Quay, and walk down to the wharves (you can't miss them).  Check the boards to see when the next ferry to Milson's Point leaves, and where from.  Buy a ticket at the wharf. The ferries are not quite as regular as the trains, so you could have to wait as long as half an hour if you're unlucky.  If you do have a wait, don't worry.  There are plenty of options.  There are lots of photo opportunities to keep you occupied, with both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge within view.  There are also lots of snacks and fast food options if you haven't had time to eat and need to quickly refuel.  Once you are actually on the ferry, you will cruise past the Opera House, then under the Harbour Bridge on to the opposite side of the harbour.

Looking back towards Circular Quay from above Milsons Point Ferry Wharf
Check-in minus 3 hours 45 mins

After you get off the ferry, take a second to admire the giant face at the entrance to Luna Park, and have a quick look at North Sydney Olympic Pool, then find your way to Alfred Street South.  Head up the hill, until you see Milson's Point train station on your right.  Head through the tunnel under the station, then turn right, where you should see a set of steps that lead up to the Harbour Bridge.  Walk up these, and walk across the Harbour Bridge, admiring the views, and stopping for pictures.  Keep walking until you reach the second of the large support pillars on the left hand side.

Looking back towards the harbour from the road up to Milsons Point Station
Check-in minus 3 hours

The reason you have stopped at this support pillar is not just to admire the impressive stonework, it is because this pillar houses the excellent Pylon Lookout.  You enter the pillar via the doorway, and proceed to climb up a lot of steps, until you emerge at the top with an absolutely stunning view of Sydney Harbour.  Grab a few photos here, and then drag yourself away from the incredible vistas, and return to the incredible harbour bridge and continue on the incredible footpath towards the other side. When you reach the steps at the other side, go up, rather than down, and continue to follow the road towards the Cahill Expressway.  This leads you to another nice viewpoint above Circular Quay Station.

The view from the Cahill Expressway - unless you've spent a LOT of time at the Pylon Lookout, it probably won't be dark
Check-in minus 2 hours

After a quick photo stop, continue along the Cahill Expressway until you reach some steps on the left. Go down these, and then turn left, on to Macquarie Street.  Follow this road until you reach the Opera House.  Enjoy the view here, and get to see the famous building up close.  Then, head East away from the Opera House, into the Royal Botanic Gardens.  Follow the path along the waterfront, until you reach Mrs Macquarie's Chair.  This isn't as conspicuous as you might think - there are often tourists wandering around saying 'is this it'?  The actual chair is right at the tip of the point, but the real attraction are the views anyway.

The real attraction at Mrs Macquarie's Chair - the views back to the bridge and Opera House

The chair itself is not that spectacular - even less so with a pasty Scotsman plonked on top of it
Check-in minus 1 hour 30 mins

From Mrs Macquaries chair, take the only sensible option when on the Northern tip of a peninsula - head South.  Wander through the various paths, but try to stay close to Mrs Macquarie's Road, which you should rejoin where it joins on to Art Gallery Road.  Continue along Art Gallery Road, which unsurprisingly passes the Art Gallery of New South Wales, before heading towards St Mary's Cathedral.  When you see St Mary's Cathedral, turn right, and head towards Hyde Park.

St Mary's Cathedral - just to confuse you, this is from Hyde Park, rather than where you will approach it on this itinerary
Check-in minus 1 hour

Wander up through Hyde Park, from the North East corner, down to the South West corner.  Note that there is a main road that divides the North of Hyde Park from the South.  As you go through the South section of the park, you will pass by the ANZAC War Memorial, before reaching Museum Station at the South.  Head into the station, and wait on a train which will take you directly to the airport.  You shouldn't have to wait any longer than 10 minutes, and the journey takes about 15 minutes, at a cost of around 18 dollars.

The Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park - with a special guest appearance by somebody's right shoe
The ANZAC War Memorial from above
So this should get you from the airport, into Sydney, and back again within 5 hours.  Obviously, this itinerary can be amended depending on your available time and your interests, but hopefully it gives you a good starting point to making the most of your short time in Sydney.  Within just a few hours, it is more than possible to see a good range of the amazing sights that Sydney has to offer.

If you do decide to follow this itinerary, please keep an eye on time - depending on how quickly you walk, and how much time you spend taking photos, you may find that the suggested times are quite different to your own experience.  I strictly accept no responsibility for any missed flights.  Not even my own.

Of course, given the nature of this blog, I should also mention how many of the Top 100 this will tick off. This will naturally change over time, but using the Top 100 at the time we completed it, this would have accomplished the following:

#1 Sydney Harbour
#3 Sydney Harbour Bridge
#4 Sydney Opera House
#6 The Opera House to Botanic Gardens Walk
#7 Sydney Ferries
#8 The Royal Botanic Gardens
#14 Art Gallery of New South Wales (from the outside at least)
#20 Pylon Lookout at Sydney Harbour Bridge
#31 Circular Quay
#42 St Mary's Cathedral
#51 ANZAC War Memorial
#52 Milson's Point
#56 Mrs Macquarie's Chair
#62 Hyde Park

Not bad for a few hours sightseeing, although it does make our whole achievement of completing the top 100 look much less impressive.  And please, don't blame me when you see someone else driving the supercar you could have won if only you had stayed at the airport instead...

What do you think of this itinerary?  Too rushed, too relaxed, unnecessarily missing out any key sights? Please leave a comment to let us know any thoughts or questions on this itinerary.