Wednesday, 13 April 2016

#43 - Sightseeing Tour

I don't want to sound like a broken record, but seriously, they might as well have just put 'Sydney' as a category.  A sightseeing tour covers an absolute tonne of different attractions.  Rather than choose one to review in detail, I thought it might be useful to cover the different categories of sightseeing tour, and review the pros and cons of each.

The first one that springs to mind is a city bus sight seeing tour.  You know the type.  They are in just about every major city in the world.  There are usually a few options, and Sydney is no different.  I wouldn't particularly recommend any one over any other.  They all cover similar stops, with only minor differences.  You should be able to tick off the headline acts such as Bondi - note that if you get on at Circular Quay, as most people do, you have almost certainly already seen the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

I am sure the commentary is pretty similar too, regardless of which bus you choose.  They don't take you anywhere you couldn't get around by public transport for a fraction of the cost, but they do have their uses.  If you just want a convenient and easy overview of the main sights, these can do the job.  And while they are a bit overpriced for what you get, they will rarely break the bank.

No shortage of waves at Bondi Beach
Next up is a boat tour.  If you spend any time on the TripAdvisor forums, you will see lots of questions on boat tours.  Almost every one gets the same stock response from the destination experts, which is to use the public ferries instead.  This is good advice.  The vast majority of the boat tours leave from the same places, and sail in the same areas as the ferries.  One exception is the jetboat tours, but they are less about sightseeing, and more about risking severe whiplash.

There are also the boat / dining tours.  Again, you won't see any scenery you can't see from the ferry, and the food will probably be mediocre.  I'm sure there are exceptions.  Don't get me wrong, if you do go on a boat tour, you will have an excellent time - Sydney Harbour is an outstanding place to cruise around.  It's just that you could get as good an experience for much cheaper.

If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, there is always the option of a walking tour.  There are a variety to pick from, including day tours, night tours, free tours, ghost tours, pub tours and many others.  Walking tours are a great way to see the city up close, and you get a much better feel for the area than a hop on / hop off type of tour.  The standard of commentary also tends to be better, as you have an actual person instead of a tape recording.  The downside is that you can only cover a limited area, and it can be a bit less appealing in poor weather.

Can't remember the name of this building - but I liked its unusual design

Lock us up, but give us a drink - it's the best solution for everyone
One final mode of transport that hasn't been mentioned are bike tours.  They have some of the advantages of walking tours, but you can cover a lot more ground.  One down side is that you may want to return to your hotel for a shower before heading out afterwards, unlike a walking tour.  You also might end up looking like the picture below.

In addition to the city sight seeing tours, you also have the option of slightly longer day tours.  The two most obvious ones that we did were the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley wine region.  Depending on your interests, both are worth seeing, and both can be done in a day.  It will be a long day if you do these as a day trip, but you get the chance to see a very different side to Sydney, and if you have more than a few days in Sydney, it can be a great way to mix it up a bit.  Also, in both cases, you could easily stretch it out beyond a day trip to a 2 or 3 day trip.  This would be less tiring, and allow you to see more of the area, although they obviously cost more and take up more of your time.

Only one thing missing...

Wait a minute, koalas piggybacking on a kangaroo?  Why have I never seen this before?
The final category of sightseeing trip that I can think of is a private tour.  These can be in the city or further afield.  It can be anywhere you like really.  As a private tour, it is entirely up to you.  These tend to be much more comfortable, more flexible and you get the attention of an individual guide who will cater things to your own preferences, assuming you tell them what they are.  The benefit of being able to stay at attractions as long as you want, or leave as early as you want, really means you get the most out of your time.

You essentially get all the benefits of self driving, but you can catch some kip on the longer drives, and have a couple of beers at lunch.  The cost of all this is, of course, the cost.  They do tend to pretty expensive - think a couple of hundred dollars per person per day minimum.  Is it worth it?  It depends what you are giving up for that money.  If it doesn't even put a dent in your budget, go for it.  The extra comfort and flexibility will really be worth it.  If it means you need to sleep on Bondi beach for the rest of your holiday, don't worry about it - there is plenty to see and do in Sydney for a lot cheaper.

This was the closest we could get parked to the Opera House
Ok, thought of one more - helicopter tours.  This is an expensive but incredible way to see the city.  There are a few companies who leave from next to Sydney Airport, with various options in terms of length and location.  If you can afford it, and don't mind flying in a small helicopter, it is one of the best experiences you can imagine.

Have I missed any forms of sight seeing tour?  Do you have a preferred form of sight seeing tour from the lot above?  Please let us know via the comments

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