Slow Travel Down Under: Sydney Travel Guide

How could we skip this iconic city and its surroundings? Laid back and bustling at the same time, Sydney has an unforgettable vibe, friendly people and awesome sights. Whether you’re a thrifty traveler or not, you’re sure to find plenty of things to do here. Read up on how we spent our week in this Sydney travel guide for beginners – including a trip to the Blue Mountains, Sydney’s beaches and lazying around in coffee shops.

Getting out of the Airpor

After a short flight from Melbourne, we were smacked in the face with the fact that the train from the airport costs a whopping $16.50 – which is only understandable once you learn that this particular airport express is operated by a private company (of course), rather than by the Sydney public transport system. Unfortunately, there is no way to get around it – save for getting a cab, which will set you back far more than that. In any case, the trip downtown took about 30-40 minutes, which is when we met up with our couchsurfing host, who was awesome and kind enough to let us crash at this place for the entirety of our stay in Sydney!

We spent a considerable amount of time just bumming around the city, which is in any case a fine choice – Sydney has a lot of stunning parks, cool lanes and alleys and, obviously, a captivating waterfront.

Beautiful jacaranda trees in bloom in Sydney
Beautiful Jacaranda trees in bloom EVERYWHERE!

One of the must-see spots are definitely the botanical gardens. Not only were the gardens full of the beautiful purple Jacaranda trees in bloom, but we also got an amazing view of the Sydney skyline, the harbor bridge and the opera house.

Cockatoos at the Sydney Botanical Gardens
Not your typical park bird. Forget pigeons!

Apart from this, the park is an excellent place to chill and observe the tens of cockatoos that roam the grass. Whether you’re taking a walk or having a picnic, it’s a true urban oasis, visited by locals and tourists alike.

Supposedly the best viewing spot for New Year's Eve fireworks - no wonder!
Supposedly the best viewing spot for New Year’s Eve fireworks – no wonder!

Notorious Sydney Beaches – Skip or Go?

Sydney is synonymous with surfing and beaches, so we’d be amiss not mention any of the famed beaches in this Sydney travel guide. We went ahead and went to the two most touristy ones – Bondi and Manly. Bondi is definitely a huge tourist attraction, since it’s closer to the city and accessible by bus. Also, it’s excellent for people watching. What is nice, though, is the walk between Bondi and Coogee. Taking around 30 minutes, you can swing from one bay to another and get some major views of the ocean.

The famous Bondi Beach
The famous Bondi Beach – I don’t want to know what this place looks like in the height of summer ?

Manly Beach, on the other hand, involved a ferry ride – which includes the opportunity to snap some amazing pictures of the city. With its own Venice Beach-like vibe, Manly seems a bit more commercial, especially along the main promenade. All in all, both beaches were nice, but the water was nowhere near warm enough for us to swim, and there seem to always be too many things to watch out in the water. Especially at Manly, it seemed that the lifeguards announcements never stopped: it was either jellyfish, riptide, or other surfers. So if you’re after a leisurely swim, you might be better off going to a different beach.

Manly Beach near Sydney
Manly Beach – came with free jellyfish
View of Sydney from the ferry
The view on the way back was not bad either

There are many other beaches to visit, and, fortunately for Sydney budget travelers, all are accessible via public transit and don’t involve any additional spending (unless you want it to, of course).

Sydney Travel Guide for Bumming Around the City

If you’re a fan of slow travel, and, frankly, just like to explore the local life and not do the touristy stuff all that time, you’ll be well catered to in Sydney. There are loads of parks, waterfront promenades, gorgeous buildings, and free-entry galleries to take advantage of. A picnic in the Royal Gardens is always a good idea, and you’ll be either a) treated to gorgeous views of the bay and the opera house, b) be surrounded by cockatoos, or c) both. An area of the city called The Rocks was definitely a highlight as well. Off to the side from the CBD, near the famous Harbour Bridge, this historic area is great if you want to go for a walk or enjoy a nice cup of coffee and people watch. We were lucky enough to come upon a festival at the Rocks, complete with cabaret shows, open air music gigs and random parties.

It’s also worth it to take the ferry across the harbor and visit the Luna Park. Even if you’re not into rides and rollercoasters, this iconic Sydney theme park is a curious little corner of the city. You can walk through even if it’s closed, which gives it a fantastically weird vibe. The deranged face-shaped entry gate does not help.

The stuff of nightmares
The stuff of nightmares

For what it’s worth, however, if you walk up the hill from the Luna Park, reaching the opposite side of the bridge, you’ll get a magnificent view of the city!

Blue Mountains

If you crave more nature than what Sydney beaches and parks can offer, you should take the time to visit the Blue Mountains. Located roughly 2 hours west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains are reachable by train that leaves every hour from Central.

The Three Sisters (left) with the Blue Mountains in the background
The Three Sisters (left) with the Blue Mountains in the background ?

For getting around, there is of course a hop on/hop off bus that you can waste 30-40 bucks on if you wish. I, however, recommend using the county buses operating in and around Katoomba – these get you to all of the spots of interest and cost a fraction of the price (especially if you already have an Opal card or a weekly ticket for Sydney public transport). There are trails for every type of hiker, even for the lazy ones. You can spend anywhere from 1 hour to 2 days, depending on what you choose to do and how experienced you are.

A lovely waterfall in the Blue Mountains national park
A lovely waterfall we came across on one of our walks ?
Blue Mountains at Wentworth Falls
Blue Mountains from Wentworth Falls

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