Recognized globally for its kangaroos and koalas, Vegemite, Opera House, Aborigines and golden beaches, to name a few, Australia is a continent that boasts a multitude of things to do, see and taste. Yet, more than just merely cooking shrimp on the barbie, the people of Australia are a welcoming, laid-back bunch that invite visitors to take an introspective look at what really happens down under.
My two-week vacation to New South Wales explored three different parts of Sydney: the Blue Mountains, the Northern Beaches and Downtown Sydney. Traveling with family who is local to the area allowed me to experience aspects of the city that are easily overlooked by travel blogs and articles. I was given a native’s perspective on how to experience the real Australia.
When you travel to Sydney (and make sure that you do!), below are three areas recommended for exploring:
Referred to as the bush, the Blue Mountains National Park is two hours inland from the city and is directly accessible by train. The mountains are sprinkled with quaint cities and towns off the main highway, perfect for stopping off for lunch or coffee on your way up or down. Dubbed the Blue Mountains for the blue haze created by eucalyptus oil, the national park hosts iconic and breathtaking attractions recognized globally. The Three Sisters, a formation of three rock pillars, is a must-see landmark. Govett’s Leap, not far from the Three Sisters, is a waterfall and lookout with views that span deep into the bush. To maximize views and capture some wonderful photos, visit the Blue Mountains Skyway, Walkway, Cableway and Railway to soak in the beauty of nature and feast your eyes on endless greenery.
A small suburb great for taking a rest stop, doing some shopping and eating lunch is the community of Leura. Downtown Leura is a walkable stretch of clothing stores, gift shops, coffee houses and restaurants and can be summed up in one word: charming. If you also enjoy partaking in nature and exercise, be sure to take a hike on one of the many Blue Mountains National Park trails. You might even see wild kangaroos or wallabies!
To ensure that your trip to Australia includes sightings of its furry animals, visit Featherdale Wildlife Park on your drive out of the Blue Mountains. Pet a koala, feed a wallaby, and play with kangaroos at the park to see some of Australia’s native creatures.
Just north of Sydney, along the Pacific Ocean coastline, stretch multiple beaches that make Sydney the popular surfing — and tanning — attraction that it is. Each beach is beautiful in its own right and is worth visiting for their different oceanic views and lookout points. The list of beaches to visit is as follows: Manly, Freshwater, Curl Curl, Dee Why, Long Reef, Collaroy, Narrabeen, Turimetta, Warriewood, Mona Vale, Newport, Bilgola, Avalon, Whale and Palm Beach. Some of the beaches host free, public rock pools for swimmers to exercise in and children to play in, a great option for wading and soaking up some rays.
If you’re looking to spend some time away from the busyness of the beaches, but want the sun and water, check out Narrabeen Lagoon, perfect for reading and relaxing. After visiting the Northern Beaches, take the ferry from Manly Beach to Circular Quay, which will drop you close to the city center. On the ferry ride you will sail under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, pass Luna Park, and drive past the Sydney Opera House. Each offer great photo opportunities and enable you to check numerous tourist attractions off of the list.
When looking for hotels in Sydney, I recommend The Westin Sydney. Just blocks from Circular Quay, shopping and restaurants, the hotel is a central point to accessing all of the major tourist attractions. The Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are directly across from one another and pair well with a ferry ride from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour for the day. Darling Harbour offers shopping, restaurants, bars and an aquarium for visitors to explore. If you’re looking for some city views, opt to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge or eat at the Sydney Tower for dinner, both of which offer 360-degree cityscape outlooks. Not far from the city center and a block from each other are the Sydney Town Hall, St Andrew’s Cathedral and Queen Victoria Building, all iconic and historical landmarks. If you feel the need for more water and sun, allocate a day to visit Bondi Beach, which offers a plethora of surf stores, restaurants, coffee shops and places to purchase souvenirs.
Food For Thought
As a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast, it’s needless to say that I was excited to give my taste buds a few swigs of Australian brew. How glad I am that I did! Every coffee shop that I visited (including buying a latte from the gas station) was handcrafted with creamy milk and steamed to perfection. What did come as a surprise was the absence of (what I thought was normal) iced coffee and iced drinks; Australian iced coffee is the equivalent to a Starbucks Frappuccino and iced lattes are not common. Australians also drink tea and/or coffee throughout the day and set teatime aside to enjoy a hot beverage and biscuit. While visiting, make sure to also try a sausage roll, Vegemite, Tim Tam cookies, a crumpet, Cadbury’s Caramello Koala and a Violet Crumble bar – simple and tasty Australian delicacies.
Happy traveling, mate!
Have you been to Australia? What are your favorite hidden travel spots?
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