Travel Guide: Sydney, Australia

My site isn’t called the Travelling Reader for no reason. I have spent about 2.5 years abroad and had the privilege of living in Sydney, Australia. Don’t worry, my site will still continue to be your favorite book haven ;), but I also want to make recommendations, give advice, talk about, etc. some of the places I have been to!

This is in front of the Opera House. My family came to visit me for Christmas!

Without further ado, let’s talk about Sydney! I was an exchange student at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) for my junior year of college. I was originally only suppose to stay 1 semester and literally 2 weeks into being there, I emailed my home counselor and asked if I could stay the whole year. Bet you can guess how that turned out.

Where To Stay?

I lived right in downtown Sydney, literally a 5 minute walk from Central train station. If you ever travel there, I recommend staying in this area or the specific spot you plan on spending lots of time in (i.e. a certain beach, the Sydney Harbor, Darling Harbor, etc.) because Sydney is massive so you can spend a lot of time on public transport. If you are a younger traveller and looking to meet people, the hostel scene in Australia is like none I have ever experienced before. Not only is it incredibly fun and safe, but some of the backpacker bars are great for a drunken night out (which is literally every night in Oz).

Where to Eat?

This is going to be a mix of both local places I learned about and can’t miss tourist spots. These are some of the spots I took my family to when they visited me!

Pancake on the Rocks – A pancake restaurant on the Rocks (the area near Sydney Harbor) if you haven’t guess it from the name. It is a very well known touristy spot, but with good reason. It is in a great area and their pancakes are essentially dessert.

Vino e Cucina – An authentic Italian restaurant in Paddington, which is such a cute area. I’ve only ever been for Mad Monday which is all you can eat pizza for $20! They literally just come around with serving trays of different types of pizza and ask if you want a slice of that one. It’s magical.

Opera House Bar – The bar is great for drinks and some light food. There is actually a really fancy (expensive) restaurant as well, but the bar is great for those of use without a million dollars to spend. Great views, great beer, great location, what more can you ask for?

The Grounds of Alexandria – Such a cute little area. Lots of little cafes and restaurants that share an open courtyard with seating. Great for brunch and I’m not going to lie, it’s very instagramable. Only draw back is it’s a bit out of the way.

El Camino Cantina – Okay, this a very non authentic version of Mexican food that plays rock music lol. However, on Tuesdays they do $6 margaritas, bottomless chips and salsa, and $2 tacos. I recommend making a reservation though or getting their early because it gets packed fast.

Darling Harbor – This is not a restaurant, but an area of the city. You can literally see restaurants lining the harbor that turn into clubs at night!

Coogee Pavilion – Great place to have some food and drinks with friends. It is right on Coogee beach so it’s a bit pricey, but the atmosphere and views are totally worth it. I actually went here with a group of my friends for my 21st birthday and had a great time!

Where to Drink / Go Out?

I think Sydney has great nightlife and obviously, Australia is known for it’s wild drinking culture. Many people don’t like it because of lockout laws, where bars stop serving hard alcohol at like 1am and close at 3am. However, I am from the United States so we close at 2am so I have no problems with any of this.

The Baxter Inn – A speakeasy style whiskey bar. This place is so cool! Definitely a relaxed environment to meet up with friends. The whole vibe of the place is so cool!

The Soda Factory – Also a very cool bar! They have live bands and reasonably priced drinks. On Tuesdays, they even do $1-3 hot dogs! It’s loads of fun and you literally walk through a fake freezer door to get in. My friend once got a free shot here because they liked his handlebar mustache lol.

Darling Harbor – Like I mentioned previously, the restaurants turn into bars with dancing and drinking galore at night. I was a frequent partier here in my days. It is all very top 40s or EDM style, just depending where you go. Usually it’s free on Fridays and $10ish on Saturdays if you are not there before a certain time.

Marquee – Marquee is a nicer club inside The Star and casino. There is an entry fee, however, if you sign up ahead of time for the guest list and are there by a certain time, it’s free. This club sort of reminds me of being in clubs in Vegas.

Newtown – This is a cute, quirky suburb of Sydney. I am mentioning it in general because I use to love to bar hop down here! Some of my favorites were Newtown Hotel, Marlborough Bar (aka Marly Bar), and the Bank. They also have some great trivia nights so brush up on your random knowledge!

The Scary Canary – This is a backpackers bar, so you have been warned. However, I use to love to go on Tuesdays for their silent discos! I didn’t even know this was a thing til I got to Australia and I am all for it. It was so much fun and I was usually pretty hammered lol.

What to see?

If you google x day Itinerary for Sydney, Australia, I am sure you will get lots of the same things I am going to tell you. Here were some of my favorite local and touristy destinations to see in Sydney.

Beaches: Manly Beach – this is a very large beach for Sydney and you need to take a ferry to get here. Maroubra Beach – This was my favorite beach! It is pretty large, but never as crowded as some of the others. It also has a giant rubix cube; why, I am not sure. Bondi Beach – this is arguably the most famous beach in Sydney. It is nice and worth a trip, however, I think others are better. Coogee Beach – no open container laws so we use to love to go have some beers here! There is also a really famous coastal walk called Bondi – Coogee – Bronti. I highly recommend it! Clovely Beach – Okay I now I said Maroubra was my favorite, but I think this is a very close second. This beach is man made and so calm. There are concrete piers you can swim in between and is very family friendly. I use to love to bring a book and read here.

Suburbs: Newtown – I have mentioned Newtown a few times so I won’t repeat myself, but its a great quirky area to have some lunch and bar hop and look in on all the cute shops. Darlinghurst – This area is so cool! It is the pride area of Sydney and very LGBTQ+ friendly and supportive. They host Mardis Gras and Pride here. Also great for food and bar hopping. Surry Hills – More food and bar hopping of course!

Markets: Glebe Markets – My friends and I use to love going here! Little flea markets stands with people selling their homemade or second hand stuff. And of course, lots of food trucks! Paddington Market – very similar to Glebe Markets, though a bit bigger. Paddy’s Market – Get all of your souvenir shopping done in one big swoop here! Also, great place to buy cheap fresh produce.

Attractions: The Opera House – This goes without saying because, duh, of course you have to visit the famous Opera House. As soon as I got there, I couldn’t help but recite Finding Nemo, “P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney.” Also, of course visit the surrounding area of the Sydney Harbor and The Rocks. Taronga Zoo – You can’t go to Australia without seeing some kangaroos and koalas. I am not a big fan of zoos, and prefer wild animal sanctuaries and such to see animals, however, the ones I am familiar with are a few hours away by public transport. So, if you don’t mind the ride or want to rent a car, go out there.

Nature: The Blue Mountains and The Royal National Park are two very well known hiking, nature, outdoors spots outside Sydney. Its about a 2ish hour train ride, but it is so worth it. They are beautiful and the RNP is home to the world famous Figure 8 Pools, make sure you go during low tide.

Last little tidbit. On days where you don’t feel like travelling too far and just want to relax, I recommend checking out some of the public pools. They are quite frequent and cost about $5 entry. There was one walking distance from my apartment and I would love to go and lay out there.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to see and down and eat in Sydney, you could do something different everyday and never run out of stuff!

Random Tips

Public transportation ins Sydney is super easy to use and I think quite affordable and convenient. You can buy an opal card and reload it at just about any major station. You just tap your card when you get on and tap again when you get off and you’re good to go.

Public transport also does $2.50 travel Sundays! So reserve your long / expensive trips for that day!

I found Australia very expensive! The comprable middle of the road restaurants aren’t any more expensive than living in San Diego, CA, however they do not have the cheap options like we do here! Meaning, you will literally spend $13 for a meal at McDonald’s, you have been warned.

Alcohol can only be bought at certain liquor stores and only before 10pm! So go buy your alcohol ahead of time so you don’t have to be a mooch. It is also very expensive! Like $40 for some Smirnoff Vodka expensive, so if you can, buy it at the airport duty free.

Australia has an incredible working holiday visa. You can use this visa to travel and live and even WORK in Australia for 1-2 years. The backpacking culture there was amazing and it so great to meet such diverse groups of people.

Conclusion

I hope you guys felt my passion and love for Sydney through this post! My friends who I made there are some of my closest friends to this day. In fact, we all vacation and meet up together once a year (though not this year, thanks Covid). Anyway, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about Sydney or want any more recommendations. I love to talk about my time there (clearly). Thanks for reading!

Published by the_travelling_reader

Book and Travel blog. I am an avid reader who enjoys many different genres including fiction, fantasy, mystery, thriller, science fiction, nonfiction, and more. I have spent the past few years living and travelling around the world and I want to share my experience with you! This blog combines the best of both worlds.

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