Sydney: Australia’s Commercial Capital

What can I say about Sydney?  My stay here has been a bit underwhelming.  It strikes me as being just a big, ol’ city with a famous building.  Aside from the coastline (which is admittedly beautiful), I find nothing very interesting about Sydney.  It has been kind of a let down after coming from Melbourne.  Also, it is more expensive than Melbourne in every way (lodging, public transportation, food).  It’s one of the few places I’ve been to that I was ready to leave after just a few days, and I have no desire to return. That said, I haven’t had a terrible time here; it just hasn’t been amazing.  Even though it seems like an extremely international city (it feels like almost everyone here is from another country), Sydney seems to lack a real culture.  And it definitely does not have that cool vibe that Melbourne has.

Although there is one pretty amazing event going on in Sydney right now: VIVID Sydney.  VIVID is a festival of light and music and it happens every night from 6-11pm for three weeks.  There are numerous light installations and light shows all over the touristic areas of the city, mostly along the harbor.  I didn’t see too much music happening, though.  Some of the light shows are very, very cool.  See photos below.


I don’t have much more to say about Sydney, so I’ll try to describe what we/I did and saw in the photo captions.

Bondi to Coogee walk:  This is a popular seaside 5 kilometer trail that passes six beaches, several bays and breathtaking ocean cliffs.  Unfortunately, two days before we arrived in Sydney, the city was rocked by a massive storm that destroyed parts of the trail so we were unable to do the whole walk along the coast and had to take many detours.  It was still very pretty and we got lucky with nice weather.


Bondi Beach: Bondi to Coogee walk


Bondi Beach: Bondi to Coogee walk


Bondi: Bondi to Coogee walk


Bondi butterfly: Bondi to Coogee walk


Bondi to Coogee walk


Seaside Cemetery: Bondi to Coogee walk


Bondi to Coogee walk


Bondi to Coogee walk


We spent an hour or so roaming Sydney Harbour/the Opera House.


Sydney Harbour and Opera House


Sydney Opera House


Sydney Opera House


Sydney Harbour and Opera House restaurant interior


Then we walked over to the Rocks, Sydney’s historic district.  Also along the harbour.


The Rocks, historical neighborhood of Sydney


The Rocks, historical neighborhood of Sydney


The Rocks, historical neighborhood of Sydney


How’s THIS for a food truck?!


The Rocks, historical neighborhood of Sydney


We spent a morning exploring the Watsons Bay peninsula, a northern suburb of Sydney.  It offered some pretty views of the city and a popular coastal walk around South Head.


View of Sydney from Watsons Bay, a northeastern suburb of Sydney


Watsons Bay, a northeastern suburb of Sydney


The Gap on Watsons Bay peninsula.  That’s the Sydney skyline on the right side.


The Gap on Watsons Bay


Watsons Bay peninsula


Trash that washed ashore from the big storm


We tried to go to Royal National Park to hike to the Wedding Cake Rock, but we got there too late after a bus ride, train ride, and ferry ride and ended up not having enough time to hike there before dark.  So we hung out at Jibbon Beach instead.


Ferry from Cronulla to Royal National Park


Aren’t we precious?  Jibbon Beach at Royal National Park


Jibbon Beach at Royal National Park


Jibbon Beach at Royal National Park


Jibbon Beach at Royal National Park




Ferry ride from Bundeena to Cronulla (Photo cred: Carrie Meng)


We spent a full day going out to the Blue Mountains, two hours by train west of Sydney.  The train drops you off in a cute mountain town called Katoomba.  From there you can walk, take a city bus, or a touristy hop-on-hop-off bus to the Blue Mountain National Park trails.  We walked to the Three Sisters outlook first.  The Three Sisters seems to be the most famous feature in the Blue Mountains and there is a very touristy outlook station for viewing them.  From there, we walked along a trail for about an hour and saw a couple of waterfalls and more view points over the hills.  Carrie and I agree that compared to what we have in the western USA (the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone, etc), the Blue Mountains were pretty unimpressive.  They are just a bunch of rolling green hills and a few steep cliffs.  We’re glad we went, but they’ve got nothing on US National Parks.  It was also extremely cold up there!  Thank goodness it was a sunny day!


Blue Mountains


The Three Sisters sandstone rock formation at the Blue Mountains


The Blue Mountains


The Blue Mountains


The Blue Mountains


The day after Carrie left, I went on a free walking tour of the city.  The following photos are some things I saw…


Our guide/group at the city harbor


A statue of the Queen’s dog outside the Queen Victoria Building, which is just a mall. The dog talks and tells you to throw a coin into the water below him. It’s cheesy.


Sydney Tower, Sydney’s tallest building with a revolving bar at the top.


Forgotten Songs art installation: Empty bird cages hang in an alley and recordings of extinct Australian birds are playing as you walk below the cages.


Walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge


People climbing the to the top of the bridge. It costs $250 for a normal person, but apparently when Oprah came to Sydney, she was paid $2 million dollars to go to the top. She didn’t even do the climb, but instead took a hidden elevator to the top. They also renamed the Opera House the Oprah House when she was in Sydney. Ridiculous.


The Opera House from the bridge


View of Sydney Harbour from the bridge


Cool university building in the Haymarket area


I also spent a day traveling out to the Jenolan Caves with an Australian friend I met in Seattle a few years ago.  The Jenolan Caves are just past the Blue Mountains, about 2.5 hours east of Sydney.  They are an impressive system of caves and there are at least a dozen different caves you can tour, but it was extremely busy when we went so we were only able to see the Lucas Cave.  The tours are guided, which is nice.  These are now the 6th caves I’ve been to on this trip.  Who knew I’d be going underground so much on this side of the world?!


Entry to Lucas Cave at the Jenolan Caves


The Broken Column


Lucas Cave


Lucas Cave


Lucas Cave


I spent one evening checking out the VIVID festival.  It’s mostly a light festival, although it claims to be a festival of music and ideas as well.  I didn’t see any of that stuff, but the light shows and installations were pretty incredible, particularly the one on the Sydney MCA and the Opera House.




I spent my last day in Australia out at Manly Beach.  You take a ferry over to Manly from Sydney Harbour.  It’s a popular suburb for surfing, beach lounging, shopping, and dining.  I quite liked it out there.  I wish we had gone when Carrie was still here.


Manly Beach: Winter or summer, people and seagulls seem to just hang out here


So, I did too… Straight beach-lounging in my jacket.


Not sure why this lady was doing the splits while reading her book in the sun. Perhaps she wanted to tan her crotch area…?


The Corso (pedestrian mall) in Manly






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