Our road trip through Australia has taken us right along the east coast of Oz, stopping at some beautiful places along the way. After a long road trip from Forster, we finally arrived in Sydney. Our first taster was driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, within minutes we had seen the two iconic landmarks of Sydney, with Sydney Opera House appearing in the horizon rising out of the sea majestically, as we crossed the bridge. I couldn’t help but squeal with delight at the sight of them, they really are very remarkable.
The best and most scenic way to cross over to Manly is to take the ferry, taking just 30 minutes or 20 on the fast ferry. Leaving from the Rocks, you sail out of the harbour with Sydney Harbour Bridge on your left and the Opera House on your right. The ride is a bit choppy in parts and I recommend queuing up early for the boat if you want good seats they fill up quickly. The vibe completely changes as you step off the boat, from cosmopolitan city to a laid-back surf town. Walking down the high street towards the sea, you are spoilt with a selection of surf shops either side.
Wishing to miss the busy Manly beach we walked around to Shelly Beach, which is a smaller, less crowded and in my opinion, more beautiful beach. Needing to feed our hungry bellies we stopped first at The Boathouse, described as a rustic beachside Kiosk, cafe and restaurant. The salads are to die for, especially if you’re into healthy food. Every bit of food that passed us look good enough to eat, you can’t go wrong with this menu. We sat and tucked into our salads overlooking Shelly beach watching the sun worshipers bathe on the white sands.
We were lucky enough to meet up with local friends who took us for a road trip to all the best viewpoints from Manly. North Head is one of the best and most astonishing viewpoints looking out over Sydney. Another cute spot is Store Beach a sheltered beach located just inland from the old Quarantine Station, which is now part of Sydney Harbour National Park. Trekking through the forest you’ll be greeted by some pretty large spiders up high in the trees. However don’t be put off, the short walk is well worth it as your first sight is a beautiful mini waterfall to the far left and a quaint beach with equally impressive views of Sydney.
We got many recommendations from our local friend from Sydney, his best was The Winery in the fashionable Surrey Hills. A quirky urban garden oasis in the heart of Surry Hills, offering over 30 meticulously selected wines by the glass. The whole location is really cool, from the Champagne bar upstairs to the main seating area inside and out. We were quickly looked after and even had a sommelier talk us through our wine options to best match our meal. I went for the pan-seared white fish which was delicious and we shared the chocolate brownie, which is more than enough for two. Our meal at The Winery was by far our best during our entire stay in Sydney, well worth a visit, especially if you want to impress a date.
The Shangri-La offers the best views across the city from Sydney, head up there to watch the sunset over Sydney Harbour. Best go early or be super stealthy to grab the next available seat, otherwise, you’ll be hovering around those that have, trying to capture pictures of the view. You can, of course, book seats.
Unfortunately, I don’t have particularly good things to write home about Sydney Aquarium. It’s overpriced and a complete tourist trap. You spend half your visit walking around the winding staircases to the large aquariums which look dirty and overcrowded with a mixture of sharks and large fishes. It’s cute seeing the penguins in their enclosure however the tour is over in minutes. If you go to Sydney and nowhere else in Australia and you have a young family then maybe it’s worth going, otherwise, give it a miss.
The Blue MountainWe chose to take a guided tour with ToursRUs to the Blue Mountains, less than a two-hour drive from Sydney the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area is one of Australia’s most spectacular natural parks. Our guide Dave picked us up from the nearest hotel and then made various stops to pick up other guests for that day. Fifteen of us eagerly made our way to the mountains with Dave cracking jokes along the way, good ones can be debated.
Our first stop was Featherdale Wildlife Park, a chance to meet a Koala, feed the Kangaroos and Wallabies, see various species of birds and a Saltwater Crocodile. However, be prepared to be shocked at the small size of the enclosure for the crocodile, I personally think it was way too small. I’m not a big fan of zoo’s or wildlife parks but in the main, the animals did seem well looked after and seemed to enjoy the attention of us, visitors. I did really enjoy feeding the tiny wallabies and Kangaroos but it is always better to see animals in their natural environment. What is refreshing to read this that – “Featherdale Wildlife Park plays a vital role in many conservation efforts throughout the country. Providing access to the study of key species by universities and other zoological institutions, the Park makes a valuable contribution to the many challenges facing wildlife.”
Our next stop and by far our favourite was walking through the lush rainforest from Katoomba along the round walking tracks. Stopping first at Echo Point Lookout, you’re offered various platforms to view the famous Three Sisters, which is stunning with the lush vast rainforest in-front and behind them. We were spoilt with panoramic views, looking out at the famous blue haze that emits from the vast eucalyptus forests. Those that aren’t able to or are just lazy can take the Scenic World cable car across the valley, but I highly recommend to save your money and walk if you can. Viewing Katoomba falls from various lookout points and views across the other iconic landmarks including Mount Solitary were unmissable and made our trip.
After a quick stop to view Leura Cascades, we headed to Leura Village for lunch. This is provided in the cost or you can opt to eat elsewhere. I would recommend finding your own restaurant as the food is pretty basic at the ToursRUs cafe. Take a walk up the high street and visit Josophan’s for quality chocolates or a yummy ice-cream. If you have a sweet tooth then you won’t want to miss The Candy Store, offering hundreds of varieties of sweets from all over the world.
The final stop of our tour was Parramatta River where we caught the ferry back to Sydney. This was another highlight of the tour, cruising under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and past the Opera House.
In all honesty, we could have skipped the tour and spent a few days up in the Blue Mountains. We are pretty active people, which this tour is not. It’s perfect for those less able to walk long distances or just have one day to explore but don’t be disappointed by the lack of walking. We were the only ones who opted to walk through Katoomba.
Stayed tuned for our next adventures in Melbourne ❤