After a nearly 15-hour flight from LAX, its tempting to take a nap once you arrive in Sydney, Australia. However, there's so much to see and no time to waste. We stayed at the Great Southern Hotel, located in the heart of Chinatown. We immediately starting exploring the surroundings, making our way towards Circular Quay (about a 30-45 minute walk) and of course the world famous Sydney Opera House. Check out my video from the trip.
It was quite surreal to finally be in Sydney. I'd wanted to visit for quite some time as Australia marks continent #6 on my travel list. I had always heard amazing things about Sydney. People saying they'd move there in a heartbeat. I can see why.
Right away, I participated in the Bridge Climb at the Harbour Bridge. This 2+ hour excursion involves the wearing of a climbing suit, harnessing up to a cable system, and navigating a series of narrow walkways, steep ladders, and knee-shaking platforms as you ascend to the very top of the bridge. Once you're at the top, you're rewarded with an absolutely breathtaking view of Sydney Harbour and the city itself. Our guide was excellent and they'll take your photos for you at the top.
Be sure to get your exercise in with a coastal walk. We chose the Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach trail. (Or, do it in reverse). The approximately 3.5 mile walk takes you along both sandy beaches and rocky cliffs on Sydney's eastern shoreline. You'll pass through quaint neighborhoods and experience some local Australian sights off the beaten path.
Luckily, we visited Sydney during one of Australia's largest events - Vivid. This massive festival brings together light installations across the city along with music and talks. It's quite spectacular to see the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge illuminated so brightly. Also check out the Royal Botanic Gardens, The Government House, and The Rocks neighborhood for additional lights and events. This event happens annually, so try to arrange your visit during the time of the festival.
We also took a fun day trip to the Australia Zoo. Use Jetstar for a quick, and affordable, 1.5 hour flight to Sunshine Coast from Sydney. From there, take a taxi or Uber to Steve Irwin's zoo. I grew up watching Steve Irwin's tv shows, so I was thrilled to visit the place where there's so much passion for wildlife conservation. His commitment and love for animals carries on today with the work the zoo is doing. I did the Koala Encounter and got to snuggle up next to Dexter, a young koala. Spend an additional day there, if time permits.
After returning to Sydney, be sure to check out Paddy's Market for all of your souvenir needs. Nearby in Chinatown, you'll find fantastic varieties of Asian cuisines. One of my favorites was Chat Thai.
One of the great things about Sydney is that you can hop on a ferry to travel to various areas across the harbour. Definitely check out Manly, which feels like a hip beach town. Later, head over to Watson's Bay and eat at Doyle's on the Beach Restaurant. You'll have a fantastic experience and great view of the city's skyline.
Sydney was absolutely amazing and I can't wait to visit Australia again to see the rest of the country.