Beautiful Bondi Beach

I’d heard a mix of things about Bondi Beach, but the place completely surpassed my expectations. Sure, there isn’t all too much there, and the beach is pretty crowded – but don’t let that scare you off visiting. I’d heard from a few people that Manly beach was a nicer option to Bondi – but if I’m being honest, I much preferred Bondi to Manly. Manly seemed very chaotic and hectic when we were there – and Bondi (although busy and hectic) was much more spaced out, with more room to relax, and offered a cleaner, more scenic beach too.

Whilst we didn’t do much during our time in Bondi, we had 3 full days which we happily just spent sitting around, reading, drinking smoothies, and relaxing by the beach. After a busy week in Sydney sight-seeing, it was nice just to relax with the gorgeous sea and view. We stayed in the YHA Bondi BeachHouse  for 4 nights, which (although no where near as nice as some of the hostels we’ve stayed in, in NZ) was OK. Never under-estimate the importance of air-con though, especially during an Australian heat wave. I think that’s what we were missing the most, cold showers were a twice daily occurrence!

The scenery is pretty much the main attraction here – there are loads of nearby coastal paths you can walk along and the views are just beautiful! The YHA was a little bit out of town (15 minute walk) but you could walk along the coastal path which was lovely into the town – where the views of the beach and rocky pools that run along the coast, were amazing. They have these stunning sand-stone formations, which look like something from a Star Wars movie set. One of the most popular of the beach / coastal walks is the Bondi to Coogee walk, Pad and I attempted it – but it was way to hot, so we gave up before we reached the end.

I also loved the Bondi pool too, which you can see below. It’s a salt water pool and completely open to the public, with pretty decent opening hours – which makes it even better. It was $5.50 and you can stay all day and relax in and out of the pool. There aren’t any sun loungers, but you can find places to lie down and perch when you’re not in the pool quite easily. You have an awesome view too – and it’s a pretty special place, definitely a must-do if you’re in Bondi Beach and you fancy something a bit more tame than the sea! Or you fancy a break from the sand!

Another bit of the town which adds a bit of character is the street art – something I wasn’t expecting! It’s all over the beach front, and some of the pieces are insane. I could’ve sat there and watched them spray paint all day – if the sunshine hadn’t been so hot!

 Things to do in Bondi that we’d recommend: 

– Watch the street artists (like above) 

– Get some fish and chips on the beach

– Browse the touristy surf shops

– Take a chance on the coastal walks and see how far you can get!

– Take a trip to Westfields in Bondi Junction

– Share a Smoothie from Boost on the beach front

Our Amazing New Years Eve in Sydney Harbourlights, at the Botanical Gardens

I wanted to dedicate an entire post to New Years Eve and just how incredible it was. It’s been my #1 bucketlist item for all my life (pretty much) and when the clock was five minutes to midnight I needed pinching just to convince myself we were actually there – and I was actually doing this thing which I’d always wanted to do. There’s not many times in your life when you can say that I guess.

It really was an amazing night – and perfect beyond belief. I think it exceeded both our expectations, not only because of how well it was organised, but because of how perfect our view was and perfect the weather was… etc. We decided in the summer that we’d spend NYE in Sydney, and I knew from past research that queing up for the public viewing points was going to be a big no-no. Around 17,000 people queue up and crowd into the botanical gardens for the best “free view” but that involves:

1) Queuing

2) More Queuing

3) Standing in the heat all day

4) Being crammed in with 17,000 other people for a view that’s not even guaranteed

Pad an I were pretty dead set against all of the above so started looking for ways we could have an amazing view – with minimal of all of the above – but maximum awesome. Which is when we stumbled across the private ticketed events held by the Botanical Gardens. We found one we liked the sound of – called Sydney Harbour Lights NYE, an outdoor event, with an incredible view and a free gourmet picnic, a bar and private seating. So we went for it.

Neither of us have any regrets with the choice – it was perfect. Sure, there were a lot of people in the Harbourlights NYE section of the Botanical Gardens, but it felt very private and you felt like the fireworks were being put on just for you. The views was completely clear too – no trees blocking the way and the picture perfect location for all those amazing photographs I was determined to get.

Watching the sun go down, and a plane flew over with this message. I loved this almost as much as the fireworks.

Another gorgeous shot of the sunset. This would be our view for the night!

The event Harbourlights began at 7.30pm – but we arrived at the Botanical gardens about an hour and a half early. People had already started to queue up, so I’m pretty glad in hindsight that we secured a decent spot in line because it meant we got first dibs on the seating. I would say, get there about 2 hours early if you’re really intent on getting a decent seat. I know 2 hours seems like a lot – but it’s not really anything compared to all the other people in the public area who would’ve queued for 8+ hours!

Remember that there are 3 private events at the botanical gardens too that night – so make sure you get in the right queue. It was sign posted – but lots of people we chatted too found that they’d been waiting in the wrong line for half an hour… so just be sure to check.

The way they set the event up was really interesting and not how either of us expected. There was a bar at one end with toilets, a water fountain halfway, and then rows of these cute deck chairs lining the harbour-side all the way up to the curve of the botanical gardens, the seats seemed to to go on and on. It was set out so that everyone had a great view, but if I was handing out advice to anyone hoping to book next year – it would still be to get there early and claim a seat on the front row.

Most people stood up when the midnight fireworks start anyhow, but for those practise ones at 9pm, sitting at the front will give you the best views.

The Harbourlights seating, we got to take these chairs home with us too!

Very impressed with the Gourmet Picnic!

Once the sun went down, we enjoyed a DJ and some “practise baby fireworks” and some incredible views across the harbour towards the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. This was enough to keep us entertained! I brought a magazine with me too – just incase, but didn’t really need it. Do take some bottled water with you for the queue though – as it can get a bit hot!

The atmosphere was great all night long, and the views made it all the more memorable. I honestly think they are the best views on offer in the whole city. It sounds incredibly geeky but I can’t wait until we’re back in London – so I can order some of these prints blown up on canvas.

The view across the harbour, pretty amazing right?

The viewing platform… I loved the lanterns!

Lots of photo opportunities whilst waiting for midnight!

Blatantly getting more excited!

Then of course…. The fireworks started! I’ll just let the photos do the talking here!

Thoughts on Sydney

For our New Years Eve in Sydney blog post: Click Here.

We’ve been in Sydney for around a week now – so I wanted to update with some observations we’ve made about the city. It’s funny – how you can have an idea of what a city will be like, and then once you get there you find it’s actually something completely different. I think that’s one of the main issues with travelling – you can never know what a place is like until you’re actually there… no matter how many photos you looked at and how many times you’ve googled ‘street-viewed’ it.

I think this is one of my favourite images from the entire trip.

Sydney was much different to how I imagined it – but not in a bad way (let’s just get that much clear). I’ll try and explain this by using another example. The first time I landed in NYC for the first time I fell in love with the city and as soon as I left on the plane home I wanted to be back there again. In fact, if I’m honest – I spent the next 3 years (between then and my next visit) daydreaming about going back. It was like I had a huge love affair with the city – which sounds cliche and weird – but if you’ve ever felt that about a place you’ll be nodding your head right now agreeing.

How does this relate to Sydney? Well, before I’d been to Sydney (and I’d only seen it on TV, in films, in photos) I was pretty sure I’d have that same knee jerk reaction as with NYC. That I’d fall head over heels with the place and be dying to stay for longer and return as soon as I left Australian soil. But actually, much to my surprise, this hasn’t happened. I think Sydney is a great city, and I think it’s beautiful, fun and has lots to offer – but I’m not head over heels for the place as I am with cities like NYC and London.

I don’t want to talk this city down though – Sydney is great and I’d recommend it in a heart beat. It’s got lots to do, the weather is fantastic, the people are lovely and there are lots of beautiful places to see and explore – which all adds up to an awesome location and an awesome place to spend time.

So here are a few thoughts  and observations on Sydney:

It’s made for tourists: This is something I don’t think anyone could dispute. The entire city is tailored towards tourists, but this is nice. There are some gorgeous spots in the city, and every one seems to have a bar or restaurant overlooking it – as if to say “Hey, tourists – come join us in this photo opportunity”. It’s lovely if your are a tourist (which we were) because you can easily spend a day just pottering through various bars and eateries which all have amazing views. It also means there are plenty of benches, seating areas, water fountains…. etc. Everything that makes being a tourist easier.

It’s Expensive: And there is no way of getting around it. I’ve been noticing how expensive the Oz and NZ is more and more recently, and the prices in Sydney really shocked us both. Now, we’re not un-used to high prices, Pad and I: we lived and worked in London before moving out here. London is expensive by anyone’s standards, but Sydney just oversteps the marks with pricing.. at times it was ridiculous. For example – on our first night we ate in the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner, the food was a little bit over average price-wise, but it was the drinks which made my jaw hit the table. The price of a burger and fries (standard dining out meal) was $22 (Oz dollars) and a small cocktails was $24. THE COCKTAIL COST MORE THAN THE MEAL. Pad and I aren’t ones for being tight financially – but even this was too far for us. We thought it may have just been the location of the restaurant (It’s was Darling Harbour after all) but the prices were high no matter where we went.

One of the cheaper meals we had, still about $30 though. Burritos in our hotel room. Love actually on the laptop (incase you were curious).

The lifestyle works: And it’s laid back. I think this is something that is universal across both NZ and Oz, and it really is something you notice – especially if you come from London. The people are helpful, cheerful and nothing is ever too much trouble usually. Sydney has two beaches right on it’s doorstep for those lazy weekends too, proper sandy, surfer beaches – which is something I feel London is lacking. I’d love a gorgeous sunny beach to head to on the weekends in London summer. But that’s a UK problem in general…. 😉

A day-trip to Manly beach. 20 minutes on the ferry from Sydney city centre.

It feels safe: This was evident to us most when we walked back to our hotel from the Botanical Gardens on NYE. It was a pretty long walk, at 1am on the rowdiest night of the year – and yet we both felt safe and encountered no problems along the way. Now I know I can’t speak for an entire city here – but I’ve felt safe and comfortable at all times here which is definitely something you look for as a female traveller. Were I travelling here on my own and not with Pad – this would be even more important to me, as I’m sure any female will agree with. Our hotel is actually on one of the busiest nightlife streets in Sydney – so we could easily have felt intimidated coming in and out during the night time – but never did.

The ferrys are mental: One of the things Sydney does relatively OK is public transport. Whilst it’s not great (it’s no where near as well covered and connected as London and NYC) there is a variety of transport available such as buses, trains (that are double decker!!) and ferries too. One thing you should note though – the ferries are mental as is the place you board from. The ferry terminal is literally mental – we used it a few times (to manly, to luna park, etc) and each time we were overwhelmed by how many people there were and how much pushing and shoving you have to do. Granted – this is a busy time of year  – but still… BUSY. On another public transport related note – The double decker trains were great.

double decker!

It’s not huge: In comparison to a small town – Sydney would initially seem like a huge city – and that’s probably what you’d be expecting when visiting for the first time. In actual fact though – Sydney is pretty small – and you could easily (as long as you didn’t have knee trouble or a broken hip or something) walk the entire city. Coming from London I almost expected the city to be on a similar scale – but whereas you would be exhausted walking around the many attractions and boroughs of London on foot (the tube and buses are a must in London because of it’s sheer size) – in Sydney you wouldn’t. Most major attractions are within a 15-20 minute walking radius – and although public transport makes it easier – it’s not actually necessary if you’ve got on a good pair of shoes and don’t mind walking.

Walking from the Opera House Bar to the Bridge takes about 10 / 15 minutes.

There’s more to it than meets the eye: One of my favourite spots in the city was actually the Chinese Garden of Friendship. A bizarrely peaceful garden in the centre of Darling Harbour and the middle of all things touristy. I’d recommend anyone in Sydney, go and take a walk around this place – not just because it’s absolutely beautiful, but because it’s a nice break from the crowds and hoards of people that flock around the more touristy spots of the city.