A Guide to The Blue Mountains in Sydney, Australia

 

During our time in Sydney and Bondi Beach we also took a trip over to the Blue Mountains, which one of the main daytrip and excursions from Sydney. The Blue Mountains is the big beautiful national park closest to Sydney – and are called so, because they’re very big, and very blue.

See the photo below for further proof of their bigness and blueness.

blue mountains sydney

 

The mountains aren’t really mountains in your conventional sense – as in – they’re not pointy, they don’t have snow and you can’t ski on them…. we’d just come from New Zealand where mountains were like massive and pointy, so I just wanted to clarify!

They’re still incredibly beautiful though and the gorgeousness is more in how expansive the valleys are. I’ve always had a thing for valleys that fall behind each other, fading into the background, and you definitely get that here, you’ll find some awesome opportunities for photos.

blue mountains sydney

 

You have a few options if you’re planning on visiting the Blue Mountains, you could rent a car and drive there yourself – or you can take a group tour and let someone do the driving for you. For the sake of ease, Pad and I chose to do the latter. It was a long day (and a long drive) and it’s just so much easier to leave the job to someone else!

We left the city at about 6.30am (I know… so frickin’ early), and started getting to the viewing spots around 11am ish, so there’s a good solid 4 hours of driving before you even get to the hot spots.  Luckily I slept for most of it (thank God for neck cushions) so it wasn’t so bad. Pad’s shoulder is always a hugely comfortable pillow too, so needless to say – I always sleep well on coach journeys.

Here are a few companies that do coach tours:

Blue Mountains Tours

Anderson Tours

Blue Diamond Tours

PJ Tours

blue mountains sydney

blue mountains sydney

One of the main ‘sights’ to see in the Blue Mountains are the 3 sisters, a rock formation on the side of one of the cliff faces. It is pretty gorgeous, and you’ll be able to see them from any tour I’d imagine, as it’s one of the priorities.

Part of the trip involves stopping at Scenic World (where you can ride a cable car through the mountains, and also THE WORLD’S STEEPEST RAILWAY – which is kinda scary, but in a Disneyland kind of way… so nothing to be worried about). At Scenic World (where most Blue Mountain tours stop at, you have amazing views of the 3 sisters)- so don’t worry about missing them.

I think most of the tours that stop at Scenic World, involve a little bit of walking – so don’t wear flip-flops or anything stupid. Wear some trainers or pumps.

blue mountains sydney

blue mountains sydney

blue mountains sydney

blue mountains sydney

 

Another thing worth noting, is no matter what tour company you book with when visiting the Blue Mountains, you can either book an inclusive tour (which includes the Scenic World tickets, lunch, etc) or a non inclusive tour. To be honest – for convenience, just go with the inclusive one. Our tour guide was able to skip us through queues, etc because he had our tickets ready and waiting – which wouldn’t have been possible if we’d opted for the option to buy them ourselves. And it was kind of nice not having to queue up – because the Scenic World was extremely busy! For the sake of a few dollars either way, I’d honestly go for the inclusive deal.

blue mountains sydney

blue mountains sydney

blue mountains sydney

Any negatives about the day?

The only thing I hated abut the experience, was the sheer amount of flies there are up there in the mountains. Not mozzies or wasps or anything – just plain old flies. BIG AND GROSS.

I really hate flies.

At one point I didn’t want to talk because I was scared of inhaling a few. Eurgh! It’s a shame actually – because there are some absolutely lovely picnic sites around the mountains which we stopped off at. Maybe it was the season though, we were there in the peak of summer – so maybe that’s peak fly season!? But I guess, if flies don’t bother you too much (or you’re smart enough to bring repellent) then that’s not an issue anyway and you wouldn’t mind at all.

 

An Unexpected Surprise: Bondi Beach Street Art

When we visited Bondi Beach, one of my favourite finds was the beautiful street art along the promenade.

We’d previously been to Melbourne (a city famed for it’s street art scene) and I hadn’t head anything about street art in Sydney so seeing the gorgeous art along the beach-town walls were a pleasant surprise. It’s not hard to find the street art in Bondi – you don’t have to walk along some obscure alleyway and find hidden courtyards. It’s pretty much right above the reach, where the beach ends and the grass begins.

Here are a few of my favourites that we saw, enjoy!

DSC00500-001.JPG_effected DSC00502-001.JPG_effected DSC00503-001.JPG_effected DSC00504-001.JPG_effected DSC00506-001.JPG_effected

A Photo For Everywhere I Went in 2013.

2013 has without a doubt been the best year of my life. We’ve been to more places than I can count, so here they all are and I’m hoping I haven’t missed anywhere out… Also, these aren’t in any particular order!

One photo for each place we visited :) I’ve tried to choose the photo that summed the place up for me, or the photo or moment I remembered most.

paris slow motion night time

Paris

Queenstown view gondola blue

Queenstown, NZ

London shard sunshine clouds

London, UK

NYC blue building greenwich

New York City, USA

Girl in grand canyon sunshine

The Grand Canyon, USA

Bellagio fountains las vegas blogger

Las Vegas, USA

Hong Kong slow shutter speed skyline

Hong Kong

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 20.46.58

Phuket, Thailand

grand palace bangkok summer sunshine

Bangkok, Thailand

wild elephant koh samui thailand

Koh Samui, Thailand

marina bay sands sparkle singapore

Singapore

thailand beach sunshine aqua longboat

Angthong National Park, Thailand

kuala lumpur traders hotel view sunset

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

byron bay beach sunset surfers australia

Byron Bay, Oz

gold coast surfers paradise ocean beach

Surfers Paradise, Oz

brisbane evening night time reflection

Brisbane, Oz

noosa australia beach wave surfing

Noosa, Oz

fraser island australia sunset beach

Fraser Island, Oz

hamilton island parrots birds view reef hotel

Hamilton Island, Oz

great ocean road view mist storm

The Great Ocean Road, Oz

woman wetsuit great barrier reef ocean

The Great Barrier Reef, Oz

view from plane cairns clouds

Cairns, Oz

melbourne in the evening with slow shutter speed

Melbourne, Oz

surfers on the beach in New Zealand

Christchurch, NZ

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 20.56.41

The Blue Mountains, Oz

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 20.57.27

Bondi, Oz
Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 20.57.59

Sydney, Oz

 For more memories, and my other travel highlights from 2013, take a read of this blog post, about my favourite moments from the year.

Did you like the photos featured in this blog post? Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @TheWorldAndThenSome where I post lots more gorgeous photos from my travels!

What has your 2013 highlight been?

My Favourite Moments from 2013

2013 has been a pretty good year for me…. after months and months of planning and organising our big round the world trip – 2013 was the year we finally got to set off and do it. Because it was such an incredible year, I wanted to put some of our highlights down on paper (virtual paper!). So here are my favourite moments from 2013 (in no particular order I might add!).

Storm chasing in Hong Kong 

Whilst we were in Hong Kong, it never seemed to stop raining. One particular day though, as we boarded the Star Ferry, on our way back to our hotel – we could actually see the storm approaching. You can see it in the photo below, and from the moment that photo was taken, it took about 5 minutes to reach us on the boat. I can honestly say, I’ve never seen or felt rain like it. It literally came out of nowhere, and then just pelted down for about an hour at full force. Pad and I were in absolute awe of it, and although we attempted to shelter for awhile, in the end we just legged it into the rain and decided to risk it. Needless to say – we got absolutely drenched.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.28.09

Waking up to this view in Hong Kong

We wanted to book ourselves a room with a view when we were in Hong Kong (because as far as views go – Hong Kong has a pretty incredible one on offer) so we opted for a suite at at The Langham Place Hotel in Mongkok. It was so stunning, and the room was everything we’d hoped for. The view from our window is what you can see in the photo below – and it was just perfect. Waking up (and going to sleep) with that outlook was just incredible.

For more photos of gorgeous Hong Kong, click here.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.28.22

Winning (and gambling) at The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

Now, Pad will claim it was his idea to walk away from the table when we did (whatever…) but whoever’s idea it was – we went away from the Casino $200 up. If only we’d been as lucky in Las Vegas a few months later….! It was literally like we couldn’t stop winning… I think the old man next us was our lucky mascot. Definitely an amazing way to end our time in Singapore.

To read more about my time in Singapore, click here.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.28.54

Having a private luxury pod on the Singapore Flyer

We were gifted some complimentary tickets for The Singapore Flyer by their PR team, and expected to rock up and experience the regular tourist attraction. What actually happened, was much different! We were chauffeured through to a private entrance, got to skip the entire queue, and walked straight into our very own luxury pod at sunset. It was pretty amazing – and even more so because it was a complete surprise. It was also the first time we’d both tried the famous Singapore Sling – and The Flyer was the perfect place to try it for the first time!

For my full review of The Singapore Flyer, click here. 

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.29.11

Our 5 days on The Gold Coast

The Gold Coast was one of our last stops in Australia, and after a month of hostels and budgeting – we splashed out a little when we finally arrived at Surfers Paradise. Our hotel room overlooks the beautiful rivers, and every night the sunset was just beyond beautiful. We had planned to cram our 5 days there full of theme parks and activities – but when we arrived we realised all we wanted to do was relax and take it easy. We drank a lot of cider on that balcony, we (attempted) our very own Oz BBQ (and failed miserably!), we ate a lot of frozen yoghurt, had the best caesar salad ever, and we spent hours laying on the beach doing absolutely nothing.

For more information about The Gold Coast, click here. 

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.29.35

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.29.47

Learning to surf in Noosa

We hadn’t really prioritised surfing to be honest, but a girl we met at our hostel recommended it to us – so we decided (on a whim) to give it a try. I think we were both a bit apprehensive looking back – but within 20 minutes in the water we were both in love! Learning to surf was so much fun, and both us have agreed several times since, that it absolutely was one of the best things we ever decided to do. I know that Pad is beyond excited to give it another go as soon as we’re anywhere near another beach – so next year should be much the same! If you are looking to learn surfing, Noosa is such a beautiful spot to do it and quite an appealing spot too. The waters are warm, not to deep and it is home to Australia’s best surf school!

Click here for info about our first surfing lesson in Noosa.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.30.04

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.30.15

Seeing The Great Barrier Reef

I can’t really put this into words. But if you’ve been – you’ll know. I’ve never before felt so small, so insignificant and yet so free and inspired. I know that sounds super lame-ass. But you really can’t understand until you’ve been and seen this whole other world under the waves. We didn’t even get the best weather for it (I suffered pretty horrendous seasickness whilst on our boat) and yet, you still can’t avoid the beauty and the peacefulness that lies underneath the waves.

It was bizarre actually. Above the water there was wind, gales and you were being thrown about, but then once you were underneath the sea it was completely different. Pad and I spent our time gliding around under the water holding hands (otherwise we would’ve drifted apart!) trying to point out all the amazing creatures. At one point this turtle swam up literally a few centimetres in front of us, and I got to reach out and touch it’s shell. That right there, was just amazing.

To read the full blog post about our day on the reef, click here.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.30.46

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.31.00

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.31.10

Introducing these guys to Fergburger (and other things!)

During our last few weeks in Queenstown, two of my very best friends came and stopped with us in New Zealand for a few weeks. Sharing our new home with them was so much fun – and it was great to share all these amazing things we’d done and found with them too. This included Fergburger, Flame (Ben’s face when he saw the size of the mixed grill was hilarious!), Fat Badgers (which we had like 3 times?!), and the gorgeous Kelvin Heights (where we finally jumped in the lake).

More about all that, by clicking here! 

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.31.36

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.32.02

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.32.17

Onsen Hot Pools in Queenstown

This was such a treat, and really was a once in a lifetime experience. Onsen Hot Pools are located a little way out of Queenstown (about a 10 minute drive through the mountains) but worth the trip – especially for those who want to do some relaxing after all the adrenaline activities. We went for the evening package, and has champagne, candles and even a little picnic hamper. Perfection!

For a full review (and lot’s more photos!) of The Onsen Hot Pools, click here. 

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.32.34

NZ Road trip with Moogan

For Paddy’s birthday, we rented a car and explored our little bit of the South Island. We crammed so much in, and it was so much fun just zipping around, playing music a bit too loud and finding all those hidden places we’d never have found without a car. The reason he looks so happy below – is because of how modern and swish the car was. The previous time we had rented a car in NZ, we’d been stuck with a car that was about 30 years old… and still had a cassette player. One of my most hilarious memories from this road trip was Puzzling World in Wanaka. They have this one room on there where you feel like you’re walking up but actually you’re walking down. It’s weird – and difficult to explain. Anyway, the aim of this room is to (quite simply) get to the other side without falling over. We’d both fallen in to the final wall and were already laughing, when this old Chinese man turned the corner and mouthed “help me!” with all seriousness. All three of us burst out laughing and we were still laughing out it an hour later.

For more on our road tripping stuff, click here. 

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.32.49

New Years Eve in Sydney

I can’t think of a better way we could’ve started 2013. The night was perfect, the view was breathtaking and the experience was just priceless. I’ll never forget it – and for anyone even contemplating spending NYE in Sydney, I would just say DO IT. We spent the night at Sydney Harbourlights and it was the best money we’ve ever spent.

For more info about an incredible night, click here. 

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.33.22

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.33.33

Finally seeing the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas

I loved Las vegas, and my favourite part was (of course) the Bellagio Fountains. Not much to say other than WOW. Yes they’re touristy, but they’re so magical too! I’d been so excited to see them, and they didn’t disappoint at all. We’re hoping to go back to Las vegas in 2014 – so I hopefully won’t have to wait too long to see them again!

Click here to read more about Las Vegas. 

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.27.42

The Grand Canyon

Another thing I’d been dying to see, needless to say, the Grand Canyon didn’t disappoint either. I mean…. how can it?! We went with Pink Jeep Tours and everything about the day was just fantastic. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it.

For more info on our day in The Grand Canyon, click here. 

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 13.27.19

Putting our padlock on Padlock Bridge

Paris was our last destination of the year, and putting our Padlock on the bridge seemed really fitting. We’ve been through a lot this year, and that seemed like such a perfect way to round things off.

Click here to see more photos from Padlock Bridge in Paris.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 12.58.04

Moving into our new London home 

After months of being on the road earlier in the year, we were both so excited to be settled into a home again. We’ve decided to settle in Balham (South West London) and our home is so gorgeous. Moving day has definitely been a highlight, and every day since too.

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 12.30.16

Hostels Vs Hotels in Australia and my Personal Recommendations.

I said it before (and I’m about to say it again)… Australia is the most expensive place in the history of the world. Ever.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 17.43.56

I think the prices in Oz would be a shock to anyone though (even for us) who had been living in Queenstown (NZ) and London (UK) previous to visiting – and both of these are famous for being expensive, over priced cities too.

Still, Australia was a level above even them.

When my boyfriend and I were travelling Australia, we obviously wanted privacy during the evening (dorm rooms aren’t the most romantic setting) – but that can be difficult when your budget won’t always stretch to a nice double room in a hotel. We figured out pretty quickly though, that most hostels in Australia offer private double rooms (with the options of shared bathrooms or en-suites) and at almost half the price of what you’d pay at a hotel down the road.

I wanted to write about this because we found it saved us a lot of money. Sure, hostels don’t have the best reputations (especially not where romance is concerned) but we were so pleasantly surprised with all of the hostels we stayed in – that I think the issue needs clearing up. Staying in a hostel in Australia (and NZ to that matter) isn’t always slumming it – and I would compare a lot of the hostels we stopped in during our time in Australia to a 3* or 4* bed and breakfast or hotel in the UK.

I would recommend anyone travelling Oz to totally embrace the hostel scene (we primarily used Hostel Bookers to find ours, as they have lots of choices), and save yourself all that money – so you can spend it on something like surfing or theme parks or beer. Hostels give you more of a social scene too (that you rarely get in a hotel) and you’ll find that most hostels will have food deals on too throughout the week. At the FlashPackers hostel in Noosa, we had all you can eat pizza for $8 each one night, and a free BBQ the next night. Stuff like that is lifesaving when you’ve begun counting the pennies and when you’re travelling on a tight budget!

So saying that, here are a few of the hostels we loved when we were in Australia:

YHA, Brisbane – amazing view, en-suite bathroom, rooftop swimming pool overlooking city, big kitchen and central location.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 17.30.07

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 17.30.43

Byron Bay Beach Resort – HUGE BED, hammocks, free shuttle into town, fun restaurant next door, 30 second walk to the beach.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 17.35.04

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 17.35.32

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 17.36.07

The Friendly Hostel, Hervey Bay – Homely feel, cosy living room (shared between 3 rooms), kitted-out kitchen, free bike hire, short walk to the beach.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 17.36.40

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 17.37.05

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 18.23.28

The Space Hotel, Melbourne – Gorgeous room, Amazing view (see below!), rooftop jacuzzi, modern decor, cheap cafe and bar on-site.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 17.43.43

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 17.43.56

Flash Packers, Noosa – comfy king-size bed, beautiful en-suite bathroom with rain shower, free surf board hire, gorgeous swimming pool.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 18.08.03

I’d love to hear any hostel or hotel recommendations you may have for Australia – as I’m sure I’ll be back there one day!

Did you enjoy this post or find it helpful? If so I’d love if you could spare a second to vote for me in The Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2014. Just click here to get to the voting site. Thanks a million!

5 Reasons I Love Sydney

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.19.28

When we first visited Sydney over New Year, whilst we both loved Sydney neither of us fell in love with it, not as much as we have with other cities like NYC. This time however, when we stopped in Sydney for a few days – we both realised just how much we adore it here.

Sydney is fantastic. 

I’ve heard people say that Sydney doesn’t have soul, and that it’s quite a plastic city – simply putting on a show for tourists and the like. And yes – whilst there are some places that the travellers and tourists seem to flock towards – for me this doesn’t detract from the magic and the the beauty of this city. I’m now looking at Sydney as somewhere I would seriously consider living, I love the atmosphere, the people and just everything really. I’m sold on Sydney!

So why do I love it?

1. It feels safe

As a female, it’s nice to be able to walk around a city during daytime and night-time and feel safe and relaxed. In Sydney I’ve never felt unsafe. First we were in Kings Cross (which is notoriously a bit of a dodgy area) and yet I never felt threatened or uneasy. Our second time we stayed in the centre of town (near Chinatown) and I felt exactly the same. Whilst I’m sure there are probably some areas of Sydney I would want to avoid, as it’s usually the case with all cities, so far I haven’t felt unsafe in Sydney and that’s a big plus point for me. In Melbourne (where we were before Sydney) I didn’t feel this safety at all, in fact several times in Melbourne I found myself clutching on Pad’s hand a bit tighter because there were some questionable characters nearby. I mean, I’ve lived in London for 3 years – so it’s not like I’m not used to a few odd people on the street either, it’s just in Melbourne I felt a little more uncomfortable with it than I have in other cities. I just didn’t feel as safe or protected there.

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.00.24

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.00.45

 

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.07.13

2. The people

People in Sydney are friendly and nice. Sure, they’re not “New Zealand” or “Canadian” friendly (seriously, two of the nicest, friendliest nationalities I’ve come across) but for city folk they sure are welcoming and lovely. In London you feel a bit shunned and shoved a lot of the time, and whilst Sydney is busy and it’s a big city full of people living a city life – it’s not a push and shove culture. People are busy but they’re still nice. I like that.

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.05.18

3. The culture

We found some lovely bars and restaurants whilst in Sydney – and unfortunately left with a few we hand’t managed to get too. Mamak – we are coming for you next time. I love the bars in the Harbours (Darling Harbour was a lovely place to sit with a glass of wine as the sunset) and I love the quirky nightlife and pubs in the outer suburbs too. Another great plus point? Even though the prices can be ridiculously high in Sydney, if you can catch Happy Hour you can grab a major bargain usually. Also – the city is just gorgeous to walk around – if that’s all you feel like doing. Some of my favourite moments were just sitting around on a bench near the Harbour Bridge people watching.

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.01.05

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 14.59.35

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.01.28

4. The Beaches

There are loads nearby, and I love the idea that you can live in a big cosmopolitan city – but escape to the beaches at the weekends. And it’s not like in London when you’re escaping to Brighton Beach (a pebble beach, which is usually rainy) – you’re escaping to gorgeous big sandy beaches with surfers and shops and trendy bars. All within 15-30 minutes of the city on public transport. My favourite was Bondi Beach as I love the grassy slope and how absolutely huge it is. But Manly and Shelly Beach are always a safe bet too.

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.04.28

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.02.13

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.02.38

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.02.58

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.03.25

5. It’s FUN!

There is so much to do here and it’s a fun place to be! We loved Luna Park, we loved the iMax (we saw Jurassic Park there!) we loved bar hopping, we loved beach hopping – we loved the food and everything else. Sydney is in no way a dull city – it’s the kind of place that always has some event going on and something to take part in. Plus, if you ever did get bored there is a huge domestic and international airport (with hundreds of destinations) waiting to take you somewhere for the weekend.

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.06.19

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 15.05.43

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 14.59.58

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.