Our third day in Sydney consisted of a bit more of the wildlife that Australia has to offer, so I’ll call it our Wildlife Day in Sydney. We made our way down to Darling Harbor where you’ll find a wealth of restaurants and museums. On a nice day, like Circular Quay, it’s a great place to just sit and people watch as most of the eateries offer outside seating/seating that looks out onto the water. Here’s what the day looked like.
What we did
SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium
In Darling Harbor there’s a weird cluster of buildings that house the Aquarium, Wildlife Zoo (I’ll touch on this one next), and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (skipped this because we’ve been to a few in other cities). Of these three, I think the Aquarium is the only one really worth going to. At first glance, you don’t think it’s that big. But as you take the long ramps down there are very sizable tanks that house some amazing fish. Easily the highlight of the aquarium are the tunnels. The tunnels run through the tanks and have a glass ceiling that is about a 200 degree arch. There you can get really up close with some sharks, stingrays, and some friendly and ginormous Dugongs (similar to manatees). There are several other smaller tanks where you can see jellyfish, giant crabs, and a tank where you can touch various sea life creatures such as starfish.
WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo
This zoo is actually adjacent to the Aquarium and I would say is probably not totally worth visiting. Admittedly, we didn’t time our day right as we wanted to go to the much more famous Taronga Zoo, but it was too late into the afternoon by the time we wanted to get there to make it worth it (it’s a bit of a bus ride outside the city). So we just settled on the zoo in Darling Harbor. Now this zoo isn’t horrible, there are actually some pretty good ranger talks that we took advantage of at the kangaroo, crocodile and koala dens. And the crocodile, named Rex, is a ridiculously large 6 meters and a neat animal to see up close. My sister also really wanted to cuddle with a koala, but unfortunately in Sydney that’s now illegal or something, so you can only get a picture standing next to it (at a price of course). Which is one of the main reasons why I’d say to skip the WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo. The Taronga (even though we didn’t go) I heard is much larger and has more species of animals on display. Also, if you go to different parts of the country, the laws there are not the same so eventually my sister did get that picture with her actually cuddling the bear. So save a few bucks on the Sydney zoo and go to Taronga and/or if you’re looking to get a picture with a koala, pay for one where you get to hold the damn thing.
Cnr Hay St & Thomas St
Sydney NSW 2000
If you want to do some good souvenir shopping, Paddy’s Market is the place to go. It’s really similar to the Cusco Artesian Market in Peru, where you can buy all sorts of trinkets, clothing, food, whatever for yourself or the folks back home. They don’t really bargain as much at Paddy’s, but the prices are pretty low regardless. The funny thing about Paddy’s is while the bottom floor is a flea market, if you take the escalators up, on the second floor is a legitimate, modern looking mall. There you can find retail stores and a food court.
The flea market
The mall on the 2nd floor
Bondi Beach & Coastal Walk
Bondi beach (pronounced “bond-eye”) is the premiere beach in Sydney that most of the locals and tourists flock to in the hot summer months. It’s a bus ride away from the center of Sydney and only takes around 20-30 minutes to get there. Shops and restaurants line the road along the back of the beach and you can grab ice cream, swimwear, sunblock, anything you’ll need for the beach. Because of the rainy weather though, we didn’t do much suntanning or swimming. We did however partake in the coastal walk the runs along four of the beaches starting at Bondi. The trail takes about two hours round trip to walk, and is a great way to see the coast, a few of the other beaches, and get some great shots of the Pacific Ocean. Hopefully if you go to Australia, you’ll be able to soak in some sun more than us. Tip: The public bus does go there. You can take either the 333 or the 380 bus. Take the 333 – it takes more of an express route and doesn’t make as many stops as the 380.
Where we ate
Sydney Fish Market
Ironically, after the aquarium, we were in the mood for some fish for lunch, so we took a walk to the Sydney Fish Market. Unless you’re in Sydney for more than just a few days, this really isn’t worth seeing. It’s a giant warehouse, and it is bustling, but there’s no wow factor or anything. There’s just a bunch of stores selling fish, and while it’s cool to see so much of it in one place, it’s not anything you’d can’t see in most cities in the US. We went to a sushi kiosk for food, and while it was good, it wasn’t great. On a nice day though, I could see how locals, and visitors who are in Sydney for an extended period of time, would enjoy walking down there, buying some fish, and having a seat at the big picnic area along the water.
Spice I am – Surry Hills location
90 Wentworth Ave
Surry Hills Sydney 2010
Now this is the solid Lonely Planet place that we thought Din Tai Fung was going to be. Small, local, with a group of people waiting on the sidewalk to get in, Spice I am has some pretty good Thai food that is relatively affordable for Sydney (though, the $3 for a bowl of rice really pissed me off). The panang chicken I had was very spicy, but had very good flavor to it. Because of the size of the place, the restaurant moves fast, so I wouldn’t go there looking for a long leisurely meal. Full disclosure, I didn’t realize there were a few locations in Sydney until I looked up the URL for this blog. Looks like their other locations are bigger, so those branches might be a little more casual.
Cockle Bay Wharf Harbour Street
Sydney NSW 2000
After walking up and down Darling Harbour, we wanted to grab a bite to eat at a place with a view of the water. We saw the menu of this place along the sidewalk, and it looked like it had a pretty good, standard selection. The cafe was on the second floor, so from the ground we couldn’t really see inside. We walk up and, BOOM, it was like we walked into a club. It was loud, boisterous and full of 20-somethings enjoying themselves. My first reaction was, “The food here isn’t gonna be good” as I assumed it was a place more for drinking than eating. But we sat anyways because the hostess brought us to a table on the balcony with a great view of the water. Our waitress was super friendly (she told us she was English and had been living in Australia for 3 years), and fast bringing us our food and drinks. I was pleasantly surprised when the food arrived. The chicken burger I had was really, really good. The other dishes my family members got were apparently very delicious as well (I didn’t get to sample them). We chatted a little more with our waitress and she said all the food in Australia is pretty solid. She said compared to other countries (specifically England), Australians really take good care of themselves and eat a lot of organic foods without a lot of fat or frying oils, and that included random club bars where you wouldn’t expect that. Still, if you have little kids with you or grandparents, I wouldn’t go to Blackbird. Otherwise, it’s a good place for a fun atmosphere, good view, and lots of drinks.
“Australia from Beth”
-Take a day trip to Palm Beach. It’s Sydney’s most northern beach and it is beautiful and has great views by the lighthouse. This is where the Aussie show Home and Away is filmed.
-Roar & Snore at Taronga Zoo is incredible http://taronga.org.au/taronga-zoo/accommodation/roar-snore-more-information. It is pricey but one of the coolest things I got to do in Australia. You get a private nighttime safari, great food, behind the scenes experiences (feed a giraffe, go into the chimp building), and you get to sleep over at the zoo in a tent/cabin overlooking the entire city skyline. Seriously amazing.
-DO NOT take the Pride of Airlie boat to see the Whitsunday Islands. I might have just had a terrible boat captain but it was the least enjoyable tour I went on. Research tour/boat options, there are tons leaving from Airlie Beach.
-DO NOT fly with Tigerair. They are a budget airline but are extremely strict on baggage weight and other small print items. I ended up having a sort of yard sale at the Melbourne Airport giving away all of my toiletries to reduce my baggage weight and avoid checking my bag for $100. They are notoriously sticklers.
–Melonhead at Coogee Beach (pronounced “Could-gee”) has the best smoothies in Sydney and great sandwiches too with reasonable prices.