Our longest leg of the New Zealand / Australia tour was Sydney.
We had 9 nights to kill – right off the bat: we mis-planned this one, folks.
In retrospect, we should have taken some time to road trip out of Sydney – up to the Whitsundays, out to the Blue Mountains. But we booked & paid for 9 days accommodation way in advance, so to leave the city and pay for digs elsewhere in addition seemed…excessive.
If we were to do it over, we’d definitely take some time to head out of Sydney and see some of the surrounding areas.
As it was – we didn’t do that! Here’s what we did get up to – there’s plenty to see in Sydney, there is. It’s just that we’ve come to realise that 5-7 days in any city is usually more than enough.
Larmont Sydney by Lancemore $235 / £125 p/night inc. gym access.
Sometimes you wangle a hotel with breakfast included, sometimes you don’t. Being in another Brunch-centric city, we weren’t too sore. Our hotel was clean, modern and stylish, the wifi was quick, and we were granted access to the Anytime Fitness adjacent to the hotel.
On arrival, we were welcomed with a bottle of wine & some chocs. A nice touch, probably something to do with the +£1,000 we spent on our 9-night stay.
As ever, we hunted for a spot that was far enough out to be affordable (sub £150p/night is reasonable for a decent city hotel) but close enough that we could get into the thick of it with relative ease. The hotel was a 30m walk into the heart of the city, and you can cut through the Royal Botanical Gardens and visit Mrs Macquarie’s Chair en-route.
It was also opposite the best coffee joint in town – owned & run by Frankie, who was super friendly and happily shared insider tips on how best to see the city.
Sydney Opera House
Duh. It’s obligatory, say not more.
If you’d like to pop inside the opera house, Bennelong Restaurant serves some fancy cocktails and appetisers if (like us) you’re largely unwilling to part with major wedge for a posh sit-down meal in a tourist hot-spot.
We got there for opening, downed a couple of cocktails which were expertly assembled for us by the friendly bar staff.
There are a couple of choice spots to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, other than the Opera House itself.
The most obvious is Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.
Indisputably great views of the Bridge / House combo.
As such, distinctly touristy. If you’re intending to visit, cross your fingers that you don’t happen to arrive at the same time at not 2, but 3 coaches ferrying selfie-stick-swinging tourists.
The best tip we had (from Frankie, our coffee guy) was to catch the Ferry to Manly Beach from Barangaroo which takes you under the Harbour Bridge.
Great view, much smaller probability of getting elbowed out of the way by aggressive tourists.
This route comes with the obvious bonus of getting you to Manly beach – another worthwhile activity if you have the time.
We spent a very chilled afternoon wandering, nibbling acai bowls (Bare Naked Bowl is worth a visit) and sampling the local vino.
Sydney’s Taronga Zoo should be in your list anyways. But, if you’re a shutterbug and it’s a clear day then you’d do well to get your tail over there and have your camera at the ready.
Entry is $42 / £23pp, and you can easily kill the best part of a day exploring the zoo.
If you’re in town, you have to make time to visit this iconic spot. We spent our first visit tackling the Coogee Beach Walk.
It’s really a hike – 6km – full disclosure, but so worth it.
Countless secluded pit-stops to absorb the spectacular views over Bondi’s frankly insane waters.
We were so taken with the ridiculous scenes that we decided on a return visit first-thing the following morning.
We set our alarms for 4am – which is really saying something, we’re not earlybirds – and hot-footed it down to the beach to dig in for one of the more breath-taking sunrises we’ve captured.
It’s worth spending a couple of days in Bondi, if you can. I can’t think where we’ve found a more laid-back, frankly cool, place.
We’re mostly here for the grub, and so are you, probably. Here we go:
We relied heavily on The Fork (formerly Dimmi) – it’s like Travelzoo or Groupon, so we booked a tonne of (mostly lunch) deals to save our wedge during our stay.
Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay: $78 / £40 for 2 inc. 50% off through The Fork.
Ask for a seat by the window, and order the calamari. It’s some of the best we’ve had.
If you’re a seafood nut, this place is worth a visit. It has a distinctly posh edge, which makes a discounted lunch all the better.
The Farmhouse Restaurant: $65 / £35pp for 4 courses.
This place is #1 on Trip Advisor – for very good reason.
It sticks in our minds not only because of the impeccable grub, but because of the frankly outstanding value of said grub. Booking is absolutely essential in the likely event that you fancy a truly outstanding meal for a ridiculous £35pp. We nabbed a table outside and settled in, well-looked after by Farmhouse’s expert staff.
It feels like fine dining, but you’re not shelling out for it. Which is right up our street.
Let’s talk Brunch:
Et Al: $68pp for 5 course sharing brunch w/ bottomless prosecco
This might be our favourite spot for Brunch in Sydney.
It started off with some fairly standard Brunch-fare. Maybe we’re late to the party, but who knew Avo Toast was this earth-movingly good?
But the truly exceptional plates were surprisingly the less brunch-y courses.
The Pumpkin & Caramelised Cashew Ravioli was a total if unexpected hit.
As was the Pork Belly.
Ok we knew this’d be a hit, it’s a no-brainer.
You’ll likely be served by the owners of the joint, which always feels nice, we think.
The service is excellent, they really care that you’re having a ball and they’re generous with the top ups.
Book ahead, but this place is definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for a leisurely brunch.
There were a tonne of groups, but we got chatting to couples and solo brunchers, too.
This place is everybody’s jam.
Icebergs Dining Room: $90 / £50pp for 3-course Sunday Brunch w/ bottomless prosecco
This is the place to Brunch in Bondi.
It ain’t the cheapest option, but you’ll be hard-pressed to top the view over Bondi Beach.
Reservations are non-negotiable – we nabbed on via ‘The Fork’ last minute, which we’re pretty sure was a fairly significant spot of luck.
The bread basket was exceptional, no doubt.
The rest of the offerings were decent, but not overly memorable.
You really are paying for the view, and for however much prosecco you can dark-hole in the 90 minutes that you’re parked at your table.
When you consider the setting, we think the price isn’t so bad. We’ve almost certainly been given price-dysmorphia by several pull-your-pants-down fancy meals in London, though… full disclosure.
Trio Bondi Beach: $25-35 / £15-20 pp
If you’re in the Bondi Beach area and are on the hunt for a more economical breakfast spot, Trio is an excellent shout.
It’s not dirt-cheap, but the bill will be half as much as Iceberg’s and the grub is really, really good.
Order the Boss Eggs and the tasting plate – trust us.
We liked Aus. It’s very health & fitness-orientated – probably something to do with the weather. When it’s warm, people want to be out, and active. And let’s face it, look decent on the beach.
We had some amazing food – and Aussie Brunch is as good as we’ve had anywhere else in the world.
The big draw, we think is that you get all of the perks of a buzzy city and the chilled beaches. It’s usually either-or, unless you hop over to Miami or such like.
Aus was fab – but it’s really far away, so we probably won’t rush back. Unless we happen across dirt-cheap flights…
Our return to the UK was from Auckland, so we took a Jetstar flight from Sydney – Auckland £438.97 / £227 total Jetstar. This included 20kg checked + 7kg hand baggage, and exit seats. We joined Club Jetstar £27, which gave us 20% off bag + seat selection, and definitely saved us money over 3 Jetstar transfers.