Top 5 for Newcastle & Sydney
- Check out Darby street for tons of fun bars and restaurants (Newcastle)
- Take a ferry to Manly Beach (Sydney)
- Check out the urban hippie culture that is Bondi Beach, and stroll along the waterfront (Sydney)
- Have a drink at the Chamber of Commerce, and then wander down to the Opera Bar. These are two bars with a view you really don’t want to miss.
- Walk across the Harbour Bridge (Sydney)
- Sheraton Four Points, Darling Harbour (Sydney)
- Diamant Boutique Hotel (Sydney) – with free IPad’s in the rooms!
RECOMMENDED RESTAURANTS / BARS
- Adriana Zumbo
- Opera Bar
- The Argyle
- Customs House
- Depot Darby (Newcastle)
- Benjamin’s Thai (Newcastle)
- Frankie’s Café (Newcastle)
Here, I present to you two famous Australian cities – one working class and one aristocratic. If you asked which the two end members of the trip were, these were them. Newcastle, to be fair, was a hard sell. We arrived after a VERY long day of driving, had a heck of a time finding our hotel, and then an equally hard time finding parking around the hotel. Finally getting a spot, we could hear a horrific onslaught of yelling, clapping, and drunkenness coming from the hotel. Coincidentally, it had a bar below it. And coincidentally, it was Boxing Day, which in Australia means horse races. As it was already 7 pm, there was a grand crowd of drunken race watchers ready to greet us. In one part, quite hilarious, in one part, not at all. We quickly dumped our bags and took the free hotel shuttle to the well-known restaurant and bar area, Darby street. Here, we found a fabulous Thai restaurant for dinner, and a fun bar afterwards for a drink. By the time we arrived back at the hotel the race-watchers were all either gone or passed out and we thankfully had a quiet night’s sleep. The next morning we went back to Darby street for breakfast – and had our pick of at least 8 breakfast joints, tables spilling onto the streets, relaxed patrons sipping juices and coffees, and enjoying huge plates of breakfast fare. We went to Frankies, an adorable little spot, and sat outside with our coffees. Breakfast included my first experience with Vegemite (no thanks). We followed breakfast with shopping – the street is lined with cute boutique clothing and home accessory stores. We both fell in love with many items at one shop and ended up buying ourselves some souvenirs- napkins for me, a pillow for her. Feeling more positive about Newcastle, we set off anyways for the next city.
Now, onto the Bourgeoisie. Sydney. If you have pockets filled with money and nowhere to spend it, come here!! It’s easy! Luckily we got a smoking deal at the Sheraton Four Points hotel, situated in a great location at Darling Harbour. This didn’t change the fact that we had to pay $50 AUD per night for parking, which was shockingly cheaper than the city lots ($78 per day). Learning that we were going to have to let go of some serious money we shrugged our shoulders and smiled anyways. Our first adventure was a walk through the city – to the Opera House of course! The famous building was as beautiful in person as it is in pictures. It was (of course) another sunny and hot day, and there were hordes of tourists doing the same as us. Back to the hotel for a quick change, and we went to the top of the Chamber of Commerce building for a drink – a tip from a local and definitely worth it. The view of the harbour is unbelievable. After that we were off to meet an old schoolmate of mine – at the Opera Bar, the vast outdoor watering hole directly below the Opera house. It was completely packed when we arrived at 8:30 and so fun. Not to mention surreal, to watch the sunset over the Sydney Opera House while sipping a drink and listening to music. Eventually we tore ourselves away and my friend took us to a local Speakeasy – dark, candlelit, with bow-tie clad waiters, and a killer list of delicious cocktails. Like I said, they don’t come cheap, but they are very VERY good.
Our next day we walked back to the harbour to take the ferry to Manly Beach – where we whiled away a couple hours at the beach. The ferry ride alone gives some great views of the Opera house and local harbour-side. On the way back we wandered through “The Rocks” which is not in fact rocks but rather an area of shops, restaurants, and bars across the harbour from the Opera house. We checked out The Argyle, a big pub with funky décor and lots of seating. We continued on into Darling Harbour, where we got to check out an Adriana Zumbo shop – the famous macaroon maker of Australia. We sampled the goods (salted caramel and chocolate) and indeed they were good. Back at the hotel for a quick change and an Uber ride to a beach party at Bondi. Bondi Beach, perhaps one of the most famous beaches in Australia, is similar to Byron Bay – just much more hipster hippie rather than hippie. It is positively overrun with “Artisan” coffee shops, delicatessens, trendy restaurants, and in general hipster joints where you can spend way too much for way too little. My schoolmate had kindly invited us to his rooftop apartment for a party, and so we danced and chatted the night away, making new Australian and international friends and learning about life in Sydney.
On next day we walked across the Harbour bridge and back, snapped some more pics of the city. It was New Years Eve, in perhaps the most famous city to be on New Years Eve, and there were already massive crowds camped out to watch the fireworks – starting 14 hours later!
Today we were checking into a different hotel in a different area of the city, giving us the perfect chance to see another neighbourhood. The Diamant Boutique Hotel was set on the edge of the Paddington District – where we spent a lovely afternoon doing some window shopping in the many shops. We also found what I think was one of the COOLEST bakeries I’ve ever been into – Kurtosh. It’s a European style bakery with mouthwatering braided croissants (below), Rugalach, and huge sheet pans of various cakes – where you simply request the amount you want and pay by weight. But, the most interesting thing was the strange twirled cylinders of dough which were selling like hot cakes – dough is wrapped around a ceramic baking stick, similar to a rolling pin but much fatter, and stuck upright in a smoking hot oven for 7 minutes. The hot, crispy golden-brown result comes out, and is dipped into your choice of sugar, cinnamon, caramel, nuts, chocolate, or Nutella. SO good. I’ve never seen this anywhere else and not sure where I will find it again.
Knowing we would not get into any New Year’s parties last minute, unless we wanted to spend 1 million dollars, we instead found a nice bar for some drinks, watched the usual countdown to midnight, and eventually craned our necks to see the fireworks from our hotel. It was a nice surprisingly relaxed way to ring in the New Year.
On our way out of the city, we made one final stop to walk the Bondi Beach walk – and man it was beautiful. I especially like the laps pool hanging out into the sea 🙂
Sydney was a great city – full of fun things to see and do, great beaches, and friendly people. It’s a must-see for anyone heading to Aus.