Things to do in Sydney, Australia

Sydney Opera House

Australia had been near the top of my “want to travel to” list for a long time but every time I started planning a trip to go there, I couldn’t hit the “book” button. Flying is not my favorite thing and the idea of being contained on an airplane flying over an ocean for 14+ hours made me really nervous. But last summer, I found a great deal on a flight so I booked it and then there was no turning back.

Why Australia?

Why was Australia at the top of my list? One reason was I wanted to go visit my friend Claire. My mom and I met Claire in Italy several years ago while on a tour of Tuscany. That was such a great day filled with lots of laughs and lots and lots of wine. We were able to connect with Claire via Facebook at the end of that day and have kept in touch ever since. Claire even offered to let me live with her for at least four years when I asked late in the evening on November 8, 2016. Claire lives in Canberra, which is the capital of Australia. She came to Sydney on my second day in Australia to explore the city with me and then I flew with her back to Canberra and spent a couple of days there with her and her mom. More on that in a later post but I had so much fun and am very thankful for their hospitality.

As luck would have it, I had another friend, Megan, staying in Australia while I was there as well. Megan grew up in Iowa (like me!). I met her in Chicago. She moved to Seattle three years ago and was staying in Brisbane for three months as part of an employee exchange program at her company. She explored so much of Australia while she was there and planned her time in Sydney for when I was there so we could also explore it together.

I took off from Chicago on a Wednesday evening. I only had one layover – in San Francisco (SFO) – on my way to Sydney, which helped limit the amount of actual travel time I had to endure. I got really, really lucky and had a window seat with no one in the middle seat on the flight from SFO to Sydney. It allowed me to spread out a bit and as a result, I slept at least 10 of the 14 hours from SFO to Sydney. The Advil PM I took might have helped as well. 🙂

A Day in Sydney

Once I landed (on Friday morning), it was go, go go from then on while I was in Sydney. I got through customs and jumped on the train to get from the airport to our hotel in the city. We stayed at The Grace Hotel. It came highly recommended by Claire and it didn’t disappoint. It was in a convenient location in the city center so we could walk or take the train almost everywhere we needed to go. It was clean, safe and reasonably priced. It checked all of the boxes I needed. I would definitely stay there again.

After dropping our stuff at the hotel and a quick shower and change for me, off we went for a tour of the Sydney Opera House.

While Megan was waiting for me at the train station near our hotel, she took the photo below. It was near the Parliament House. It was like being transported back in time! How funny! ???? Megan

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Here was out first glimpse of the Sydney Opera House. It’s a beautiful site to behold!

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Touring the Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House was designed by a Danish architect and formally opened in 1973. The building has many different performance venues inside (which surprised me, I expected one massive space). The opera house hosts over 1,500 performances each year. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. The tour was a couple of hours long and along the way, we got to see several of the different performance venues as well as walk around the concourse and the outside of the building.

One of our first stops was in the concourse of the opera house. The thing people remember most about touring the opera house? The purple carpet pictured below! Holy moly it was bright!

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The windows of the opera house had little imprints of the opera house on them. Megan took this neat shot while we were on the tour and looking out towards the Sydney Bridge. ???? Megan

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This is a photo of the inside of one of the portions of the roof. The supports spread out like a fan as they go up.

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While we were on the tour, we had the opportunity to duck inside one of the large concert halls and listen in while a symphony rehearsed for a show scheduled for later that evening. It was amazing! I could have stood there and listened to them play for hours. Before we went in, the tour guide told us to be silent and that there was no clapping allowed. It took all of my willpower to hold my applause when they finished playing. I wish I had considered going to an actual performance at the Sydney Opera House while I was in Sydney (the performance for the evening we were there was sold out. I checked while on the tour). If I ever go back, I am definitely going to do it.

Here are the tiles on the outside of the opera house. I assumed they would be plain white but they are not.

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Looking under one of the peeked rooftops…

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And another photo outside of the opera house, this time of Megan and me. I’m so glad that we were able to meet up and explore windy Sydney together!

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A photo of the Opera House’s “bosom.”

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Fun fact – Some people think the roof of the opera house looks like sails welcoming boats into the harbor. Others say it looks like three turtles having an orgy. You be the judge.

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After the opera house tour, we joined a free walking tour of the city of Sydney. I’m all for free walking tours when I visit cities I have never been to. It’s a great chance to walk around and get my bearings while learning new things in the process. We used I’m Free Walking Tours (http://www.imfree.com.au/). I would recommend them to anyone visiting Sydney.

This is where we met for the walking tour – St Andrew’s Cathedral. I liked the pretty blossoms below.

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The Commonwealth Coat of Arms, pictured below, contains a shield with the symbols of the six Australian states. The shield is held by two native Australian animals, a kangaroo to the left and an emu to the right.

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Cadmans Cottage (below) is the second oldest surviving residential building in Sydney. Built in 1816, it is located near the bottom of the Sydney Bridge in the Rocks area of Sydney and is now used as the home for the Sydney Harbor National Parks Information Center.

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The Sydney Bridge. We were planning to climb it the next day. At this point, I was seriously doubting my decision to participate.

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The bridge climb goes up along the outside of the bridge to the flags shown below. Ugh. That is so high up!

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As I have said many times on this blog, one of my favorite things about traveling is meeting new people from all over the world. After the free walking tour, Megan and I headed over to the opera house and met a couple of ladies that Megan had met a few weeks earlier during her travels through Australia. They were Gemma and Angela and they were both so much fun to hang out with! We managed to snag a table outside of the opera house along the harbor and spent the night chatting, laughing and drinking Prosecco. We ended the night with a food stop at Macca’s (aka McDonalds). It was the perfect ending to my first night in Australia!

One quick note: I didn’t have any jet lag while in Australia. It was a welcomed, wonderful surprise! I think having no time to slow down and rest on my first day in the city and the amount of sleep I got on the plane worked out well.

Our view of the Sydney Bridge from our table outside of the opera house.

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The beginning of the sunset.

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And then it was dark…and so pretty!

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What a great night with great people! Notice the opera house roof in the background. Amazing! And the cherry on top of the sundae? Gemma messaged Megan and me a few weeks ago to let us know she will be coming to NYC to work for a year beginning in April. I am looking forward to hanging out with Megan and her in the U.S. soon!

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1 Comment

  1. April 6, 2018 / 4:45 am

    Its a wonderful tour. My bestie and I did it 3 years ago and I also would refer the Im free tour company. Rain hail or shine they said. Well we had torrential rain when we did our tour.

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