10 Amazing Destinations for Solo Travelers

One thing I get asked about a lot is solo travel. I hear a lot of “I could never do that. I am not brave enough.” I don’t consider myself to be brave or particularly adventurous to be honest. So why do I travel solo? I do it because I don’t have someone to travel with regularly and I refuse to sit at home and let life pass me by while I wait for a travel companion that may never come.

To date, I have traveled on my own a couple dozen times and have some amazing and funny memories from these trips. I have found a peace in traveling solo, problem solving on my own and not having to please anyone else along the way.

If you find yourself contemplating taking a solo trip but are not sure where to start, I have some ideas for you! Below, I list 10 amazing destinations for solo travelers.

Three Things to Consider Before Booking a Solo Trip

In general, there are three things in particular that I consider before booking a trip as a solo female traveler. They are:

  1. Is the destination “safe” and how does the country treat women?
  2. What is the native language and will I encounter people on a regular basis who can speak some English?
  3. What is the transportation situation? Is renting a car or driver necessary or is public transportation easily accessible and reliable?

10 Amazing Destinations for Solo Travelers

Hawaii, USA

I know that Hawaii doesn’t seem like it would be an amazing destination for solo travelers but it is my favorite place to go as a solo traveler. I have been to Hawaii four times, three times solo. Yes, you will be surrounded by lots of couples and families. However, there is plenty of beach and pool space for everyone.

I like Hawaii because I feel very safe there. The weather is almost always nice. You will get the occasional rain shower but it means there is likely a rainbow to follow.

Renting a car in Hawaii is necessary but the rental process is easy and most of the driving is small towns and paved so it is easy. If you do go somewhere you are not comfortable driving (ie. the Road to Hana), join an organized tour and let an expert do the driving.

There are lots of restaurants with great food and the Hawaiian people are wonderful. I do encourage you to learn about the Hawaiian culture before you travel so you understand Hawaii’s history. It is key to respecting that culture while you are visiting.

Traveling the Road to Hana in Maui

Greece

I booked a trip to Greece in 2014 to meet up with some friends who were visiting there. While I spent several days with them on the island of Skiathos, I traveled through Athens, Santorini and Mykonos on my own.

I found exploring Athens and then traveling to and around the islands to be fairly easy, other than one evening when all of the ferries were canceled as I was trying to get from Mykonos to Santorini. The islands were small enough that I felt like I could walk around and see most of what I wanted to see, even without a car. There were restaurants everywhere with delicious Greek food.

Amazing Destinations for Solo Female Travelers
Oia in Santorini, Greece

Australia

Australia is a GREAT option for solo travelers. There is so much to see and do. The one thing to keep in mind is that Australia is a huge country, so you will need to pick and choose what you want to do.

I started my trip in Sydney where I met up with a couple of friends. We toured the opera house, climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge and did the Coogee to Bondi Beach coastal walk. After a brief stop in Canberra to see a friend and her mom, I spent time on my own visiting Uluru and then scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef.

I flew from place to place within Australia since the country is so big but when I was in different areas of the country, I was able to walk to restaurants for dinner each evening with no problems.

Croatia

While I traveled to and from Croatia on my own, I traveled through the country as part of an organized tour with Trafalgar. This was my second time traveling as part of an organized tour. I was much more comfortable with splitting off and doing my own thing this time. I did a lot of my own exploring and ate meals at restaurants I wanted to try this time.

I liked that my transportation around the country was taken care of. Croatia is filled with great people and good food. It has an interesting history as well. Dubrovnik. Split. Hvar. These are just a few of the places you should check out while you are there. While you’re at it, add Slovenia to your Croatian itinerary. Slovenia is one of the most beautiful countries I have visited.

Italy

This one definitely isn’t a secret. I have been to Italy twice and definitely think it is a good option for solo travelers. Rome, Florence and Venice are all easily accessible by train. All of them are easily walkable too.

I would recommend going during the shoulder seasons (April and September or October) if you can to avoid the massive crowds. Also, make sure to plan ahead. I am all for going to a place and then deciding when to do things but Italy is not the place for winging it. If you want to check out the Colosseum, the Vatican and the museums in Florence, make reservations ahead of time so you don’t waste hours of your trip waiting in lines.

London, UK

London is my favorite international city to visit and definitely one of the most amazing destinations for solo travelers. It is also the first city I visited solo. I landed in London in 2013 to meet up with my Contiki travel group. It was my first time abroad and I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe, even with minimal travel experience.

There is so much to see and do in London. This is one city where the hop on and off tours buses are popular. I recommend joining one of them to start you visit so you can get the lay of the city and then plan to hop off and on accordingly.

New York City, USA

New York, New York! One of my favorite cities to visit. I have been there several times and still don’t feel like I have even scratched the surface on all there is to see.

Go to a Broadway show. Check out Times Square. Walk through different neighborhoods. Visit the Top of the Rock. Meander through Central Park. Explore the museums. Take the subway.

Your feet will be sore when you leave but it will all be worth it.

Chicago, USA

I can’t write an article about amazing destinations for solo travelers and not mention my favorite city – Chicago. Obviously since I live here, I love it and think it is a great place to live and visit. I admit to my biases.

There is so much to do here! Take an architectural cruise via a boat on the Chicago River. See the Bean in Millennium Park. Have a drink at the Signature Room in the former Hancock Tower. Step out on the ledges at Willis Tower. Go to a baseball game a Wrigley Field. hang out at one of the many beaches along Lake Michigan. Enjoy delicious food all over the city.

Chicago is also a great place for a girls’ weekend if you are looking into destinations for that as well.

A view of Millennium Park from Cindy’s Rooftop in downtown Chicago

Grand Cayman

There are a lot of great places to visit in the Caribbean. However, I am very picky because I do not like staying at all inclusive resorts. I think they are the worst for solo travelers to be honest because options are so limited and I tend to feel trapped on the resort. While many islands in the Caribbean are full of all inclusive resorts, one that is not is Grand Cayman. And therefore, I think it is a good option for solo travel.

I flew to Grand Cayman to finish my open water scuba diving certification. It seemed like a much more pleasant way to do it than in a local quarry in rural Illinois.

I stay at the Sunshine Suites, which was across the road from Seven Mile Beach. Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman is one of the nicest, most picturesque beaches I have been to. The sand it white and the water was clear. I did not rent a car but was able to use the buses to get around. They have some great restaurants worth checking out too. Diving was great too if you are a fan of scuba diving.

Alaska, USA

I visited Alaska as part of my quest to visit 50 states that I finished in 2018. I spent a week in Alaska, visiting Anchorage, Kenai Fjords National Park, Denali National Park and finishing my trip in Fairbanks (where it was 90 degrees F the day I left!).

I did not rent a car, instead choosing to utilize organized tours and the Alaskan Railroad to get around. I LOVED LOVED LOVED taking the Alaskan Railroad through the Alaskan countryside. I splurged and got a seat on the first car where food and drinks were included. The best part was the little balcony off the back of the train car. I spend a lot of time out there during the trip admiring the Alaskan scenery as it went by, looking for moose and breathing in the fresh air.

If you are going to Alaska, I highly recommend taking the train for at least part of your journey. You won’t regret letting someone else do the driving while you relax and gaze at the scenery.

Amazing Destinations for Solo Female Travelers

There you have my list. I hope it inspires you to go for it! Solo travel can be so rewarding. There are many benefits to traveling solo. You can check out some of them here.

As for me, I can’t wait to keep traveling solo. Some of the places I hope to visit soon include Switzerland, Scotland, Iceland, New Zealand and Japan!

I cannot wait to start planning and take off!

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Amazing Destinations for Solo Female Travelers

Exploring Kata Tjuta in Australia

In my previous post, I described my day exploring Uluru in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. I spent my last day in the Australia Outback exploring Kata Tjuta.

The Plan

My time in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was a series of cancellations and rebookings. During my last full day in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, I was scheduled to go on full day Cave Hill tour. The tour was going to be an Indigenous cultural experience in which we would travel into the desert of the Pitjantjatjara Lands of Central Australia and meet with an Anangu host. The Anangu are the traditional owners of Cave Hill, which is the site of the Seven Sisters Tjukurpa.

I was awake and getting ready for the tour when I got the call that it was cancelled. They didn’t give a reason but I figured it had to do with the weather from the previous night. Since it was still really early (6am), I went back to bed for a while before heading out to breakfast. Along the way, I checked in with the folks at the lobby to see what options I had for the day. Most tours are full day so I had limited options. In the end, I decided to join a tour doing a hike of Kata Tjuta. I say “decided” but it was the only option unless I wanted to hang out at the resort all day, which I didn’t.

Exploring Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas, is a group of large, domed rock formations or bornhardts located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. 36 domes make up Kata Tjuta and cover an area of more than eight square miles. The highest dome, Mount Olga, is approximately 3,500 feet above sea level, or approximately 1,800 ft above the surrounding plain. It is 650 feet taller than Uluru.

In summary, it is tall and can be seen from many miles away.

We spent a few hours exploring the area. Some of the hike was spend on well trodden paths. Other parts were rougher with uneven terrain. I enjoyed all parts of the hike and really liked getting up close to see the amazing domes.

There are many legends associated with Kata Tjuta and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. A number of legends surround the great snake king, Wanambi. Wanambi is said to live on the summit of Kata Tju?a. He only comes down during the dry season. His breath was said to be able to transform a breeze into a hurricane in order to punish those who did evil deeds.

Most of the mythology surrounding the site is not disclosed to outsiders, and in particular, women. As is the custom, should women become privy to the “men’s business”, they are susceptible to violent attacks, even death.

The Field of Lights

After spending a few hours hiking around Kata Tjuta, we headed back to the hotel. I quickly showered and got ready for the evening’s activity,  the Field of Lights. The Field of Lights was an art installation inside the national park. I was excited to experience the installation and also watch the last sun rays hit Uluru as the sun set behind it.

When I got to the hotel lobby after getting ready, I knew I was not going to be greeted with good news. There were a lot of people in the lobby and none of them looked pleased.

All of the evening’s events had been cancelled due to potential storms.

Again. Ugh!

I knew this meant my chance to see a sunset over Uluru was over. It was really frustrating.

When I travel solo (and even when I travel with people), I always do a lot of research and usually have an Option B, C and even D so I can quickly adjust and make decisions when things don’t go according to plan. In this case, I had no other real options. I did not have a car and we were in the middle of no where so there was no place I could walk to without leaving the resort, which I knew was not a good idea to do by myself in the dark (mostly because I was afraid of wildlife, not other humans). A taxi or Uber were also out of the question.

Salvaging the Evening

As I was standing outside consoling myself, I looked over and a guy who I was on the hike around Kata Tjuta earlier in the day was standing there. I walked over and said “hi.” We started talking and I found out he and his friend were also supposed to go to the Field of Lights that evening. Like me, they were trying to figure out a plan for the night. They were from Germany so the language barrier was a bit of an issue but one of them could speak just enough English for us to get by.

There was a lookout point within walking distance of the resort so we decided to head up there to check it out. There were a lot of people at the lookout point when we got up there although it was still pretty calm and we could walk around and view the area from all sides. We ended up spending a lot of time on the lookout point because the views were pretty spectacular that night.

There was a storm off in the distance and the cloud formations it caused (see below) were something I had never seen before. None of the colors in the photos below were altered. Amazing, right?

When it finally got too dark to see the crazy clouds, we headed down the hill. We decided to stop at one of the casual cafes at our resort to get some dinner. I had pizza, they had burgers. It was nothing special but it was food and I did not have to eat alone. I always consider that a win when I am traveling solo.

And the it Finally Started to Rain

On the walk back to the lobby from dinner, it finally started to storm over our resort. There was a lot of thunder and lightning. As my family can attest, I have a crazy irrational fear of lightning that comes from when I was younger and lived on the farm in Iowa.

Our dairy barn was struck by lightning one evening while my dad was milking cows and we were all in the barn. No one was hurt but the cracking sound of the lightning hitting the barn is a sound I will never forget. It still gives me the chills.

I have “fond” memories of trying to chop hay with my brother in the summers after the lightning incident where we were rushing to get it done before a storm hit. It would be lightning and I would screech, cover my head and duck every time it would lightning. My brother used to get so mad at me. Inevitably, we would be trying to unplug a plugged chopper and I would be ducking instead of helping. How many times did he yell “do you really think that is going to help?!?” at me back in those days?

Anyway, I totally digressed back to the screech, cover and duck behavior as we were walking back from the restaurant to the hotel lobby. I am pretty sure the Germans thought I was insane.

Oh well! It was still a fun night and we all needed the laugh by then anyway.

Once back at the lobby, we parted ways and I headed back to my room. I was disappointed that I missed my last chance at an Uluru sunset but excited that I was leaving the Red Centre the next day.

Looking Back

I have thought about my decision to go to Uluru National Park a lot since I traveled there. If I had to remake the decision, would I do it again?

I don’t think I would, at least without a car. Without one, I probably would have gone to Melbourne for a few days instead.

If you are comfortable driving in Australia, then I would say exploring Kata Tjuta, Uluru and the Red Centre is a good plan. Having a car increases the amount of flexibility you have when things like rain cancellations happen.

It rained that night we were supposed to go to the Field of Lights but not until much later in the evening. I know we could have seen the installation and returned back to the resort before the rain started. BUT…hindsight is always 20/20 and the people managing the tour could not have known for sure that it would work out. So I understand why they cancelled it.

In the end, it was still a good night spent with new friends from a different part of the world.

One Last Thing

Just for kicks, before I published this post, I looked up how much rain the Uluru area of Australia gets annually. The answer made me laugh:

“Uluru-Kata Tjuta averages 12 inches of rain each year. It typically has 5 days a month all year round when it is cloudy (not necessarily raining). You would have to be lucky to actually be there when it rains.” 

Ha! Isn’t that just my luck? Only I would have exploring Kata Tjuta and Uluru partially ruined due to constant rain!

Interested in reading more about my trip to Australia? Check out my posts about my time in Sydney here and here.

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Exploring Kata Tjuta

Hiking to Kata Tjuta in Australia
Hiking up to Kata Tjuta
The domes of Kata Tjuta
The domes of Kata Tjuta
The walls of Kata Tjuta
The walls of Kata Tjuta

Exploring Kata Tjuta

The beautiful cloud formations in the Red Centre of Australia
The beautiful cloud formations in the Red Centre of Australia

Ulurua
A selfie with Uluru in the background.

Exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

The one debate I had with my travel agent when booking my trip to Australia was whether to go to Melbourne or Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Due to time constraints, it was not possible for me to do both. After a lot of back and forth, I decided to go to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and skip Melbourne. Melbourne is a lot like other cities I have been to. The park is very unique so exploring Uluru-Kata-Tjuta National Park seemed like the better choice.

Traveling to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

When they say Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is in the red center, they are not kidding. It really is in the middle of the country and in the middle of no where. Alice Springs, the nearest town, is 280 miles away. I really admire the people who live and work there. I wouldn’t be able to do it. After three days in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park area, I was more than ready to get back to the more urban areas of the country.

Because Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is so far away from the cities, I flew into the area from Sydney. At the airport, we loaded coach buses that took us to the resorts in the area. I stayed at the Voyages Desert Gardens Hotel. It was a big resort with a pool and clean rooms. The one negative thing about the resort from my perspective is that it was very dark around the grounds at night. I assume is an intentional way to cut down on light pollution in the area. However, at times, it made me nervous when walking to my room at the back of the resort by myself after sunset (I did not encounter any issues).

The Voyages Desert Gardens Hotel was where I finally encountered some of the big bugs I read about when researching Australia. I could not bring myself to kill or squish something so big though. I was imaging the crunching sound and the resulting mess so I chose to let them co-exist with me. They didn’t bother me so I didn’t bother them.

Uluru

The main attraction in this area of Australia is Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. Uluru is a massive sandstone hill? mountain? rock? in the heart of the Red Center. Uluru is sacred to indigenous Australians and is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago. It’s within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which also includes the 36 red-rock domes of the Kata Tjuta formation.

After checking into the hotel and enjoying a quick lunch, I joined a group of people for a walking tour and sunset viewing of Uluru. Uluru is known for appearing to change color at different times of the day and year, most notably during sunrise and sunset, when it appears to glow. I was excited to experience the changing colors during a sunset for myself.

Exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

We spent a couple of hours walking around the rock, hearing stories about the indigenous Australians and seeing the caves in which they lived, learned or prayed. There were lots of carvings and drawing in the caves and crevasses that had various meanings. Many times, these areas were considered sacred and taking photos of them was discouraged.

Another activity that is discouraged at Uluru is climbing the rock. As we were walking around the base of the rock, we could see a visible path along with a rope that people use to climb it. The unfortunate part is that many people do not respect the rock along the way or at the top, leaving food and trash and damage to the rock in their wake. Climbing the rock is also dangerous because it gets very, very, hot in this area of Australia, making it common for people to get overheated during the climb. Rescue efforts are hard due to Uluru’s location.

I wasn’t interested in climbing the rock out of respect for the indigenous Australians but even if I was, the path to the top was closed due to the high temperatures that day. In late 2017, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board announced that tourists will be banned from climbing Uluru altogether starting in 2019.

Rain Clouds Began to Form

As we were walking around Uluru, we could see that clouds were beginning to form in the area. It became obvious that storms were brewing in the distance. To keep everyone dry, our tour headed to a shelter area a few miles from the rock. We hung out under the shelter and enjoyed some snacks and champagne until the rain passed.

Unfortunately, the clouds and rain prevented us from experiencing an amazing sunset. I was very disappointed to miss it but I knew I would have another chance to catch it the next night. I was schedule to go to the Field of Lights exhibit inside the park.

Dinner at the Resort

After returning to the resort, I ended the day by having dinner at one of the restaurants within the resort. I did not have high expectations so I was pleasantly surprised when the food was actually very good. My favorite of the things I ate that evening was kangaroo carpaccio. If you don’t know what carpaccio is, it is a dish of meat or fish (often raw) that is thinly sliced or pounded thin. It is usually served as an appetizer. The kangaroo carpaccio was served with radishes and a sauce and it was delicious!

After dinner, I went back to my room to get ready for day two of exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Find other posts from my trip to Australia here and here.

Uluru
My first glimpse of Uluru
Exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Me and Uluru
Exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Beautiful Uluru
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
The beautiful patterns on the walls of Uluru

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Exploring Ululu-Kata Tjuta National Park

Why the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk Needs to be on your Sydney Itinerary

After climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge and a quick lunch, we headed out for the next item on our agenda: the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk.

After all, a 3.7 mile walk after a bridge climb makes total sense, right? Actually, it was a wonderful day and I am so glad we did both activities. I enjoyed both of them immensely, mostly because I was with great company.

I Googled the walk before we went and the website I checked said the walk should take about two hours to complete. It took us longer than that because we stopped to admire the views often and frankly, also because I am just slow. It became very clear after about the 10th of many uphill climbs that I have to get back into the gym. Thanks to Claire and a Megan for being patient with me.

Rebels Just for Kicks

Because we are rebels, we did the walk the opposite way from how most people complete it. We started at Coogee Beach. Coogee Beach is located in Coogee, a beachside suburb about five miles southeast of the central business district in Sydney. We ended the walk in Bondi Beach. Bondi Beach is the name of the beach and the surrounding suburb in Sydney,

Coogee Beach
The state of our walk – Coogee Beach.

But First, Sun Protection

One of the things I was most worried about for this trip was the sun and whether I would be able to adequately protect my skin on days like this where I was outside all day. Basically, days like the day we did the coastal walk.

Luckily, I succeeded. I managed not to get sunburned in Australia, thanks in large part to lots of sunscreen, a striped rash guard that you will see in many photos later, and the hat below.

Sunhat in Sydney
This hat save me from so many sunburns on this trip. I got in LA when I went to visit a friend a few years ago. What a smart purchase!

The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk Views

What will you see along the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk?

You will see the Pacific Ocean and lots of amazing views. You will pass a cemetery and five swimming pools: Coogee Beach (where there is also a women’s sea pool), Clovelly Beach, Bronte Beach (there’s a rock pond here), Tamarama Beach and Bondi Beach. Swimming and snorkeling are possible at Gordon’s Bay.

Our first beautiful view happened just outside of Coogee at the spot pictured below. The view is amazing but what I remember most about this stop was a girl sitting on the very edge of the cliff, beyond the recommended stopping point. It was an area that did not look safe because it wasn’t completely solid underneath. She was sitting on a piece of rock that jutted out over the cliff, trying to get the perfect Instagram photo.

I couldn’t make myself stand there and watch. I was terrified that the rock piece was going to break off and fall into the ocean with her.

Spoiler: she survived the photo session.

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
The first place we stopped along the walk to admire the view.
Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk
So Pretty!

The Pacific Ocean as far as my eyes could see. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Pacific Ocean

I love the sound of waves crashing into shore. Wouldn’t you agree?

Waves Crashing

Waverley Cemetery between Coogee and Bondi

About halfway into the walk, we came upon the Waverley Cemetery. This cemetery opened in 1877 and is located on top of the cliffs at Bronte in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. It is known for its largely intact Victorian and Edwardian monuments. Waverley Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries I have seen. It spans 41 acres. It went on and on and on.

Given that it’s along the coast, its residents have some of the best ocean views in the world. Too bad they don’t get to enjoy it.

Due to construction of the waterfront path, we had to walk through the cemetery to continue on our way to Bondi (it was the official detour route)e). It may sound strange but I enjoy looking through cemeteries, during the day at least. There is so much history in them. This one was no exception.

Waverley Cemetery
Waverley Cemetery along the walk

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

The cloud below passed through the arch just as we walked by. Perfect timing.

An arch along the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

Below are some really cool rock formations we saw along the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk.

Rock formation along the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

Bondi to Coogee Beach Rock Formation

Megan and me. I am so glad we were visiting Australia at the same time and were able to meet up and explore Sydney together.

Close to the end of the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk

Finally, Bondi Beach was within view! There were several pools like the one below along the coast as we walked. They are public pools, which I thought was very neat. This pool is featured in photos of Bondi Beach a lot.

Bondi Beach pool

After spending some time admiring Bondi Beach and the views, we set out for dinner. We went to Doyle’s on the Beach in Watson’s Bay. It’s a seafood restaurant and it was delicious! Watson’s Bay is across the bay from Sydney which allowed us to witness the amazing sunset over Sydney after dinner.

Sydney Sunset

We took the ferry back from Watson’s Bay to Sydney and had to get one more selfie in front of the opera house along the way.

Sydney Opera House

We finished the evening with a bottle of wine and more conversation on the rooftop of our hotel. It was a wonderful day!

My time in Sydney and in Canberra were my favorite parts of my Australian adventure. Chatting, laughing and exploring with Megan and Claire (and her mom later on as well as Gemma and Angela my first night in town) was much needed and made me so happy. It was good for my soul and one of the many reasons why I love to travel.

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Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk Sydney Australia

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

Old guy

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

Australia SOH (2)

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!

6AB9FE9A-B461-4B41-A9F5-FBB94D1C1BEF

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

SOH 2 (2)

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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