The perfect vacation cocktail for me is a mix of city and nature. There are several that I’ve been on with this mix but one example that I’ve written about is my trip to Lima and Machu Picchu, and my most recent trip to Sydney and the Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef.
Our trip to Australia completely snuck up on us. I had been meaning to look up “things to do” and “places to see” in Sydney and Green Island, but we instead headed out there knowing nothing more than a few tips that friends had provided. But I wasn’t worried as a lot of my trips start out this way but end up being great.
We landed early on a Saturday morning via a red-eye, too early for our room at the Woolloomooloo Ovolo to be available. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Woolloomooloo area in Sydney – that name made me giggle too.
The hotel was beautiful; super spacious, well-lit and decorated.
But neither one of us wanted to sit around the hotel waiting for our room so we decided to grab some brekkie (what Australians call breakfast) at – Marcelle – a cute little coffee shop in Potts Point. The weather was great (low 70s F/~21 C), so we sat at a table near the open doors and slowly ate while we planned our stay.
- Saturday – Clean-up, wander around, and grab dinner at Chin Chin
- Sunday – Brekkie near the hotel, Bondi Beach, meet our friends in the afternoon
- Monday – Brekkie, Zoo, Dinner
- Tuesday – Ferry to Manly Beach, early dinner, then a short film competition with our friends
It was a super loose plan, but I preferred it that way.
On our way back to the hotel, we spotted a food stand called Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. It’s supposedly the first place to sell meat pies in Sydney so I had to have one. I quickly grabbed the curry chicken pie, tiger-style, and took it back to the hotel. Tiger-style meant that the pie was topped with mashed potatoes, mashed peas, and gravy. I’m totally craving one now as I write about it.
While eating my fabulous pie, I suddenly realized that the Sydney Opera House was not yet on our itinerary. So I did some quick research and found that Anoushka Shankar was performing there on Sunday and tickets were still available! For those of you who are not familiar with her, she’s Ravi Shankar’s daughter – a sitarist who used to play with the Beatles. Some folks remember him when I mention that, but he was generally just an amazing musician. I used to listen to him a lot when I was younger and also learning sitar.
In the afternoon we walked around the edge of the Royal Botanical Gardens and past St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Archibald Fountain. We walked through Hyde Park, and slowly into Surry Hill for dinner at Chin Chin.
Chin Chin originated in Melbourne and was recently brought to Sydney which meant there was a line. The wait for a proper table was 2 hours, but we found that the bar tables emptied out much more quickly, so we were sitting and ordering within a half-hour instead.
The vibe was trendy and happening for a Saturday night, but the food was not as great as we hoped. This may have also been because we made the mistake of ordering the 5-dish tasting instead of individual plates. The tasting ended up being whole dishes instead of manageable portions which was just too much food for the two of us.
But stuffed as we were, we still had room for gelato from RivaReno. The menu is full of unique options so it was fun to try as many as we could.
One thing that I didn’t account for was jet lag. The time difference from Hong Kong is only 3 hours, but we totally slept in and missed the appropriate brekkie time (yes, there is such a thing). So, instead, we headed straight to BondiTony’s Burger Joint in Bondi Beach.
The burger joint is a small little restaurant with outdoor seating and rock ‘n’ roll paraphernalia all over. The weather was better than the day before so we enjoyed our burgers outside. I grabbed a coffee from The Nine across the street and then we headed to the beach.
The beach was packed. There’s a boardwalk, a grassy knoll, and of course the huge beach – filled with people.We were planning to do the coastal walk to Coogee Beach anyways so we took a quick toe dip in Bondi and headed down the coastal path.
The views of the ocean from the path were stunning. It took us forever just to get to Tamarama and Bronte beaches because we kept stopping to stare at the ocean and because lately, my walk has become more of a waddle.
Tamarama and Bronte are also much less packed than Bondi which made them nicer options to relax.
We made it back to Bondi by early evening and met our friends at North Bondi RSL after a quick pit-stop at Messina Gelato. No joke, I was addicted. I spent the next two days trying to find this gelato chain everywhere we went, and no matter how full I was. I loved the mint chocolate but every flavor was so good. And they had a huge dairy free selection as well!
After a quick dinner with our friends and their super cute son, we headed back to the hotel to quickly get ready for the Anoushka Shankar concert at the Sydney Opera House.
I was SO tired from the day, but the experience was SO worth it. Even K, who had never listened to sitar music, enjoyed it. We were so lucky to have gotten the chance to see her, especially at that venue. I couldn’t have imagined a better end to our day.
Brekkie! It was day 3 in Sydney and I felt like we still hadn’t had proper Aussie brekkie so the only thing I could think about when I woke up is how quickly we could get to The Grounds of Alexandria.
While pockets of Sydney are walking-friendly, the majority it is a driving city. It took around 20 minutes via Uber for us to get from the hotel to The Grounds but it was worth it.
The Grounds of Alexandria is a popular spot as it caters to lovers of food, coffee, and gardens. Half of the restaurant is an actual restaurant while the other half is covered with all kinds of flora and fauna. It’s an Instagrammer’s dream. The food and coffee were great too.
After a fulfilling brekkie, we headed to the Taronga Zoo which was mentioned as a must-go by some of our friends. Unfortunately for us though, aside from the gorillas, elephants, and meerkats, it left much to be desired. Granted, we went in the afternoon and a lot of areas were under construction, so it could have possibly been better at another time?
From the zoo we took a harbour ferry to Circular Quay and walked back to our hotel via the Royal Botanical Gardens.
I often imagine botanical gardens to just have flowers everywhere, but this one was nicely manicured and resembled a park.
We wanted to sit for a moment and enjoy the scenery but we were getting late for dinner at Momofuku Seiobo. It was delicious. Momofuku restaurants are great in general, but being that there are several in New York, it wasn’t my first choice in Sydney until we saw the reviews.
The tasting menu had a Barbados flair which is where the head chef is from, so each dish was packed with flavor. They also had a non-alcoholic pairing that we thought might just be a bunch of juices, but were pleasantly surprised to find that it was different types of tea based drinks and tonics – none of which were too sugary. My favorite dish was the marrons with a coconut bake (similar to a coconut-flavored, fried pita).
We were planning to spend our last day in Sydney on Manly Beach, but the weather was cold and rainy, so we instead spent the day in Newtown – a cute, Brooklyn-esque area of Sydney.
We started with brekkie in a nice and airy coffee shop called Brewtown Newtown then walked up and down the side streets, popped into random stores, walked through random parks, and looked at the houses/flats wondering what it might be like to live there, wondering what it might be like to live in Sydney in general.
For a quick snack we popped into the Rising Sun Workshop – a pho restaurant/biker shop. The menu was as random as the shop itself, but I enjoyed my chocolate milkshake while K had some pho.
In the evening we met up with our friends at a short film competition at the Tom Mann Theatre in Surry Hills. It was definitely a random event, but we love doing things like this.
Our evening and trip ended with one more gelato run at Messina. We were so sad to be leaving the next day but excited to because there was still more to come. This was just part 1…
Blog edited by: Betty Ho