Posted by: Anna | August 12, 2011

Sydney in a day

From guest blogger Sally Field (Anna’s mom):

This is our version of Sydney in a day.  I am just really glad we had more than a day.   In my planning I got so overwhelmed by the breadth of things to do I had a more generic summary of what I thought the “have to do things” in Sydney were.  The list came down to this:

  • Something on the Harbour Bridge
  • The Opera House tour
  • Get out in the Sydney Harbor either on a tour, a ferry or a kayak
  • See one of the great beaches, preferably either Bondi or Manly
  • Something outdoors like the Zoo or National Park
  • Tour The Rocks

In our first day we only missed one – the something outdoors.  But you could easily add the Botanical Gardens that are near the Opera House and complete it in one day if need be.

Anna had prepared an itinerary ahead thank goodness that covered a day that started with the Opera House tour, then explored the historic neighborhood The Rocks, then traveled by ferry to Watsons Bay.  We liked it and just before living Cairns we made our Opera House tour reservations for the first full day in Sydney at 9:00, the only tour time available that day and the first tour of the day.  Tuesday morning, after breakfast in our amazing Meriton World flat, we were off.  My previous post talked about our Opera House tour.  As you can tell, it made an impression.  For the tour allow an hour.

After leaving the Opera House we looped back through the Circular Quay (area where ferries, boats and buses depart) to The Rocks.  This is the original settlement area of Sydney and in some ways tough to explore.  But we walked through the Circular Quay and then towards the Overseas Passenger Terminal and then in.  These are great views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and the Harbour.  As I said before, the weather was gorgeous. We made our way to Argyle Place described aptly as a typical English green anchored by a pub at one end and a church at the other.  It was a narrow patch of green in the middle about a block long.  But the pub was the Lord Nelson and the church was the Holy Trinity Garrison Church, both worth seeing.  We were starving by then so made a leap of faith and stopped to have lunch at the Lord Nelson pub.  Wow was it good!

It has its own brewery onsite with all the beers and descriptions written on the blackboard sections above the bar.  Tommy continued our meat pie quest with Tommy and Jack ordering beautiful meat pies with mashed potatoes (called mash locally) underneath, mashed minted peas on top and then gravy on the side.  In the middle was a flaky meat pie.  I had a terrific pumpkin goat cheese pizza.  (We had a lot of pumpkin in unusual things on this trip – it was in season and they really like pumpkin.)  Everything ordered was good as was the atmosphere.  Historic and listed as the oldest hotel in Sydney it was really charming and sunny with big windows that were open.  Lots of locals were eating there at long wooden tables.  Charming!

Delicious meat pie at the Lord Nelson. Worth it!

We then walked back towards the Quay exploring along the way.  We landed near a wine bar called Wine Odyssey.  The boys (Tommy and Jack) were anxious to tackle the Bridge in the free climb we had found so Anna, Jerry and I parked ourselves at one of the sidewalk tables at the Wine Odyssey.  Anna was very interested in learning more about Aussie wine and after a look inside knew this was a great place to continue that quest.  (Tommy on a meat pie quest and Anna on a wine quest – I was interested in participating in both.)

Here is what we learned about the Bridge climb thanks in large part to Fodor’s.  There are at least three ways you can do it.  First and most advertised in the BridgeClimb tour that takes you in groups of 10 to the highest rail of the Bridge at a cost of about $200 per person.  We could see the climbers and it looked great but not a cost we were willing to incur.  The second and definitely interesting is to climb the 200 steps to the South East Pylon at a cost of about $10.  But thanks to Fodor’s we learned you could climb the stairs near the Shangri-La Hotel and walk the footpath that is the same level as the traffic for free.  Not as high as the other two but Tommy and Jack elected that.  The views, according to them were great; they even saw us hanging out with great Aussie wines as they walked nearby on the Bridge.

View of the bridge - you can see the stunning weather we were lucky enough to have for our big sightseeing day.

Meanwhile, we were enjoying our wine.  The Wine Odyssey has a wide selection of well described Aussie wines by the glass served by a knowledgeable young woman patient enough to answer all our questions.  Really lovely stop and place to wait for our bridge climbers.  When they came back the plan was to take the ferry to Watsons Bay.  But plans are meant to be changed.  Anna’s ankle was done so Jerry, Jack and I continued on while they headed back.  We changed our plans and decided that we needed to head out to Manly Beach via the ferry.  The ferry was supposed to have great Sydney and Opera House views and it did not disappoint.

The Manly Ferry was the perfect complement to our Opera House tour.  We were lucky and scored front row seats in the front upper deck outside.  This made our pictures and view of the waterside of the Opera House unimpaired.  We learned that the Opera House truly does not have a bad side.  Utzon apparently purposely declined to say what it looked like wanting each of us to use their own imagination.  The most common descriptions are sails or sea shells, both of which works.  I immediately thought of Spanish conquistador helmets as I took the Manly ferry around.

The trip on the ferry was about 30 minutes and quite beautiful.  Once we departed the signage was good so we walked down the Corso to Manly Beach.  Manly is a lovely village, at least as seen from the Corso.  The Corso as far as I can tell is a walk of about two blocks from the wharf to the beach. It has interesting looking shops, restaurants and bars.  Once at the beach, even on this winter’s day, there was a lot of activity including a large group of kayakers that appeared to be a club of some sort, families strolling along the boardwalk, individuals reading and more.  We didn’t stay long as we hoped to see sunset from the ferry.  I would love to see this beach in the summer.

We took the ferry back but unfortunately we beat the sunset back to Sydney.  We did see it from the Quay however.  We again had transportation issues, planning to take the 555 shuttle bus only to learn it quits running at 3:30.  So we grabbed a cab back to the hotel.  We ended the day near our hotel at the Three Wise Monkeys pub with pub food that was fine but no Lord Nelson’s.  That evening I suggested that everyone name their number one must do thing in Sydney and that we use that to plan our last two days there.



  1. Just read this before lunch and boy did you make me hungry! Your weather looks fantastic – much better than our 100’s. We broke the streak yesterday thank goodness. Sounds like you all are really working to see everything and we are so glad to hear about it as you experience it!

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