Sydney Highlights – Travel Up

Hello, Sydney! For international travelers, Sydney is the destination that immediately comes to mind when anyone mentions Australia. Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. It’s among the top fifteen most-visited cities in the world, with millions of tourists going each year to see the city’s most famous landmarks including the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge. But beyond historical and cultural sites, Sydney has loads of nature destinations to offer including beaches and mountains and adventure activities for those who prefer the great outdoors.

Located on Australia’s east coast, this metropolis surrounds Port Jackson and extends about 70 km towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the north, the Royal National Park to the south and Macarthur to the south-west.

Sydney was our third stop on our multi-city trip on the east coast of Australia last year. After a week in Melbourne and a couple of days in Canberra, we took a five-hour bus ride to Sydney, where we spent 4 days.

There’s a lot to do in this beautiful harbour city including visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Sydney Opera House, Australian Convict Centers, and Blue Mountains National Park. After the laid-back stay in Canberra, Sydney felt really busy and cosmopolitan. Sydney is actually one of the most expensive cities in the world, but it frequently ranks in the top ten most livable cities because of their efficient public transportation and nature parks.

While in Sydney, we stayed in Song Hotel along Wentworth cor. Liverpool St, in the Central Business District, which offered a central location for going around the city and accessing public transportation. The hotel was located right across Hyde Park, which has an Anzac Memorial. The hotel is very near the Museum station line, but if you’re in the mood to walk, it’s about 2.5 km away from the Sydney Opera House, and takes about a 30 minute leisurely walk to get there.

As a tourist, I usually only get to see the glamorous side of a destination. I joined a few catch-up sessions of my parents with their classmates based there and it was interesting to hear how life is for some Pinoys who chose to migrate there. For our first day in Sydney, we were picked up and treated out to lunch by Emile and Mitzi Sanchez, my dad’s PSHS classmate.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

First stop on our sightseeing tour: the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the seventh longest spanning arch-bridge in the world and the tallest steel arch bridge in the world, measuring 134 m (440 ft) from top to water level.

This Australian heritage-listed steel through arch bridge across Sydney Harbour carries rail, vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney central business district and the North Shore. It’s considered a major landmark and icon of Sydney (and of Australia as a whole).

Sydney Opera House

Right nearby is the Sydney Opera House, a multi-venue performing arts center at Sydney Harbour. This structure is considered one of the 20th century’s most famous and distinctive buildings. In 2007, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One Central Park

My parents and I rode a bus tour around the city, where we spotted different landmarks and decided where to go next. While on the bus, we got a view of One Central Park, the world’s tallest vertical garden.

This amazing green building towering 116 meters high exhibits a living wall of exotic and native species of Australian flowers and plants. Its vines and foliage intertwine between each floor on lush balconies, showing how nature can thrive in harmony with the urban environment.

Sydney Fish Market

While parents met up with friends for lunch at a mall, I decided to go off on my own and check out the the Sydney Fish Market. Said to be the world’s third largest fish market, this complex sits on the Blackwattle Bay foreshore in Pyrmonth, 2 kilometers west of the Sydney central business district.

The Fish Market incorporates a working fishing port, wholesale fish market, fresh seafood retail market, a delicatessen, sushi bar, bakery, a gift shop, a fruit and vegetable market, a florist, a new meat deli, a beverage outlet, a seafood cooking school, indoor seating and an outdoor promenade for visitors.

I was pleased to find a bottle shop inside the market where you can buy any Australian beer to pair with seafood from any stall right inside the market. There was a lot to choose from, but I got a Victoria Bitter just to try the most mainstream / popular beer in Australia.

Bondi Beach

From the market, I took the bus again and spent a cloudy, but peaceful afternoon just chilling out and digging my toes in the sand on Bondi Beach, a popular beach in a surrounding suburb located 7 km (4 mi) east or a 45-minute bus ride from the Sydney central business district.

The name “Bondi,” originally “Boondi” is an Aboriginal word that means “surf.” The beach is popular with surfers and beach-goers who just want to enjoy the breeze.

Blue Mountains National Park Day Tour

While parents planned a day around a river ferry ride, visits to botanical gardens, and museums, I booked a bus tour to join the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains National Park in the vast region west of Sydney, Australia, and part of the Great Dividing Range, which included stops at several notable tourist spots and side-trips along the way including the Featherdale Wildlife Park, Garden Village of Leura, Echo Point & Three Sisters Rock Formation and Scenic Skyway, Cableway and Railway.

Featherdale Wildlife Park

Featherdale Wildlife Park is the home of the world’s largest collection of Australian animals and is considered Sydney’s most hands-on wildlife experience.

You can get up close to native animals like koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, emus & dingoes here.

I actually have mixed feelings about visiting zoos, but this visit was packaged along with the tour and the animals seem very well taken care of. Their enclosures were large unlike the typical zoos we have in the Philippines. Animals were in gated sections, not cages, and visitors could buy food to try feeding them.

The Garden Village of Leura

Our lunch stop for the tour was in the town of Leura, known as “The Garden Village.” This charming town boasts of many gardens which are privately owned yet open at selected times of the year to the public.

The Leura Garden Festival and Leura Village Fair are popular events held in October each year. The town has a mall and lots of quaint cafes and boutiques selling artistic items for tourists to check out.

Echo Point & Three Sisters Rock Formation

The tour included visits to Echo Point lookout, near the town of Katoomba, with panoramic views of Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters, a towering sandstone formation and sacred Aboriginal site.

The three weathered sandstone peaks, formed thousands of years ago through erosion, are set among the cliffs of the Jamison Valley. From the lookout, tourists can see the Ruined Castle and Mount Solitary.

Scenic Skyway, Cableway and Railway

Part of the Blue Mountains Day Tour included thrilling rides on the Scenic Skyway over the gorge, a Scenic Cableway down to a rainforest trail for a nature walk, and the Scenic Railway, the world’s steepest incline railway, descending more than 400 metres (0.25 miles) down the escarpment.

Our tour bus also stopped by this uncrowded viewpoint called Cahill’s Lookout away from most of the tourist crowds before taking a relaxing river cruise on the Parramatta river ending at Sydney Opera House & Harbour Bridge.

Easy Rider Motorcycle Tours

On my way to the Sydney Bridge Climb area, I spotted a stall and rows of cool motorcycles parked right below the bridge. Apparently, you can hop on the back of a Harley Davidson with Easy Rider Motorcycle tours. I was really tempted to book a short tour, but I decided to pass it up in favor of the next activity below.

Established in 1992, these Motorbike tours are based at the Rocks Market, located directly beside The Harbour Bridge and just across from the Opera House.

Easy Rider has tours starting from the Rocks Rumble or 15-minute Harbour Bridge Blitz (AUD$35 or Php 1,200) right up to 2-Day Nundle Express outback adventure (AUD$950 – or roughly Php32,800). For details, visit

Sydney Bridge Climb

One of the major activities on my “To Do” List in Australia was to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the world’s largest steel arch bridge. It’s one of only three bridges worldwide that you can climb just for fun. It’s one thing to admire the bridge from afar, but it’s such a unique experience just to be able to climb up to the top of these amazing structures.

The Sydney Bridge Climb offers one of the world’s best known bridge climbs, taking climbers to the highest point of 134 meters or 440 ft. Visitors can choose to spend 3.5 hours climbing up the top arch or do an express 2.5-hour climb along the inner arch, before ascending to the “bridge summit.” Those who are short on time (or cash) can get a good view at a midway point.

While this activity looks pretty extreme, it’s surprisingly not as strenuous as it looks. Basically, you climb sets of stairs on the bridge, wearing a safety harness. You’re attached to the bridge via a secure cable throughout. You also wear headphones and a radio, so you can hear your group leader on the bridge because it can get very windy up there. Visitors get a history lesson on the construction of the bridge and enjoy breathtaking views from the top.

I really enjoyed walking along the narrow catwalks of the bridge, seeing the traffic rushing down below, and getting one of the world’s most breathtaking views of the harbor and Sydney Opera House from the summit of the bridge. Another extreme activity crossed off the bucket list!

Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout

The Sydney Bridge Climb includes free tickets to Pylon lookout, a mini-museum located within one of the structural pylons of the bridge. This compact museum allows visitors to step back into the history of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and learn all about its beginnings, planning and construction, and vision.

The pylon also offers amazing panoramic views overlooking the Sydney harbour and city for a fraction of the cost of the Sydney Bridge Climb. In fact, if you just want to get good landscape views (and are not after the thrill of climbing up the bridge), the Pylon lookout provides an excellent vantage point. You can also get amazing views just by crossing the bridge on foot (which costs totally free).

Manly Beach

After the Sydney Bridge Climb in the morning, I met up with parents in the afternoon to visit Manly Beach, one of the best beaches near Sydney. Travelling to Manly from Sydney’s main ferry terminal, Circular Quay, takes just 30 minutes by public ferry with adult tickets costing around $18 return.

There are lots of cafes nearby where you can order fresh seafood, steak or fish & chips. The beach is stunning, with pine trees right along the shore and promenade.

4 Pines Brewing Co.

After lunch, my dad and I kicked back with some craft beer at 4 Pines Brewing Co., a friendly and relaxed bar with award-winning brews. This community brewpub is a great spot for post surf beer and a casual conversations.

You can chill out on the balcony with a pint of the freshest beer while enjoying the view of trees and the beach. Just the perfect Aussie summer vibe.

Darling Harbour at Night

While it’s pleasant during the day, Sydney’s Darling Harbour comes alive at night with bars and restaurants providing the best view of the Sydney Harbour.

We spent our last night in Sydney with a nice dinner and drinks with parents’ friends Aurora “Yoyi” Parungao-Moroney and economist/banker Marcy Mission at the Sydney Darling Harbour area.

Early the next morning, we headed to the airport on the way to our fourth and last stop, Brisbane, the capital of and the most populated city in the Australian state of Queensland.

While it’s possible to travel by land from Sydney to Brisbane, Brisbane is over 900 kilometers away and trips range from 9 to 14 hours depending on your route. To save time, we opted to take a domestic flight instead, which lasts 1 hour 25 minutes. Last stop, Brisbane!

NEXT POST: Australia 2019: Brisbane Highlights

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