For Christmas I went to visit some of my family in Sydney. Having been there many, many times before, I decided to play the tourist instead of just visiting the same places we always see. With my camera on hand, my family made a day of it and we visited many places I haven’t been before or wasn’t interested in as a young teen.
We started at the Botanical Gardens. The gardens gently slope down to the harbour and have people tending to them year-round to keep them as lovely as they are, although I was rather amused to see a section specifically devoted to displaying the different types of grass in Australia! The little squares of grass, while relevant, are not really what one would expect to see… The Japanese section with its bamboo and the medicinal/edible plants sections were a bit more interesting. We meandered our way through a ‘meadow’ and past huge fig trees to the water’s edge.
The gardens are beautiful. It’s a very popular spot for families and picnickers, who spend the day in the sun. There were also a few people sunbathing, which I thought odd… Australia has so many beaches, why the middle of a park? To each their own.
Once we reached the water’s edge, we continued along the pathway. It got more and more crowded before we reached our next destination: The Opera House.
Also known as Tourist Central. So many tourists. The opera house has quite an interesting history. It’s only been on the harbour for about fifty years or so, yet it’s hard to imagine Sydney without the most iconic symbol of Australia. The original site was the end of the old tram-line (trams used to be common throughout Australia) with the other end reaching Bondi. Chosen from a contest, the architect who designed it didn’t actually think through the logistics, and so an orange peel was used to understand how, exactly, it would be built. The architect ended up leaving Australia ‘in disgrace’ due to arguments over funding with the local government. He was invited back for the 50years celebration but couldn’t come due to illness (his son came in his place).
If you go downstairs, you’ll see photos of the building process and history (and of course the gift shop) before continuing along the walkway which opens up into a sort of food courts, and offers tables to sit at. In the middle of the day, there was little shade and it was hot. I’d suggest avoiding this area in peak tourist season, or if you are claustrophobic/feel uncomfortable in crowds.
We continued along the path, watching the gold stars on the floor tell us of famous writers, and watching how the markers show the shoreline changed over the years. Originally, the harbour was a creek, but it was eventually covered over to make more space.
This little walk down history lane led us to the part I was most looking forward to: the Rocks.
The Rocks boast the oldest buildings in Australia, including Australia’s oldest pub! (Or one of the three claiming that title, at least). I love old buildings. They’ve a sense of history around them that charms me. It was incredible walking through these little alleyways, along cobblestones in certain areas, surrounded by stone buildings. It’s the closest to England that I think you can be in Australia, as the passengers of the first fleet tried to feel at home.
On our walking around, we found a place to stop and eat, and we discovered an opal store due to a covered window simply reading ‘Opals’. I love opals, so we went to find the store. It’s an entire shop dedicated just for opals! I was in heaven. The piece that stood out most for me was a pearl fashioned into a fish using accents of opals. So cute. But we weren’t shopping today (which is a good thing for my wallet) and we continued along our way!
We also stumbled across a gelato store (yum!) but decided to come back later. On our way back, we would find a little yard with oddly placed chairs, or tables, and some strange stone walls. Having walked through it, we would look back and realise it was showing the original size of the houses some people lived in. Tiny little two-room blocks that make my house (and probably yours) look like palaces!
Our final destination: The Sydney Harbour Bridge. Or as the locals affectionately call it, ‘the coathanger’! This is according to the brochures… personally I’ve never heard anyone call it that.
While you need to pay upwards of 300$ to climb the bridge, it’s only 15$ to climb the pylons attached. You walk up, up, up, with photos of people holding onto metal beams being lifted into the air surrounding you. NO health and safety laws in those days! These men were at the top of this bridge, often being sprayed with sharp, hot slivers of metal as the bolts were heated up there. Only sixteen men died while working on the bridge, which is incredible given the conditions they worked in (although another fell and survived with broken ribs. He received a gold watch for his ordeal). You’d never get me up there even if you paid me. I can’t imagine what they went through with no safety harnesses!!
Once you finally reach the top, the view is incredible. You can see everything. Although I would advise not going on windy days, and not wearing skirts or dresses… I didn’t, but many people did, which was a mistake on their part. One man lost his hat and we found it walking back down the bridge. My mother ran back towards him with it, and he was very excited to be reunited.
Sydney, your tourist attractions are extra touristy. But it was a lovely day, albeit a bit hot, and it’s definitely a walk I’d like to do again. Starting from the top of the Botanic gardens and stopping for lunch at the Rocks, with a peek at the Opera House, before climbing the Pylon and ending the day with gelato in a little Italian-esque courtyard… definitely a good way to spend the day! 10/10 would recommend.
**~What is your favourite way to spend the day in Sydney? Let me know!~**