A Merry Christmas in the great down under (Sydney!)

A Merry Christmas in the great down under (Sydney!)

Sydney! 22nd December 2015 – 3rd January 2016
2 week stay at Bounce Hostel

Sydney! Australia’s Crown Jewel harbouring the country’s most iconic gems; from dazzling Darling Harbour to the Grand architectural feats of the Opera house and Harbour Bridge, with some of the most famous beach’s in the world. I’ll admit entering this city after a month in quiet beach-side towns was a shock to the system, senses going into overdrive with the now unfamiliar buzz of traffic and sheer amount of people, like it was all at once almost overwhelming. I didn’t know where to look or explore first!

I had two wonderful weeks to spend in this captivating city over Christmas and New Year! And what an amazing stay it was 🙂

I really liked Sydney. I was happy to get back to a big city after spending so much time predominately in the beach towns the last few weeks. Sydney is my ideal city as it still incorporated the beach-life – there is no beach more famous than Bondi after all! However it still had the city life buzz I had been unknowingly missing. Where you can wander around the streets anonymous and inconspicuously until stupid o’clock in the morning and it is still thriving just as it would be 12 hours ago, and will be 12 hours from now.

Getting around Sydney:

It is extremely easy to travel around Sydney – but remember it is big! Their tram lines are easy to navigate. Buy a top-up-card as soon as you arrive in the city from a newsagents and you are ready to go. You can top up at the newsagents or in the stations.
TIP – travel on a Sunday is free, so use this day to visit manly or the blue mountains for no expense 🙂

Things I recommend to do in Sydney (that I did)

  • Head to Circular Quay and explore the area. This is where you will find the world famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge
  • Sydney Opera House –Famous for its white shelled roof, guided tours are available and will give you a better appreciation for how challenging the building was to design. Tickets for a show in the opera house are surprisingly affordable, so try to go if you get the chance
  • Have a drink at the Sydney Opera house bar for gorgeous views of the Opera house and Harbour Bridge as the sun sets
  • Manly beach – get the ferry over to Manly for a day. The ferry ride to Manly offers great views over Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House. It’s a picturesque 30-minute ride each way that puts you in one of the coolest parts of northern city. Manly is famous for its beautiful beach, giant waves, surfing, and great nightlife. The town is really nice to find somewhere to eat, drink and enjoy
  • Hang out at the beach – Go surfing, swimming, paddling, walking, or simply laze in the sun. Sydney is a city famous for its (free) beaches, and there’s no better way to spend one of the city’s many sunny days than by enjoying one of them. While Bondi is the most famous, be sure to check out Manly, Watson’s Bay, Coogee, and Bronte Beaches too which are usually a little less touristy
  • Do the Coogee to Bondi beach Walk – its free and pretty!
  • Explore ‘The Rocks’-  This is the oldest part of Sydney with narrow cobbled lanes and little shops and restaurants. Stop in an old pub in this area for lunch. It was almost torn down in the 1970’s but was luckily preserved. With weekend markets, art museums, street entertainment, delicious (and sometimes overpriced) restaurants, and beautiful views of the harbour, opera house, and bridge, this is one of the coolest areas of the city
  • Do the Sydney Bridge Harbour climb
  • Have drinks at the top of Sydney revolving Skytower – go at night for the best 360 revolving views of the Sydney skyline whist sipping a mojito or glass of red 🙂
  • Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs. Macquarie Chair – next to the opera house, the botanical gardens are beautiful and worth a afternoon stroll. One of the best walks in the city, you’ll find Australia’s first vegetable garden and now a treasure trove of trees, ferns, flowers, and lawn. On a sunny day, you’ll find bodies sprawled out all over the gardens soaking up the sun here if they are not down at the beach 🙂

Other things I would highly recommend you do in Sydney!

  • Wine tasting in Hunter Valley
  • Blue Mountains day trip

The only reason I did not visit the blue mountains as intended was because I was too sick to go on the Sunday as planned. However it is very easy to get the train to. Something I will definitely do next time I return!

Top Tips for travelling to Sydney over the Christmas/New Year period!

  1. Book your accommodation as early in advance as possible! Bounce hostel where I stayed was fully booked 4 months before Christmas and was at max capacity the whole 2 weeks I was there.
  2. Ensure you book up any activities you want to do before you arrive in Sydney if you don’t have much time. I booked my ticket to do the Sydney bridge climb the day I arrived (22nd Dec) and was lucky to get the space on the 3rd Jan to do it, otherwise I would have missed out.
  3. Join in! Even if you quite like your own company, Christmas is about being with people and making friends, especially when you are staying around the same people for 2 weeks! Ditch expectations and reservations and live it up a-little 🙂

My Experience

22nd December: After arriving into Sydney on the overnight Greyhound bus (and my last – woo-hoo!) I set off for Bounce Hostel – which was about a 10 minute walk down the street (again thanks to my google offline maps mode this was easy peasy!).

The staff at Bounce made me immediately happy I had chosen to stay here. Everyone was super friendly and full of Christmas cheer. Even though it was summer in Sydney, I remember this day being particularly gloomy and that afternoon it rained constantly. The staff said I could use the luggage room until 2pm when they would be able to check me in, and I spent the afternoon at the café next door which I came to fall in love with. I read my kindle and watched the world go by out the window, ordered numerous vanilla and chai lattes and roughly planned out what to do with my time in Sydney. I actually ended up coming for breckfast every day here with my room mates Emma and Alex and Jamie, always ordering the poached eggs with avocado on soughdough bread. Delish! I highly recommend checking out this place Haven if you are staying nearby for breakfast/brunch/lunch 🙂

When I returned to check in later that afternoon, I got chatting to the staff at the information desk and they managed to sort me out with a booking to do the Sydney Bridge Harbour climb. I was luckily to get this spot considering I had forgotten to book it beforehand. Oops! The front desk also gave me a little ‘12 days of Christmas’ information sheet outlining all the activities and nights out/things to do the hostel were running over the holidays. It was really good to see the highlights with a group, make new friends and the activities were mostly run by Connor – our young and free-spirited super laid back tour guide and bounce rep who made everything fun. Hats off to him, he was young and wild with a kind, fun attitude. He was dead half the time from too many late shifts at the hostel and partying non-stop, running on no sleep but did not miss a thing. Bravo Connor, bravo!

I stayed in a 6 bed dorm room, and ended up sharing it with 3 other girls; Alex, Emma and Angel and 2 brothers, Matt and Lucas, from up north in Lancaster. We all got on really well and I am so glad these lovely people were my room mates for the following 2 weeks! I especially got on well with Emma and Alex, both English ladies currently living in Melbourne together who had come to Sydney for the holidays.

That evening the hostel organised a ‘welcome’ night, which involved paying $5 for unlimited pizza on the rooftop followed by a big night out to a club in kings cross called world bar for everyone to get to know each other and start the Christmas celebrations. I went with Emma and Alex and also made friends with a German girl called Patricia who was lovely. We had a great night which ended like so many in London – with chips in the back of the taxi engaged in tipsy talk. Fun times!

TIP – If you are interested in staying at Bounce Hostel – You can read my review of bounce hostel here.

23rd December – The following day I joined a group of people doing the Coogee to Bondi beach walk. We got on a bus to Coogee beach and started the walk from there. The walk is not strenuous and takes around 3 hours depending on how leisurely a pace you are going. When we reached Bondi we stopped for a lunch before the group separated off to spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure. I returned back to the hostel and got the tram into Sydney Central – Town Hall for my first look around the shopping joint. It was awesome! There was a huge H&M and endless shops. I ended up getting back to the hostel later evening, loosing track of time. I love the energy of this city 🙂

24th December: Christmas Eve: On Connors next expedition, we went on a walking tour of Sydney – through the botanical gardens to the Opera house and around Circular Quay for a few hours which was good. Around 5pm we got the train back to the hostel to get ready for the New Year’s Eve celebrations!

The hostel arranged for us to join a boat party that started in Darling harbour and took us out and around the Opera house and Sydney harbour bridge for a few hours in the evening. The ticket price included drinks and food and needless to say – we had a great time! I even dressed up in a red tacky sequin dress that has ‘Merry Christmas’ printed across the top of it and borrow Angel’s Santa hat. Everyone seemed to love it and I had so much fun. After the Boat docked back up in the harbour we jumped onto a party bus which took us to another hostel bar called Sidebar to carry on the night. I ended up leaving with Patricia back to our hostel sometime in the wee hours of the morning. It was a very good start to a very Merry Christmas down under!

Christmas day after a few phone calls to home, the hostel put on a Christmas lunch from 1pm, after which people headed off in groups to spend the remainder of Christmas day drinking and sun worshipping down at Coogee or Bondi beach. My group decided on Coogee which was definitely the better choice – still busy but not so busy you couldn’t find a space or move, and no-one took our alcohol away. Winner!
(At Bondi there were police wardens on the beach and drinking alcohol was not allowed!)

Boxing day I headed to the Bondi shopping centre with Alex and Emma for a wander. It wasn’t crazy busy which was nice. I got my nails done and had a little TLC time as I was starting to feel unwell. I shopped and ended up buying a matching clutch and heeled sandals to wear NYE, and enjoyed a relaxing day, ending up in the main Sydney shopping district at Town Hall and feeling at peace surrounded by all the pretty Christmas lights.

27th December – Today my friend Jamie arrived in Sydney from his stay at the Gold Coast for Christmas – and as luck would have it he managed to wangle a space in a dorm room at Bounce! Jammy git. Some people are just lucky!

The next trip ran by the hostel today – again led by Connor was to Manly beach for anyone wanting to go. After a delicious breakfast at Haven, Emma, Alex, Jamie and I joined the small group already assembled and just after 11am we set off and got the train to the ferry stop, where we quickly boarded the ferry for the 20 minute or so journey over to Manly Island. Once we disembarked, we headed down the busy high street and stopped off for drinks on a rooftop bar somewhere near the beach for a few hours, before heading straight to the sand! The waves were choppy so we didn’t really venture in, and most of the group decided to play volleyball (or attempt to, it really didn’t go that well). We stayed in Manly for the day and found a pub for dinner and wine (Jamie and I shared a pumpkin pizza and another bottle of red which was amazing) before heading back that evening. Another fab day out exploring the delights of Sydney!

28th December – Jay, Emma, Alex and I went for breakfast at Haven, then I took Jamie to Town Hall shopping! I bought a gorgeous travel charm bracelet from Pandora and we had a good wander round. We ended up walking over to the rocks, where we found a nice cafe and ate al fresco on the road outside. It was lovely 🙂

That night Jamie, Rick, Tamsin, Alex, Emma and I got dressed up and visited the 360 bar – a revolving Skytower for drinks in the heart of the city to enjoy the amazing views! We also visited Marble bar; a gorgeous art deco style bar that looked like it born in the 1920’s, which served amazing cocktails. Highly recommend you pop by here for a drink! It was not overly busy – I believe it is one of those Sydney hidden gem’s 😉 it was also where Tamsin got me to try and Amaretto and cranberry for the first time – now I am addicted to them and it is my new alcoholic beverage of choice 😀

29th December – Unfortunately the next day and for the remainder of my time in Sydney – I got quite ill with a sore throat that turned into a bad croaky cough and cold. It wasn’t a pretty sight – phlegm phlegm phlegm sums it up. Jamie, Emma, Alex and a few of their friends did the beach walk (which I had already done) whilst I rested that day in the cinema room of the hostel, watching white chicks for the first time and random films. I met a friend for dinner I had met in Noosa at the Hard Rock Café for dinner and cocktails – it was great to see Karen again and hear about her adventures since Noosa! Jamie joined us after a few hours for a few drinks which was nice.

30th DecemberPrince Albert Park Pool day! Jamie, Alex, Emma and I headed over to a pool in the park about 100m across the road to the left of the hostel. It was lovely! A big swimming pool in the middle of a lush green landscape. We sunbathed and relaxed all day listening to music and eating Magnums. That evening Jamie and I had dinner 2 doors down from the hostel – they made me a halloumi cheese and pomegranate salad which wasn’t on the menu and was delicious. Highly recommend this place too! We had a relaxed evening watching Oceans 11 as I was still not well in the cinema room.

New Years Eve!
Although ill, I still managed to drag myself out for New Year’s eve celebrations having already bought a ticket to Luna park and I didn’t want to miss out – I didn’t come all this way to sleep through New Year in Sydney!

Myself, Jamie, Alex, Emma and a couple we had met called Tamsin and Ric all headed off to Luna Park New Year’s Eve to watch the fireworks over the Sydney Bridge at Midnight and until then, enjoyed the entertainment, drank cocktails in light up glasses and went on funfair rides! It was a fun night and the firework display at midnight was incredible.

After the fireworks the crowd started to die down, there was a pretty big DJ playing at the park and the crowd slowly dispersed over to the massive tent. I stayed for an hour or so before feeling too ill to continue on and headed home. But still, I’ll never forget my New Year’s Eve in Sydney 🙂

1st Jan – unfortunately by New Year’s day I went from bad to worse. Jamie went to Manly with his friend Anne who had made her way over to Sydney. I met them for dinner that evening but couldn’t talk much as my throat was very sore and painful.

2nd Jan – I gathered what energy I could muster and did the Sydney bridge climb (with soothers and tissues at the ready!) which was a great experience and something I highly recommend you do if ever visiting Sydney, even if I felt dead afterwards it was still worth it!

I returned that evening to the rocks area for dinner with Emma, Jamie and Alex to a pizzeria – we had 2 massive pizzas between us and enjoyed a final dinner all together as I was heading to Melbourne in 2 days time, and the girls were spending tomorrow at the Blue Mountains. Yummy!

3rd Jan – I spent my last day with Jamie around Circular Quay and the oldest section of Sydney known as The Rocks, where there was also a big market going on. I bought a baby blanket for a friend, Jade, back home who had just told me Christmas eve she was pregnant! (Spoil alert – after a tough pregnancy Jade ended up having baby boy triplets, born in June 2016 :D) The lady that owned this stall cuddlycreations was so patient and kind, I really recommend her baby fleece blankets – they are gorgeous! She can be found here every Saturday and Sunday the Rocks Market stall is on!
For my last night in Sydney I went for dinner in Darling Harbour with Jamie, which was lovely. We found a nice Thai restaurant and enjoyed the views, and walked all the way back to the hostel after.

The next morning after checking out and a last breakfast next door at Haven; my now favourite Café in Australia, I left for Sydney airport around mid-day for my afternoon flight to Melbourne, feeling sad to be leaving a city I had fallen in love with.

TIP – It is super easy to get the train from Sydney central to Sydney airport by train. Do this instead of getting a cab, will save you money 🙂

Sydney Conclusion

I loved Sydney. If I were to move to Australia, it would have to be Sydney. People say visitors either love Melbourne or Sydney over the other, and for me Sydney wins over Melbourne, purely because I felt much more at home here than in quirky Melbs which I thought was over-rated. I loved the view from the opera house bar and walking around darling harbour, and having manly beach so close by to spend a day. The massive town centre was a shopper’s delight. Sydney had something for everyone, there’s nothing not to like about it 🙂

Next stop – Melbourne!

– TheSloanRanger x

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