I was lucky enough to celebrate my 23rd birthday in Sydney this year. When we were planning our trip, it happened that the dates worked out and we would be staying in Sydney around the time of my birthday, so we decided to stay there for a week to really take in the city. We stayed in 2 different places, firstly Pier One at Sydney Harbour for 3 nights over my actual birthday and secondly Mantra Apartments for 4 nights, further into the city. We loved both for different reasons and would highly recommend both too.
Pier One was beautiful, with great views of the harbour and was situated directly under the Harbour Bridge- how amazing. It was a short walk to restaurants, shops and not too long to the Sydney Opera House and Botanic Gardens too. Our room was a lovely calm white and blue theme with rustic beams and some lovely artwork.
Mantra was also a perfect location in another way, right in the thick of the city. Our apartment was a lovely size, with a sunken kitchen and gorgeous contemporary decoration. There was a pool on the roof of the accommodation and although there wasn’t loads of room by it, it was a great spot to catch some rays in amongst the craziness of the city. We really enjoyed feeling like we had our own little place and really settling in!
I have to say, we adored Sydney. It could be partly because we settled in the same area for longer than our normal stops, but it could also be because it’s pretty fabulous. The perfect balance of beach and city, greenery and buzzy streets, we really loved it. I might go as far to say that it was my favourite city. Although it’s a large place, it didn’t feel it. The beaches of Bondi and Manly really aren’t far at all from the city centre and so you don’t feel as though you have to trek to one area for the whole day.
* Go on the Hop on Hop Off- like some other cities we’ve been to in the world, we used the city tour as our way of getting around. Not only are the tours brilliant and show you all of the key spots in the city, but the 2nd Sydney route takes you to Bondi Beach – saving money on taxis and also showing you the whole area!
* Walk away from the main drag in Bondi, into the smaller streets and alleys for some gorgeous boutiques, little cafes and vintage shops. My faves- Tigerlily, Miss Brown Vintage, Playa by Lucy Folk
* Do the Bridge Climb- we had SO much fun! Even for people scared of heights, I’d say that it’s totally worth it. The moments that are the hardest to climb are a bit lower and involve ladders. When you get higher up, it is just a really easy pathway and so rather than focusing on how far away the ground is…. you just enjoy the beautiful views across the harbour. Our guide was brilliant and took some great photos of us too! We did ours first thing in the morning, but I believe you can book them for sunrise/sunset too and I bet that would be amazing.
* The Blue Mountains- these are a bit of a drive out of the city (obviously) but worth the effort. We booked a tour with Mount n Beach Safari and they were great. Such a lovely tour guide and although the day we went was a little bit cloudy, the views were incredible. We did a great hike along the bush trail looking over the Grose Valley. It wasn’t too difficult but the scenery was a gorgeous reward. We also stopped at Calmsley Hill farm on the way, where we saw an orphaned joey kangaroo in a washing basket covered in blankets to replicate its Mum’s pouch. (All together now….. *aaaawwww*).
* Watch the sunset over the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair lookout. We met up with some friends from my uni and they recommended this….it’s a must do! Walk through the Botanic Gardens round to the other side and signs will start to appear. There’s a little ‘bar truck’ that sells cocktails, wine, beer… all the good stuff. Grab one, carry on walking up, then sit on the hill and see the beaaaautiful orange sky over Sydney (and lots of people having Instagram shoots).
* Bondi Beach- GO. It’s amazing. Although very busy and definitely touristy, it’s fab. I already mentioned the shops, but as a place it’s a buzzy, vibrant, cool spot. We went on my birthday and had such a fun day. I’d definitely recommend going to the Icebergs pool too ( the one that’s always on the postcards of Bondi where the waves crash over the pool). Although the pool is beyond FREEZING, it’s so much fun sitting right by the edge and being thrown to the other side of the pool by a crazy wave (trust me). Also as someone who doesn’t looove swimming in the sea, it feels like you are!
* Visit the lovely library. Although it isn’t quite as spectacular as the oldest library in Australia in Melbourne, it’s still a gorgeous, peaceful space. And they give you free pretty bookmarks.
* Manly Beach- even if you have a strained relationship with boats as I do…. get the ferry over here. Manly is a sweet little surfy town with some cool shops and a relaxed vibe. Less busy than Bondi, we had such a chilled day here and rented sun-beds (which they don’t offer at Bondi). This was a nice alternative to becoming a sand monster when just lying on a towel… Sam rented himself a surfboard here and had a go at riding the waves…..he actually did really well!
* Darling Harbour- a pretty place to have a stroll around and a meal on the waterfront.
* Royal Botanic Gardens- now it wouldn’t be one of my blog posts without a proper mention of the Botanic Garden. A great place to sit and read or just relax in the sun right by the Opera House but out of the busy streets. Gorgeous views, peace and greenery- yes please.
* Gelato Messina- this little gem lives at the entrance to the Gateway Plaza on Circular Quay. Hooooly Moly. The best gelato I’ve had outside of Italy. My fave flavours were Dulce de Leche and White Chocolate & Hazelnut….. say no more.
* Contrabando- Latin street food and scrumptious cocktails. We had the Mexicola set menu- lots of little sharey dishes. Our faves- the chargrilled corn with all sorts of tasty things on top, the fish tacos and wagyu cheeseburger spring rolls. Woweee.
* Smoking Gun Bagels- we came here for my birthday breakfast and had yummy, fresh bagels crammed with avocado, crispy fried egg and some other tasties. Coffee also great.
* Public Bar- at Bondi Beach. They do mouth-wateringly good Double Squish cheeseburgers here. As we all know, the perfect bun is very important… I can report it was extremely delicious.
* Georgie Boy’s- our favourite morning coffee spot near our Mantra apartment. They do an absolutely roaring trade, it was crazy busy every morning but we never waited long. Almond milk iced coffee and a halloumi breaky wrap to go?
* Bennelong- this is the restaurant inside the Opera House and I couldn’t recommend it more. Sam booked it as a surprise for my birthday meal and it was so special. The restaurant has a huge jutting-out slanted window treating you to a view of the beautiful twinkly lights of the city as you eat your delicious dinner. Also if you fancy a giggle (hate the word giggle) sit near the window, you see people walk into it as it gives the illusion that it’s flat.
* Mejico- the best chunky guacamole with plantain chips. Tacos were also yum but the guacamole stole the show.
Sydney was a complete dream. We would go back in a heartbeat. Everyone we met was so friendly, the streets were so clean, the sun shone (majority of the time) and we spent our week in perfect harmony with burgers and beaches.