My advice on visiting Australia...Pictures and popnotes too!
I wrote this informal article after my last trip to Australia. If you've never been to Australia before, you might find this article interesting. If you're an Australian, you might find it amusing to 'see' Australia through an American's eyes.
My husband had a business trip to Australia, and my daughter and I went along. We stayed in . That hotel is great, and it's in a terrific location. It's in walking distance to many great areas. It's right across from , and it's just a walk from there to the .
You don't want to miss that because lots of flying foxes hang out there from the trees like big bats. Tourists come from all over to see them.
The Sheraton On the Park hotel is also right in the heart of lots of great shopping. The , has many levels of great shopping, and a center clock inside of the mall puts on a little show on the hour. Under the building, the basement level, leads right to the . I bought most of my gifts to bring back home in the QVB.
is a great place to shop for trinkets, but everything at Paddy's market is mostly items from China. Paddy's market is only open Thursday through Sunday because it's a big flea market type thing. I don't think I would go back there again, because to me it seemed like a cheap flea market. All the items are new and there are lots of
'knock-off's' of real brands. Bring lots of cash if you do go because most of the places at the flea market don't take credit cards.
You don't have to wait for the weekend to shop at China Town. There are lots of restaurants and shopping places there. China Town by the way is a terrific place to buy Ugg boots. Plan on leaving some room in the suitcase for them.
From the hotel, it's just a short walk to . If you don't like walking, there is a great monorail that is easy to catch around the area. My daughter and I went to Darling Harbor often. The is really nice because it's the kind that has a walk-through tunnel which surrounds the guests with sharks, rays, and other wondrous fish. We bought a pass there that gave us tickets for the aquarium, the , and the , which happens to be around the corner from the Sheraton on the Park hotel. It doesn't make sense to go to the Sky Tower if it's not a clear day. A sort of movie show comes along with the ticket for free, so we did that one day, and went back to the tower another day when the sky wasn't white.
Check out the , to see if there might be a feature movie playing. They claim that it's the largest IMAX in the world. My daughter and I saw one of the short shows there, and we enjoyed it.
There is a great Sea Food restaurant at Darling Harbor...I think it's called . It's across on the other side by the Harborside shops. There is also a bar made out of ice called , but we didn't have time to go there. It sounded interesting. You are allowed in for 30 minutes and they give you a coat and boots to wear.
You'll want to go to the other harbor too, called . That's where most of the ferries leave from. Don't miss the Taronga Zoo if you like animals. My husband and I went on the 'gold tour' the last time that we were in Sydney, and it was great. We got to see all of the 'behind the scenes' zoo stuff. This trip with our daughter, we just went to the zoo on our own, and it was still nice. (Hey, I saw some cruise ships at that harbor, so if money and time aren't an issue, why not think about adding a short cruise that goes around Australia.)
Also leaving on a ferry from that harbor, you can easily get to . It was raining and cold when my daughter and I went, but we still had a great time. The sand was hard from the rain, and easy to walk on with our shoes. We watched lots of people surfing in their wetsuits, and we found a nice Seafood cafe right across from the beach. We sat outside under the heaters and enjoyed watching the beach.
Near the harbor, you can catch the . It's a great way to see Sydney...The city tour, and the Bondi beach tour. With the tour bus, you can be sure that you didn't miss seeing everything that you might have otherwise missed.
Check the schedule when you first arrive at Sydney, so that maybe you might plan a trip there. My husband and I took our daughter to see some band. ...The kind with the violins and such. We don't really like that sort of entertainment, but our daughter actually does. We didn't want to see the dance show, and the only other thing offered at the time was a comedy show. Maybe you might get lucky enough to be there for an opera. There is also a tour of the opera house if you are interested in that. If I go back again, I will just enjoy the Opera House from the outside.
You will certainly want to get out of Sydney and enjoy the train trips to nearby places. The Blue Mountains is only about two hours away. My husband and I went there the first time that we visited Sydney, and we went back with our daughter on this trip too. It's not at all hard to get to. It's just a train to Katoomba. Once you get out of the train station, you buy a ticket for the local tour bus. We stopped at the chocolate cafe because you can hop on and off the bus as you like. There, we made our own hot chocolate in a mug that had a candle under it. We were given a bowl of chocolate chips to melt and a cup of milk on the side.
At the Blue Mountain park you will have a choice to buy tickets for a railroad car that takes you down into the rain forest. That's an experience you won't want to miss. We took the train down, and the cable car thing back. Then we took a different sky cable thing across the cliffs and caught the tour bus on the other side. It is a really nice day trip to go to the . An alternative is wine tasting around the Hunter Valley, though we didn't do that.
My daughter and I took other train trips to visit zoos out of the city. It's great to go to zoos outside of the city, if you like that sort of thing, because you can actually touch the animals. was a fun little place. It's a very short train trip, and then a little bus ride. We were able to touch and take pictures with the Koalas. If you take a picture with a Koala at the Wildlife Park in Sydney's Darling Harbor, it will cost you $20. It is free to take all the pictures you want at the Koala Park. You can also go right in with the Kangaroos. They are so sweet, and act a little like dogs, I think. You can pet them all you want, and take pictures with them too. When I think of Australia, I think of animals, and these little zoos give a great 'Australia feel'. Oh, don't pass up the Cockatoo exhibit if you do go to this zoo. They all talk!
It's another nice train trip to go to Again, you will need to catch a short bus ride, and the bus stop is right at the train station. You can touch and take pictures with the koalas, the kangaroos, and even the birds. I think this zoo is a little bigger than the Koala Park, and it's certainly as much fun. I've been there twice, and I would go back again.
There is a casino in I didn't like it. It's no las Vegas for sure. I spent about six dollars in the junky slot machines, and then we left. The casino does have lots of interesting tables, but I only like slot machines...not these though.
Money is easy to change throughout Sydney, and you can even change it at the Sheraton. The ATM's are probably your best bet. They spit out all of the Australian money that you want. Australian money is just about equal to the American dollar, so it's easy to calculate prices. I found that everything in Australia is more expensive, I guess because it's all imported. For example, if you want a bottle of soda out of a vending machine, plan on spending $4.50.
There's a good deal of free stuff to do in Sydney too, if you look for it. The Maritime Museum is free to get into, and so are a couple of the other There are lots of parks and malls to walk through. My daughter and I walked across the harbor bridge. That was fun because I never walked across a bridge before. The views are great!
If you are really daring, and want to make a memory, you can walk across the harbor bridge...right on top of the The tours seem really safe. There are stairs the whole time, and the people are hooked onto the side rail. It's too scary for me though, so we didn't do that. My daughter and I took pictures of the people who were about to take the climb while we were on the bridge, and they looked proud and happy.
The movie theater on George Street, United something, is fantastic! If you want to catch dinner and a show one evening, Australia theaters are the best. There is a 'gold showing', with reclining chairs and people walking around with drinks. My daughter and I just went to one of the regular showings, and we still had really nice seats with a small 'coffee table' in between. There is also a video arcade at the movie
The plane ride to Australia is really long, but the lights go out and everyone sleeps on the plane. It's a 19 hour flight from LA to Sydney. It seems to get cold on the plane too, so bring layers of things to wear.