Some ideas of what to do in and "around" Sydney (considering Australian distances)
I know, it's almost April and I am ridiculously late on this. But here I am, telling you a bit about Australia, where I spent some time last December/January, before going to Bali (if you haven't read the article, I'll leave it here).
As some of you already know, in (the very far away) 2016, I spent six months in Australia, thanks to the Overseas programme of the University of Bologna. For my thirtieth birthday, therefore, I wanted to treat myself to a trip back to memory lane; I thus had the chance to spend two weeks in some wonderful places and to see people I care for, whom I had not seen for a very- very long time.
In this post, therefore, I will try - without being too influenced by emotions and memories (spoiler: I couldn't hold back, sorry) - to share with you all the places I have been to during the two weeks I spent in New South Wales, Australia.
First, however, I would like to thank some very special people who have accompanied me during these days spent on the other side of the world. To begin with, I would like to say a huge thank you to my extended family who live in Australia and with whom, since 2016, I have had the immense fortune to bond a wonderful relationship. I would like to thank Mick and his family for welcoming me with open arms, especially Jess and Luke (and their beautiful babies), with whom I spent some great days in Wollongong. Another huge thank you goes to Bernadette, Craig and the boys, who were so kind to host me in both Hyams and Sydney and with whom I had some truly fabulous days (I also had the chance to spend with them New Year's Eve staring at the very famous fireworks on Sydney Harbour!).
Last, but certainly not least, thanks go to my exceptional buddy and amazing travel companion, Sophie - and her boyfriend Blake, who had me at their place and showed me the most beautiful places in Sydney (including a beautiful bouldering gym).
A special mention, also in this post, goes to JustTrip, a new app that allows you to organise your trip in a very easy and really intuitive way (even for many Italian destinations!). Even in Sydney it really helped me a lot in choosing my points of interest and I recommend you download it (then let me know what you think).
As always, you can find the complete map of all the places visited by clicking here, or at the end of the article, along with a survey for the readers (I am testing new features, let me have some fun!) 🤗
Sydney: beaches, attractions and other things to do
Famous for its beautiful beaches and the majestic Opera House, Sydney also has several hidden corners that I had the opportunity to visit during my stay in Australia. Below are a few of them, along with of course the most famous attractions that I certainly did not miss.
Gordons Bay and Coogee Beach
Coogee Beach is certainly one of Sydney's most popular and crowded beaches, especially with families - thanks to its very calm waters (by Australian standards) and the fact that it is surrounded by extensive green space. Not everyone knows, however, that continuing towards Clovely Beach, there is a small oasis hidden among the rocks, called Gordons Bay. I highly recommend it for those seeking a more sheltered place 'away' from the chaotic city life.
Also close-by there is the Coogee Pavilion Rooftop, a cute venue that has a large outdoor terrace from which to admire the Coogee landscape while sipping a nice cold beer.
When talking about Sydney, how can you not mention the world-famous Bondi Beach? Which, to put it bluntly, is the beach you see in all the movies or in the various news reports when talking about Australian beaches. Being the closest to the city centre, it is one of the most crowded (at all hours!), especially by the many surfers - given the quality of the wind and waves in the area. On the south side of the beach, there are also the world-famous ocean pools, the Bondi Iceberg Pools (of which you may have seen some aerial footage); if you haven't, I'll leave you with a beautiful one below.
A great way to see both of the aforementioned beaches, as well as have a chance to take in all of Sydney's coastal beauty, is to walk the Bondi-Coogee Coastal Walk, an approximately 6km walk from South Bondi (where the Bondi Icebergs club and restaurant is located) to Coogee, passing the beaches of Tamarama and Bronte.
Another super popular place (you can also tell by the amount of people in the photos), is Manly Beach, a beach located north of Sydney - which can be easily reached from the city centre by ferry, which leaves from the harbour (Circular Quay) and arrives in Manly in about 25 minutes. Taking this ferry is also a perfect opportunity to enjoy the privileged view of the Opera House (the photo you see at the beginning of the article was taken from there!).
Manly Beach is very popular both for surfing/ SUP or kayaking, and simply for relaxing in the sun; it is full of amenities, shops, markets and restaurants.
In the months I spent in Wollongong, I don't think I ever visited the world-famous Sydney Aquarium. I'm always a bit reluctant to visit zoos and aquariums/water parks, but reading a bit on the internet, I realised that the Sea Life Aquarium implements several measures to make the visit as sustainable as possible and has several initiatives underway, aimed precisely at maintaining and cleaning the ocean.
I would advise you, however, to avoid visiting at the weekend - when I went, there were really a lot of people and I had to queue several times in the various halls.
Vintage shopping in New Town and visiting Glebe markets
Those who know me know how much I love buying vintage clothes and accessories. It's no secret to my friend Sophie either, who, as soon as I arrived in Sydney, immediately suggested, among other activities, that we take a tour of both New Town and Glebe.
New Town is considered the most hipster and alternative part of Sydney (it reminds me a bit of Camden Town in London), if you're into vintage shopping, King Street and Enmore Road are the ideal destination for you.
Another place I've been to several times and returned again this time during my short holiday is the Glebe Market, where there are more than 150 stalls selling clothes, accessories and food. Reading on their Instagram page though, I discovered that they are currently closed; keep an eye on their profile for updates.
If you are in the Glebe area, you cannot fail to stop at the very nice Sappho Books, Cafè and Bar, a bookshop with a beautiful courtyard inside where you can have a coffee or a delicious cake.
Another discovery made thanks to Sophie is Space Alley, a true paradise for all lovers of Asian cuisine: in a somewhat hidden area, you will find this courtyard full of small Asian food stalls, where you can order different dishes and sit down to eat at the tables in front of it. The quality of the food is fantastic and the price very fair, I really recommend popping in, it's about a 15 minute walk from Glebe and about 20 from Darling Harbour.
Is Hyams Beach the most beautiful beach my eyes have ever seen? Yes.
Did it rain both days I was there in January? Of course it did.
Fortunately I still retain indelible memories (and photos) of the beauty of this place south of Sydney (about 3hrs drive) - famous for having the whitest sand in the world, so much so that I even got it tattooed. I thank Bernadette for providing me with the second photo, taken only a day before I arrived; the first, however, is now 7 years old.
Although the weather was not the best, we still managed to go for a swim - for that alone, it was 100% worth it.
If you are in the Jervis Bay / Hyams Beach area and want to try spotting kangaroos in the wild, the Boderee National Park area is the place for you. Take the opportunity to take a nice walk and admire these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
The Cooked Goose café in Hyams deserves a special mention for its excellent smoothies and delicious, hearty breakfasts. To be honest, I think it's also the only restaurant/bar in the area, so if you're in the area and hungry, let's just say you don't have that much choice 😅
What can I say but dulcis in fundo. My dear Wollongong, I still remember when I won the Overseas spot and told family and friends "Folks, I got accepted in Wollongong!!!" - the reaction was mainly one: an interjected "where the f*ck is this place??!" face. Well people, Wollongong is a coastal 'town' of about 300,000 inhabitants, the third largest in the state of New South Wales, an hour's drive south of Sydney; its name originates from the Aboriginal word woolyungah (info here). It doesn't have much to offer culturally, but I can assure you that its beaches are truly incredible.
I remember the Overseas as a really happy time, mild weather, good company, few lectures at university and lots and lots of sea. My favourite place was (and still is, I can confirm after returning to it in January!) the Rockpool located between the harbour and North Wollongong Beach, a small sheltered area where I spent practically every afternoon reading and sunbathing. It is also the place where, a few months earlier, a girl was about to die after being bitten by one of the most venomous creatures on the face of the earth (the Blue Ring Octopus), but let's leave that small detail out.
Definitely not as well known a tourist destination as Sydney or Hyams Beach, but if you're in the middle of a trip down south and fancy a nice swim and a bite to eat in the various little restaurants on the beach, it's worth a stop - it's a beautiful place
Finally, here is the map with all the places visited: beaches, restaurants, attractions and gyms. I hope it helps you ✌🏻