How to enjoy 24 hours in vibrant Sydney
Travelling to Sydney
On Thursday morning, my sister and I boarded the 8.00 am Murrays Bus Service from Canberra bound for Sydney. We were travelling light: just one small overnight bag each.
The bus takes 3.5 hours to cover the 250+ kilometres. We travelled in a comfortable, air-conditioned coach - with wi-fi, and phone charge stations between every pair of seats. Perfect for us digital divas.
11.30 am Central Station
If you’re travelling to Sydney by rail or by coach, you will inevitably arrive at Central Station.
I’m always delighted by this gracious Victorian building. The vaulted ceiling and sandstone walls of the Grand Concourse are an airy introduction to Sydney’s busy city centre.
Central Station serves nearly all Sydney suburban lines (Cumberland and Carlingford are the exceptions) and the long distance NSW TrainLink XPT and Xplorer services as well as the Great Southern Rail Indian Pacific terminate at Central Station.
We disembarked our Murray Coach to collect our Opal transport tickets. These gave us all-day access to Sydney trains, buses and ferries. We were delighted by the senior citizens rate of $2.50 per day.
Tickets in hand, we left the station platforms behind us, exiting from the eastern side to walk about 800 metres to our hotel.
1.00 pm Nomad Restaurant
Dropping off our bags at our Wentworth Street hotel, my sister and I continued walking until we reached the Nomad restaurant in Surry Hills (a mere 250 or so metres from our hotel). Situated in a 100-year-old converted warehouse, Nomad is large, modern and Australian, with middle-eastern accents. They make their own breads every day - sourdough, brioche, lavosh and flatbreads - and produce charcuterie and cheese
We had an excellent lunch, sharing plates of cannellini-bean hommus - with a flatbread - sublime smoked anchovies with ricotta, grilled eggplant, and zucchini flowers flavoured with Pecorino, cheese and truffle honey. The meal was a sensory delight for eyes and mouth!
5.00 pm Queen Victoria Building
We needed a little rest after lunch before catching the train to Town Hall Station - and Sydney late night shopping (every Thursday).
We emerged from the subterranean station into the grand Queen Victoria Building. I can’t visit Sydney without walking through this iconic retail arcade. Apart from the exquisite architecture, it’s a delight to window shop at all the top brands.
Wanting to see more of Sydney’s grand shops, we walked through the Myer Department Store into the Pitt Street Mall, which is full of pedestrians, shoppers, buskers and tourists. It’s the bustling hub of the Sydney city shopping experience.
7.00 pm Circular Quay
Feeling a little overwhelmed by the number of people and the retail offerings, we walked from the city centre down George Street to Circular Quay, the northern edge of the Sydney business district.
Circular Quay is the main Sydney gateway for ferries to many destinations, including iconic Manly Beach. As well as catching ferries, you can explore historic venues like The Rocks, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, stroll the pedestrian walkways and eat and drink at one of many restaurants - all with excellent views.
However you arrive at Circular Quay - by foot, train, bus or car - you will see the majestic Sydney Harbour Bridge on one side and the world-famous Sydney Opera House on the other side.
We found a table at one of the pavement cafes where we enjoyed fish and chips and a parade of passersby. A bonus was seeing a Holland America liner leave her moorings and head off into the Sydney sunset, making a majestic turn in front of the Sydney Opera House before slipping out of Sydney Harbour.
7.30 am Basket Brothers cafe
On Friday morning, we started our day at the Basket Brothers cafe, on the corner of our hotel building. We ordered a substantial breakfast - quinoa porridge with coconut milk - to shore us up for the Big Walk later that morning: just over a kilometre from Bondi to Tamarama Beach - with lots of steep stairs!
8.30 am Sydney buses
By 8.30 am we’d boarded the number 333 bus from Elizabeth Street to Bondi Beach - a trip of about 45 minutes along iconic Oxford Street, another of Sydney’s stylish city shopping precincts. Buses are frequent, inexpensive and comfortable and have great views of Sydney’s terrace houses and other architectural delights.
9.30 am Sculpture by the Sea exhibition
The main reason for going to Sydney was to see the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition, Australia’s largest annual outdoor sculpture exhibition. My sister and I were last there two years ago. I’ve been a few times before that, but we never get tired of this outstanding experience.
More than 120 pieces by 70 national and international artists line the cliffside pathway, arranged and laid out on the rocks, the banks and along the walkways - almost as if they had grown there. In 2014, the local council estimated 500,000 people would visit the sculptures - and luckily we got there early enough to avoid the even greater numbers that would visit this year.
I doubt that our photographs and descriptions do justice to the pieces, which are so worthwhile seeing.
We strolled, admiring the artworks on our way to Tamarama Beach, where we rewarded ourselves with coffee and cake at the beachside cafe. It’s a great mid-way pitstop before we turned back, retracing our steps past sculptures of buddha, tall and fat men, feral cats, abstracts and even wild animals. It was another wonderful visit and I’m sure we’ll be back.
12.00 noon Hurricanes Grill
It’s become tradition to have lunch at Bondi after admiring the sculptures. The suburb has many eateries, cafes and shops, but somehow we’re always drawn by the burgers and chips at the Hurricanes Grill.
Feeling sated, both culturally and by our excellent lunch, we headed back to the city and our hotel to fetch our bags before walking to Central Station and our waiting Murrays Bus. We left Sydney ahead of the Friday afternoon crowds, pushing through to the the highway and back to Canberra in good time. All in all, it was an enjoyable and entertaining 24 hours in Sydney.
When we were making arrangements to visit Sydney, I wanted to book at our regular Pitt Street Hotel, but we discovered that it was closed due to the new Sydney Metro development.
As our regular venue was closed, we chose the Veriu Hotel at 74 Wentworth Avenue. This charming and contemporary hotel is situated in Wentworth House - a 100 year old property - on the corner of Wentworth Avenue and Elizabeth Street. This is an excellent location, a few hundred metres from Central Station, on the edge of Surry Hills, and another few hundred metres from the city centre.
The staff were helpful, made us feel at home and our room was comfortable and best of all, we could open the sash windows to get fresh air - a bonus as so many hotels have sealed windows.
About the author
I’m Slobodanka Graham, extreme light traveller and content entrepreneur.
My sister and I travelled and stayed in Sydney at our own expense. None of the venues nor restaurants knew or expected our visits.
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