I have split the report of our wonderful 3 week hols. (Feb/March) into sections and here is the first part. I wrote it as a diary for our own use, but thought it might be helpful to someone, so here it is. Many thanks to all the detailed advice I got from TA.
We landed at Sydney airport in the evening after direct flight from Heathrow, with just a refuelling stop at Singapore. Having eaten about 6 meals in the last 24 hours we weren’t exactly hungry and the flight on a new Qantas A380 Airbus had been comfortable, quiet and had a great seat-back touch-screen entertainment system. Taxi from the airport took us directly to the Holiday Inn, Old Sydney which has a great location in The Rocks. Our top floor room even had a perfect view of the Opera House, looking fabulous against the night sky. (We’d been upgraded!) After unpacking we took the short walk to Circular Quay and followed it right around to the Opera House. The majority of pedestrians seemed to be coming in the opposite direction and were very smartly dressed indeed. I was already beginning to regret bringing mostly casual ‘holiday clothes’ rather than my smarter outfits, but soon realised that we were seeing the audience just leaving after a performance at the Opera House. We decided to join a lively crowd outside at the Opera Bar and enjoyed a couple of drinks listening to a live band in a truly iconic setting. Perfect!
Apart from the great view, (until the enormous cruise ships arrived!), the main advantage of our top floor hotel bedroom was that we could easily take our morning coffee up the short staircase to the rooftop pool terrace, where, as well as the small pool, there were plenty of tables and chairs to sit and contemplate the view over the harbour. We repeated our walk to the Opera House and took lots of photos in the daylight this time and then followed the path around to the Botanical Gardens, exploring the gardens as we headed towards Mrs Macquarie’s Chair for that perfect view back across the harbour. Wandering back, we came upon the Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton outdoor swimming pool, a perfect spot for a late breakfast in its excellent café. Suitably refreshed, we headed off through The Domain and around St. Mary’s Cathedral to Hyde Park, admiring the fabulous fountain and walking through the grand avenue of wonderful fig trees. Heading west past the Town Hall we looked at the exterior of the Queen Victoria building on our way to Darling Harbour, an impressive development. The Maritime Museum has lots of ships to marvel over and we then crossed the Pyrmont Bridge with its overhead monorail, to the Sydney Fish Market for a late lunch. I love food markets and this market is fascinating – we watched the fishing boats being unloaded and marvelled at the variety and quality of fish on the stalls. The choice of cooked fish for lunch was amazing and I had wonderful crab sushi whilst John settled for some beautifully cooked fish and chips – a fairly humble meal compared to the enormous platters of assorted shellfish we saw being consumed at the outside shaded tables. Walking back around the Maritime Museum and the other side of Darling Harbour we went down past the water features to Paddy’s Market. This didn’t particularly interest or impress us, (sorry - I know most people love it!) so we found ourselves on George Street and started back towards The Rocks. George Street is very, very long, and with hindsight we should have caught a bus or taxi, but we walked back slowly, this time going inside the Queen Victoria shopping centre (much easier on the eye than Paddy’s Market!) and a stop for a beer and a glass of wine in a pub with a cool courtyard. Back at The Rocks, a cup of tea on the hotel’s roof top pool terrace was well deserved, we thought. After that marathon of a day, we didn’t want to venture far for dinner, so had a great meal in the courtyard of the nearby Argyle Bar, a lively and friendly place full of smartly dressed young people, many probably enjoying a meal or a few drinks straight from work. Rather than go back to the hotel, we were again drawn to the Opera Bar for another drink - such a wonderful setting - then walked back, stopping on the way to look at the Year of the Tiger displays at the Customs House where an obliging staff member showed us around the top floor Sydney Café restaurant with its terrific views. Back to the hotel to bed!
After our roof top coffee we headed for Circular Quay and caught the 9.30 a.m. ferry to Manly. Many shutter clicks later we alighted at Manly and crossed the Corso to Manly Beach, turned right and found an outside table at the busy Bluewater Café for breakfast. We’d decided on the North Head walk, so strolled along the boardwalk, past the Fairy Bower pool to Shelly Beach, where we enjoyed a lovely swim in sheltered waters and relaxed on the beach before continuing the walk. The walk included wonderful coastal views as well as woodland sections and led to the disused artillery range. Our return journey took us down Collins Beach Road to the pretty Collins Beach, where we totally failed to spot the supposedly resident Little Penguins. It was a lovely spot though, with more great views as we followed the track back to Manly Wharf via Little Manly Cove, for the ferry back. Back at Circular Quay we soon realised we’d misread the ferry timetable and wouldn’t be able to go to Watson’s Bay that afternoon, so made a dash for the next ferry which took us to Cremorne Point. The bay was busy with so many racing yachts and dinghies it was a lovely journey. We had a pleasant walk around the point to the lighthouse then back to the wharf for the ferry to Mosman Wharf. It was late afternoon and we were starving hungry, having had nothing since breakfast at Manly, so we took a bus up the hill to Mosman where we had a well earned meal before returning on the ferry. The Rocks market was in full swing when we got back to the hotel so after a drink we wandered around and listened to a live band playing. Having taken advice from the hotel receptionist we headed for the bus stop (stand D) for Surrey Hills and got off somewhere in Crown Street. There were so many restaurants, all extremely busy and we hadn’t booked anywhere, but after a short wait we were given a table at The Nepalese Kitchen, (BYO), a great choice as the food was delicious. No problems catching a bus back either.
First stop this morning was a camera shop to buy a larger capacity memory card for my camera! Then we were off on the catamaran ferry to Watson’s Bay. Our lovely breakfast was taken at the Tea Gardens – turning right from the ferry wharf, rather than joining the queue for Doyle’s to the left. Crossing the grassed area to the newly finished steps and walkway to The Gap we enjoyed the magnificent views before returning, walking to Camp Cove. Swimming here was glorious and I was reluctant to leave, but we eventually made our way up the steps at the far end of the beach and along the walkway past nudist Lady Bay to the Hornby Lighthouse at South Head, then around the loop and back to Watson’s Bay. There was a ridiculously long queue at Doyle’s Restaurant and it was too hot for fish and chips, so we made a second visit to the Tea Gardens for delicious soft-shell crab and fresh tuna salads before catching the ferry back. The Rocks market was starting to pack away, so we had a look around but then went back to the hotel to change and drop off our bags. A clear blue sky seemed perfect for a trip up the bridge pylon, but the entrance was further than we thought and we arrived only 40 minutes before closing time. We ran up all the steps (yes, really!) but decided it was well worth the effort for the truly stunning views of the city, opera house and harbour as well as of the bridge climbers returning. We had more time to look at the displays on the way down and enjoyed watching the last film show of the day before walking back towards the hotel for a drink at the Orient pub before changing for dinner and doing the majority of our packing. Our receptionist recommended Glebe Point Road for dinner, but we were pretty tired so decided to head back to Surrey Hills. Saturday night was even busier than Friday, but we were a bit later and could see a few empty tables after the first rush was finishing. The little Café Mint was where we ate – a delicious Turkish meal in a very friendly atmosphere, then the bus back to the hotel.
Thanks for reading this far!
DAY 5 to DAY 10 Sydney to Brisbane - to be posted in NSW Forum.