Earlier this year, my best friend from high school, Amber, made plans to visit her in-laws in Brisbane, Australia. Sharo and I were on the fence on whether or not we should go, mainly due to the costs, until a friend who had just spent a year living in Sydney reminded us that it would never get cheaper for us to travel to Australia than when we are living in Singapore.
Convinced, I purchased tickets on flyscoot.com and we began planning our 16 day whirlwind trip. Included in the itinerary would be 4 days in Sydney, a few days in Brisbane, a camper van rental, 1600 km of roadway between Brisbane and Cairns, and a stop-over in Airlie beach to dive on the Great Barrier Reef.
Within hours of landing in Sydney, we realized that we had come woefully uneducated regarding the costs of traveling around Australia. Surprised by the $48 train ride to our $200+ night hotel, our first meal consisted of two burritos, a quesadilla, a beer, and a still hungry child – all for a price of just over $50. We missed the ability to fill our bellies for less than $20 at one of the Singapore Hawker Centers.
After dinner, we wandered down the street and over a bridge where fell upon a wonderful Winter Festival near Darling Harbour, complete with flocked pine trees and an ice skating rink. Walking towards the harbour, we were treated to a break dancer in the street, and an iceberg floating in the harbour. Overall, it turned out to be quite a nice start to our time in Sydney.
The next day, we met up with Duncan and Jane from To Travel Too in Manly. The best way to get to Manly from Sydney is to catch a ferry from Circular Quay. If you travel on a Sunday, as we did, families can purchase an all day Train/Bus/Ferry pass for $2.50 per person. The ferry ride to Manly provides excellent photo opportunities for the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
After arriving at Manly, we walked along the esplanade and visited the Manly Art Gallery & Museum, where the currently running exhibition at this free art gallery/museum is The Making of Midnight Oil.
After lunch, Duncan and Jane took us over to Manly Beach, where we strolled along the Manly Scenic Walkway. This promenade stretches from the beach, along the rocks, past a couple of cafes, and down to a cove with another beach full of divers, swimmers, and paddle-boarders.
After returning to Circular Quay, we took another ferry to Darling Harbour. When you travel to Sydney, I highly recommend taking the Circular Quay / Darling Harbour Ferry at night time. The ride takes you past the Opera House, under the Harbour Bridge, and makes several stops at local residential marinas before landing at Darling Harbour.
On Monday, we started the day at the Sydney Opera House and the Botanical Gardens. The Opera House is an amazing sight to behold and we really enjoyed spending time investigating the architectural features of the building.
From the Opera House, we took the children’s train around the Botanical Gardens to the point to have lunch and enjoy the view.
We purchased 3 attraction iventure cards via a groupon for $69. Using them to go to the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium, the Sydney Tower Eye, and an Oz Jetboat ride, we saved about $80.
We were a little skeptical about the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium as we entered. The Aquarium is located in Darling Harbour and from the outside it appears to be fairly small. We gasped when we saw the normal entry fee of $40. We are originally from Seattle where the Seattle Aquarium is quite nice and is 1/2 the price. We also currently live in Singapore, which boasts the world’s largest aquarium at a $33 entrance fee. Needless to say, we were a bit surprised by the price of the Sea Life Aquarium and still think it is over-priced. We would not have gone had we not had the iventure cards.
In any case, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the aquarium. Once we made it past the cheap plywood entrance, we were enthralled by the selection of fish, sharks, snakes, sea horses, and manta rays on display.
We then headed over to the Sydney Tower Eye where we had a birds eye view of Sydney at night.
Our final day in Sydney included a morning jet boat ride with Oz Jetboating at Circular Quay. We have never done this type of activity before, and even though the weather was cold enough to numb our toes and fingers and the wind was howling, we all had a blast spinning around in the boat and getting soaked.
Up next, the lowdown on our 6 day, 1600 km marathon from Brisbane to Cairns in a Jucy campervan.