September 25, 2011 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Help me plan a free weekend in Sydney in October. No car. Staying near Hyde Park. Would like to see a beach.

I have a free weekend in Sydney in October. I've never been there. I'll be staying at a hotel near Hyde Park.

How should I spend my free weekend? I'm not broke, but I'd prefer to keep it on the economical side as well. Will taxis cost me a fortune?

Among other things, I'd like to see a beach. Of course, all I know is Bondi Beach (thanks to Apple ironically). It looks like it may be too cold to go for a swim, but that's ok - some photos will be good enough.

Of course, I'll see the Opera house. :)

Some possibly relevant info: I've spent much time in NY/London/SF/etc so I don't need to experience tall buildings, dim sum/asian food, or any "this is a multicultural big city" kind of things.

I found this list of things to do on tripadvisor... but i know past experience that some of those things are "don't bother". Anything you would cross out?

posted by bluelava to Travel & Transportation around Sydney, Australia (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From Hyde Park, take a walk down to the Circular Quay (where you'll get to see the Opera House and the Bridge) and take a ferry to Manly. Lovely beach. Lots of options for a leisurely lunch. The ferry has great views of the Opera House and the Bridge. Come back and take a stroll through the botanical gardens that start at the corner of Opera House. By the time you reach the end of your walk, you would reach Hyde Park.
posted by vidur at 1:08 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Among other things, I'd like to see a beach. Of course, all I know is Bondi Beach (thanks to Apple ironically). It looks like it may be too cold to go for a swim, but that's ok - some photos will be good enough.

FWIW, we did a lot of swimming in Sydney in August - temperatures averaged ~60+ degrees with 65ish water. Seconding Manly (and the Botanic Garden.) We also enjoyed Bronte Beach and its rock pool.

Definitely take a ferry ride, esp. at dusk - Sydney looks its best from the water.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:43 PM on September 25, 2011

Also, Sydney has an excellent bus / subway / ferry network - a MyMulti pass (which gives you access to the entire system) is $20/day - cheaper than using cabs.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:57 PM on September 25, 2011

Thirding Manly. I think it's actually a much more beautiful experience than Bondi. There's a ferry every half hour from Circular Quay. The trip takes 30 minutes-- with lovely scenery all the way. There's also a fast ferry called the jet cat, but it costs more and goes less frequently.

Once in Manly, you walk straight out of the ferry terminal onto the main shopping street called the Corso. It's a couple of blocks filled with beach and souvenir shops and cafes. It's fun to stroll along there. At the end of the Corso is Manly Beach, and while it may be too cool for swimming, you can sit on the beach and watch the surfers.

Heading south along the beach (go right, if facing the water) is a paved path that follows the water's edge, and it is a very scenic walk. It goes by a pretty cluster of rock pools called the Fairy Bower and up toward Shelly Beach, a pretty little cove, where you can also swim. Shelly Beach tends to be a bit more protected, so it might offer a slightly warmer place to swim. All the way at the end is a state park that hugs the cliffs of the North Head. If you have the energy to climb up there, the views of the Tasman Sea are phenomenal.

It's a gorgeous outing that will take the better part of a day, or at least a full afternoon. There's a number of fish and chip shops along the Corso-- it's kind of the "thing" to have fish and chips on the beach. But there's loads of other cafes and restaurants too.

For the rest of your time, there's lots of options that depend on what you're interested in. Exploring Circular Quay, the Botanic Gardens, and then to the west, the Rocks and Darling Harbour, is quite a full day too. One of my favourite things is to get the ingredients for a picnic from the wonderful Food Halls in the basement of David Jones department store (also very close to Hyde Park) and take the picnic up to the Botanic Gardens.

For affordable eating, I recommend going Asian. There's Chinatown proper, but the CBD (downtown) also includes areas that focus on Korean and Thai food. Malaysian is also well represented, and laksa, the curry soup, is one of Sydney's signature dishes.

Cabs aren't that expensive if you're only going around the CBD, but if you wanted to take one out to Bondi, for example, you'd be looking at a $30 fare.
posted by amusebuche at 4:50 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing Manly beach above Bondi, and also amusebuche's suggestion to turn right towards Fairy Bower & Shelly Beach.

And to add to what vidur said, when you get back to Circular Quay from Manly, take a walk towards the Opera House, then follow the route around the Botanical Gardens (Farm Cove) foreshore, so that you're sitting on the tip of the Domain (Mrs Macquarie's Chair) at sunset - you'll get the Opera House & Harbour bridge with the sun setting behind them. And like vidur said, your walk back to the hotel is through parkland all the way (past the Art Gallery of NSW & St Mary's Cathedral).

That TripAdvisor list is very long. I'd recommend skipping Darling Harbour for a start. Can you be more specific about things you would be interested in?
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:41 PM on September 25, 2011

Nthing Manly. Seconding not bothering with Darling Harbour - it's where we tell the tourists to go to get them out of the way.

There's a free bus that runs a loop of the CBD. It might be useful given where you're staying.

You can also walk across the bridge and ferry it back, which is a great thing to do on a sunny day. One of the pylons has a museum in it with a viewing platform at the top which gives pretty awesome views of the city.

If you're not that fussed about interesting ethnic food, then you need to have a meat pie, fish and chips, and a beer. Many beers. There are a bunch of good microbrew pubs within walking distance of where you're staying. You also need to have brunch one of those days. Sydney does excellent, excellent brunch.
posted by kjs4 at 12:01 AM on September 26, 2011

If you can stand another ferry ride, Watson's Bay is also nice, and you can get fish & chips (or other seafood) at Doyle's there - you can't miss it; it's on a pier right where the ferry arrives.

Walk up to The Gap for some nice cliffs & views of the ocean on one side, harbour on the other, and there's a pub right next to Doyle's with pub food, beers & more views.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:13 AM on September 26, 2011

Unfortunately, it's less that Sydney cabs are expensive, and more that the ratio of professionals to massive roadgoing dickheads is depressingly moderate, especially in the evenings. You can get everywhere you've listed very easily on the buses and ferries: 131500 to which ryanshepard also linked will give you route information, timetables and walking directions. It's an amazing resource.

If you get the bus out to Bondi Beach and the weather's good, walk from the south end of the beach along the headland around to Coogee.

From the tripadvisor list: the National Maritime Museum is excellent if you, like me, are a sucker for nauticalia and go to see old boats and knots and crab pots and harpoons in every city you go to, otherwise, you're best off going and drinking beer on a beach instead. The Hyde Park Barracks is likewise something you need to care about the nineteenth century and colonialism to really enjoy. Wildlife World? Only if you really must see a wallaby---and if you must, Taronga Zoo is better.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:34 PM on September 26, 2011

Oh yeah... I've never seen any Australian animals. I really need to see a kangaroo, koala ...

Sounds like I'd best pack a pair of sneakers. Gonna be lots of walking!
posted by bluelava at 10:52 PM on September 26, 2011

You can get a ferry to Taronga Zoo from Wharf 2, Circular Quay. It's a nice ride, and a nice zoo.

If the weather is nice, the Opera Bar, next to the Opera House, has the best view of any bar in town. A bit pricey though.

Other cool bars in your vicinity include Grasshopper (which has a decent French restaurant too), and Grandma's.

Nthing Manly over Bondi, and the nice walks around Manly.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:02 AM on September 27, 2011

Seconding Watsons Bay. If the weather is nice, sit in the beer garden of the pub and watch the sun set over the city/harbour while you eat some seafood.
Taronga zoo is nice, and if you have a day spare, take a train west to the blue mountains (where I live!). It is a two hour ride, but you travel through real bush land after the first hour, and can easily check out some pretty nice views.
Head to Katoomba or Leura, and you probably want a hop on/hop off bus ticket for the tourist bus (about $30).
posted by bystander at 5:14 AM on September 27, 2011

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