My First Visitor in Australia – Week 1

My mom is easily the most important person in my life. I’m an only child and have always been close to my momma. She is my biggest supporter and I’m so grateful for her every day. That being said being so far away from her while in Australia and traveling around has been tough and that’s mostly to do with the time difference. I say mostly because there’s so much I miss about not seeing her, but the time difference makes even the conversations we do have tricky. It made sense that my first visitor to Australia would be my mom. I was so excited for her arrival. I really wanted to show her the country I fell in love with and maybe she would see the reason for my obsession firsthand. That at least would be the best-case scenario at the end of her trip.

Planning for her three-week trip was challenging. I wanted to show her everything and go everywhere whilst not overdoing it and still relaxing. My mom kept saying she would be happy just by the beach, but there’s so much more to see in Australia. It was stressful and took a lot of planning, but we narrowed our itinerary down to get a little bit of everything without running around like crazy. The first week would be focused on Sydney and surrounding areas. 

Day 1 – Mom arrives on the 3rd, but she flew out of the US on the 1st (a long time traveling) so we were having a chill day. We dropped her bags off at the hotel and went to grab some brunch. Avo toast #1 check. We walk around the surrounding area of Darling Harbour not venturing too much, but we do stop for a passionfruit sorbet at Messina. That night we go to the hotel’s happy hour and later order in Thai via DoorDash. 

Day 2 – have a bit of a sleep in thanks to the black out curtains in the room and then have breakfast (avo quinoa bowl) at a restaurant in Darling Harbour. Today we are taking on the Costal Walk from Coogee to Bondi. We take it at a very leisurely pace and really take in everything along the way. When we finally made it to Bondi we treated ourselves to a meal at Bucket List and then shopped around. Mom was a fan of Bondi and the costal walk in general. Win! 

Day 3 – It’s Manly time. I was so excited to get over to Manly because well it’s an amazing, underrated part of Sydney. I think the other beaches overtake Manly in popularity, but that’s okay with me. The ferry ride over had an aweing effect on my mom and it was the first official view of the Sydney Opera House she got. Once in Manly we had brunch at Girdlers and then headed to the beach. A perk of traveling with your mom was being a little fancy and we actually rented beach chairs and umbrella. Something I wouldn’t have thought to do on my own, but now that I know how nice it was I don’t think I could go without. We grabbed Acai bowls to cool down from Acai Bros and then walked over to Shelly Beach. After more browsing in the stores we had dinner at Moo Burgers with a great view and my mom tried a kangaroo burger (she wasn’t a fan). Then we hopped back on the ferry and headed back across the harbour. 

Day 4 – Super early wake up call, but it was worth it because we were going to Hunter Valley

Day 5 – Spent the day/early afternoon in Hunter and got back to Sydney around 7pm. We checked in to our new hotel in a prime area – on the Rocks. We had a late, but delicious dinner at Pony and then walked around the Rocks a bit. 

Day 6 – Scheduled for today was a trip out to Watson’s Bay, but the weather was not having it. The rain was coming down hard all day. We had brunch on the Rocks (mom had another avo toast…I think she might be becoming a millennial). I checked another dining bucket list item off with dinner when we went to Sake. We thought we had allocated enough time starting dinner at 5:15pm to make it to the Opera before 7pm, but we had to dash over there. We were seeing Don Giovani. This was my first opera. The production was very well done and their voices were incredible, but now I can say with certainty that operas aren’t really my thing. It was still really great to experience especially at THE Sydney Opera House.

Day 7 – This day was originally going to be a day trip out to Jervis Bay, but with the forecasted rain we decided to stay in the city and maybe go to some markets and walk the Harbour Bridge. Oh boy were we wrong. The rain was at a constant downpour with heavy winds closing pretty much everything down. We had tea and scones at the Tea Cosy (another foodie bucket list item check), broke my umbrella walking back to the hotel which was one building over. The day was looking like a chill day, but it was also our last day in Sydney so it felt like a bit of a waste. We went to the QVB for a little bit, but weren’t in a mood to shop. For dinner that night we ventured to Newtown to try Golden Lotus, a fully vegan Vietnamese restaurant (another check). Wow the food was yummy and it’s BYO so we enjoyed the bottle of wine we brought back from Hunter over our shared plates. We ended the night with a night cap (can a beer technically be a night cap?) at the Lord Nelson Brewery. 

It was a super fun week and although the schedule didn’t fully go as planned it didn’t matter. Just spending time together was what really matters. Almost exactly a week from my mom’s arrival we were heading to the airport once again to fly to our next destination…

Here are my mom’s officially unofficial rankings of Sydney’s food scene:

Breakfast

  1. Girdlers (Manly)
  2. Dare Cafe (The Rocks)
  3. Two Sis & Co. (Darling Harbour/Pyrmont)
  4. Tea Cosy (The Rocks)
  5. Waterfront Grill (Darling Harbour)

Dinner

  1. Redsalt Restaurant (Hunter Valley)
  2. Sake (The Rocks)
  3. Pony (The Rocks)
  4. At Home Thai Cuisine (Doordash)
  5. Golden Lotus (Newtown)
  6. Bucket List (Bondi)
  7. Moo Burgers (Manly)

Hotel Review – Hotel Bondi

Hotel Bondi is located right on Campbell Parade right across the street from the iconic Bondi Beach. It’s one of the popular places to go out for happy hour or at night in the area. When I was staying in Bondi I wanted to stay here for a couple of nights before traveling onwards. Their website isn’t the greatest and the only way to book into the hotel is through a third party site like Booking.com.

I booked my stay pretty last minute so I was limited on the room options. I was booked into a “deluxe room,” but really it was just a queen-sized bed with a small couch. The room itself felt very stale and outdated, but I didn’t mind because the location of the hotel was my main motivation for booking here. You are right in the center of everything here. The staff was very attentive and professional throughout my entire stay. They also provided a shuttle to the airport for only $20! My room led out a shared balcony. It was lovely sitting out there looking out at the water in the morning with a coffee. Another small perk were cookies that were provided in addition to coffee or tea in the room – a nice little touch.

I think this hotel is a win with its location. The staff does the best it can with the property in the current state – renos are needed. If you could get a deal for your stay then it would have a better value. Even if you don’t stay here definitely check out the bar one afternoon/night.

Hostels Review 1 – Sydney (Wake Up!)

If you polled my friends I think they would say that I’m pretty chill, but I enjoy the finer comforts of life. Ergo hostel life doesn’t really hit my typical style. Before moving to Australia I had only stayed in hostels on one other trip and that was also coincidently when I was in Australia back in 2014. So I’m not currently an expert by any means. 

First Coastal Walk Crew
Botanical Gardens stop on tour

My first night in Sydney I arrived late and stayed in a hotel near the airport out of convenience, but I realized I wouldn’t meet anyone staying secluded in a hotel. After that night I moved to a hostel in Sydney’s CBD. I inadvertently (or subconsciously?) booked into a private room for 4 nights at Wake Up! Sydney. The private was great, I had a double bed, towels and toiletries included, and my personal space to spread out and get organized. At the same time I could also utilize the common areas and events to meet loads of people. It was the best of both worlds to start my trip. Wake Up! Sydney was my first hostel stay in over 5 years and it didn’t disappoint.

There are AM and PM activities every day. For example, in the mornings there could be a bootcamp, yoga, or walking tour. At night, there were wine and cheese mixers or great deals and games at the bar below the hostel, Side Bar (think beer pong, trivia, killer pool, etc.). There was also a cafe onsite and I had a delicious macadamia nut pesto bagel with a cappuccino for $10 AUD that I still think about. They also have a really great travel desk, Travel Up, on sight that has been my favorite to work with so far. This hostel experience was a good start to the journey.

I would highly recommend Wake Up! Sydney when you are first arriving in Sydney.

After the hostel life and being in central Sydney, I realized I wanted to be closer to the beach. I rented a room in an AirBnB house near Bondi Junction for two week and I also had a really lovely experience.

Hostel #2 came after the lovely, relaxing two weeks in an AirBnb with free laundry. I decided that because I had such a great experience perviously I would stay with the same brand and so I stayed at the Wake Up! Bondi Beach for 2 nights. This time it was a 4 person mixed dorm. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the hostel had just opened up a month or so before and it was so fresh and nicely decorated. They also have a rooftop overlooking the water. They really are in a prefect location. This location also has daily actiivies ranging from rooftop yoga, free Sunday pancakes, and the classic wine & cheese mixer.

I would 10/10 recommend Wake Up! Bondi Beach for its location and fresh/new feel.

Sydney – First Impressions

It’s probably the first city that comes to mind when you think of Australia. During my first trip here in 2014 I somehow avoided going to Sydney all together (minus the airport). Upon arriving in Sydney I was struck by two things, 1. it was cold and 2. the CBD (Central Business District) reminded me so much of NYC.

Sure Sydney wasn’t as crowded and definitely not as dirty as New York, but it has major urban vibes. When walking around you see so many American chains including, but not limited to McDonalds, Starbucks, Joe and the Juice, and so on. One raining evening I was sitting in a restaurant and looking out the window it was so gray and full of scaffolding I could have believed that I was transported back to NYC. All this could be comforting and could cure possible home sickness, but I left New York for a reason and this didn’t feel like what I was chasing coming out to Australia. So I was feeling a little disheartened.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I took action and moved myself out to Bondi Beach and as a result was much happier immediately. I realized I didn’t want to trade one city for another, but craved a different experience. At the end of September and early October, Bondi was great and not yet over crowded with tourists, but as the “summer” months approach it will be more crowded so I also don’t love that. I really like Bondi because you can be on a beautiful beach or take a 20 minute transit ride into the heart of the city. Seriously, the best of both worlds. Being closer to the beach I began to appreciate Sydney. Here are some of my favorite things to do and see are in the Sydney area:

  1. Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk – This is a classic “must do” at least once in Sydney. I recommend starting in Coogee and walking to Bondi and stopping for a coffee or drink afterwards.
  2. State Library of NSW – admittance to the library is free and upstairs there are a few very interesting art/informational exhibits.
  3. Anzac Memorial – multi-level memorial dedicated to the service and sacrifice of Australians in armed conflicts throughout the years including WWII. It’s really beautifully done and all free of charge.
  4. Sydney Opera House – seeing the Opera House is impressive. There are tours of the interior, shows that are on nightly, or bars and restaurants on the harbor with the iconic view. A lot of options to get your culture on and take some pictures.
  5. Going anywhere on Sundays (especially longer trips like the Blue Mountains or the Ferry to Manly) – travel anywhere on Sundays is capped at $2.80.
  6. Luna Park – an easy ferry ride from Circular Quay and constant deals on Groupon for a fun day out to embrace your inner kid.
  7. Grabbing a cheeky cocktail at Bucket List in Bondi – this is a gorgeous bar as close to the beach as you can get. They have a really great menu, but going for a drink or a pitcher is the perfect way to spend an arvo (afternoon).
  8. Watson’s Bay – a quick bus ride from Bondi and a beautiful change of pace. There’s a beach just down the road and once you’ve had your fill of the sun you can head to the bay for some fish and chips or ice cream. Not to mention the Watson’s Bay Hotel is the perfect spot for a sunset drink.
  9. Weekend Markets – looking for a unique find? Head to any of the markets over the weekend Glebe, Kirribilli, Bondi Beach, etc. just Google beforehand to make sure they are on.
  10. Workout Scene – I wasn’t worried about there being a lack of workout options in Australia, but I also wasn’t expecting it to compare to NYC’s scene. Except for the lack of Flywheel and Soulcyle, there’s pretty much anything you could want here: Barry’s Bootcamp, F45 (founded in Australia), tons of yoga, pilates, HIIT, bootcamp, and group exercise studios. Oh and did I mention ClassPass is available here?