Sydney, Australia: Attractive, Engaging & High Maintenance

by Brian Carroll on April 12, 2012

Post image for Sydney, Australia:  Attractive, Engaging & High Maintenance Ohhhhhh...Sydney.  I'm not going to lie, I had high expectations for our introduction.  From word of mouth, I'd heard of you're cosmopolitan ways, your expansive coastal assets and a personality that is both engaging and eclectic.  And to be honest, in all those senses, you didn't disappoint.  The harbor was lively, the beaches were charming and the cuisine I sampled was excellent.  But as is often the case, beauty comes at a price, and you were no exception to this rule. Between growing up in San Diego and living in LA (two other tourist cities on the coast), I felt like I would have had a good gauge on what to expect from you.  While I knew spending extensive time with you might challenge my bank account, you still caught me off guard with your unabated brashness on an array of items.  Here's a sample:                                AUS    vs    US Six pack of beer:    $20             $7 A pair of jeans:      $150            $60 Reef sandals:          $70              $30 A "$5 Footlong":      $7              $5 *Now as a note, minimum Aussie wages are significantly higher than other places which I assume inflates the cost of goods, which is then felt more heavily by tourists like myself.  I'm sure there are a # of other explanations for the premium costs, but I'm not going to even ascertain I know the reasons why or even act like I'm an economist on the matter. So, that really is just my disclaimer on the city (and really from what I've heard, all of Australia) .  But now to a bit of the details regarding my initial exploration of the city (I'll be back there in late-April): First off, getting to Sydney was no small task for me...As much as I'd like to be a "morning person," I am not.  So having an early international flight was not something I was looking forward to.  See if you can guess how it went:
Brian has a 5:15am shuttle to the airport for an international flight, which will pick him up 100 yards from where he's staying.  If Brian is taking two carry-on bags and has 90% of his items packed the night before and his alarm set for 4:45am to get ready and finish packing his remaining items (in the dark without waking other suitemates), what time will Brian be at the shuttle? a. 5:10am - better to get there early b.  5:15am - right on time c.  5:20am - with the bus waiting d. 5:20am - with the bus gone d. 6:00 - Brian will need to find a taxi, pronto!
The answer is...................c.  Yikes!!  It was a close one...  In the future I'll be a little less concerned with waking suitemates and using some light, rather than packing in utter darkness. Back to my recap of sorts... I'm often one who wants to have a plan in place for things, but one decision I made early on with this trip was to forego a very structured itinerary of city dates/locations so I'd be able to  maintain ultimate flexibility if/when unexpected opportunities presented themselves - one of which occurred in my first few days in Hawaii. In Hawaii, I met Bo (from Sydney) who was finishing up her travels through the U.S.  Over a few days hanging out together including a one day roadtrip around Oahu, we found that we got along very well and as a result, she was gracious enough to invite me to stay in her spare room when I visited Sydney, which I was very grateful for.  So as not to overstay my welcome, I decided to stay my first few nights in a hostel before meeting up with Bo on the weekend.  Here are a couple of my highlights: 1)  I ended up staying in a very nice hostel the first couple nights and met a really nice couple traveling around from the UK (Seth and Jessica) as well as a fellow American (Sergio) who had already been doing some extensive traveling through Africa, SE Asia, Aus with more yet to come.  It was a great group of people to meet as an introduction to the country. 2)  When I met up with Bo, she was great at taking me to some of the local hotspots that I'd otherwise never find as a tourist.

Meat pie with mushy peas

From an after-the-bars dining spot, where they served meat pies w/chili and "mushy peas" and a serious hot dog (the concept of meat pies was a pretty foreign concept to me), to a tasty macaroon place and  an awesome Moroccan brunch, I really felt like I got an insiders taste of things...Yum:) In addition to local cuisine, Bo and I spent a day wandering the touristy spots- specifically the Sydney Harbor, Opera House and Rocks district.

Sydney Opera House

We caught a perfect day in front of the Opera House, (which was saying a lot since the Australian summer had not been very good) and proceeded to enjoy a few drinks in the area which is a pretty good scene on a nice day. 3)  I spent a couple days on my own checking out some of the local beaches, specifically Bondi Beach and Manly Beach.  In both cases, I caught great weather, while in search of some beach volleyball.
Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach:  Bondi Beach is very popular but also very touristy.  The views from above the beach are great and the surf was pretty good too.  Walking around the town, I very much liked the vibe of the place as it reminded me of some Southern California beach towns with a very relaxed atmosphere and just a tad slower of a pace.  There is a 6 km walk you can do from Bondi Beach out to a beach called Coogee Beach that I didn't have time to do, though I hope to walk when I am back in the area.
Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Manly Beach:  What Manly Beach lacked in proximity to the center of Sydney (you have to take a 45 minute ferry to get there), it made up for in its atmosphere during the day.  Of the beaches to date, it most reminded me of my residence of the last 6 years (Hermosa Beach, CA) with a palm tree lined promenade and a string of volleyball courts in the center of the beach (around 8 of them). Once I saw that Manly had volleyball courts going with some pretty good games, I was determined to try and find out how to get in the mix.  After scoping out the scene for about 20 minutes, I figured out there was some sort of system for pickup beach volleyball games where you would put your sandal down as a way to reserve your spot (but to be honest, all sandals were just in a pile and thus the process served no purpose and you just had to remember who you were after).
Manly Beach Volleyball Courts

Manly Beach Volleyball Courts

I ended up getting about 5 games in, where I played with and against people from Germany, Denmark and the Czech Republic.  Little did I know that the volleyball courts here were such a melting pot for cultures.  After a bit of beach volleyball on a perfect Sunday afternoon, I went and grabbed a couple beers at a cool little microbrewery in the area called 4Pines with a couple of the guys I played with.  It was a great place to catch a beer and watch the sunset amongst a nice little crowd. Next Stop:  Auckland, New Zealand is a travel blog that explores travel from the point-of-view of one Southern Californian who decided to forego the glamours of the business cubicle for the chance to learn, grow and challenge oneself through the experiences of solo travel...preferably in boardshorts and sandals.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Brooks April 12, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Hey buddy, looks like fun! How was the competition on the beach?


Shawn Tydlaska on Facebook April 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Sounds like you are having some fun out there. Some of those beaches remind me of BMX Bandits. You ever watch that movie from the 80’s?


Carla April 13, 2012 at 1:36 am

Love your blog BC!! So proud of you for taking this adventure.
Keep up the posts!!
Have fun! Travel safe!


Brian April 29, 2012 at 6:54 am

Thanks Carla – hope all is well back home:)


Ryan Dandy on Facebook April 13, 2012 at 1:53 am

Ah the Manly Ferry. Unfortunately the US dollar is just weak. 10 years ago all beer there was super cheap with the exception of Crown Lager and well Budweiser. But the beer in New Zealand is so much better and should be a little less expensive. Enjoy!


Brian Carroll on Facebook April 13, 2012 at 7:47 am

@Brooks, competition wasn’t bad but definitely better in the southbay obviously – won some and lost some. @Ryan, yeah the $ sucks, better here in NZ, but still tough. Hope the travel venture for yourself is going well!


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