September/October 2016 - Sydney, Australia

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(Written by Caitlyn)

Jeff had taken Thursday and Friday off of work, and I took a half day off Friday so we could leave for our 6:30 PM flight on Friday. Our short flight from SBN to ORD was fine, but the ORD to LAX was significantly delayed, causing us to have to literally run across the terminal to make our LAX to SYD flight, which we made within minutes. Ironically, our final flight taxied around the airport for an hour or two until it was canceled because of a strange smell in the cockpit. 

At this point, it was early Saturday morning, and we waited an hour in line at the terminal desks to get our flights re-booked. They offered us a couple of options including one with a layover in Hawaii, but we choose to wait in LA until the next evening to take an American Airlines flight.  We had sushi delivered to our hotel room and purchased a commemorative mug at Starbucks to remember our time in LA “fondly”. I called our hotel in Sydney to let them know we weren’t going to be checking in on time.

Our hotel room view was super great.

LA sushi tasted better than our view looked.

Some notes about flights: 

  • Zika warnings are everywhere, as are Samsung Note phone warnings. 
  • United seemed more persistent about telling people to turn off their Note phones.
  • Airlines no longer care if your phone/mp3 player is on during takeoff, only that they are in airplane mode. 

We arrived on Monday at 7 AM after our 15-hour flight. A positive aspect of our canceled flight is that we were able to check in directly to our hotel instead of waiting until 3 PM, as we had paid for the previous night’s stay. We then unpacked, showered, changed, and had brunch at one of the hotel restaurants.

While we could hear the beautiful clock from our room, thankfully it did not make noise after about 10 PM.


Australians, like the British, drive on the left side of the street. Common knowledge taught us this; what we didn’t realize is that people also walk on the left side of the sidewalk instead of the right, which forced a week-long habit change.

After brunch, we walked to the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium and Wild Life Sydney Zoo. Both the aquarium and the zoo are owned by the same company and are laid out in a similar way to a Disney-theme-park line, in that there is only one way through and includes many switchbacks. While I would not rate either of them among my favorite aquariums or zoos, they did have some neat creatures that I hadn’t seen in others, which gave visiting them value.

They had a few walk-through aquariums.

The top views of the walk-through aquarium.




I asked Jeff if there was a similar sign for the men's room, and there was not.  

Our next stop was the compulsory visit to a local yarn store, where I picked up some lovely local yarn.

We then napped a couple hours until dinner time, and finally went to 11 Bridge, an Australian fine dining restaurant for dinner. 

Desserts from our dinner

Tuesday morning after a quick breakfast, we walked around the Royal Botanical Garden, enjoying the Australian plants and birds.

I'm not sure if this is in support or not.  Probably not.

Me, taking pictures

This is why I never go swimming anywhere.

We ate lunch at the Garden Cafe, and walked to the Sydney Opera House which was located next to the park.

After capturing the Opera House Gym in Pokemon Go (we were there for barely a minute before another team took over), we walked a half hour (and only got lost once) to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and climbed up onto the lookout. I would advise against wearing a skirt if visiting, as it was very windy at the top of the lookout, and Jeff had to hold down the skirt of my dress while I took pictures.

Our long day of walking all around town ended with dinner at a fantastic Mexican restaurant called Mejico.

On Wednesday, we went to another very high place, the Sydney Tower Eye. In our opinion, the one in Vancouver was better as the views were more interesting.

My sushi came with the most adorable soy sauce.

After descending, we went to an older neighborhood in town called The Rocks. This area featured smaller local shops, and we purchased a painting of the Sydney skyline to add to our wall. We ate lunch at a local sandwich and sushi place and traveled back to the Opera House for a tour, dinner and a show.

Our tour guide led us through a few different areas of the Opera House, including the concert hall and the playhouse. He told a story about how a parcel delivery person went missing for a half hour in the theater a few years back; they had accidentally gone through a door that went directly onto a stage, and of course, he walked out in front of an audience. The poor guy froze, and the actors covered for him, interrupting their script with, “Oh, thank goodness, the package arrived!” and continued with the show.

The bathrooms had a lot of neat designs, including this sink.

After the tour, we enjoyed our “anniversary” dinner at Bennelong, a fine dining restaurant attached to the Opera House.

We had a great view of the outside from our table.

Hervey Bay scallops with Israeli couscous, young carrots, prawn custard, and chili oil.

Roasted black kingfish, green capsicum, eggplant caponata, capers, and olives.

Mulberry ice cream, vanilla parfait, almond nougat, fresh berries

Dinner was followed by our anniversary present from my Aunt and Uncle, two prime center seats to My Fair Lady (directed by Julie Andrews) in the Opera House.

Our view from our seats.

On Thursday, we explored the Pitt Street Mall, which was a local mall right outside our hotel. We walked 20 minutes to Paddy’s Market and strolled through a lot of small booths. After a nap, we ate dinner at a “sushi train” restaurant, which was our first time experiencing that type of sushi restaurant.

Moving objects don't make for an effective Pano.

We then walked to the Capitol Theater, to see the Broadway show Aladdin, which included the Genie pulling a jar of vegemite out of his pockets as well as mentioning his craving for Tim Tams.

The view from our seats.

On Friday, we stopped to grab a few items at a local grocery store (including more Tim Tams) and had coffee at a local coffee shop.

We walked to The Rocks area to drop off laundry and found that there was a weekly foodie fest, so we stopped for lunch.

We then walked to Circular Quay and took a ferry to Taronga Zoo, a much larger zoo across the harbour. We enjoyed the zoo much more than the smaller zoo we had visited earlier in the week, although I’m glad we visited both.

On the ferry.

The view from across the harbour.

The zoo had a few different aviaries, which contained many different colorful birds.

Forest kingfisher

White-headed pigeon

It was around 60 degrees and windy, and this wallaby was as cold as we were.

Found a Kangaskhan in one of the zoo enclosures

After the zoo had closed, we took the ferry back to the city and walked back to the hotel. We had dinner at Chicano, which was busy and mediocre. Back at the hotel, we packed up most of our things for the next day’s travels

On Saturday, we finished packing and left for one of the train stations, and took the train to Mount Victoria. Our train was delayed by about an hour, but thankfully the train seats are much more comfortable than airplane seats. Mike, one of my Aunt and Uncle’s friends, picked us up at the train station and we were driven back to his property. The roads through the mountains constantly go up and down, and the air pressure changes were noticeable because our ears were constantly popping. Mike and his partner Carl own a B&B that is on their lovely 125-acre property, on top of some of the Blue Mountains. A lot of the surrounding land is used as cow pasture and is regularly inhabited by kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats.

Their lovely house.

The inside was just as beautiful as the outside.

The view from their yard.

Mike and Carl had a wide variety of neat plants on their property, including this blue-flowering bush.

They showed us around their property, where they grow olives, fruit, and a lot of vegetables. We were lucky to taste some of their olives and olive oil, and it was unlike any olive oil we’ve tasted; very fresh and not at all bitter. We at dinner, and retreated to our rooms for the night.

On Sunday, Mike and Carl drove us around to different spots to view the mountains and valleys, including taking us to see the Three Sisters rock formation.  The blue haze you see in the pictures is from the gum trees, which densely populate the mountains, emitting eucalyptus oil into the atmosphere.  During the summer, the haze is more intense.  (We were there during spring.)

We stopped at a small deli to get some pork rolls and went to another lookout area. This one had the opportunity to go further out onto rocky areas (which I don’t think would have been allowed had it been in the US due to liability reasons) where we climbed out for a different view. It was nerve-racking because one misstep meant a deadly fall, and we were not wearing harnesses.

Covered by the trees in the center is the rocky area we climbed out towards.

It was thoughtful for them to fence this tiny area.

The view from the fenced area

The narrow climb back to solid ground.

After rock climbing and back on solid ground, we enjoyed the pork rolls for lunch.

After lunch, we traveled to the Six Foot Track, a walking trail of 44km. (More on the track here: We hiked for about thirty minutes to get to a suspension bridge for a spectacular view.

The view from the center of the bridge.

The day ended with drinks and snacks on the deck of the B&B, watching the sunset.

On Monday, we visited a few small towns in the mountains, including Bathurst and its Fossil and Mineral Museum.

The museum holds almost 2,000 different specimens, including minerals, fossils, and bones.

We stopped for lunch at a local pub and went to visit the Jenolan Caves. Jeff and I went through the Orient Cave tour, which is a very large and old cave, 470 meters long. It is filled with impressive calcite formations, and cave systems are still being discovered in the area.

On Tuesday, we rode to Leura to look through a few shops and then caught the train back to Sydney. After checking into our hotel, we rode the train and ferry out to Manly, a suburb north of Sydney. We walked through the downtown area and enjoyed frozen yogurt on the beach, and then had dinner before riding the ferry back to Sydney and the train back to our hotel, where we stayed until our flight the next morning back to the US.

The Manly beach

Our final ferry back to Sydney.