Travel to Sydney, Australia – Episode 537

categories: australia travel

Travel to Sydney, Australia - What to do, what to see and what to eat in Australia's largest city

Hear about travel to Sydney, Australia as the Amateur Traveler talks to Roma Small from about her hometown.

Roma says, “It’s one of the most fantastic cities in the world. It’s absolutely stunning and I think everyone should go to Sydney at least once in their life. ”

Must do list:

  • Opera House
  • Harbour Bridge (BridgeClimb at twilight)
  • Beaches (Cronulla, Bondi, Manly, Freshwater, Coogee, Bronte)
  • Explore the shops (including Sydney Tower Eye – aka Centrepoint Tower), Paddy’s Markets (great for souvenirs), Pitt St Mall (car free)
  • Taronga Zoo (catch the ferry over from Circular Quay)
  • Bondi to Coogee walk
  • Catch a ferry to Manly to walk the Promenade. 
  • Other Ferry trips:
  • Cockatoo Island – UNESCO world heritage site – operated as a convict penal establishment. Great harbour views.
  • Fort Denison – former penal site and defensive facility, now a museum, tourist attraction, restaurant. Great harbour views.

  When to visit / Festivals in Sydney: 

  • Sydney Festival: Jan (Celebrating Sydney (Theatre, Arts, Dance comedy, Cabaret, Family)
  • Vivid Sydney: May/June 
  • Sculpture by the Sea: Oct/November
  • Spring racing carnival at Royal Randwick & Rosehill Gardens:  Nov
  • Mardi gras: March 

Suburb/pockets for specific ethnic cuisine we covered: 

  1. Eastwood and Hurstville for Chinese
  2. Auburn, Lakemba, Punchbowl for Turkish / Lebanese
  3. Cabramatta & Campbelltown for Vietnamese  

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Show Notes

Roaming Required
Google My Maps
Central Business District
Circular Quay
Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia
Cafe Sydney
Sydney Town Hall
The Baxter Inn
Blu Bar on 36
The Rocks
BridgeClimb Sydney
Royal Botanic Gardens
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
Vivid Sydney
Sculpture by the Sea
Taronga Zoo
Luna Park Sydney
Bondi Beach
Freshwater Beach
Bronte Beach
Brighton Beach
Museum of Sydney
Sydney Opera House
Australian Open
Sydney Cricket Ground
National Rugby League
Darling Harbour
QT Hotels
Blue Mountains Australia
Roaming Required Sydney posts
Roaming Required Map of things to do in Sydney



I thought that Ralph did a fabulous job describing the incredibly beautiful Maramure? region in Northern Romania. Our family visited the area in 2009 and we too were struck by the lack of mechanization and dependence on manual labor and farm animals for all aspects of agricultural production. We saw multi-generational families working in the fields with homemade scythes and wooden rakes with horse drawn wagons being used to transport almost everything.

The wooden churches were special and we particularly enjoyed the vivid frescoes in the church at Desesti which were painted in the late 1790s.

A couple of things that we enjoyed that were not mentioned include the elaborately carved wooden doors and gates you find in many of the villages and trees adorned with with pots and pans indicating that there is a daughter available for marriage (still true today!).

We stayed in a small B&B run by Ioan Pop in the village of Hoteni. Also known as Popicu, Ioan is a national cultural treasure who is one of the best known folk musicians in the country. Not only will you be served hearty local fare (and potent, homemade p?linc?) while staying there but you’ll also be treated to impromptu performances. Hoteni is a perfect spot to base your explorations of the region from.

Independent travel is the way to go when in Maramures. You’ll need a car and nerves of steel navigating roads that can have extraordinary sized potholes and you’ll be challenged by very aggressive drivers.

Keep up the great work.



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Travel to Sydney, Australia - What to do, what to see and what to eat in Australia's largest city


Chris: Amateur Traveler episode 537. Today, the Amateur Traveler talks about harbors and beaches, flying foxes, and Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair as we go to Sydney, Australia.

Chris: This podcast is brought to you by Momondo, the independent travel search engine that opens the world by enabling you to cross borders and explore. Find cheap flights, hotels, and travel inspiration at the touch of a button. Momondo, stay curious.

Chris: Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host Chris Christensen. We’ll hear more from our sponsor in a little bit. But first, let’s talk about Sydney, Australia.

I’d like to welcome to the show Roma Small from who has come to talk to us about Sydney, Australia. Roma, welcome to the show.

Roma: Thanks for having me, Chris.

Chris: Now, we have already done a show on Sydney, Australia. You’re gonna have a hard time finding it in the archives. It was the second episode of the Amateur Traveler. So it was done almost eleven and a half years ago. So for some reason, it seems like it might be useful to revisit that.

And, Roma, you have spent some time living in Sydney, although, right now, you’re in London. What’s your connection to Sydney?

Roma: Well, Sydney is my hometown. I grew up just outside Sydney. But I spent numerous years there. And I still call it home.

Chris: Excellent. And why should somebody go to Sydney, Australia?

Roma: Oh geez, Chris, it’s one of the most fantastic cities in the world. It’s absolutely stunning. And I think everyone should go to Sydney at least once in their life.

Chris: Excellent. And what do you recommend when you have friends who are coming to visit you for the first time in Sydney? What kind of itinerary would you recommend for them?

Roma: Well, I recommend that people sort of spend three to four days in the CBD area. One day, I think everyone should go to Manly, which is on the north shore. And then you can spend another day visiting the zoo. We have a theme park on the north side of the city called Luna Park, which is a bit kitsch but fun, and I think everyone should go to Bondi and the beaches for one, maybe two days, depending on the weather.

Chris: Okay. Now, you started in what I assumed is the downtown. But you had a different name for it.

Roma: CBD, Central Business District, I guess that’s what we call Central Sydney.

Chris: Yep. And would you do in Central Business District? First of all, you say “Central Business District,” and people think “city.” What makes the CBD in Sydney stand out from any other city?

Roma: Well, it’s not actually that big. There’s five, six key blocks in the city that you could do on foot from one end to another in 40 minutes, maybe a little bit longer if you’re in really sky-high high-heels, which I have done. But I would recommend flats these days, obviously. So in those six blocks, there’s lots of things to do. You can go from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour, which are two key water areas in the CBD. You’ve got parks and loads of restaurants, cafes, bars, lots of things you can do in that six-block radius.

Chris: Okay. Well, let’s do that in a little more detail. So you started us in Circular Quay. And for those people who don’t know, we’re spelling quay quay. But it’s pronounced key. And Circular Quay is along the Sydney Harbour, which is, of course, one of the things that makes Sydney so magnificent is the beautiful harbor area, and a restaurant area. But what else are we doing in Circular Quay?

Roma: Circular Quay is a key area in the city, so lots of ferries. That is the main ferry terminal.

Chris: And that was “a key area” with a K-E-Y.

Roma: So you’ve got all the ferries that run around the city all come into Circular Quay. So it is your central point. If you’re looking to take a ferry to Manly, which I would highly recommend, or into one of the smaller islands that we have around the harbor, you can get it from Circular Quay. There is more restaurants than I can give you…

Chris: Well, how about if you picked out a couple? Where should people go, either high-end or affordable, whichever you prefer?

Roma: Actually, you might wanna start somewhere like the Museum of Contemporary Art, which sounds like it’s not a restaurant. But they have a really great litele café.

Chris: It does sound like it’s not a restaurant, yes.

Roma: It’s really centrally located. It has harbor views. And you can go into the restaurant and café upstairs and have a great view over the quay and Opera House and over the harbor. And it’s quite affordable. So that might be something, if you’re on a bit of a budget, you might be looking to go there.

Chris: Okay. And I assume there’s art there also.

Roma: Of course, yes, there is contemporary art, if you’re into that. I would recommend people go to a place called Café Sydney, which is just next to the ferry terminal. It is really, really popular. And it has a great view, has a really good menu. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was on the cheapest side. But I think it’s worth a visit.

Chris: In terms of cheapest side, Sydney, in general, expensive, not expensive these days?

Roma: It’s hard actually to answer that, because I don’t think Sydney is that expensive. But then again, I currently live in London.

Chris: Oh, yeah, well.

Roma: That’s my point of reference.

Chris: Right. Well, and the Australian Dollar is not as high as it was a few years back when everything was a little more expensive there.

Roma: That’s true. It seems to come in ebbs and flows, as you would expect with most currency. But when it seems to go up, it does really well. But I don’t class Sydney as expensive, to answer your question.

Chris: Okay. Where to next?

Roma: Well, I think that it’s worth touching on the small bar scene that has cropped up in Sydney in the last few years. This was something that really took off in Melbourne, I would say, maybe 10 years ago, maybe a little less. I think it had to do with the licensing laws. And it was small venues that were turned into like cocktail or wine bars. And these have really, really come into their own in Sydney in the last five or six years. So within the CBD from everywhere, from Town Hall, which is a train station and a really key landmark, so if you use that as a landmark and work your way north towards Circular Quay, if you’re looking in a map, there is 12 really good small bar/cocktail bars that you could definitely venture into.

Chris: Now, I would have to say, we’re only about five minutes into the podcast, and we’ve already got into the bar scene. You are reinforcing some stereotypes of Australians. It’s quite possible.

Roma: Perhaps just a little.

Chris: Do you have one of the 12 that you recommend or two?

Roma: There’s a basement bar called the Baxter Inn. And it’s on Clarence Street, which is right in the middle in the heart of the city. It’s quite famous for its whiskey. If you’re looking for something a little bit more upmarket, you might wanna go to Blu Bar 36, which is on the 36th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel. It’s in The Rocks. So, again, that’s back down towards the end of Circular Quay and overlooks Opera House and the water and has stunning views from there. It is a little bit more upmarket. But I think the views are worth it.

Chris: And you say it’s in The Rocks. You’re not describing the topography so much as the neighborhood at that point. So maybe we should tell people what The Rocks are/is.

Roma: Is, are, very good, okay. Sorry, I didn’t think of that. So The Rocks is the historical center of the city. It is the oldest part of Sydney. So you do have some traditional housing still there. But these days, it’s now built up with restaurants and cafes and shops. And it’s still quite touristy. But it has a unique feel to it that you probably don’t see anywhere else in the city.

Chris: Well, and it seems like it’s, in fact, probably one of the most touristy neighborhoods. But people are going there for a reason. What are people going to see besides the restaurants and The Rocks?

Roma: Well, actually, it is the headquarters for the BridgeClimb Sydney office, in case anybody wants to do that. Sydney Theatre Company is around that area. It does have a really good market. It’s known as The Rocks Market.

Chris: Well, and you mentioned BridgeClimb Sydney. I think a lot of people know what you’re talking about. But let’s not assume that. When you say “climb a bridge,” they may not have the same mental image of what you’re saying. This is not like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge where you walk across on the roadway. You’re talking about climbing the bridge.

Roma: I am indeed. So Sydney Harbour Bridge is also known as “The Coathanger.” And if you want to climb Sydney Habour Bridge, there is a company that has the contract for that. And they will suit you up in a jumpsuit, if you like, and make you hand over all of your earthly possessions as you’re not allowed to take anything with you, including a camera or a GoPro. So you will all be dressed the same and climb the arch of the bridge. And you will get to the top, and you can take some pictures. And it’s quite steep. And it’s quite narrow in places. So if you’re afraid of heights, then it’s definitely not for you. But you can get some views from there that you can’t get anywhere else.

Chris: Well, and you say they’re gonna take all our stuff away. It’s not just that they are greedy people. They’re gonna give our stuff back. But they have this thing about people dropping things onto the cars that are below them.

Roma: That’s right.

Chris: And they’re not in favor of it, we’d have to say.

Roma: No. Well, it is one of the harbor crossings. In fact, it’s probably the major one. I think you’ve got about six lanes of traffic that cross the Harbour Bridge in both directions. And you’re effectively climbing above them. They need to make sure that you are not going to drop anything onto those cars, because they will lose their contract. And someone may get really seriously hurt by that.

Chris: Right, right. Well, and we’ve mentioned the harbor a couple times. So I guess we should point out that one of the reasons why you’ve seen pictures of the Opera House and everything out there on the water is that Sydney is along this long harbor. I mean I really don’t even know how long that is there. But it’s quite long. And it’s predominantly on the southern end of the harbor. Although you’re going to talk to us about going over to the northern end for some of the excursions.

Roma: I don’t actually know how long Sydney Harbor is. It is…

Chris: It’s big.

Roma: It’s huge. It’s not San Francisco Bay-huge though. There’s nooks and crannies. You can see the other side. If you think about it, I don’t know how many of your listeners have ever seen New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney. But you basically got squiggly lines of coastline with the harbor running through the middle. And everyone will stand on the foreshore to get the best view they can. And you can fit a lot of people on that squiggly line of foreshore all the way to get a line of sight of the fireworks.

Chris: Let’s take a break here and hear from our sponsor Momondo. Momondo is the independent and inspirational travel search engine. Compare billions of cheap flights, hotels, and car rental deals at the touch of a button and open your world. Stuck for vacation ideas? Get tips and advice at Momondo Inspiration, your one-stop travel hub for local inspiration and expert insights. Momondo’s unique tools and features help you discover new destinations based on filters, like budget or vacation style, and lets you instantly find the quickest, cheapest, and best fit flights. Flexible search allows you to explore cities, countries, and continents or even anywhere. Get our award-winning iOS and Android apps and compare flights and hotels from wherever you are. Or search for Momondo in your favorite search engine and open your world. Momondo, stay curious.

So we’re at The Rocks, last we said, as we said, the historic center with some cottages built way back in the early 1800s. Where are we going next?

Roma: I would suggest you head east and go towards the Royal Botanical Gardens, which is just next to The Rocks area. But it’s protected parkland. There is lots to see in there if you’re into flora. I don’t think there’s too many animals camping in there, except the bats and…

Chris: So you say “except the bats” and you sort of gloss over that. But I’d have to say my wife and my daughter were just a little creeped out, intimidated by…because you say bats, and these are really like bats and flying foxes. They’re huge. They’re just really quite large. And they’re all up in the trees in one particular area of the Botanical Gardens. So I wouldn’t gloss over that necessarily.

Roma: But it’s Australia, Chris. Everything’s huge. I guess I’m used to it. So if you do cut through the Royal Botanical Gardens and on your way to one of my favorite places in the city, which is Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, that’s a great lookout point, you will cut through a lot of parkland that may have the bats flying overhead depending on the time of day you’re cutting through there.

Chris: Yeah, during the middle of the day, they’re not really flying overhead. They’re just kind of hanging out. But probably, in the early morning and the evening, you’d see them more flying around, I would guess.

Roma: Yeah, I would agree with that.

Chris: We’re going to see someone’s chair.

Roma: It’s not actually physically a chair. Actually, I’m not too sure about that. I think they might have benches that may have been carved from convicts back in the early 1800s. But it’s just a really nice lookout. I’ve spent one New Year’s Eve there when I got a ticket. It was in high demand. And there’s views of Sydney Harbour Bridge, the North Shore. So you’ve got Kirribilli, Cremorne. You can see across Sydney Harbour to Taronga Zoo, which is Sydney’s zoo.

Chris: And you mentioned a bench. So it is in fact a sandstone bench carved by convicts in 1811 for the then governor’s wife, Mrs. Macquarie. Excellent. So we’re going there mostly for the views.

Roma: Yeah, there’s a lot of places in the harbor there. You can even do a really nice walk. From The Rocks, you can walk up to the Opera House. Most of this area is actually traffic-free. So you’d be walking along a footpath around the harbor. So you could walk from The Rocks up to the Opera House on the footpath around the Botanical Gardens and then all the way around into Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. It’s just a really nice walk. If it’s a sunny day, you could take a picnic and just people-watch for a little while.

Chris: Excellent. While we’re walking through the Royal Botanical Gardens, is there anything else you would recommend that we stop and make sure we take a look at besides the bats?

Roma: Well, Government House is technically inside the Royal Botanic Gardens, which is the official residence of the governor of the state, which is New South Wales. But I don’t actually know if you can go in there. They do do tours. But I don’t know if you could go in there without being registered beforehand. I mean you could swing by and take some pictures from the outside. I’m sure it would look really great on Instagram.

Chris: Okay, but look that up if you’re interested in going and find out more information about tourists, because that will change over time too. Excellent. Where are we going to next?

Roma: I did wanna just talk about how to get around on public transport in Sydney. So they recently introduced a prepaid card. It’s a little bit like the Oyster Card that they have in London. And they call it the Opal Card. Opal is an Australian stone. So that’s where the name comes from. You can get it in rings and that sort of thing. But anyways, so an Opal Card is a tap-on, tap-off card that you would acquire and then use it for any kind of public transport. So you’d be able to get around the city quite easily by preloading a card.

Chris: Excellent. And that’s gonna deal with both the buses and some of the ferries?

Roma: That’s right. So the cards are free to acquire. You just need to get one from like a 7-Eleven. Majority of shops will sell them. You may even be able to pick them up at the airport. They will cover trains, buses, ferries. You should just be able to get just about anywhere with an Opal Card.

Chris: And then as long as we’re talking about ferries, I think you’re about to take us on one.

Roma: Yeah, that’s right. So from Circular Quay, you can take a ferry to one of my favorite…I think it might be my the favorite thing to do in Sydney…is to take a ferry from Circular Quay out to Manly, which is on the north…it’s technically classed as the Northern Beaches.

Chris: And we’re going to Manly to go to the beach?

Roma: Well, I think Sydney has 40 beaches within its geography. But Manly is one of the ones you…well, it’s the only one you can reach by ferry from the CBD. So you would go out to Manly. It’s a great day out if you’re basing yourself in the CBD. You can have Sydney Harbour on one side. And then there’s an esplanade that runs through the center of Manly, and then it ends at Manly Beach on the other side. So you’ve got the best of both worlds in a really small area.

Chris: And are there things that we’re doing there besides working on our tan? Although, we would need to be a little careful actually working on our tan in Australia, we should say. You do need a pretty strong sun block, because you guys don’t have as much as ozone as we have.

Roma: That’s true. Sun cream is ridiculously cheap in Australia compared to everywhere else I’ve ever been in the world. So there’s no excuse for not having it. And you can buy it just about everywhere. I think the standard is about 30 or 40 SPF, which I don’t think I’ve ever been able to buy in England.

Chris: That’s like aluminum siding, I believe.

Roma: So while you’re in Manly, I would suggest that you walk along the promenade, have a look at the shops. There’s plenty of bars and restaurants in the area for you to stop in. I would recommend you go hungry. You could get some fish and chips and sit on the beach, which is quite a popular thing to do. But I have to recommend you watch out for the seagulls, because they will come in and take your chips when you’re not looking.

Chris: We’re talking people sitting on the beach. What time of year do you recommend people come, because we’re doing about a lot of outdoor activities? So what’s the best time of year to come to Sydney?

Roma: It really depends on what you’re into. So Sydney runs loads and loads of festivals every year. So if you come in January, it is gonna be ridiculously hot. But there will be things like Australia Day, which is on the 26th of January, which is a great day to be in town. If you come in May, June, which is actually winter, and it’s quite chilly, there’s a festival called Vivid Sydney, which is a light display. They light up the Opera House with some amazing designs. And it’s known around the world. So it’s very famous.

If you come in October, November, you’d be timing it for Sculpture by the Sea, which is some outdoor sculptures on the walk from Bondi to Coogee. That’s always a really nice time of year to be in town. There’s also Spring Racing Carnival. So if you’re into horseracing, you could perhaps do that while you’re in town as well. So I think November, December is a great time of year. January, February, it’s getting quite warm. But if you can handle the heat, it’s definitely worth it.

Chris: When you say “ridiculously hot,” how hot would I expect in January in Sydney?

Roma: It depends. We get heat waves of 40 degrees.

Chris: Okay, so over a hundred Fahrenheit for those who are Celsius-challenged.

Roma: With the 40 degrees, you do get a sea breeze off the harbor most days. So it does level it out a little bit. It is worth noting that most of the city is air-conditioned. Whether it’s winter or summer, it’s gonna be a level temperature most places you go, as long as you’re not outside.

Chris: Okay. And then while we’re on the North Shore, you had also made a nod to the zoo.

Roma: Yes, Taronga Zoo, so it is on the north side of the city. So we actually call that North Sydney. So you can take a ferry from Circular Quay over to the wharf at Taronga Zoo. So you don’t even have to worry about trying to get a bus. It’s just a direct ferry over the harbor. And it’s definitely worth a stop.

The zoo actually has an activity called Roar & Snore, where you can actually sleep at the zoo. So you can wake up with incredible harbor views on one side, and I think it’s giraffes and lions on the other side. It’s quite an immersive experience. It’s not cheap. But it’s not something you would do everywhere.

Chris: Cool. Where else are we going? You also had mentioned Luna Park.

Roma: Yes. So Luna Park is also on the north side. You could quite easily walk over Sydney Harbour Bridge and then get yourself down into Luna Park. You can access Luna Park for free. So there’s no tickets on the door. You just pay for the rides that you take. It’s a little dated. But it is the only theme park in Sydney. It’s great for photos. I don’t know many people that go anymore. But it’s still quite fun.

Chris: And then the last place that you mentioned was Bondi Beach.

Roma: Bondi Beach. So Bondi Beach is really, really popular. Particularly with English tourists, it is probably the most famous thing other than the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I would say…and I’m going out on a limb here…that it’s slightly overrated. It is a small beach. It is not the best beach. But it does have lots of like great restaurants and bars around the area. I mean there’s nothing wrong with the beach. It’s just I think it’s a little overhyped.

Chris: Okay. Do you have a favorite beach that you like better than Bondi Beach?

Roma: I would recommend you try Freshwater, which is on the north side. You would really need a car to get there. It’s not serviced by frequent buses and that sort of thing from the city. On the east, you could look at Bronte, which is quite popular, Coogee, while you’re doing the Bondi-Coogee walk. Or if you’re heading a little further south towards the airport, you could look at Brighton. I would call it a kid-friendly beach. There’s not too many waves. But the sand and quality is really good.

Chris: And a child-friendly beach in Australia means no box jellyfish or sharks.

Roma: Yeah. Fingers crossed.

Chris: Okay. And by the way, I looked up to two corrections here. One is the Roar & Snore at the zoo is every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night throughout the whole year. And the second thing is a correction for what I said earlier. I said that we had done a show on Sydney in episode two. I recorded episode two in a parking garage in Sydney. It actually doesn’t talk about Sydney necessarily all that much. But we did do another show, which I completely forgot, a number of years ago, episode 281, so about five years ago, also on Sydney.

As we’re talking about Sydney, how am I gonna connect with Sydney’s culture?

Roma: Well, I think Sydney’s culture is actually more cuisine-based. There is a museum, and it’s called the Museum of Sydney, which covers the history of the city itself, how it was founded, and the interesting things about how the city grew. So that might be worth a stop if you’re a history buff.

Chris: Now, interestingly enough, we’ve seen the Opera House. You haven’t recommended we go, either to attend a show or do a tour. Is it something that you honestly think is just great to look at from the outside?

Roma: No, absolutely not. It is definitely worth a stop in. They do run tours at the Sydney Opera House. So you can register for a tour of the inside. You can see the performance areas. If you can time it right and there’s availability, definitely get tickets to a show depending on what’s on. We do have other theaters is in the city. I mentioned before Sydney Festival that runs in January. It is quite a diverse festival. So it includes theater and arts, dance, comedy, family activities as well. There’s a little bit for everyone in that.

Chris: Okay. Now, if we were talking about going to Melbourne, and I said “connect with the culture,” somebody would have told me to go to a sports match. If I’m going to Sydney…we’ve talked about going to a beach, and that’s part of connecting with the Sydney culture. What other things are just quintessentially Sydney?

Roma: Well, we have the Australian Open, which is a golf tournament that comes to Sydney every November. So you get the big name players every November in the golf thing. If golf isn’t your thing, perhaps you’re into cricket. So we have the Sydney Cricket Ground. So if you’re in town in January, we have the New Year’s Test, which is always Australia versus someone…I think Pakistan or West Indies and maybe England. There’s a few. I’m not an expert on cricket, I’m afraid, Chris.

We also have football. When I say “football,” I actually mean “soccer.” But Australians are making the transition from using the word “soccer” to “football,” which is increasingly confusing. We also have National Rugby League, which is not Aussie rules, but is quite popular in the state of New South Wales. So I think you’ve got a few teams. So if you’re in Sydney in winter, you’ll encounter lots of people on Friday and Saturday nights wearing football jerseys for their teams who are probably playing in the area.

Chris: Excellent. What do the guidebooks recommend people do in Sydney that you honestly don’t know why people still do them?

Roma: I mentioned before that I thought Bondi Beach was a little overrated. It is always in the guidebooks to go to Bondi Beach. And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go. I just think that you should not spend all of your beach time at Bondi. I think Darling Harbour is a little hit-and-miss. So it’s undergone some major renovations in the last few years. They were knocking down the convention center, which takes one corner of Darling Harbour. So it’s quite prime real estate. And so there was a lot of renovations and a lot of works happening there. So it was ruining the ambiance and the feel of the area. But that’s gonna be reopened in December 2016. So the area will probably change a little bit more again. They’re putting a really nice hotel into the convention center as well as like more bars and restaurants. So the area is very touristy. So you will pay more there than you will pay anywhere else in town, I think.

Chris: Well, when you mention the hotels too, is there a neighborhood or particular hotels that you would recommend that we stay at when we come to Sydney?

Roma: I think it depends on how long you’re staying in town. If you’re staying for a week or two, you might wanna look at getting a serviced apartment. Then you have a little bit more space, and you’re able to spread out in your accommodation.

Other hotels worth mentioning, you could look at…I’d definitely look within the CBD. There’s serviced apartment such as Meriton. But there’s a new hotel chain that is doing some really funky things. They’re called QT, so the letters Q-T. They’ve taken over an old building in the CBD known as the Gowings Building and turned it into a really swish hotel. So I think that’s worth a look.

Chris: Excellent. Anything else that people need to know before they go to Sydney before I get to my last four questions?

Roma: It’s worth venturing a little bit outside the city if you‘re wanting to really dig into local cuisine, because Australia, and Sydney particularly, has so many influences from all around the world. So if you’re looking for really authentic cuisine, you can get it in parts of the city. But if you’re looking for like Chinese food, you might wanna go to somewhere like Eastwood or Hurstville. And that would be taking a train out of the CBD for about 20 minutes into a very local area. Other influences like Lebanese or Turkish food, you’d be looking at suburbs like Auburn or Lakemba or Punchbowl.

Chris: And so these are basically ethnic neighborhoods outside of downtown?

Roma: Yes. Vietnamese food, there’s a lot of amazing influences in usual fusion cuisine, which is quite popular in Sydney. If you wanted to look a little bit further out, you would go to somewhere like Cabramatta.

Chris: And Roma is gonna send me a whole list of restaurants that we’ll put in the show notes so that we won’t have to mention them all here. Anything else we need to know before we go?

Roma: I think it’s worth mentioning Opera Bar. Going back to the Opera House, so there is a bar that is on the water side of the Opera House. It faces the Harbour Bridge. It is not cheap. But it is one of the best bars in the city. It is outdoors. So you really need to time it right. I can highly recommend going at sunset. It is popular with locals and tourists, so it is always busy. But don’t go when it’s raining, because it just doesn’t have the right feel about it. It needs to be sunny and warm, and sunset-ish is the perfect time to go.

Chris: You’re standing in the prettiest spot in Sydney. Where are you standing? What are you looking at?

Roma: My favorite spot in Sydney is on a ferry on the harbor coming back from Manly. So coming back from Manly, you’re on a ferry headed straight for the Harbour Bridge. It’s usually about five-ish in the afternoon. The sun is really setting. The sky is lit up. The whole city has a real silhouette look to it. And you’ve got the salty sea smell that is generated from the ferry. And there’s nothing quite like it. That is my favorite spot.

Chris: Excellent. One thing that makes you laugh and say, “Only in Sydney.”

Roma: When you pay $10 for craft beer and say that’s normal.

Chris: That doesn’t sound like laughing.

Roma: When you can get served Chinese and Turkish food from a French girl on the street corner.

Chris: Finish this thought, “You really know you’re in Sydney when what?”

Roma: When it is so hot, the sweat is running down your back, and you think, “This is amazing.”

Chris: And if you had to summarize Sydney in three words, what three words would you use?

Roma: Laidback, sun, and fun.

Chris: Excellent. And you mentioned “fun.” We haven’t talked about a whole lot of different fun activities or outings. Are there other ones that you wanna mention as long as we’re talking about fun?

Roma: There’s day trips you can do from Sydney quite easily. So you can head out to the Blue Mountains, which is a mountain range out of Sydney. You can drive, which I would highly recommend, or you can take a train. But definitely drive if you can. You can stay at a place called Lurline House. They have a great view. So you can get outside at sunset and watch the sun drop below the Three Sisters, which is a mountain range that’s really famous in the area.

Another day trip from Sydney would be heading up to the Hunter Valley, which is north of Sydney. It is really famous, was actually Australia’s oldest wine region. And you’ve got Pokolbin. Other smaller regions that are around that area are quite often get overlooked in place of Pokolbin. But I can totally recommend heading to somewhere called Broke, B-R-O-K-E. So you can take a drive yourself, or you can jump on a tour, and they will take you around to cellar doors of different wineries where you can stop and sample local wine from small independent retailers, which I always like supporting.

Chris: Well, to wrap this up, our guest again has been Roma Small. Roma, where can people read more about your travels?

Roma: You can find us online at

Chris: And what are people gonna find at

Roma: So we focus on weekend and short breaks for working professionals. So if you’re heading to a destination and you only have a specific amount of time, I’d recommend having have a bit of sites based on wherever you’re heading and finding city guides, travel hacks. We’re also enthusiastic road trippers. So if you’re wanting to drive from London to Madrid, we are the people that you probably wanna talk to.

Chris: Excellent. Well, Roma, thanks so much for coming on the Amateur Traveler and sharing with us your love for Sydney.

Roma: Thanks, Chris.

Chris: In news of the community, I heard from John who had some new feedback on an old show. John wrote me about the show we did, episode 488, Travel to Northern Romania, said, “I thought that Ralph did a fabulous job describing the incredibly beautiful Maramures region in northern Romania. Our family visited the area in 2009. And we too were struck by the lack of mechanization and dependence on manual labor and farm animals for all aspects of agricultural production. We saw multigenerational families working in the fields with homemade scythes and wooden rakes, with horse-drawn wagons being used to transport almost everything. The wooden churches were special. And we particularly enjoyed the vivid frescoes in the church at Desesti, which were painted in the late 1790s.

“A couple of things that we enjoyed that were not mentioned include the elaborately carved wooden doors and gates you find in many of the villages and trees adorned with pots and pans indicating that there is a daughter available for marriage, still true today. We stayed in a small B&B run by a Ioan Pop in the village of Hoteni, also known as Popicu. Ioan is a national cultural treasure who is one of the best known folk musicians in the country. Not only will you be served hearty local fare and potent homemade palinka while staying there, but you’ll also be treated to impromptu performances. Hoteni is a perfect spot to base your explorations of the region from.

“Independent travel is the way to go. When in Maramures, you’ll need a car and nerves of steel navigating roads that can have extraordinarily-sized potholes. And you’ll be challenged by very aggressive drivers. Keep up the good work. John.”

Thanks, John. It’s always interesting to see people are always going back in the archives and picking up shows about some place they have been or someplace they’re going to go. And so in any given month, I would say half of the downloads of Amateur Traveler are older episodes. So you might think about that for your next trip.

With that, we’re gonna end this episode of the Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions, send an email to host at like John did, or comments as well. The transcript of this episode is sponsored by JayWay Travel, experts in Eastern European travel. Another place to put comments on this episode is our Facebook group, We’re looking forward to meeting you there. And thanks so much for listening.

Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

One Response to “Travel to Sydney, Australia – Episode 537”

Jeff Perkins


Hi Chris,

I enjoyed the recent episode #537 on Sydney, and agreed with almost all of Roma’s opinions Sydney is also my home town, although I have resided in Indianapolis for 16 years.

The one area on which I would disagree is that I feel that since the 2000 Olympics that Sydney overall has become increasingly expensive and even more so in the areas focusing on tourism. Understandably this might not be apparent to a resident of London or similarly priced cities.

For far better value, I would recommend hopping on a train to Newtown (3 stops from Central) and wandering back along the main shopping of King St with over 50 restaurants in half a mile, and many within easy walking distance, mostly on the main roads.

Amongst them all are plenty of other shopping options with a cinema, bookstores, arts and crafts stores.

I definitely agree about the ferry to Manly being a top choice, but on a sunny day I would also recommend taking the Ferry from Circular Quay to Parramatta, This will take you the length of the main harbour to its nominal beginnings at the Parramatta river, passing through mainly well-off waterside suburbs with lots of yachts, the main 2000 Olympics site and even a small stretch of wetlands towards the end of the 14 mile trip.

Parramatta was set up the same year as Sydney, so has so history and mature architecture of its own and has plenty of shopping and dining options, generally at much better value than in downtown Sydney or Bondi/Manly beaches.

Although we make more a point of visiting Manly (usually wandering around to the more placid Shelly Beach rather than the main ocean beach) over Bondi, if you find yourself in Sydney on Boxing Day (26 Dec) and are not from a cricketing nation (or your partner isn’t) and the idea of watching cricket all day while eating leftovers isn’t appealing (to them), then a trip to Bondi with lunch at one of the beach side seafood restaurants becomes great value as the boats from the Sydney-Hobart yacht race sail past, adding to the occasion.


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