Exploring Sydney in a breeze

New South Wales

With the current global financial crisis and the downturn in the airline/travel industry, now is the prime time to be booking for any holiday even if you plan to travel in a year’s time. Airlines are one of the sectors to be impacted by this global downturn and this has resulted in airfares being slashed, especially with the introduction of more and more discount carriers.


Recently domestic airline Tiger Airways which is owned by Singapore Airlines launched a new route to its expanding network to include the third busiest air travel route in the world from Melbourne to Sydney. The initial offer some months ago was to purchase certain fairs for free only to pay the taxes, in this case the total cost of a one way fair from Melbourne to Sydney cost $29.

The trick to these cheap tickets is being able to get a return flight home for the same price which can sometimes be a skill in itself. However the Tiger offer was too good to refuse and flights to Sydney and from Sydney were found for the same price resulting in an overnight stay in Sydney.

I wouldn’t be a true Melbournian if I didn’t dedicate my spare time in pointing out every flaw I could possibly find with Sydney, since Australian federation and even before their has been a ‘friendly’ rivalry between the two cities. How does one explore a city in two short days and on a low budget? Here are some tips for exploring Sydney and some of the mistakes associated with exploring this expensive city.

They key to spending the most time available in a city on a short stay like this is to make sure to get on those early morning flights. Getting up at 3am was not the highlight I can assure you, but it meant arriving in Sydney in the early morning and still having a whole day to explore, or get lost.

When arriving at Sydney Airport their are many transportation options from renting your own car (if you love to swear at yourself all day when you head down the endless one way streets Sydney is known for), taking a Taxi or the best option would be to try and organise hotel transfers. Sydney Airport is linked to the main metro rail system and this is the option I took, however this rail line is a privately owned ‘airport link’ and the hefty price of a ticket indicates this.

To catch a train from Sydney Airport station’s are located at both the Domestic and International terminals, the trains will terminate at either Central Station or Town Hall. A single use one way ticket will set you back $14.90, this is a heavy price for a train trip but as said before it is a privately owned railway line. Once in the city you can purchase an all day ticket which will give you unlimited access to Busses, Trains and Ferries, however keep in mind that if you head back to the airport using this ticket you will be charged an additional $11 or so for getting off at the airport.

Depending where you want to disembark the train the best train to wait for is the one heading to Town Hall. This will allow you to head into the city and hop off at any of the city circle stations, the best for the sightseer being Circular Quay.

Circular Quay is the main hub for catching any ferry in Sydney and is where you will have impressive views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and be able to explore the Sydney Opera House. It doesn’t take long to look at the Opera House, after all it’s just a pointy roofed house but spectacular all the same and offers great photo opportunities for both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

The other main destination in Sydney is Darling Harbour which is known for its waterfront restaurants and is the location for the IMAX theatre and the Sydney Aquarium which can also be accessed via the city monorail. The big mistake or assumption coming from Circular Quay was that it is a short walk over to Darling Harbour just around the bend. Don’t get fooled into walking under the Harbour Bridge to look around and continuing on and expecting Darling Harbour because it is quite a walk. The best thing to do is buy one of those all day transport tickets and catch the ferry around to Darling Harbour, you will then get to travel past Luna Park on the North Shore and under the bridge itself.

Darling Harbour and the Sydney CBD are linked together with a very rickety monorail which is ideal for cruising around on when tired of walking or even useful as a means of doing a couple of laps to get your bearings right. With only eight seats per cabin, you better get in ahead of everyone waiting if you want a seat. A single day ticket will set you back $9.50 which gives you unlimited travel for the day and as part of your ticket you will also get a host of discount coupons which may come in handy.

One of the most annoying attractions to visit at the moment which can be reached by monorail has to be Centrepoint Tower, or as it is now known Sydney Tower. The whole shopping complex surrounding the tower is undergoing massive renovations which have apparently been ongoing for nearly three years.  Waiting in line was a chore, on the floor above the jackhammer rumbled the whole waiting area which is not pleasant during a 45 minute wait, as only two of the lifts are operational at the moment, and only allow 10 people at a time. Although unfortunately for us at the time a tour group lined up in front just seconds before hand but to add to the frustration it was baffling that everyone to have to go through a security check including a metal detection which didn’t make the time go any faster.

At the cost of $25 entry unless you really need to get up high this is one place you could afford to avoid; after all how long are you likely to spend at the top of the tower? The operator would argue that the price includes an OzTreck 3D hologram experience, but personally I have no interest in watching a hologram I just wanted to go up the tower.

For the night we stayed at the Oaks Goldsborough Apartments Darling Harbour which overlook Darling Harbour and are an old factory/warehouse converted into cosy small two story apartments. The building is amazing to look at from the inside and you can appreciate the effort that has gone into converting it into an apartment complex.

The highlight of the trip was catching a ferry from Circular Quay to Manley as the trip puts into perspective just how large the harbour is, and gives you an opportunity to imagine what it looked like 200 years ago when European settlement occurred.

Manley itself is a nice little town, walking through the main shopping hub you can imagine how crowded it must get in the summer time. Manley Beach is only a short walk from the main ferry terminal and if time allowed it the nearby National Park would have been worth exploring which overlooks the Sydney Harbour heads.

The bottom line is that two days is not enough time to explore any city, but can lay the foundations for a return visit in the future. Having climbed the Story Bridge in Brisbane I’m looking forward to returning to Sydney to scale the Harbour Bridge. Having a car would also be beneficial so that attractions outside the city limits can be seen, especially the Blue Mountains.

Take it from me, getting up at 3am and walking around a city for two days, then arriving home again at midnight is one exhausting adventure, but worth it.

Just your average guy doing his 9 - 5 job as a Senior Payroll Officer by day, writing about his travel adventures and hopefully giving you inspiration and ideas for your next travel adventure here at loneXplorer...

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