Where I Stayed:
Jolly Swagman’s Hostel:
A 4-star rated hostel, I had high expectations because it obviously takes a lot of effort to get a 4-star rating for an actual hotel. However, I was slightly disappointed. The exterior was wildly colorful and the atmosphere was very friendly (all people in their 20’s for the most part), but the comfort level was lacking. There are no rails on the bunk beds, so don’t choose a top bunk if you move unpredictably in your sleep. Also, the beds are hard; they are not very pleasant to sleep in at all. The rooms and bathrooms are very crammed, and while they have (very small) lockers to put your (small) belongings in, there’s just no space to put any of your other bags, especially with 3 other people in the tiny room with you. You only get one hour free wifi, unless you can score any more little paper cut outs with a new password on it (I got two because I lost my first one then found it afterwards). It is also not the best location because you can really only take the train to the main area of Sydney, unless you want to go on a very long walk. Good thing is you’re right next King’s Cross Station, and you’re also paying a good price for the rooms. It’s right around $20 for a 4-bedroom dorm, either all female or mixed. Everything was also kept clean for the most part, so that was another plus.
Where I Visited:
Sydney Opera House
The Opera House is obviously Sydney’s main icon, and there is a very good reason why. Seeing it in person is simply magnificent. With the Harbor Bridge right next to it, the night view is spectacular and the day is still uniquely wonderful. The first time I saw the Opera House is when I was flying over Sydney to get to Melbourne. That was so unexpected that I couldn’t help but have a huge grin on my face in the middle of the plane. It was 2 months later that I actually got to experience the Opera House in its entirety.
One of my bucket list goals was to watch a real opera in an opera house, so I decided what better place to do that than the famous Sydney Opera House! I watched The Elixir of Love, which was a romantic comedy set in the Australian outback and completely sung in Italian (with subtitles on a screen). It was funny and entertaining and I had a ball. There was a short break in the middle of the opera where we got to step out of the surprisingly small room and get drinks or go to the restroom. Our break was in the back of the Opera House, so we got to see the beautiful view of the Harbor Bridge at night and then step outside to view the wings of the Opera House and Circular Quay. Visiting Sydney’s icon was truly delightful and not underrated one bit.
The day after seeing the opera, I had a full day of visiting the rest of Sydney’s famous attractions. I actually looked most forward to seeing the Taronga Zoo (besides the Opera House) because of one of my favorite Youtube stars visiting there and also just because I love animals so much and I was thrilled to get a chance to see a Tasmanian Devil in Australia (since I wouldn’t get the chance to visit Tasmania itself). The Taronga Zoo was the most incredible zoo I’ve ever been to.
I loved every moment of it, from the (longer than I thought it would take) ferry ride over to the included in admission Sky Cable ride over the elephants to the spectacular backdrop of the Sydney skyline at the giraffe exhibit. The only thing I was disappointed about was the way the spider monkey exhibit was set up. There were a multitude of different monkey species all over the zoo in different exhibits, and they were all very nicely set up with a beautiful array of plants and greenery and plenty of space to roam around imitating their real life environment. However, the spider monkeys had a small and very unrealistic exhibit that didn’t look very well maintained at all. They had only one tree and there were only 2 monkeys, which were both huddled in a corner on a foam mat looking sad and bored, while the other monkey exhibits had many monkeys who were constantly playing and swinging on trees and acting like… well, monkeys. But again, I still loved the Taronga Zoo- it was an absolutely incredible experience that I would recommend giving it a nice 4 hours to check out (although you could complete it in 2 if you ran around like a maniac- I did).
My next stop was short, I didn’t really get to see Manly Beach because it was raining and dark already and I still wanted to get to Bondi Beach before I left to Cairns in the morning. So I took the 30 minute ferry ride over (I didn’t realize it would take that long), and I stepped outside the ferry for a moment and admired the cute cafe scene, then I went back in the ferry and waited for the rest of the people to board before we headed back to Circular Quay. But, I haven’t heard one bad thing about Manly Beach, and everyone recommends doing it. It’s a nice beach that is just a short walk away from the harbor where the ferries pull in to.
By the time I got to Bondi, it was dark and still raining but I still got off and checked out the restaurant The Bucket List, which was a nice bar (I only used the restroom there). Then, I walked to the water, felt it, sat down on the semi-wet sand, ate a snack bar, then left on the bus again back to Circular Quay. It wasn’t the Bondi Beach experience everyone talks about, but I at least needed to say that I went. I did go to Sydney in winter though, so the water or air temperature wouldn’t have been warm anyway. It was still a beautiful beach (even in the dark) and I took plenty of pictures of the lifeguard towers since there were no lifeguards around at that time of night. I recommend going in the Australian summer to fully enjoy the famous beach!