[ezcol_1third] Although it already feels so much farther away, it was only two weeks ago that my Ma and I were down in Sydney, living it up on our summer vacation.
I hadn't been back to the Harbour City since Mr. Spring and I packed up our tiny Darlo apartment and moved up to Brisbane exactly one year ago, so I was hugely excited to take my Ma round our favourite haunts and play tour guide for her first visit. We're both big walkers, so there was plenty of that, and we really did cover a lot of ground.
When you next get the chance, we hope our guide to how to spend 5 days in Sydney will help y'all make the most of it!
(Warning… this is going to be a LONG post… so grab yourself a snack before you get scrolling)
Day 1: Getting Our Bearings + Checking in + Shopping the Arcades
We arrived straight from the airport for breakfast at a cafe I already knew and loved. Forbes and Burton in Darlinghurst was 'our spot' around the corner from the tiniest one bedroom walkup, formerly known as our Sydney apartment. Sitting down there felt kinda like stepping back into a former life. In the most delicious way.
After our refreshment we dropped off our bags at The Sydney City Lodge. Set down in the quiet part of Darlo near the corner of Crown and Stanley Sts, this hotel turned out to be the ideal base for our little holiday. It's super affordable, immaculately clean, run by a very nice and accommodating family, has free wifi, laundry and kitchen facilities, a lovely little courtyard for sitting out, and was quite simply extremely pleasant. If you're looking for grandiose luxury (or loathe climbing stairs) this probably isn't the place for you, but we were so comfortable in our 'family room' and really liked the cosy vibe of the lodge.
To get our downtown bearings, from the hotel we meandered through The Domain (stopping off at the NSW Art Gallery to take in this exhibition), the Botanic Gardens, the Opera House, Circular Quay, and back up into the city to hit the shops. Pitt St. Mall? Check. The Strand Arcade? Check. Queen Victoria Building? Check. There's just nothing like them in Brisbane, and I almost teared up at the sight of my long lost Zara!
Determined to make each eating opportunity count, we sat down at Bill's in Surry Hills on our first night because I love the burgers, and they're right close to Gelato Messina... and that's a pretty tough combination to beat.
Since we were SO full and needed to walk all that food off before heading back to bed, we detoured past a local market on Victoria Road and the Infinity Sourdough Bakery to stock up on breakfast-in-bed supplies. Infinity does pretty much the best sourdough bread ever and was a definite highlight of the trip; If only there could be more 24h sourdough bakeries in neighbourhoods around this country, neh?
Day 2: Vaucluse House
Once we'd savoured our breakfast in bed, my Ma and I jumped on a bus to Vaucluse House for a little bit of historical education. Living history museums (along with mason jars, honesty boxes, and 24h sourdough bakeries) most certainly make my list of favourite things, and having been to almost every one Sydney has to offer, I reckon Vaucluse is the best.
We toured the old house to see first-hand what life was like for wealthy early settlers to the colony and (with somewhat less of a focus) the people who served and enriched them. As an added bonus, the cafe at Vaucluse is gorgeous and serves beautiful luncheons with ingredients picked from the lovely kitchen gardens which guests are also welcome to explore.
From Vaucluse House we walked along the foreshore path for a while then hopped a bus back to the city. After a curry dinner we strolled through St. James park past the war memorial and the Sydney Festival site to watch the frenzy of street life as we polished off takeaway cups from Gelato Messina. Obvi.
Day 3: The Blue Mountains
This was my Ma's favourite day.
After getting up and fixing a quick breakfast of sourdough and tea in our room, we walked down to Central Station and caught the 2 hour train to the Blue Mountains. The key to a successful day in the Blue Mountains is all down to timing, because it's in the glow of the late afternoon sun that the magical colours of the rocky faces of the national park fully reveal themselves, and that's the thing not to be missed.
So we decided to get off the train at Leura and explore the shops on the high street as early as possible before the bulk of the crowds descended.
From Leura we walked to the Everglades Gardens, which frankly were a disappointment (their fault) and way farther away than the scale on the map suggested to me at first glance (mine). Here's the thing: the situation and design of the gardens is really interesting and the art deco wrought iron work around the property is marvellous... but the plantings are lacklustre and the house itself is nothing special. Over all, if I had it to do over again (in summer, at least… perhaps their spring or autumn blooms are more… abundant) I'd give this one a miss.
Poor Ma and I were flagging a bit by the time we faced the long walk back to Leura, so we made use of a taxi that fortuitously appeared at the garden entrance and were whisked back to town for lunch. We should have waited for a table at the Leura Garage rather than settling for the overpriced, bad food at Bon Ton, but although we suspected it of being a tourist trap at first glance we were so desperate in the moment that we took a table anyway. I guess when it comes to travel food you win some, you lose some.
Happily, that was the end of the losing, because after lunch we walked down to the Prince Henry Path to enjoy the splendours of the Blue Mountains National Park. We took our time on the path that runs along the rim of the mountains from Gordon Falls to Echo Point (home of the Three Sisters) to take the views as the changing light began to make the rocks, trees, and hazy sky look lit from within.
After resting our feet and snapping photos at Echo Point, we walked our (almost) final leg up into Katoomba for banana smoothies in an classic diner straight out of the '70s across from the Paragon Cafe.
Then it was the train back to Sydney, the real final walk back to the hotel and bed time. We slept like logs.
Day 4: Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
This was my Ma's second favourite day and it was glorious!
After bussing it to Bondi we spent the day tackling the whole coastal walk to Coogee, stopping off for swims at Tamarama and a delicious lunch at Bronte Beach's Pure Bronte Pistachio. It was a perfect day topped off with a Mexican themed dinner near the hotel and… a scoop each from Gelato Messina for the walk home.
Day 5: Hyde Park Barracks + The Mosman Walk + Balmoral Beach
Hyde Park Barracks has long been my favourite Sydney building for its beautiful proportions and the way it glows fiery umber in the early morning and setting sun. Somehow I'd never managed to go through its convict museum while I lived in the city, so Ma and I went in for a look. It's a brilliant little museum that doesn't take up too much time and has a rich story to tell, and we especially liked trying out the hammocks.
From Hyde Park we walked down Macquarie St to Circular Quay to board the ferry for the Mosman to Balmoral Beach Walk. Manly might be the classic choice for a trip on the harbour, but it's a long ride and I'm not so in love with the beach and high street there. I prefer a swim at Balmoral and a taste of North Shore living, plus the walk along the coves and points of those neighbourhoods is super quiet and gives the most beautiful sense of tranquility as you look across the water to the hub of the city.
After we caught the ferry back to Circular Quay it was time to pick up our bags from the hotel and head to the airport.
I hope each time my Ma comes to visit we'll be able to explore a new bit of Australia together… and that it won't be another whole year before I get the chance to spend time in beautiful Sydney again.