First time in Australia for Mike and the kids….check…..New continent….check…..Opera house…..check…..Bondi beach….check.
Australia was for the kids. There’s a Netflix show called “Izzy Koala” and our daughter, Isabella, dreams of being a koala rescuer too. When we started talking about the trip, her little brain came up with the idea that we could visit Izzy’s koala sanctuary. Unfortunately, Izzy Koala does not take visitors but the idea of a stop in Oz was stuck in my head. Since I’d been to Australia already, Michael was going to be hard-pressed to convince me to come on a separate trip just to Australia so adding it to this world trip itinerary seemed like a good idea. We were off to the land of koalas, kangaroo and shrimp on the barbie; the first stop was Sydney.
It was my turn to get the family virus (the one Izzie caught in Colombia) and, for me, it manifested as an infected eye. We had to go to an optometrist for a proper diagnosis and medicine. It took several days to go away and I had to wear my glasses the whole time we were in Sydney – no contact lenses and very few photos of me from this leg. It drove me crazy! So day 1 in Sydney involved an optometrist, school at the library, a walk through the Botanical Gardens and the obligatory visit to the Opera House. It’s one of those world landmarks that does not disappoint (FYI, in person, it isn’t really white).
On day 2, we decided to head to the beach. Mike was feeling better and he felt sad that he’d missed so much Hawaii beach time. We chose Manly beach which seemed to have all the magical ingredients: harbour ferry ride, expansive surf beach, walk to a more secluded snorkel beach and an ocean pool to explore. And we did it all! As we rode the ferry to Manly, we wondered why we don’t live in Sydney. Public transit in the form of a ferry boat always seems so civilized and relaxing. We arrived in the beach suburb of Manly and did school in the library where Isabella did a writing assignment about sea turtles. We opted not to swim with the surfers at Manly (they have big signs warning about rips) and instead walked to nearby Shelly Beach which is part of Cabbage Tree Bay, a protected marine reserve. It took a while to convince the kids to snorkel (in the colder than Hawaii water) but it was fun to putter around and see neat creatures right from the beach.
Sydney has a pretty wild coastline so they’ve built these “ocean pools” at most of the beaches which are publically accessible and often free. They are ocean-fed unheated pools that allow Sydneysiders to swim without the full force of the surf, the sharks or the jellyfish. They are also very photogenic. Mike and the kids tried a few of them and I snapped the pictures.
Michael’s little sister Katie has come to Australia while we’re here. Our itinerary might have initially inspired her visit but she went ahead and convinced two friends to meet her here for an Australian adventure. She was in Sydney at the same time as us and, we met up to go to the Taronga Zoo (we’ll get to spend more time with her when we head to Tasmania together). The animals of the Taronga Zoo have an amazing view of the Sydney Harbour and the setting is probably the most memorable part of the place for me. I also loved seeing the chimpanzees who had a huge enclosure and were very animated when we visited.
Isabella will tell you that the Koala Encounter was the best part. It is illegal to pay to hold and cuddle Koalas in the state of NSW but the zoo does offer what they call “close encounters” with them. You are allowed to go in the cage and see them up close. Isabella learned of this optional zoo add-on and there was no convincing her not to spend her allowance on it. The ticket was for up to 4 people and she asked Aunt Katie, friend Yukari and luckily her sister to join her (this time not asking Julie to pay). Do others find their older child constantly trying to save her money by convincing her younger sister to spend her money? Isabella told me that this was the best day of her life so I guess she has no regrets about cleaning out her wallet. We were also amused by the news in Sydney from a few days before our visit, the lions had actually escaped. Don’t worry, they were recaptured without incident.
The Potts Point neighbourhood where we stayed in Sydney was also interesting. I chose it because it was close to the CBD and I read that foodies gravitate there for new, interesting dining. And the dining was great with lots of yummy restaurants that didn’t break the bank. Apparently, this was a “sketchier” area of Sydney but the pandemic wiped out a bunch of the dodgy bars. It still seemed a bit rough around the edge but the proximity to the city and great food worked well for us.
We chose to save Bondi Beach for our last full day in Sydney. We took a bus to Bronte Beach and did a 2 km walk to Bondi which made for an impressive arrival at the iconic place. We watched the surfers and Mike took the kids for a swim. The kids tried out their new bathing suits and got new sunburn lines.
Now we’re off to Tasmania.
Where we stayed (5 words or less):
- Holiday Inn Sydney Potts Point: Great transit access and breakfast
By the numbers:
- Types of eye drops currently in our first aid kit: 3 – don’t ask, so tired of eye-related infections
- Cost for the koala encounter at the zoo: $30 – Isabella used her own money
- Ice Creams: 9 – in addition to our normal gelatos, the hotel had free all-you-could-eat-ice cream for the kids 24/7
- Cost of taxi from the airport: $70 – we must have got ripped off
- Cost of Paige’s hack bus route to the airport: <$10 – I still have no idea how she pulled it off