Surveys proclaiming cities more or less ‘liveable’ than others are generally useless, but more than one Sydneysider we met during our stay agreed with a recent Timeout survey proclaiming Sydney the third least fun city (amongst 18 world metropolises; Kuala Lumpur and Dubai were below it, FYI – oh and Melbourne came second!).
We expected the opposite, of course; although plenty of people warned us of pretentious locals, officious bouncers and pointless dress codes.
Many bars and restaurants may call last orders before 11 here, but we still found plenty of fun to be had in and around Sydney’s eastern beaches and inner suburbs, an irrepressible love of the outdoors and more bronzed torsos than you can shake a surfboard at.
Sydney IS fun, if you know where to look for it.
It’s also iconically beautiful. Watching night fall behind the Harbour Bridge with the Opera House glistening in front is one of the world’s best sunsets.
But the cruise ship hoards and overpriced shops and restaurants around Circular Quay soon become tiresome; a few hours here is definitely enough.
And you can read why we decided £350 for us both to climb the bridge was daylight robbery here; we walked across it for free like normal people instead.
That left us plenty of time to explore the rest of Sydney’s outdoor delights.
Our home for the week was Clovelly, a few miles south of Bondi. Thanks to Tom and Katie for being amazing hosts! It meant we could snorkel less than 5 minutes from our flat in Gordon’s Bay.
You can jump in straight from the rocks, and you might be lucky enough to spot a massive grouper if the water’s clear enough.
Clovelly was a great base for exploring Sydney’s many mind blowing beaches.
We loved the two-hour coastal walk between the world famous Bondi beach and Coogee, revealing one beautiful strip of sand after another (the tiny Tamarama stood out; Bronte is also perfect to while away a couple of hours).
The rock formations are stunning and the cliffs are a great spot to gaze down on surfers trying to catch a wave.
Bondi to Coogee is a well worn tourist path but we actually preferred the walk south of Coogee down to Maroubra, clambering over rocks as we went. You won’t be battling with the crowds and the landscape is arguably even more stunning here.
As it is on another must-do coastal walk, if you’ve got the energy; Spit Bridge to Manly, Sydney’s second most famous beach.
Take the bus from Wyndham Gardens in the CBD up to Spit to start your trek; the 10km path opened in the 1980s and traverses the coast through forests full of lizards, across beaches, past millionaire mansions and via Aboriginal rock carvings.
It’s a tough 3 hour slog, especially on a hot day, but you’re rewarded with two things; another world-beating beach at Manly, and the famous Manly ferry to take you back to the city centre, showing off another incredible view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge as you go. It’s the cheapest Harbour cruise you’ll find.
Manly is the first of the ‘Northern Beaches’, stretching many kilometres away from the city, and the glorious Palm Beach at the northern tip is well worth a visit. We took a hire car but there are regular buses too.
We headed there partly for the beautiful sand dunes and picture postcard bay, but mainly because it’s where soap opera Home & Away is set, and as you’ll probably have already gathered, we are complete TV geeks, having visited both Neighbours’ Ramsay Street & the Lighthouse made famous by weird kids cult classic Round the Twist.
Alf’s surf shop still takes pride of place off the beach, and you’ll recognise the view from the lighthouse at the end of the bay from the show’s opening sequence. It’s irresistible for anyone who grew up in the U.K. in the 90s with Alf, Ailsa, Pippa, Sally and co.
For the rest of our time in Sydney, we won’t pretend we ‘ticked’ off an exhaustive list of the city’s supposed must-dos. We just explored.
The trendy inner city suburb of Surry Hills is well worth a visit for great cafes and bars, and possibly the world’s best gelato; Messina blew our socks off with its weird and wonderful flavour combinations and deserves its round the block queues. The Clock is the place for a booze up.
So is Sydney fun? It’s certainly interesting, and it’s easy to see why locals would rather surf at 6am than drink til midnight. Some Sydney dwellers may grow tired of laws restricting late night drinking and the bed-by-10pm mentality. But week-long tourists like us had more than enough to keep us interested, and you will too.