Snow Bird: a person who vacations in or moves to a warmer climate during cold weather. I take the term snowbird to a new level, with my severe aversion to cold weather and my constant desire to soak up the sun. Living in Texas suits my needs well most of the year, but, even Texas isn’t warm enough in December. Why stay in the northern hemisphere, when it’s summer down under? I was lucky enough to spend last October through January in Australia, making a temporary home for the summer in Sydney.
Sydney is a beautiful city. With numerous bays, harbors, beaches, parks, gardens, the city has so much nature and outdoor space that it avoids feeling like a concrete jungle. With an average daily step count of nearly 25,000, I explored all that Sydney has to offer, and am happy to bring you the highlights!
Must Do’s for your Summer in Sydney:
Visit a Wildlife Park
See the unique animals that call Sydney home. Get up close and personal with the koalas and kangaroos, while trying to spot the elusive platypus or Tasmanian devil. Featherdale Wildlife Park offers 250 native species with open space enclosures. Why not make a stop here on your way to visit the Blue Mountains for a hike? During my visit I was able to meet a koala, feed the wallabies, and even watch a dingo feeding. Watch as this baby kangaroo climbs into his mother’s pouch:
Enjoy a coastal cliff walk
Coogee Beach to Bondi – The six kilometer walk offers stunning views of the ocean, parks, beaches, and cliffs. (For the Americans out there, the conversion is 1 km = .62 miles.) There are several places to stop for a dip in the ocean as well as restaurants and restrooms along the way. On my trek I spotted several surfers, cricket matches on the beaches, a unique sculpture by the sea art display, and even a handful of topless sunbathers.
Spit to Manly – This eleven kilometer trail is also coastal, but features both city and harbor views. In addition to the ocean, you’ll see 1,000 year old Aboriginal rock engravings and multi-million dollar harborside mansions. I found myself scouring Trulia for home prices and imagined myself living in one of these beautiful homes with such amazing views. Once you reach Manly, you can relax on the beach and take the ferry back to Circular Quay for another beautiful tour of the city.
Both walks are perfect for summer in Sydney, just remember to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, especially if you’ll be ditching your top!
Admire the Sydney Opera House
Whether you want to go all out and purchase a formal tour, attend a concert, or just take a few photos from the outside, the Sydney Opera House is worth a visit. Located near Circular Quay and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, some of the best views of the city are at the opera house and in the surrounding Royal Botanic Gardens. Take a stroll through the gardens and enjoy the nearly 9,000 plant species on display. The park is perfect for a relaxing afternoon reading or people watching. I spent many afternoons on a shady blanket watching my husband practice his handstands on the lush grass.
Take a stroll through Darling Harbor and enjoy a bite to eat or drink. There are fireworks on Friday and Saturday evenings and the Pyrmont pedestrian bridge leads across the harbor to The Star casino. Walk down towards Bangaroo and relax on the Stargazers Lawn.
Have lunch in the Westfield Sydney mall food court. Seriously, it is like no mall food court in America. The restaurants are top notch and they are in the middle of the hustle and bustle of downtown Sydney during the week. You can try the legendary soup dumplings of Din Tai Fung, warm up with a bowl of Ramen at Ippudo, enjoy amazing Pad Thai at Thai Riffic, or get a refreshing juice from Top Juice. This place is full of delicious options. There is something for everyone. Outside the mall on Pitt Street you’ll see numerous street performers and artists entertaining the crowds. Stop in the Microsoft store and give the virtual reality demo a try, or, even better, watch a loved one do it. It is hilarious to see someone try and slay a shark or write their name in the sky with an imaginary sword.
Try Kingfish Jalepeno, and everything else on the menu at Sake Restaurant and Bar in the Rocks. The dish of hiramasa kingfish paired with soy dressing and lime & jalapeno kosho sounds simple, but delights every time.
Splurge on dinner at Momofuku Seiobo. The 12+ course tasting menu is an adventure matching Asian influences with fresh Australian ingredients. After an amazing meal you can wander around The Star property and play some black jack or shoot some dice in the full scale casino.
If you have more time:
Take a free tour of the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) to hear some interesting local history and get a glimpse into the city past. Take a trip down memory lane by visiting the Hobbyco toy store or sample chocolates at multiple sweet shops.
Pack a picnic, grab a bottle of wine, rent a beanbag lounger and watch a movie in the park at Moonlight Cinema. Just make sure you don’t take a spot directly in under the trees. Flying-foxes (giant bats) perch in the trees at dusk dropping all kinds of debris onto the unsuspecting movie goers below. I was not delighted by the steaming pile of crud that landed square in my lap during a screening of Passengers.
Go for a hike in the Royal National Park just to the south of Sydney. Whether you want to swim, trek, picnic, or bike ride, there are options for everyone. While I enjoyed a beautiful bushwalk, I struggled to enjoy our picnic due to the invasive fly population.
Check out the nightlife club Ivy. Ivy has several different levels and themed bars with live entertainment and DJs. Food is available as well as great cocktails. They even feature a pool party when the weather is nice. Halloween at Ivy was a special treat. Australians really know how to let loose and party, and Ivy was packed full of extravagant costumes.
Head to the races. While the Melbourne Cup is the biggest race day in Australia, there are horse races all summer long. Champagne, fancy hats, and gambling are the highlights of a day at the track.
Where to Stay during a Summer in Sydney:
Hilton Sydney – The Hilton Sydney sits in a great location on George St across from the Queen Victoria building, Sydney Town Hall, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The property is walking distance to Darling Harbour and Circular Quay as well as the botanical gardens. Service at the hotel is great and the area is a bit more lively than the northern end of the central business district (CBD). Easy access to the metro is available just one block away.
Marriott Sydney – This hotel is in a great location near Circular Quay, the Sydney Opera House, and the botanical gardens. It has recently undergone renovations, and is an excellent choice. The area is fairly quiet on evenings and weekends. Easy access to the metro is available within a five minute walk.
Park Hyatt Sydney – With the best views, this hotel is beautiful and in a nice location. The rooms are very comfortable and spacious. A word of caution: the property is next to a gigantic cruise ship port. The ships may block the view and make very loud announcements throughout the day.
Tips for the best possible Summer in Sydney:
- Take the train in from the airport to save time and money. Traffic can be a nightmare but the metro is very reliable.
- Check out Time Out Sydney for the scoop on special events happening throughout the city.
- Wear ample sunblock as the sun in Sydney is brutal both in the city and at the beach.
- Make sure to dress in layers. The city can be very cold in the shade, but is hot in the sun. Ferries are also be very cold and windy.
- Make dinner reservations in advance as the best spots are typically booked out, even during the week.
- Snack on peckish crackers and Obela Zesty Jalapeno Hommus from the local grocery stores. I dream about this hummus; it is so flavorful and so good!
- Hertz 24/7 is a convenient rental car program in Australia that allows you to pick up cars 24 hours per day for hourly or daily rentals at reasonable rates. Check into this before you go, as it takes some time to set up.
- Boxing Day, December 26, is a major shopping holiday in Australia with Black Friday type bargains.
- Catch a free bootcamp workout in the park on Monday or Wednesday evenings.
I’d be happy to spend any summer in Sydney. It is such a friendly city with so much to offer. The Australians are so welcoming and they love our accents as much as we love theirs. We enjoyed so many active step-filled days and enjoyed living close to the action immensely. After our three months in Sydney, we ended up moving from our house into a condo in downtown Austin.
Before returning from our summer in Sydney, we ventured to Tasmania, Melbourne, Perth, and Queenstown, New Zealand. Stay tuned for future posts on these great parts of our adventure and follow me on instagram for a daily dose of photographic inspiration.