Not quite sure how it happened, but we only left ourselves with one full day in Sydney. No fear! We, of course, made the most of it!
Luckily our flight got in pretty early in the morning, so we were able to get out and start seeing things with most of the day left. Sydney has a train directly from the airport to many stops within the city so it only took us 20 minutes to get from the airport to our hotel!
We stayed right in the heart of downtown and found the perfect hotel for us using Hotels.com and got 2 nights further towards our 10 stays, which earns us a free night. We also got 6% cash back doing it all through Ebates. (Use our links so we get credit!) Staying downtown was such a great choice. We used the train system to get around so we could stay in the heart of things and could also get to places a little further away with almost no effort. The same train that goes from the airport is the train system that goes around the city and beyond. The whole system is very easy to use and there are stops everywhere! Tip: Ask your hotel if they have any “Opal” cards leftover. (The card used throughout the train system) Chances are that have some leftover from other guests and it may even have money left on it!
First stop, get a good view of the Opera House! It was completely surreal to see it and all of Sydney through our own eyes. It’s something you always see in movies and television, and always see hundreds of photos of. We were in complete awe! Determined to get photos from every angle, we decided to walk up and across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Plus, then we could say we walked across Sydney Harbor Bridge! Aside from the rain and gloomy weather, the bridge provided incredible views of the harbor. Breathtaking! For the best views – our advice is to get off the train at Circular Quay and walk along the harbor. Then just walk up towards the end of the bridge to get up and walk across!
The next and only full day had one mission: Bondi Beach! Even though rain was in the forecast again, Dean was determined to make his way into the ocean. Nothing would stop him. We took the 35 minute bus ride to the beach and by the time we got there, the clouds had parted and the sun was shining bright! Aside from a few drops from the sky, we had a gorgeous sunny day at the beach. The waves were huge and the surfers were everywhere. I wish I had brought my bathing suit! Dean ran into the ocean the minute we got there and played for hours in the waves while I got my feet wet and soaked in the sun.
Not too far from Bondi Beach is Heritage Mall. Not something we’d typically do while traveling, but all our walking wore down my shoes! I needed new ones badly! After shoe success, we grabbed lunch there and were so impressed. Not only was there a great array of food choices but the food court itself was gorgeous! Marble tables with plush chairs all facing a huge wall of windows with the perfect view of Sydney. From Bondi Beach to the Opera House and Harbor bridge, you could see it all.
Finally, we found ourselves back in a place that honors happy hour! Sydney had a ton of them. All from 4pm-7pm, mostly all the bars had beer and wine specials around $5AUD. A bunch of them even served sparkling wine, my favorite! Since alcohol prices were so high in New Zealand. It was fun to go out and grab a few drinks.
Melbourne was much bigger of a city than either of us thought it would be! Tall buildings, trains and trams everywhere! The best part: the entire city has WiFi! We thought that was awesome. We had one full day here and spent it wandering around and seeing the sights. While they have a sightseeing bus like other cities, they also have a “visitors bus”. Instead of $35AUD per person for the double decker sightseer, for $10AUD you get on a normal bus and get virtually the same thing. Hop on and off at one of the 13 different stops around the city. We checked out the Southbank area of the city first. Located south of the river that runs through the city is a shopping district and a great restaurant scene.
Then we were off to the botanic gardens. Not as impressive as the others we’ve seen but walking around in the beautiful sunshine made up for it. Right by there is the Shrine of Remembrance. A huge, impressive building in memorial to all the fallen Anzac soldiers. The inside was filled with flags and and names of the soldiers. They even had a guide there talking all about the history. We then checked out the Queen Victoria Market. Similar to a flea market, it spanned many blocks and had everything from jewelry to clothing, soaps and toys.. pretty much anything you could think of! Go early! It says it’s open till 5pm but everyone was packing up when we were there at 3pm! We found out during our tour that there is a free tram that goes all around the city! As long as you’re within city limits, you can hop on and off wherever you’d like, free of charge. It’s clear that the city of Melbourne definitely cares about its people and tourists. They make it so accessible to see and do there.
We were so happy with the food in Sydney and Melbourne. Similar to New Zealand, Asian food seemed to be the most popular. Everything we ate was full of flavor and there were so many places to choose from.
Grace of India: After crossing the Sydney Harbor Bridge in the rain, we were in the mood for something warm and filling! Indian food was the perfect thing. For $15AUD you get the curry of your choice with naan and rice. I got Chicken Tikka Masala. Spice marinated chicken cooked in a tandoor oven with a tomato based curry with onions and finished with a touch of cream. Very fragrant and packed with Indian flavor. This one was not as creamy and saucy as the ones in America but the punch of flavor made up for it! Not much beats Indian spices, especially on a rainy day! Plus, the portion was huge! Dean got Lamb Vindaloo, a favorite of his because of its spice! Lamb marinated in kashmiri chilies, onions and vinegar in a spicy curry from Goa. Pungent with lots of spicy heat! The lamb is slow braised so it’s very tender. While not traditional, this Vindaloo had tomatoes in it to give it a deep red color. When asked how spicy he wanted it, he said “very spicy!” They made sure he knew what he was getting himself into and he assured them he could handle it. When it arrived, barely any spice! We wonder if Australians idea of spicy is the same as New Zealand’s… Nevertheless, the flavors were again, on point and all was gobbled down in minutes. The Naan was freshly made and melted in your mouth. The slight burnt edges combined with the soft inside was the perfect vessel to scoop up our curries.
Fogo Brazilia Churrasco: Inside the Heritage Mall we chose this quick serve Brazilian steakhouse restaurant. I got a thinly pounded chicken breast with their house mayo. Not quite sure what was in it, but it definitely had a kick! Dean got the Brasilia wrap. Chicken, chorizo and eye round beef wrapped up with lettuce, tomato and topped with a Harissa mayo as well as that delicious house mayo. They had all the meat on a spit that was slowly cooked as it rotated above the flame and even sliced all the meat off the spit to order! Just like at the traditional Brazilian steakhouse restaurants, Dean was able to choose a nice piece of rare meat as he was slicing it for his meal.
Ajiseen Ramen: Man, was this place good! My first true ramen experience and it didn’t disappoint! I started with the vegetable gyoza. Pan fried dumplings stuffed with vegetables. Not the mushy mix you get at Chinese restaurants, this place had real fresh veggies inside their gyoza. Yum! Dean got spicy pork gyoza and BAM! It sure packed a punch! His gyoza were sitting in a bowl of spicy, vinegary pork broth which made it all the more delicious. We both got a bowl of ramen for dinner. (duh!) I got a crispy chicken breast on mine and Dean had spicy beef rib on his. Both were served in broth made from pork bones. Usually I would shy away, as I don’t eat anything but chicken, but something told me to just stop thinking about it and enjoy this porky brothy goodness and I’m so happy I did. Dean, being the chef he is, told me that when they boil the broth for hours and hours, the fat from the pork bones emulsifies into the broth and that’s what gives it so much flavor and milky appearance. It’s almost creamy without having any cream or dairy in it. So smooth and silky! The bowls were loaded with delicious ramen noodles, seaweed, cabbage and a soft boiled egg along with our meats of choice.
Naked for Satan: Craving something other than Asian food, burgers, sandwiches etc., we yelped around and found Naked for Satan which was an authentic Spanish (Basque) Pinxto’s restaurant and needed to look no further! We fell in love with Pinxtos’s when in Spain, little bite size tapas served on a piece of baguette. They’re served on the bar of the restaurant where you just go up and take whichever you like. Each one has a toothpick stuck in so at the end of your meal, you take it up and pay for however many toothpicks you have. They add up very quickly! From Spanish tortilla (a Spanish potato and egg casserole) to grilled octopus with white bean purée. We also had manchego and red bell pepper, a delicious fried rice ball on top of quince jam and goat cheese and they also had an Australian take – Australian Wagyu beef brasiola. Each one is crafted specifically with flavors that meld together perfectly. It’s always fun to go up to the bar and pick out your favorites and then count the toothpicks at the end.
Next up: Heading to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road! Stopping along the way and hoping to see some great views and even some wildlife!
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**We are using Ebates and Hotels.com to book everything we do! We get cash back from Ebates and earn free nights on Hotels.com so you get rewarded for doing what you would normally do anyway! On Hotels.com, they provide excellent service and will match hotel prices if you find something cheaper elsewhere. If you stay 10 nights, you get 1 free and if you become a gold member (30 stays in 1 year) you get early access to deals and special rates. Also 24/7 service. On Ebates, while the percentage cash back varies depending on the store, you legitimately get cash back on almost every store you would shop online for anyway and get a check every quarter with your savings. They also have special coupon codes to get discounts on the site that you can’t get otherwise. In 1 year we’ve gotten back $350 cash back. That’s nothing to sneeze at! We get credit if you use our links (hyperlinked in the names) and would love if you could help us out! But really, you’re helping yourself too!!**