Australia – Superstar Sydney

In typical ‘me’ style, I managed to pack quite a lot into a week in Sydney.

I couch surfed for my first few nights in Sydney. I had a lovely host and stayed outside the city in Thornleigh. It was really good to see the suburbs and get a feel for life outside the main city drag.

Whilst in Thornleigh I visited the Koala Park Sanctuary in Pennant Hills. It’s not just a sanctuary for koalas though, there’s plenty of other animals to see.

I really enjoyed the birds which, considering birds normally freak me out, was a surprise. There are birds in enclosures and ones roaming around. I saw plenty of peacocks and bush turkeys wandering through the park.

These sulphur crested cockatoos made for interesting viewing and conversation, they say hello a lot.

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In the same enclosure was a pink cockatoo which seemed much quieter than the sulphur crested ones.

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There’s quite a collection of birds including kookaburras , frog mouthed tawny owls, rainbow lorikeets and tree foxes that look like bats. All sorts for all tastes. I will warn you that cockatoos are noisy so and so’s.

An animal in the park which surprised me were the Dingos. I didn’t expect them to be as majestic and good looking as they are.

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The koalas and kangaroos in the park have all been bred in captivity so they are used to humans and, as a result, very placid. They are not so relaxed in the wild. Koalas have a reputation for being quite fierce and can inflict pretty nasty injuries. With that in mind, here’s three of them all squeezed into one tree.

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Here’s me posing beside one.

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You’re not allowed to hold them in new South Wales but that was ok. You can stroke them and they’re really fuzzy.

You just saunter into the kangaroo enclosure and feed them with special food bought from the shop.  You can stroke them too but I wasn’t brave enough.

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Wallabies are similar looking to kangaroos except they’re smaller and cuter. This swap wallaby wanted to say hello from inside the enclosure.

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There’s possums and wombats at the park too but I only saw their bums. It was cold and rainy so they were sleeping.  They’re nocturnal anyway but they wouldn’t rouse even for food. Oh well.

There’s a sheep shearing and boomerang throwing show twice a day which is fun to go to. Here’s the sheep losing it’s fleece.

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I really enjoyed the park and would recommend it as the $26 enhance fee is worth it.

After my few nights in the suburbs, I stayed in the city at The Palms Backpackers in Potts Point. I really liked the hostel. It was clean, friendly and did exactly what it said on the tin. It’d stay again.

Once I was in the city, I started exploring it.

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney are beautiful. The free guided walk was great and there’s 2 daily. Our guide was a volunteer called Phillip and he was full of facts. We were escorted around some key areas and told about native species of plants/trees and the history of the gardens.

I personally thought this flower was gorgeous.

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Towards the end of the walk, we happened upon some owls sleeping in a tree.

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You can walk right through the gardens to get to the opera house.  The best views of the opera house are from Circular Quay’s side of the harbour in my opinion. The opera house is still impressive from the gardens side but you don’t see the iconic shape everyone associates with it from the garden side.

There’s a big, gothic style, building in the gardens called Government House but you can only go inside on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday so I didn’t get to see it. Here’s a picture of the house in the grounds. It’s fairly imposing.

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Just around the corner from the botanic gardens is Hyde park barracks. This is where convicts were housed when they got off the boats in Sydney.

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It was built by convicts and has a varied and interesting history. It’s now a museum which covers topics such as how the convicts lived, what they’d done wrong, how they’d ended up in Australia, what work they did and how Sydney evolved.

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The museum also has a lot of information on the building itself. It’s served many purposes since it was built. It was a convict barracks, then it was an orphanage for girls left parentless during the Irish potato blight. After that it was an asylum for elderly and infirm women who couldn’t work and didn’t have a home (no welfare back then). It was finally government offices before being made into a museum. Very interesting stuff.

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The free introduction tour was good and the audio guide you receive included with the entrance fee was superbly informative. Entrance for adults is $10 and entirely worth.

Another heritage building in Sydney is the Royal Mint. Entrance is free, which is good, because there’s not a lot to see. It was built as a hospital before being turned into the mint and now the only real part of the main mint building left is the safe. The building is used as offices and meeting rooms now so there’s not a lot you can walk round and see. However, there are still people on the door who will walk you around and tell you the limited facts they know for free.

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Apparently the coin minting building is important as only two remain in the world and the Sydney one is in the best condition. Something new every day!

Very close to both the barracks and the mint is St. Marys Cathedral. I didn’t go inside but it’s a very red, very large thing.

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Another major landmark of Sydney is the Harbour Bridge.

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I don’t really know what to say other than it’s big and made of metal. I walked over it.

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The view back across the harbour is awesome once you’re on the bridge.

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The harbour is just generally beautiful. It really is. I could picture myself enjoying dinner and drinks there. The area was where initial settlers made their homes and original buildings have been preserved and converted well.

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It you want to forget you’re in a big city for a while, you should do the Coogee to Bondi beach walk. It’s around 6km long and all of it stunning. Here’s Coogee beach where we started (we took a bus from the city of to Coogee) but you can start at Bondi.

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You really do just walk up the coast. It’s well signposted and you can’t get lost if you keep following the coastline. There’s heaps of cute coves to stop at with quiet beaches so it’s a very leisurely activity.

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When you get to Bondi, you realise just how busy it is compared to Coogee and why.

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I managed to squeeze in a quick trip to Manly but really didn’t have enough time to draw conclusions so I won’t. I will say that the views of the harbour from the ferry alone is worth the return fare of $14.40.

Sydney is amazing. I think I’m in big trouble as I could definitely see myself living and working there.

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