When traveling to the other side of the world, one must make the most of it regardless of jet lag. Our early advice when it comes to Australia is avoid the nap upon arrival at any cost. Power through and get on local time as quickly as possible.
The largest city in Australia is easily home to its most iconic structures, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, as well as eclectic neighborhoods and fantastic dining options.
Bike Tour of the City
As with any city, we recommend getting a lay of the land and Bonza Bike Tours was a fantastic start. We opted for the Harbour Bridge tour which includes a 5-hour trek through the city touching many highlights, a ride over the iconic bridge itself and lunch. We’d highly suggest requesting guide Nick Sinclair, an up and coming local actor who had loads of suggestions of what to do and see beyond the tour. Catch Nick in the award winning web series, After Night Falls in which his stellar performance is “dead” on.
More than just a gorgeous structure, the Sydney Opera House has a rich history and is as breathtaking on the inside as it is out. It’s also an architectural wonder. The only way to see the inside is through a guided tour which is well worth it. Please, where else can you see both red and purple carpet in one building. We lucked out and experienced a 7 minute light show by artist Badu Gili broadcast on one of the Opera’s sails at sundown and once again at 9pm.
Food and Drink
When I first visited Australia nearly 15 years ago, I can’t say there was much in the line of culinary excellence. Boy, has that changed. So many good restaurants and so little time to cover them all, but here’s a few…
Traditional Chinese on steroids. Be ready to be a bit overwhelmed as servers approach you with trays of delicious dimsum and delicacies from savory to sweet. The salt and pepper calamari, crispy skin roast pork belly, shrimp dumplings and fried rice with salted fish are all just YUM!
A favorite of trendy Aussie gals who brunch, this modern Asian restaurant is a all good. We’d recommend the chilli salt chicken wings to whet your appetite. Then get full with the chargrilled brisket with sweet soy glaze. Add a side of rice to complete the experience. It’s a great jumping point for a brisk walk to Hyde Park.
High above the skyline, the Sydney tower might be tempting for a great view of the city however, here’s a pro-tip…skip the line to the observation deck and opt for a cocktail at the slow rotating 360 Bar instead. There’s a minimum spend of $20, which is pretty easy to accomplish. Enjoy the signature “360” cocktail as you take in the views of Sydney’s vast skyline, which will easily last a full rotation. No reservation required really.
While there are plenty of hotel options, we opted for an awesome AirBnB in the trendy Surry Hills neighborhood. We loved our modern basement brownstone-style apartment close to a number of cafes, bars and boutique shops. The neighborhood’s SoHo style vibe is close to the gay neighborhood of Paddington, Centennial Park, and nearby Metro station with easy access to all else. Feeling like burning off those gourmet calories? It’s about a 20-minute, and highly stimulating, walk to the Harbor.
Ending with another tour, many will suggest doing a Sydney Harbor cruise–all of which are quite fine but also a day long commitment. If you want something a bit different and more conservative on time, try the guided self-driving tours with Explore Sydney Harbor. Drive your own mini-speed boat as you follow the leader to discover the Harbor.
Despite not having an iconic Sydney Opera House or Harbour Bridge to boast of, Melbourne makes up in hundreds of exceptional restaurants including a vast variety of ethnic cuisines, cool and trendy neighborhoods and probably thousands of coffee shops with each one offering some of the best coffee we’ve tasted. From what we gathered, Melbourne has become one of the biggest coffee snobs in the world. Pure heaven for caffeine addicts like us!
Below are some highlights that we think you should be on your priority list when you visit Melbs.
Found this spot in the neighborhood we stayed called Prahran through the advice of a local friend. (Friends in international cities is the most clutch travel guide you can have.) First, exceptional coffee which you’ll find in every block. But don’t forget to try their Almond and Cornflake Crispy Chicken Burger. We don’t think that needs explaining. It taste as good as it sounds.
While exploring the neighborhood of Fitzroy, a trendy area with tons of brunch spots to keep you full, we discovered this cool little Japanese fusion restaurant with all the right elements of food, ambiance and stylish cocktails. A perfect spot to start your weekend DTD (daytime drinking)!
Continue imbibing with local and visiting friends at this well-known rooftop bar in Fitzroy. Get your beer or rosé while you marvel at the city’s skyline which has been continuously changing in the past few years. This may be the best view deck in Melbourne if you ask us.
Thanks to cool Australian friends we’ve met on a trip 6 years ago in Bolivia, we got a little scenic drive of Ocean Road! You have to save a good day to be able to drive leisurely and make some stop to enjoy the views and even spot some amazing Aussie wildlife!
Dex Fabian contributed to this article.