At the end of my second full day of walking around Melbourne, I boarded the train for Sydney.
Even though I knew my time there would be short, I just couldn’t imagine being in Australia and not visiting the capital city of New South Wales. The train would be a perfect way to accomplish the goal. I’d sleep on the overnight train, spend a full day exploring, and then head back to Melbourne via the daytime train. I walked from the hotel to the Southern Cross station and stored most of my luggage in a locker. With my camera in hand I boarded the XTP for the 960 K (600 mile) ride to Sydney.
Before closing my eyes, I pondered how to spend the few hours that I had. Friends offered wonderful suggestions and I knew I’d have trouble choosing the best options. Should I:
Take a tour of the Opera House or do the Bridge Climb?
Go shopping at The Rocks?
Take the ferry to Manly Beach?
Enjoy the Botanical Gardens?
Or just walk around Darling Harbour.
Ultimately, I chose a 5 mile walking tour. I’d miss the interior details of the Opera House and the thrill of the Bridge Climb, but I’d experience the big picture and get an overall taste of this vibrant city. After leaving my overnight luggage at my hotel, I walked by the Queen Victoria Building, completed in 1898, and through Hyde Park, Sydney’s Central Park. Aren’t those trees stunning?
The Sydney Harbour Walk officially starts at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and when I stopped by, a ceremony celebrating the 21st Biennale of Sydney was in process. An aboriginal native walked through the crowd with a smudge stick, which I learned was used to promote healing and clear energy fields.
I walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens and along the harbour pathway towards Mrs. Macquarie’s Point. Lady Macquarie’s Chair is an exposed standstone rock cut into the shape of a bench which was hand carved by convicts in 1810 for Governor Macquarie’s wife Elizabeth. Folklore has it that she used to sit on the rock and watch for ships from Great Britain sailing into the harbour.
As I turned from viewing Elizabeth’s chair, I caught my first views of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. My breath caught at the site of these iconic images, and I couldn’t believe I was there!
Can you see the folks doing the bridge climb in these next images? I have to admit to feeling some regret about missing it.
I continued my walk to Circular Quay and found an outside cafe for a cold beer and some calamari.
I watched a variety of ferries coming and going and made the decision to take the Fast Ferry to Manley Beach.
The Fast Ferry was really fast, taking just 18 minutes to get from Sydney Harbour to Manley Beach, and I had great difficulty holding the camera steady to get these views of the cliffs. Even still, the ride was so much fun and I loved feeling the wind in my face. I almost like I was riding the motorcycle!
After the ferry docked, I walked around to Dawes Point, passed Observatory Hill and towards the area known as The Rocks, the historic district of Sydney. Established in 1788, and once under threat of demolition, the area now hosts open air markets, boutique shops, and pubs and restaurants. Of course, I was forced to enjoy another australian beer. Poor me!
After hours of exploring, and thoroughly enjoying myself, I walked back to the hotel to get cleaned up for dinner. My final walk for the evening was to the King Street Wharf where I devoured a delicious meal and lovely glass of wine (or two). Then it was time for sleep. The train back to Melbourne would pull out of the Sydney Central Station at 7am the next morning.
What would you do if you only had 12 hours in Sydney?