Sydney is home to many gorgeous natural sights. Where some cities suffer from cement suffocation (looking at you, Toronto), Sydney manages to balance a bustling modern city with beautiful parks, gorgeous beaches, crazy cool mountains and delightful furry friends.
Right outside the famed Opera House are the Botanical Gardens; a gorgeous park that literally winds along Sydney’s busiest streets. You can go from gridlock to greenhouse in a matter of metres.
The Botanical Gardens have lots of picturesque spots and are often the sight of many weddings. I especially loved the archways filled with flowers, ancient statues and rose garden.
The Gardens lead into another beautiful place, Hyde Park. The main walkway is shadowed by a canopy of tall trees and leads to an impressive fountain in the middle of the park. To the left, is the famous St. Mary’s Cathedral. And to the right, lots of shopping!
The beaches of Sydney are also pretty spectacular. I started my sandy tour with the idyllic Manly Beach, a ferry ride away from Central Sydney.
A few days later and I got a little more serious about my beach visiting. I did the well-trekked path from Coogee to Bondi beach. The walk is about 6km but with lots of uphills, downhills, stairs and people to weave around, it feels a lot longer. It probably didn’t help that I felt a compulsive need to take a photo every 50 metres.
But the long walk was so worth it! Sydney’s coastline is incredible! There are a bunch of beaches to check out and lots of interesting sights along the way (like a cemetery). I would absolutely recommend this walk to any future Sydney-visitors.
The Blue Mountains are located in Katoomba, about 2 hours from Sydney by train. The town is very small (kinda like Yamba) and it’s safe to say the mountains are the main draw. You can take a local bus from the train station to Echo Point, for your first view of the mountains. After two hours of fairly flat train-viewed landscape, I was immediately taken with the huge expanse of hills, valleys and greenery. I did a baby-hike (20 minutes tops) to get a closer view of the stars of the Blue Mountains, The Three Sisters.
For the more adventurous (and less afraid of heights) people, there is lots to do at Scenic World, Blue Mountains’ viewing Mecca. You can take a cable car across and then a separate one down to the base of the mountains. Or you can take the world’s steepest railway to the bottom. Once you’re down there, you can enjoy a sky walk or a variety of hiking trails. Unfortunately, being fairly uncomfortable with heights, I decided to keep my viewing on solid ground at the top.
Looking to fill my Aussie animal viewing quota, I took a day trip to the Koala Park Sanctuary, about an hour outside of Sydney by train. It was an awesome park; a cross between a zoo and a reserve. It was very quiet, and the animals had a very cozy natural setting. I wandered around and encountered wallabies, echidnas, wild birds and other native Australian animals.
Next, I walked into the open kangaroo enclosure where you’re able to feed, pet and snuggle up to the kangaroos! It wasn’t as impressive as my first time seeing wild kangaroos in Yamba, but it was still pretty amazing. They were very nonchalant about people petting them and were only too happy to eat right out of my hand!
But the best part of Koala Park was obviously the koalas! An adorable little colony of koalas were sleeping in Eucalyptus trees in the centre of the park. They were so much smaller than I thought they would be. Sleeping, they looked fake! The stuffed animals I’ve seen are fairly accurate representations. I hung around for one of the employees to come and tell us more about koalas. After a brief lesson, she brought one guy, Junior, down from the tree and plied him with leaves while we all took turns snuggling up to him for a photo.
In NSW, it’s illegal for non-keepers to hold koalas, so the best we could do was pet and cuddle with them. But it was still awesome! Their fur is incredibly soft and they’re just as cute up close. I’m hoping to see some wild ones before I leave Australia (fingers crossed!).
From my meet with the koalas, I headed over to a sheep shearing demonstration. After a fairly lengthy talk about the history and present job realities of sheep shearing ($2.80 is the going rate for a sheep and shearers are expected to shear about 200 a day while some get up to 400), Justin brought out a sheep and a few minutes later, the sheep was naked! It was fairly impressive, and a little scary, to watch up close.
On my way out, I wanted to say a last goodbye to the koalas. Luckily, the keeper was still there and offered to bring out another one for the small group of us hanging around. This time we met Kamara, an eleven year old female koala. Snuggling up to her was a perfect ending to my day at Koala Park Sanctuary.