Three weeks in Sydney
With little sleep on New Years Eve we flew to Sydney early on New Years Day to begin a few weeks house and pet sitting for two families. We sat in the Ryde neighborhood with Bruno, the sweet overweight Chocolate Lab and then watched Rex in Stanmore, the 10-month-old energetic & smart Jack Russel Terrier. When not tending to the dogs we spent time exploring Sydney and it’s surrounding areas. Read further to discover more about Sydney and all the surrounding area has to offer.
Sitting in Sydney
Bruno the Beast
Upon arrival in Sydney we snagged a taxi to Craig and Irena’s house to see them off and begin our first house/pet sit. Bruno is a big chocolate lab that loves to eat chicken bones and does not enjoy walking. Little did he know he was stuck with an active couple. We got Bruno into a healthy routine of walking longer in the morning and evening at his favorite parks, but kept his eating routine the same — almost. I usually dropped a few healthy carrots on the ground when cooking to keep him from begging and stepping on our toes in the kitchen. He got used to us around and after a while he would jump on the couch thinking he could be a lap dog — nearly squishing us. He was a big love during our time sitting him.
Rex the T-Rex
On the other end of the spectrum we took care of Rex. He is a youthful ball of energy jack russell whose cute looks were deceiving. His four humans went on holiday south of Sydney to take a break from the city, work and school, leaving us in their modern renovated home in Stanmore (Western suburb) with the rascal. He was smarter than we anticipated and knew how to push our buttons. We enjoyed taking him to the dog park where he picked on the big dogs who put him in his place. He had a quite a high pitch bark and our shoe laces were always his chewing targets, but he was no match for the water bottle sprayer! We kept him on his usual routine — walks to the dog park, doggie play time and eating. He was a slow eater and birds would often gather around his bowl to snag a few pieces. We taught him to ‘chase the birds’ real quick. Although Rex exhausted us quite a bit, we did grow fond of him by the end.
After settling into a routine at each of the sitting jobs we laid a plan in order to make the most out of Sydney. With a car to use for half the time and our adventurous curiosity to guide us when off ‘dog duty,’ we discovered a variety of the beaches, parks and urban sights.
Exploring Sydney and Beyond
Adventures outside the city:
We day tripped to Manly Beach, a northern beach that tourists frequently visit via ferry boat, a few times. Our first trip we planned to surf, but it was a low swell for surfing so we decided to hit the sandy beach volleyball courts. As amateurs, we picked up a game with a few local guys and played a few rounds. It was fun to hit the courts and meet some locals on the beach! Our second trip to Manly we walked the beach and took a dip in the ocean. The water was still fresh for the start of summer.
One of our favorite day trips was to the Royal National Park for mountain biking, hiking and swimming. We arrived at the Audley Boathouse where bikes, canoes and kayaks are rented. We opted to ride a trail instead of paddle on the river. We rode our clunky bikes over 18 kilometers south in the park until our legs were tuckered out. We then stopped for lunch where some interesting birds thought we would share. We finished our day trip with a 4km hike to Winifred Falls to swim and jump off the falls. It was a peaceful place to cool off and enjoy being in nature with a few others relaxing in the sun.
We went back to the Royal National Park a few days later to visit Wattamolla Beach which is comprised of a sandy breach, an inland lagoon and a cascading waterfall to jump off. The day was cloudy and made for a lousy beach day but we ate a picnic lunch and swam in the ocean enjoying a day out of the city. We took a few of the coastal ridge walks and fell upon a rare sighting… a laughing kookaburra.
Inland 50 kilometers of Sydney lie the Blue Mountains, a range of mountains and escarpments extending off the Great Dividing Range. The mountains called and we responded by going hiking. After a morning ridge walk we hiked the famous Three Sisters trail where three peaks can be seen perfectly aligned in the distance. The rock structures and views were beautiful.
One afternoon I took a train trip south to Cronulla, a southern beachside suburb, to meet a fitness trainer I met through Instagram, Achieving Balance. She is an inspirational trainer and it was wonderful to gain perspective of the fitness trends in Australia and the challenges she faces with clients and teaching. It was fun to swap stories of our lives, travels and fitness tips. If anyone is looking for fitness inspiration, she’s your gal! After meeting with her I walked the beach and contemplated swimming in the Cronulla bath, but the rain decided for me.
Adventures in Sydney…
Go Thunder! We got a hankering to go to a sporting event so we decided to see a cricket match in the Big Bash League. We watched Sydney and Perth battle it out and joined the crowd cheering for the Sydney Thunder even though they got killed. It was very similar to an American baseball game and we enjoyed being in a stadium with roaring crowds, cheap beers and an entertaining ball game.
One day Will went to the Sydney Observatory. He learned about the southern cross and saw one of the first instruments used to view them. Instead of watching any of the 3-D movies he walked around Bangaroo Reserve, the newest park on the north-western tip of Sydney’s Central Business District.
We took some advice from Craig and went running/walking on the coastal ridge track from Cremorne Point to Taronga Zoo which displayed a view of Sydney Harbor and beautiful properties along the coast. Once we arrived at the zoo we took a ferry boat to Circular Quay, the main ferry terminal situated at Sydney Cove, the site of the original settlement for Sydney. We strolled through The Rocks, a historical precinct with cobbled laneways, cosy cafés and old pubs. After enjoying a coffee and snack we wandered into The Rocks Discovery Museum to read about the land changes of Australia, the aboriginal people that inhabited Australia beginning about 65,000 years ago, and the European invasion of Australia in 1788. I couldn’t help feeling bad for destruction of the Aboriginal culture and was fascinated with the formation of the penal colony.
A First Fleet of British ships arrived at Botany Bay in January 1788 to establish a penal colony. In the century that followed, the British established other colonies on the continent, and European explorers ventured into its interior. Indigenous Australians were greatly weakened and their numbers diminished by introduced diseases and conflict with the colonists during this period.
For our first week rain fell over the area so we headed to work on our climbing skills at Rock Fit indoor gym a few times. The gym was filled with a variety of people building their skills and kids learning while running around. It proved to be a great place to challenge each other on different routes and develop different techniques.
We also climbed at the Sydney Indoor Climbing Gym during our second pet sit and were amazed by the size of the space. We each climbed about 10 total pitches with a 14-17 rating. Our tallest wall was 16 meters to the roof and our bodies were fatigued fairly quickly after that. We hope to continue our climbing skills and head outdoors with some gear once back in the states.
On a sunny morning we walked the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk and met up with two friends from Portland, Cam & Lara. I worked with Cam at The Clymb and hadn’t seen them in over a year at our ‘send off’ party. We walked to Sensory Lab in Bondi, a chic coffee shop with great food and amazing espresso, and enjoyed indulging over delicious drinks and great conversation. After catching up we visited two of the great Baths: Bronte and Coogee for some swimming. The baths were fun since the waves would splash over the side bringing a few fish and waves into the pool. The not so fun part of the day was visiting a sports pediatrist for my foot and ongoing plantar fasciitis pain. Now I’m working through a Pex anserinus injury along with plantar pain and taking it easy on running.
The second time we visited Bondi Beach we dared to surf and rented boards + suits. After flighting the surf and catching a few seconds of waves over the course of two hours we returned to shore, plopped our bums in the sand and relaxed our fatigued muscles. Surfing is one challenging yet rewarding sport! We found a cafe along the promenade to enjoy the beach front view over a fruit juice and iced mocha.
Oh the pools! Sydney had lots to offer when it came to 50 meter swimming pools. While there we visited four pools and a few of the ‘bath’ pools.
- The Victoria Park Pool was located at the Sydney University campus smack in the center of Sydney’s downtown Victoria Park. We swam once on a hot afternoon and once in the evening for a post-swim picnic dinner of left over curry. It was a casual outdoor pool with green lawns surrounding.
- We took the train to the Prince Alfred Pool for a morning pool session and realized how simple public transit was. It was similar to the Tube in London. The pool was right off the central train stop but you would never know. It is a few blocks away with green lawn surrounding and stands with umbrellas to escape the harsh UV rays.
- On our last day we spent the morning cleaning up the house and then went swimming at the Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool which is named after a famed Olympic freestyle swimmer from the 1920s. The salt water pool was on the harbor near the Botanical Garden. We enjoyed the swim completing 2200 meters each.
On a rainy night we headed to the Adam Hills comedy show in the Sydney Opera House. The historic World Heritage Site that took a Danish designer and the Premier of NSW 15 years to complete has always been a fascination of mine. Before the show we got drinks at the Opera Bar under some umbrellas in the warm rain. Upon arrival in the Opera House we were caught off guard by the raw interior. We thought it would be exquisitely decorated and built-out, but instead we observed the wooden beams supporting the steel roof structure and the large windows wrapped around the building. We enjoyed doing a self-guided tour before the show and watched ships sail on the stormy waters in the Sydney Harbor. Adam Hills, a globetrotting stand-up comedian with a heartfelt purpose behind his show, was an impressive comedian. We were laughing to the point of crying over his impressions and down-to-earth humorous presentation. Here is a taste of what we experienced: Australian accents.
We spent a few days in Sydney exploring on foot. One of the days we wandered through Hyde park, observed the historic St. Mary’s Cathedral and visited the expansively lush Royal Botanical Garden. We enjoyed checking out the succulents garden that reminded us of South America and had a picnic on one of the lawns. The end of the gardens is on a peninsula overlooking the Harbor where Mrs Macquarie’s Chair can be found. The 1810 sandstone bench, carved by convicts, was a governor’s wife’s spot where she watched ships from Great Britain sail into the harbor. After our bench break we got lost in the Art Gallery of New South Wales where we found aboriginal art and the 18th century Australian art the most compelling. We saw a painting of the Milford Sound which is in New Zealand and got excited about our next and last country. The last place we visited was the State Library of NSW to see the building and relax.
The Sydney the sun was shining one day so we took a walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The wind caught us off guard, but we crossed the 3,770 foot steel structure in ease into The Rocks. This area of Sydney was where the original english colony began and is now a historical market district. We walked the Sunday craft market and I picked up a ring from a Polish crafts woman. We talked about how well my mom’s handcrafted pine needle baskets would sell and we could run the booth. We topped off the day with a ferry boat trip to Watsons Bay, the eastern most point of Sydney where the ocean enters the Sydney Harbor. It is Aussie’s oldest fishing village with a scenic coastal ridge walk overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Since it was a hot afternoon we waded along the white sandy beach in the harbor before catching the ferry back home.
The neighborhood of Stanmore and Newtown, where we were pet sitting, had plenty for us to do in walking distance. We took a rainy day to explore Kings Street’s retro stores, boutiques and abundance of cosy cafes. On a separate occasion we walked Rex to a bigger dog park and stopped for gelato at Cow and the Moon where we tried our first affogato (a scoop of vanilla gelato with a shot of espresso over top…very Italian!) and tried as many as the unique flavors as we could. Lemon with chocolate was my favorite! When we arrived home Will made his first Kangaroo burger on the BBQ for dinner. He said it was gamey tasting, but delicious.
The best biking experience in the city was in Centennial Park where we rented bikes from Centennial Park Cycles and rode to Bronte Beach for a dip. After biking 5km in the summer heat we were ready for a cool down, but had to make it quick because the blue bottle jellyfish infestation along the beach. The blue bottles, also known as the Portuguese man-o’-war, make an appearance off the eastern coast of AUS when the waters warm and winds pick up. We timidly jumped in and quickly out of the water hoping to not get stung. Although others were getting stung from the up-to-3 meter long tentacles which wrap around human limbs (or prey).
A must do in Sydney is eating at the bustling Sydney Fish Market. We were amazed by tons of seafood that comes into the harbor everyday and observed the crowds hoarding around long tables chowing on an assortment of fried and fresh seafood. Although I was overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle we managed to enjoy salmon sashimi and a salmon sushi roll and a fresh squeezed orange mango juice on the deck of the fish market in the 94 degree heat.
I took a day to explore China Town and was amazed by the Asian micro-city within Sydney. I strolled through Paddy’s Market where cheap Made in China items, fresh produce and aboriginal Australian souvenirs were sold in a large warehouse. Without long I passed a fresh dumpling restaurant and got several dumplings for lunch to eat in the Chinese Gardens. I was impressed with the neatly pruned bonsai trees and immaculate garden but was less thrilled to see the sky scrapers and new construction surrounding the peaceful park.
Our time in Sydney went by so quickly! On January 24th we got dropped off by Rex’s mom at the airport and headed to Cairns, Australia to go diving on The Great Barrier Reef. Stay tuned to see if we completed all 11 dives in 3 days aboard a boat with 30 other divers and what we experienced in the jungle of northern Queensland.
Until next time fellow readers. How are you finding adventure of your own?
Jenny & Will