Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sydney, Australia - Dec '13

Day 1 - Sydney CBD, Darling Harbour

Hyde Park - Sydney Tower Eye

Queen Victoria Building (QVB) -  one of Sydney's icon.

Views from inside...

A very old elevator.

The imposing Sydney Town Hall - more than 130 yrs old

Darling Harbour.

Some boats from the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Skyline of Sydney CBD

Pyrmont Bridge

The Star casino

St. Mary's Cathedral opposite Hyde Park - one of the finest English style Gothic churches in the world

As it was the Christmas season, there was nightly performances by singers and choir groups caroling, followed by a beautiful light show at St Mary's Cathedral

Day 2 - Katoomba - The Blue Mountains - Scenic World

 Echo Point provides a vantage point to view the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley

The Blue Mountains - Jamison Valley

Scenic World - 4 ways to see Blue Mt - Railway, Skyway, Cableway and Walkway
Scenic Skyway - walk on air on the Skyway's glass floor. At 270m - it is the highest cable car in Australia

View from glass floor looking into Jamison Valley

Katoomba Falls

Katoomba cascades
Scenic Railway - 52 degree incline - steepest passenger train in the world

The railway coal miners used to ride to the coal mines.
The poor Orphan  Rock -  it has no "sisters"

Scenic  Walkway - longest elevated boardwalk in Australia

Scenic Cableway - Australia's biggest cable car carrying 84 people into the Jamison Valley

Our accommodation at the cozy Leura Garden Room.  Leura is a quaint little village next to Katoomba.

On the way to the Leura Mall for dinner around 7 pm plus, we came across some houses with Christmas decorations. The good thing about travelling in summer is the sun set after 8 pm.  

We wanted to try out the popular Japanese restaurant Hana at the Leura Mall but it was fully booked.  We ended up packing stuff from Woolsworth and had our dinner back in our cottage which had a small kitchen and microwave oven.

Day 3 - Jenolan Caves

The Carrington hotel, a famous historic hotel that we passed by on the way to the pick-up point to the Jenolan Caves. 

The caves are about an hour and a half's drive away from Katoomba.  The journey to the caves cut through some mountains and valleys and had  stunning views

There are numerous underground limestone caves in Jenolan - the popular one are Lucas, Oriental etc with different difficulty levels.  We did the guided tour for Lucas Cave - which is supposed to be the most strenuous with the most steps - 910 steps to be covered in 1.5 hours. It actually turned out not too bad - there were people of all ages in our group, from young children to old folks. The climb was manageable partly because the guide stopped us every now and then to point out interesting features of the cave.  The cave has the highest and largest chambers and got a glimpse of the underground river.

Here are some stunning photos of Lucas Cave...

The most photographed Broken Column


The "bishop" and the "three sisters".

After lunch (we packed our own lunch which is advisable to do), we went on a self-guided tour to the Nettle cave ( free entry if you joined a guided tour) and the beautiful Blue Lake.  If timing is right, one should do the Nettle cave first before the guided tour

On the way back, a friendly kangaroo came to the rest area and the bus driver fed her some carrot. According to the bus driver, every time the bus comes by, the kangaroo would come out and the bus driver would bring a carrot for her.

Downtown Katoomba - with shops and restaurants 
We had dinner at an Italian restaurant which served pretty good pizza and a very friendly boss.  Kids are offered pizza dough to make their own pizza and they can bake them to bring home.  My kids are too old for that and the boss gave them 2 lollies instead :)

Of course, one can't leave Sydney without trying the lamington. 
Afternoon tea at a cafe in downtown Katoomba, which served very good tea and coffee (endorsed by Trip Advisor :)  The lamington was purchased separately from a nearby bakery which was very nice.

Day 4 - Leura, Sydney
After breakfast at the Leura Mall, which was about 30 min walk from the cottage we stayedwe walked around the vicinity of Leura Mall and visited some interesting and quaint shops.

The famous old-school candy store - we bought some eucalyptus honey candy - were told they are very popular

Another famous shop, Bygone Beautys, which sells antiques - such nostalgic feel - simply loves the ambiance in the shop.  They serve coffee and tea too.

Back in Sydney...
Hyde Park, St Mary's Cathedral

Another iconic shopping arcade - Strand Arcade - pretty!

Shopping malls usually close after 5 pm.  Thursday is shopping day in Australia and the shops open till late.


Town hall, which also had  nightly Christmas light show and live performances.

Day 5 - Manly Beach, Chinatown night market
There is no need to take any expensive harbour cruise. Taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly beach is a more economical way to cruise Sydney Harbour - killing 2 birds in one stone. One could get a pretty nice view of Opera House and the Harbour Bridge from the 30 min ferry trip which cost A$14.40 return.

A nice walk from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach

Sea Life Sanctuary at Manly - a small little aquarium.  If you lower your expectation (don't expect the same scale as that in Sentosa, Singapore), there are some interesting exhibits.  Book online is cheaper than walk-in (book the 4 pm slot which is the cheapest as it is nearing closing time at 5 pm - 1 hr is more than enough).

Very delicious seafood chowder for lunch at Manly

Capitol Theatre near Chinatown showing The Lion King - full house.

Chinatown night market at Dixon Street -every Friday night

Day 6 -  Paddington, Sydney Fish Market, Powerhouse Museum, Paddy's Market, Darling Harbour by night

Paddington - a hip suburb - Oxford St - lined with cafes, stylish designer boutiques and historic buildings...you can spend whole afternoon there shopping.......

Paddington Market offering Australian made fashion, jewellery and art and craft - opens every Saturday

Alfresco dinning at the Sydney Fish market overlooking the Anzac Bridge
Lunch at Sydney Fish Market.

Powerhouse Museum - once the power station for Sydney's old tram network, is now Australia's largest museum, hosting interacting experience spanning science, history and design. Kids enjoyed the hand-on gadgets.  They close at 5pm sharp. Need at least 2 hours or more if you want to try on the gadgets.

Sydney tram in front of Paddy's Market

Paddy's Market - a great place for bargain hunting for T-shirts and souvenirs 
- open Wed to Sunday till 5 pm

Dinner at Festive Restaurant in Harbourside Mall overlooking Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay

Fireworks at Darling Harbour on every Sat 9 pm

Day 7 - The Rocks, Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Royal Botanic Garden
The Rocks - a blend of old and new - from heritage architecture and cobblestoned laneways to modern bars and restaurants
Harbour Bridge - opened in 1932

You could climb up the Harbour Bridge if you don't mind parting with A$200 plus for that experience

The walk across the bridge is free and one could get equally panoramic views.  Alternatively, pay a small fee and get up to Pylon Lookout 

The Rocks market - opens on Saturday and Sunday

Museum of Contemporary Art

Lunch at Opera Bar at the basement of Opera House. Restaurant was busy but service was fast.  They served very good pizza (the lamb one was good), salad and pasta.  Enjoyed the lunch.

Constructed between 1959 and 1975 and designed by a Danish architect

Royal Botanic Garden - next to the Opera House - nice

The garden seems like a popular place to hold wedding

Mrs Macquarie's Point - at the Royal Botanic Garden - best vantage point offering a stunning view of both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Mrs Macquarie's chair

We chanced upon the Woolloomooloo Bay on our way back from Botanic Garden to our hotel and spent a lazy afternoon at a bar at the historic Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel 

Stanley St near our hotel has some very good restaurants with reasonable price - Sushi at Stanley and Lemongrass Thai restaurant

Day 8 - Port Stephens - sandboarding, 4WD, dolphin watching

Port Stephens is about 3 hours drive from Sydney
Sandboarding and 4WD at Stockton Bight sand dunes- The sand was scotching hot while we made our way up the dune.  It was a bit scary initially as the dune was rather steep.  But once we overcame that, it was fun!

Dolphin watching at Nelson Bay

Ride on boom net

A good trip overall - put lots of sunblock if you are travelling to Sydney in summer.  If you plan to rent a car, please bring along your home country's original driving licence.  The car rental companies need both the home and international licence before they rent you the car, unlike some cities where international licence alone will suffice.

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