Country Diaries

48 hours in Sydney

Sydney is a show pony – a teasing minx with her blue skies, beaches, boats and sparkling harbour. After a decade dining, drinking and discovering in this superb city, here’s my 48 hour guide.

Day One –  sails, seafood and small bars

The Rocks is Sydney’s historic, and tourist, centre and your perfect starting point to drink in superb views around the harbour including the iconic bridge, and Opera House.

The Rocks

Take the mandatory snap in front of the gleaming white sails of the Opera House and meander down the charming, cobbled laneways where European settlers first came in 1788.

The Rocks is the best place to get a flavour for Sydney, past and present and spending a pleasant morning checking out the many art galleries and tea shops.

History buffs can take in a walking tour to hear the colourful stories of convicts and sailors from this interesting area and colourful weekend markets are filled with an abundance of colourful goods from crafts to indigenous art.

Sydney Fish Market

When you’ve had your fill of culture, a spot of lunch? I firmly believe your first meal in Sydney should be seafood. If you want to taste the freshest in town – and you really should – head to Sydney Fish Market.

Smelly, lively and bustling – this is a working port and you’ll need to fight your way through the crowds. There’s a handy bottle shop, bakery and fruit shop with juice bar for those ‘dining’ in.

Seafood can be cooked to order and you can pick up platters of the best Balmain bugs, blue swimmer crab and lobster mornay in town without paying extortionate restaurant costs.

Stock up on everything you need and find a patch of grass outside – just beware, the hungry seagulls don’t get to your chips before you do.

Newtown

For an afternoon exploring a different side to Sydney, head to Newtown, a couple of kilometres out from the CBD and just ten minutes on the train.

Newtown is the seedy heart of Sydney’s inner-west. Definitely not the glitziest part of Sydney – but if shopping, dining, drinking and people-watching is your thing – definitely worth a visit.

Newtown’s main drag, King St, is a melting pot of students, hipsters, basket weavers and goths. It’s also the best Sydney spot to discover amazing vintage shops, quirky boutiques,  and eclectic dining – anything from African to Scandinavian goes.

While you’re there, be sure to check out some of Sydney’s best – and quirkiest – small bars.

We lived opposite Earl’s Juke Joint for two years before realising the grotty, old, butcher’s shop complete with metal grille on the door was actually a front for one of Newtown’s most happening bars.

Day 2 – boats, beaches and beer

Devote your second day to one of Sydney’s many great beaches. Of course, you might want to visit Bondi, but a day trip across the north side of the harbour bridge to Manly is my recommendation.

Manly

Grab ferry from wharf three at Circular Quay and skim across the shimmering harbour to Manly. This is also the secret to nabbing the best views of the opera house and harbour bridge.

The ferry takes exactly thirty minutes, passing the opera house and wide-toothed smile entrance to Luna Park – Sydney’s iconic 1930’s amusement park. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a dolphin or two en route.

Once you arrive in Manly, you’ll notice the pace of life kicks back a notch. Folks round these parts are relaxed, they leave their attitude – and often their shoes – at home.

A pleasant morning can be passed chilling at Manly Brach or exploring the shops on The Corso. The wharf offers a range of dining options – lobster rolls at Wharf Bar and wood-fired pizza at Hugos. The popular Bavarian Beer Cafe offers humungous rustic plates of sour kraut and schnitzel and a vast selection of beers, served ice cold Aussie-style.

Shelly Beach

A short walk down from Manly, lies Shelly Beach. The water here is only about 12 metres deep and very still, so its a great spot for beginner scuba divers.

If diving’s not your thing, Shelly Beach has electric barbecues, toilets and showers so you can easily pass a pleasant afternoon.

Head back to Manly in time for sunset – you won’t regret it. At  Manly 16ft Skiff Club, you can nab yourself the best views across the beach.

Grab a cold beer and order the lobster-topped seafood platter teaming with delicious Balmain bugs, Aussie prawns and calamari. Sit back, kick off your Havaianas, and enjoy the view as the sun sinks on your second day in Sydney.

Have you been to Sydney? What were your favourite spots? 

Quitting work for travel

 Leaving a job with no safety net can be unnerving – our careers can contribute to a sense of identity, offering up reassurance, stability, and of course – that handy pay check.

I considered all these things very carefully – and then I left my job.

To follow our dreams of globetrotting for a few months, then relocating to the English countryside, it really was entirely necessary. Yet it didn’t feel very sensible.

I’ve spent ten years slowly climbing the corporate ladder. Now, in one roll of the dice, I’ve chosen to slide down a snake back to the start of the game. I should feel horrible right?

Nope, I feel great! Hello freedom – quality time with my dog, lovely pottering and trashy reality TV. The bliss of waking up gently in the morning, rather than diving out of bed in a full-blown panic as soon as the alarm goes off.

Now, before I get ahead of myself, I’m aware this initial rush of euphoria may fade and in another week or so, I’ll be rocking in the corner, wailing ‘what have we done?

Reassurance, stability, and that handy pay check are rather useful things in life, after all.

And I’d be lying if I said anxious thoughts don’t occasionally creep in. The big one – are we crazy?  A decade spent building careers and a home, only to detonate it all and start again.

Fellow Sydneysiders keep delighting in telling us we are totally mad to leave. A guy from Gumtree yesterday picking up a table I was selling inquired where we’re off to.

“Tree change. English countryside,” I explained. “Ha, that won’t last,” he said. “You’ll soon be back in Sydney.”

“I know, we must be totally mad,” I pre-empted. “All that rain. Completely off our heads. What a pair of idiots! Ahahahaha”

But of course, we wouldn’t actually be doing it in the first place unless we thought there was a chance it might be quite pleasant.

And best of all, if the ‘madness’ of following our dreams doesn’t work out – we can always return to city-living, corporate jobs and a big serve of ‘sensible’ again any time in the future.

Has anyone else left their job to travel, or move overseas? Any regrets?

Gin with a spin

When life hands you lemons – make a gin and tonic. There’s no tipple in the world more refreshing on a hot, summer’s day.

Personally, I like my gin and tonic with  cucumber, as well as, the lemon. It adds a hint of freshness and since we’re off to Blighty soon, I feel it’s a suitably English way to go.

My go-to gin is generally London or Bombay Sapphire. The gin purists may not agree with the latter, but I just adore that elegant bottle in its cool shades of blue.

Now, I’m not advocating that you should always bling up us your gin and tonic, because sometimes classic old-school with ice and a slice is exactly what you need.

However, if you feel like showing-off impressing friends it can be fun to infuse your booze.

The gin and tonic yumminess can be subtly enhanced with a sprig herbs, or slice of fruit. And an added bonus is that it will look sexy, gorgeous too.

Peach and rosemary gin & tonic

This is a lovely summery drink – juicy, fresh peaches for sweetness and a sprig of rosemary adds a zingy smell of fresh pine as you sup.

It’s important you make sure your peaches are super ripe, otherwise they will lack flavour. I like yellow-flesh peaches, but the white ones will do quite nicely too.

A short glass, as opposed to the traditional high-ball, will help ensure all those delicious aromas quickly assault your nostrils. For added smugness, you could freeze rosemary inside your ice cubes.

  • 1 part gin (if you feel like a double measure, that’s totally dandy)
  • 2 parts tonic
  • Half a dozen ice cubes
  • Half a peach sliced
  • Rosemary sprig
  • Lime, or lemon, for that citrus tang.

Throw all the ingredients into a class, whirl it all round with a stirrer and top with your rosemary garnish. Once you’re finished, there’s the added bonus of those delicious boozy, gin-infused peach slices at the bottom of your glass.

It has been said that rosemary works as a memory booster which might helpfully counter the brain-numbing effect of the gin after one too many. (Of course this won’t actually work,but it’s a nice thought, no?).

What’s your favourite gin with a spin? Or do you prefer the classic ice and a slice?

1 4 5 6