Sydney – my hometown at the moment!
The iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House take the limelight for near every tourist and, even though right now it’s a daily event for me, watching them fade in and out of, view as I ferry commute to work is always a bit of a kick!
But for me Sydney is all about the fantastic lifestyle it offers. With a mass of beaches, bush, and rivers, and you literally don’t need to leave the city limits for a myriad of walking, cycling, surfing, swimming, sailing, paddle-boarding, mountain biking, kayaking, bird watching and whale watching opportunities to name a few. It quickly becomes simply too easy to just stay put in weekends because you have it all right here on the proverbial doorstep!
So for those of you on the road, once you have taken the obligatory snaps of the ‘Rocks,’ the Opera House and the Bridge – preferably from the, locally famous, Manly Ferry, the real Sydney is easily found by putting on your walking shoes and taking a bit of a hike! There are a few walks that can be done quickly and easily from the common tourist spots, so even if your visit is short, you can quickly get a real taste of what the city has to offer for its residents.
The first, and most accessible given its tourist-central location, is a quick and easy walk across the Harbour Bridge itself – walk alongside the cars and trains for great views of the Opera House and the passing boat traffic. For a bit more of a taste, combine this with a meander down the lane-ways of the 'Rocks' (Sydney's historic slum now somewhat gentrified), around the opera house, and through the adjacent Botanic Gardens to get a better picture of the city-side harbour.
Given the Manly Ferry is the best place to snap pics of the Bridge (see above for one I took last night coming home) and the Opera House, the next easy and excellent option is to combine the ferry ride with a short walk from Manly to Shelly Beach. It’s a quick 30-40 minute return walk but you’re far better to take a bit of time given the numerous things to notice along the way.
Small sculptures of local wildlife and shells dot the path intermittently, often water dragons are seen (or mistaken for sculptures) under the trees or at the beach, you pass one of the northern beaches famous outdoor pools complete with own statue.
Shelley beach itself is a wonderful swimming spot and the snorkeling is great – a huge variety of fish live along the bay between Shelley and Manly beaches – so bring your snorkel and swimmers if you have time! You can add a short 10 minutes to the walk through the bush and around the small headland – giving a taste of the seascape and cliffs, and possibly a whale sighting.
Third, Bondi Beach – home to the odd TV show and occasional celebrity spotting. On the tourist map, Bondi Beach is also the start of a beautiful coastal walk to another popular beach - Bronte. It takes a couple of hours return and you are rewarded with plenty of coastal beauty and views as far as the eye can see, along with the mesmerizing crashing of Pacific rollers onto rocks, coves and beaches below.
Another walk easy to fit in with a visit to Taronga zoo if you are heading that way, is from the Taronga Ferry terminal to Chowder Bay, via Bradley's Head. This passes Athol Hall - with superb views back across the harbour to the city and bridge, up onto cliffs above the bay with even better city views. If you keep going you will get to Taylors Bay - watch out for plenty of birds and butterflies (and yes, spiders too)! And if you carry on and get to Chowder Bay you will also find plenty of crabs to catch! Given my love of the small critters, you can see why I had to mention this walk!
I couldn't resist posting this pic of one of the locals en route to Chowder Bay - hanging way above so nothing to worry about!