Samantha took in the breathtaking view of Sydney’s harbor from Taronga Zoo.

After a surprising and enjoyable first week in Sydney, here are my top thoughts from Week Number Two:

1. All zoos should overlook harbors.

I suppose a harbor view isn’t mandatory, but it sure is stunning! Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is not only placed perfectly on a hill that overlooks the famous Sydney Harbor and Opera House, but it is well-organized, surrounded by greenery, and informative. There are even sections where you walk among the docile kangaroos without barriers! (See how the boy in the picture below even gets to pet the emu!)

A boy pets an emu at a walkabout among the animals at Taronga Zoo.
A boy pets an emu at a walkabout among the animals at Taronga Zoo.

2. Australia is gigantic, but worth the distance.

I knew of Australia’s size before coming, but in being here and talking with other people about their travels, I have to admit that I am a bit jealous that I haven’t yet seen more of this beautiful country. I have really enjoyed spending more time in one city and not rushing around from Place A to Place B. Next time, however, I hope I have more time to explore elsewhere as well. There would have been a period when the shortness of my trip would’ve persuaded me not to come, but I am glad that I didn’t let that stop me. Don’t let the distance slow you down, either — even a short(er) trip is worthwhile!

3. Get to the mountains.

Wonderfully, there are scenic jaunts in and around Sydney. Just a two-hour train ride away sit the Blue Mountains. Visit the small town of Katoomba, walk along the cliff path that overlooks a lush valley that seems to go on in all directions, and ride the Sky Tram across the waterfall!

4. Hills are for napping; beaches are for walking.

Even a wintertime promenade around the famous Bondi beach is delightful. During my walk, the weather was crisp enough not to feel overheated but sunny enough to be enjoyable and lovely. Tourists and inhabitants alike rested on the hill overlooking the beach, taking in the sun’s rays after a rare week of rain. There is also a path that takes you along the water from Bondi beach, along smaller beaches, to Coogee beach.

5. I want to ride more ferries.

The ferries in Sydney are not only for sightseeing; they hold daily commuters and lead to valuable destinations. Take the ferry to Manly and see a cute town with its own beach, ready to rival Bondi. The walk along the pointe will be filled with views of the water, the town, and stone cliffs. It’s hard to believe this is just a short trip from downtown Sydney! You can also take the ferry to the zoo. Get a combined ticket that includes ferry ride, zoo entrance, and gondola ride to the top entrance of the zoo. Even on rainy days the ferries provide a stunning way to take in the full experience of the Harbor.

6. Sydney does coffee really well.

Besides the fact that coffee drinks have different names (e.g. a “flat white” refers to a latte), the predominance of espresso-based drinks is quite impressive. You would be hard pressed to find drip/filter coffee. It would be a safer bet to ask for an Americano (espresso with hot water) instead. It appears that Sydney takes its coffee as seriously as England takes its tea.

7. Diversity is relative.

While my first post expressed appreciation for the abundance of Thai food, I must now calm my claim that Sydney has everything a food-lover could desire. Living in Florida, I missed nationally-specific ethnic cuisine, rather than Asian fusion for example; however, in Sydney the Mexican and other Latin-based cuisine is lacking. Obviously, I’m being nitpicky. The food in Sydney was thoroughly enjoyable. And the diversity of available delivery was delightful. However, I do realize that the impression of a diverse food culture really is relative to what food culture you’ve just left behind. The same goes for population. In fact, it would make sense that population diversity and restaurant diversity go hand-in-hand. Though Sydney may be more ethnically diverse than, say, Ft. Lauderdale, it’s not Los Angeles. But it doesn’t pretend to be. (And thank goodness it has better public transportation than L.A.! Which brings me to…)

8. Sydney is for travelers.

It is fairly easy to get around Sydney. There are both trains and buses that will take you practically anywhere. The bus stops all have maps of the city’s routes and clearly marked stops. They are frequent and clean. The trains, too, will take you both around town and out to the neighboring areas. If need be, there is always an available cab driving by. And, of course, there are the ferries!

9. Alcohol is expensive.

I don’t know why, but even Australian wine is expensive, often around 10 AUD for a small glass. It is much cheaper to drink at home, but that doesn’t make it very easy to meet people. Had I known, I would’ve stopped at the duty free store before arriving.

10. How do I stay?

As my host (and cousin) put it: The second you land in Sydney, you think about how to stay. Many get work and holiday visas so they can extend their trip by finding work without needing a job contract prior to arriving. Others make return visits or look for permanent jobs that would sponsor a work visa. I could see myself doing either in the near future.

Sydney is a town of individualized, smaller neighborhoods, charming cafes, and impressive espresso. From the elegant architecture of downtown and the street art of Newtown, to the green peacefulness of the Botanical Gardens and the breathtaking appeal of the Opera House, Sydney has it all. It is stunning and welcoming and carefree. I highly recommend a visit; it has something for every appetite.