2 Weeks in Australia


A Bit About Oz

When we were planning our trip to Australia, we realized how difficult it would be to cover the best parts of the country in only 2 weeks due to the sheer size of Australia.  In fact, for those of you who don’t know, Australia is the world’s largest island and is just as large in land mass as the lower 48 states of the USA!  

The official language is English and the currency exchange was in our favor with 1 Australian dollar equaling $0.79 USD.  But even with the 20% currency discount, we found Australia to be a very expensive country, especially where food and drinks are concerned.  You can expect to pay $30AUD for a 6 pack of beer and $25AUD for a plate of bacon and eggs.  

As soon as we arrived in Sydney, we wished we had loaded up on wine and spirits at the duty free shop in the airport as it’s MUCH MUCH cheaper there.   So, in general, get ready to experience higher pricing than you may be used to here in the USA.

Since we didn’t know much about Australia before we planned our trip, we decided to spend 1 week in Sydney and 1 week in Melbourne. On January 2nd, we left Bali for a 6-hour direct flight into Sydney. 

1 Week in Sydney

At first blush, the CBD (central business district) in Sydney can be compared to a cleaner, smaller version of New York City.  It definitely has that urban, big-city feel but with that casual Aussie vibe.  It’s not a very hard city to get around in. In fact, we enjoyed walking and we also enjoyed using the public transportation as well.  We stayed at the Meriton Suites World Tower and were fortunate to have a room on the 77th floor with panoramic views of the city.  The hotels are fairly expensive, especially if you want to be in or near the CBD.  If you head outside of the city, you can find better pricing on hotels and home rentals.  

We found that 1 week in Sydney was more than enough time to see the main highlights.  In fact, if we had to do it all over again, we would’ve shortened our time in Sydney and tried to see another city like Perth or Brisbane as well. 

As far as top attractions to do and see in Sydney, here is a list of the Top 8 city sites:

  1. Sydney Opera House – it’s pretty much impossible to visit Sydney without seeing the iconic opera house.  We enjoyed catching it from many different angles on foot because it really is an architectural masterpiece.  But it’s not enough to only see it from the outside.  At the very least, book an hour walking tour of the place which teaches you about its history and how it was built.  You can also see a show at the opera house, as it’s open for concerts, plays and performances almost every day of the week.  And don’t worry, it’s NOT just for opera performances either. Make sure to check the schedule before you go and pick up some tickets to see a performance in the Sydney Opera House.
  2. Sydney Harbour Bridge – Once you make it down to the harbor to see the Opera House, you can’t help but gawk at the gorgeous Harbour Bridge in the distance.   You can walk to a platform on the  bridge for lovely views; or, you can even do the bridge climb if you are adventurous and have the funds.  Prices range from $250-400 per person.
  3. BONDI BEACH - You can take the Ferry, Bus or Taxi to Bondi Beach which is great on a scorching hot day. The area is gorgeous with an endless sandy beach and feels a bit isolated without any traditional beach clubs or hardly a restaurant/bar to seek shade and relaxation.  Bring your own provisions just in case. We tried to rent a beach umbrella but they were sold out before noon.  The water is frigid at all times of the year but it’s best to visit in the summer months (January/February). We also went to Icebergs which came highly recommended from the hotel and friends.  We were disappointed because we thought it would be a beach club with lounge chairs and umbrellas. It’s more of a YMCA-style club with an infinity pool. But, the restaurant is excellent for a meal and/or drinks!
  4. MANLY BEACH - Head to Circular Quay. This is where the ferry boat terminals are. You can take the Ferry to any number of areas but our favorite was Manly Beach. It has the feel of a small Southern California beach town with its own Aussie charm. Spend the day enjoying the beach, shopping the market and dining at the many restaurant options. The ferry ride is gorgeous and picturesque too.
  5. Darling Harbour - Walk down to around Darling Harbour for lovely city views and great dining and entertainment options.  We went to the Wild Wildnerness Park  which was fun because we were able to see all sorts of indigenous animals like Roos, Koalas, Crocs, Wombats, Tasmanian Devils, etc. After the fact, we heard that we should’ve also gone to see the Toranga Zoo.  There are many activities for children and families down in Darling Harbour. 
  6. Royal Botanical Gardens – Spend a morning walking through the Royal Botanical Gardens. You will see some beautiful trees, plants and flowers of all species.  It’s a great place for a run, stroll or even a picnic.  The pathway takes you all the way to the Opera House too.  
  7. Day trip to Blue Mountain – Take a small group tour to Blue Mountain which includes a visit to Featherdale Wildlife Park.  It’s a fun day in the outdoors and you’re likely to spot some wildlife as well.
  8. Shop the Markets: If you like shopping, Sydney offers heaps of markets to quench your thirst for shopping!  There are Farmers Markets, Lifestyle Markets, and Night Markets all over the city and all on different days of the week.  Just make sure to check each market’s operating hours before you head out or you may be disappointed. 

Tips on Food in Sydney!

The food options in Sydney are endless and plentiful.  There are heaps of seafood options, steakhouses, Turkish, Asian, Tapas, and Mediterranean restaurants.  And don’t forget about the All-Day Breakfasts! Aussies are big on Brekkie and the portions are HUGE.  There are so many small, quaint and cozy breakfast cafes with a huge variety of food options.  Don’t be afraid to try chorizo omelettes and halloumi hash, we just loved the creative twists on traditional breakfast.

1 Week in Melbourne

After a week in downtown Sydney, we were excited for the short flight to Melbourne so that we could enjoy some more time at the beach, in a more mellow beachy town.  We were advised to stay in or near St. Kilda or Albert Park because they are known to be nice beach communities.  St. Kilda offers A HUGE gorgeous beach which isn’t very crowded as compared to our California beaches, though the water is VERY cold. There are a few restaurants and bars along the sand as well.  You can walk from St. Kilda all the way to Albert Park. It’s a pretty nice stroll.

We ended up renting an amazing AirBnB in Albert Park which is a lovely, high-end area with loads of restaurants, shops and cafes around every corner. It was a great place to relax for a week; but, we weren’t blown away by the town overall.  

Basically, it’s a quieter more quaint version of Manhattan Beach, California.  I think we were looking for something a little different and unique from what we see day to day in SoCal.  We also didn’t have the best weather for enjoying the beach.  It rained A LOT while we were there so we didn’t get to enjoy too many beach days.

Our favorite day in Melbourne was the day we booked the full-day Epic Yarra Valley Wine Tour with Dancing Kangaroo Tours.  This wine tour ROCKED!  It cost about $120 per person for a 9 hour tour.  We visited 3 wineries, had an amazing lunch, sampled 7 cheeses at a dairy farm, and tried homemade chocolate and ice cream at a chocolatier.  And to finish the day off, our guide took us to a Yarra Valley brewery for a great flight of local beers. If you enjoy indulging in wine, beer, cheese and chocolate, we highly recommend this tour.  Not to the mention, the drive through the wine country is particularly pretty in the summer months. 

If you have time and like to take road trips, definitely see the Great Ocean Road; but, be warned, it’s about a 12 hour day if you do the entire thing.  The road is very winding and treacherous so be cautious.  If you can spring for a helicopter tour, that would probably be the BEST way to see this area of Melbourne which is often compared to the likes of Big Sur, California.  If you love fishing, there are some great spots on the Great Ocean Road as long as you get a fishing license prior.

Again, if you like shopping, Melbourne has several markets that are worth a visit. The South Melbourne Market is for local food and grocery shopping.  You can grub on samples and purchase your breakfast or lunch there as well.  We saw everything from homemade donuts and oyster bars to Greek food and a variety of paellas. Queen Victoria Market is another, larger market and has everything.  You can even go to the night market which draws a VERY large crowd. Just make sure to check which days it’s open.

We had a lot of fun exploring Melbourne and Sydney and eating our way through both towns.  There are plenty of sites and attractions to keep you busy for 2 weeks as well.  But, if we had to do it all over again, we would’ve also made a trip to Perth, Brisbane and the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.  That way, we could’ve seen more natural wonders instead of the city highlights.  Either way, it’s clear that if you want to cover ground while in Australia, you will need a significant amount of time since traveling from city to city takes a lot of time.  We recommend a private or small group tour or even a cruise around Australia so that you can see more of what the country has to offer.