How to Conquer Sydney, Australia

Black & Abroad had a chance to take a trip “down under” to Sydney and run around the city for a week!  Throughout that time, we bounced from each corner of Sydney to find dope spots to stay, unique things to do, delicious things to eat, and moments you shouldn’t leave Sydney without experiencing.

Here’s a rundown of the things you’ll need to do to truly experience Sydney.

1. Get an Opal card.

Sydney’s fantastic mass transit system is all you really need to get around the city.  The first thing you should do when you hop off the plane is find a shop selling the Opal cards (which is pretty easy to find, as most stores sell them). Opal is the cheapest and easiest way to navigate the city, and it works on the trains, buses, and boats (when have you ever used a bus pass to get on a boat!?).  We were there for a week, and $40 Australian dollars (AUD) covered our travels.

2. Check out the street art in Newtown.

Newtown is a culturally diverse, unpretentious precinct in the west part of Sydney where the alternative crowd rubs shoulders with office workers and school kids. The locals who call Newtown home are a mix of college students, artists, long-time locals and young urbanites, which makes for a friendly community. Packed with restaurants and shops you won’t find anywhere else, Newtown is also full of street art that speaks to the political climate of Australia and the influences of the neighborhood’s eclectic population. Definitely a must-see for photographers!

Check out our visual tour of the controversial street art in Newtown!

3. And while you’re there, book a room at the Urban Newtown hotel!

The best place to stay in Sydney’s cultural melting pot is The Urban Newtown hotel, a boutique accommodation with industrial styling and an urban decor nestled in the heart of Newtown.  Its short walk from the train station and edgy, yet comfortable feel, make Urban Newtown an easy pick for those looking for a place to rest after a day of hanging out in the city.  Check out our review of The Urban Newtown Hotel!

TRAVEL HACK: If you book directly through the hotel, you get the minibar for free!

4. Get a doughnut (or seven!) from Doughnut Time!

Located in Central Park, one of the most unique buildings in the world, you will find some of the best doughnuts you’ll ever sink your teeth into. The names of these delicious donuts (such as the Blue Ivy -- a blueberry filled doughnut, the Yasss Queen or the Zero Chill - my favorite!) will make you laugh, and the taste will make you scream with pleasure. With flavors spanning from the conventional (original glazed, salted caramel, jam and cream) right through to the unique (maple bacon, hibiscus and nerds), you’ll have plenty to choose from when deciding how you’ll fall victim to a sugar coma.

5. Skip Taronga Zoo and visit Featherdale Wildlife Park instead.

You’ll see ads all over the place for Taronga Zoo, and I’m sure it’s a nice place, but it’s a zoo.  You’ve been to a zoo before, and you know what to expect from a zoo.  Skip Taronga and take the train and ride about 45 minutes outside of Sydney’s city limits to Featherdale Wildlife Park, where the kangaroos roam freely and you’ll get some one-on-one time with koalas and other members of the animal kingdom that call Australia home.  

Check out our experience at Featherdale Wildlife Park!

6. Take some Instagram worthy shots at the Bondi Beach tide pools. 

The locals we chatted up all told us to skip Bondi, as it was too touristy, but Bondi is gorgeous!  Just make sure it’s not the only beach you visit.  We had the chance to hang out at Manly and Quarantine Beach (aka Q Beach) for a while, but Bondi was the best of the three. Make sure you walk over to the North Bondi Rocks and catch some Instagram-worthy shots as the waves crash in.

7. Hang out in Darling Harbour.

Located in the center of the city, Darling Harbour is the most picturesque place in Sydney, with plenty of things to get into. Spend some time at the Museum of Contemporary Art, book a climb across the top of the Sydney Harbour bridge or if you’re lucky, catch a dope concert at the Opera House.  The harbor’s also full of great restaurants for enjoying a drink or two by the water and people watching. Our advice: opt to go during the week so that you can avoid the larger crowds that the weekend will bring.

8. Catch a ferry to Manly Beach.

Use that Opal card of yours and hop on the ferry from Darling Harbour to Manly Beach.  The boat ride is great for enjoying views of Darling Harbour and snapping great photos of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour bridge without people getting in the way.

9. Visit the Karlangu Aboriginal Art Centre.

A short walk from Darling Harbour will take you to Karlangu Aboriginal Art Centre.  Karlangu holds a large collection of paintings and sculptures by indigenous artists from Northern Territory, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. We were able to learn the history behind some of the artists, their paintings and the importance of the aboriginal symbolism depicted in the artwork.  You’ll definitely walk away amazed by the intricate handwork and skill displayed by the artists.

10. Get fly and have some drinks and tapas at Henry Deane.

Sydney is full of rooftop bars where you can enjoy a drink and a nice crowd, but nothing compares to the time you’ll have at Henry Deane.  Located at the top of the newly renovated Hotel Palisade, Henry Deane is a sexy, but not pretentious, cocktail lounge with gorgeous views of the city and a fantastic menu to match.  You’ll definitely want to dress to impress, as the crowd is just as sleek and sophisticated at the ambiance. Local DJs spin classic jams for you to groove to and the bar takes its pleasure in creating unique cocktails you wouldn’t dare waste.  Order a Greg’s Grog or a Bartender’s potion, some of the delicious tapas from the kitchen, and kick back as the sun starts to set and the city lights begin to spark. Henry Deane is the perfect spot for late Saturday afternoons or an early start on a night on the town!  If you happen to have too much fun at Henry Deane, you can always book one of the Hotel Palisade’s impeccably designed rooms!

Check out our experience at Henry Deane!

If you’ve been to Sydney, tell us some of your favorite experiences! Thinking of going?  Let us know!