The architecturally praised landmark known as the Sydney Opera House.
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By Chris Takahashi | Staff Writer

At the invitation of a friend, and knowing that I’d have a free place to crash for the week, I jumped on the idea of visiting Sydney, Australia, for spring break. After about 24 hours in Sydney, I was pretty infatuated with the idea of making the city my future residence. Put simply, Sydney seems to be a harmonious blend of San Francisco and Los Angeles, minus the tech buses and smog. Beauty comes with a price as the cost of living is about on par with both of the aforementioned coastal cities in California, if not actually higher.  

Here’s a rundown of some of the sights I saw in my time down under and what I would recommend to visitors. To be fair, this list is far from exhaustive of the all the sights and sounds Sydney has to offer.

Bondi Beach

On a sunny day, the beaches of Sydney’s eastern suburbs are sought out by both visitors and locals alike. The most well known of them all is Bondi Beach, easily accessible from the central business district (CBD) by car or bus. Bondi is a crescent-shaped body of sand, translucent water, and sun-kissed bodies. It’s Sydney’s best rendition of Waikīkī Beach as souvenir shops and surfboard rentals abound. At the south end of Bondi is the world-famous Bondi Icebergs club and pool, open to swimmers every day of the week except for Thursday. Further south and you’ll find the popular coastal walk that links Bondi with the beach suburb of Coogee. You could probably spend an entire day beach hopping along this stretch of coast.

On Saturday mornings, be sure to check out the Bondi Farmers Market that runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Some of my favorites from the market included grilled cheese “toasties” and bibimbap bowls made to order.

Sydney Harbour

There are many beautiful vistas and waterfront parks that line the Sydney Harbour. I was only able to check out a couple while strolling through the city. However, one can take the Manly Ferry for some pretty sweet views from the middle of the harbour. There are also publicly accessible swimming pools that grace the shores of Sydney Harbour, and though I heard that the North Sydney Olympic Pool had incredible views, I ran out of time to walk across the bridge to check it out. Instead, I opted for a daytime swim at the Andrew “Boy” Charlton pool adjacent to the Royal Botanical Gardens.

The iconic Sydney Opera House is also at the water’s edge in Sydney Harbour. A tour of this architectural masterpiece was on my short list, but after hearing from a couple Sydneysiders that the tour is best reserved for opera enthusiasts (not me), I decided to take a pass and save my money. Still, I’ve heard that catching a live performance of any musical genre in the opera house is a hands-down incredible experience.

Manly Beach

Manly Beach has a less touristy feel than Bondi, but is no less magnificent in terms of attractions. At the far southern end of Manly, where the coast starts to wrap up to the north and even west (facing inland), is a spit of sand called Shelly Beach. It’s great for leisurely swimming and snorkeling as the protruding headland blocks most swell from reaching this part of Manly. The surf along Manly — and extending north along the “Northern Beaches” of Sydney — can get quite good, and a string of coastal communities dot the map until you reach Palm Beach. Apparently the rich and famous of Sydney may often have a summer beach home up near Palm Beach, likely accessed by their sailboats, if I were to guess.

Manly has a long walk and bike-friendly path that traverses the length of the beach. The town itself is very easy to cover by foot (The Corso is pedestrian only and features many shops and restaurants), and has an infectious, easy-going surf vibe that complements the waves found at the beach. Sunset picnics near the Manly Ferry wharf are popular with the locals, but good people watching can be had at any time of the day in Manly. Also, make sure to grab some fish and chips before you hit the beach as the seafood found here is fantastic.

Australian Museum    

I actually spent an embarrassingly brief amount of time in this museum, but it was still a more than worthwhile stop during my week in Sydney. A personal highlight for me was witnessing somebody dressed up in a Tyrannosaurus Rex costume come face to face with a group of elementary school-aged kids. The exhibits at the Australian Museum were tastefully displayed and visually appealing with an emphasis on both the natural history of Australia and the history of the Aborigines before the arrival of Captain Cook. The top floor of the museum featured an indoor/outdoor cafe with stunning views of Sydney’s skyline and Hyde Park. Sandwiches started at around $15 (Australian dollars) so I enjoyed the view for free and got lunch elsewhere.

Have Avocado Toast with your Flat White

The Sydney dining scene seems to be well-regarded in the culinary world, but it really only took that first breakfast for me to be an ardent booster of Australian cuisine, at least in theory (I still haven’t tried vegemite).  Avocado toast and flat whites (an espresso-based coffee) are probably two of the most cliché culinary exports that have roots down under, but for good reason. They are absolutely scrumptious and pair together almost as well as peanut butter and jelly. Since I avoided the cost of accommodations while in Sydney, I certainly splurged on $4 flat whites all week, and may have lost count of my final flat white tally. Café culture in Sydney is the real deal but doesn’t feel too snobby, unless the conversation turns to how uninspiring it is to order coffee from Starbucks. Sydneysiders seem pretty opinionated in their thoughts regarding that chain from Seattle.