A Guide to Sydney, Australia

We kicked off our trip in Sydney, Australia to celebrate New Years’ Eve in style and watch the world famous fireworks, an item on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Excited, we boarded our flight on December 26, but there was one problem: we hadn’t booked a thing.

New Years’ Eve in Sydney is such a big deal that most people plan months in advance and by December, the good venues generally sell out. It’s not for lack of trying, we did our homework – we checked out the good restaurants, viewing areas, the Opera House and even black tie events. Nothing quite fit the bill.

So we left it up to chance.

It just so happened that on our way there, we met a woman who was sitting next to us on our flight – a quirky mother of four from Vancouver with a fascinating career in the media industry. Her name was Nadine, and she had long brown hair, bright blue eyes, a few smile lines and a super bubbly personality. A cocktail or two later and we were laughing, exchanging stories. Since she’s been vacationing in Sydney for years, we thought it would be a good idea to get her input on where we should celebrate New Year’s Eve. Our criteria were simple: nothing too fancy, good food and drinks, a nice crowd, and of course, a great view of the fireworks.

“A boat!” she said without an ounce of hesitation, “if you want the best view of the fireworks, find yourselves a boat.” Admittedly, boat parties aren’t normally our thing – but on her advice, I looked into it. Two spots left aboard Captain Cook’s John Cadman II. Booked!

The evening was spectacular, beyond our. When we arrived, table #100 was waiting for us – window side seats by the bar with enough space for four. The food and drinks were plenty, the crowd was lovely, the service was excellent and the company, as always, was the best.

Midnight was nearly upon us, and after navigating the waters as part of the Harbour Light Parade, our boat came to a stop and took its position. Standing in the front-row, we stood in each other’s arms in awe of the show and where we had ended up, and welcomed 2016 with warm hearts and many smiles.

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Dayna’s Travel Guide to Sydney, Australia

Where we ate:

Sake Restaurant – The Rocks: On our first evening in Sydney, we decided to stick with what what’s in season – and seafood in Australia is always in season. We picked a restaurant called Sake in the trendy Rocks, just a short walk from the Harbour. A contemporary Japanese restaurant serving some of the most fresh and creative sushi / sashimi plates in the city. Chic, delicious and full of atmosphere, this restaurant had it all – even on a Monday.

Sokyo – PyrmontAfter having such an incredible sushi meal the evening before, we wanted more and headed to the reputed Sokyo. Sokyo offers a great sharing menu and a superb sake list. Elegant atmosphere by The Star Casino. Go for the sashimi platters – they’re fantastic. And the green tea volcano brownie.

Chat Thai – Sydney CBD: On the hunt for a late night meal, we found this gem. We arrived around eleven at night and it’s so popular that even then there was a line up to get seated. Serves authentic thai-cuisine in a wonderfully fun and laid-back setting until 2 or 3 in the morning. Must try the Chilli Fried Rice and Coconut Ice-Cream. Best late night eatery and a personal favourite. Well worth the wait.

Doyles – Sydney Fish Market: While exploring the city, we just had to stop by Sydney’s fish market. Located on the waterfront, this market is a landmark in its own right. As soon as you walk in, you’re greeted with a strong, but healthy odour — fresh fish and salt of the sea.

You wouldn’t imagine the amount of people that gather here for fresh fish-and-chips, oysters and sashimi sold by the slice. At the entrance is a small stand manned by one or two people serving your choice of fresh oysters for takeaway. You pick, they shuck. Yes!

A little further in is an incredible, family-run restaurant that has been around since 1885. Choose from their takeaway counter or a la carte menu. A big appetite to fill, takeaway fish-and-chips, calamari and oysters it was.

North Bondi Fish – Bondi Beach: Why not spend the last day of the year at the beach? After spending the afternoon under the sun, we grabbed a bite at North Bondi Fish, possibly the coolest spot to eat by the waves. A young and trendy crowd, beautiful seaside decor and excellent food, NBF completely satisfied. They also make the most incredible rosé sangria. Don’t even get me started on their fries…

Papi Chulo’s – Manly Beach: It was New Years’ Day and after a few hours of catching up with friends and family and a jog by the Harbour, we went for day two of beaching out at Manly Beach. Ate here, at Papi Chulo’s by the Manly Harbour.

Hands-down one of the most delicious takes on Mexican food. We fell head over heels with their Cubano sandwich — Monterey Jack cheese, melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork and chicken, mustard, chipotle — it’s as close to perfect as you can get.

Where We Stayed:

Hilton Sydney: Newly renovated with neutral tones and white linens, the hotel is chic, contemporary and palatial. Conveniently situated across from the Queen Victoria Building and a short walking distance from the Harbour. Definitely of the best places we stayed during our vacation.

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Places to Visit:

Sydney Harbour Bridge: The Sydney Harbour Bridge has got to be the ultimate in bridge design and architecture. While it makes for a great jogging path, the real experience is the Harbour Bridge Climb.

The Harbour Bridge Climb takes you on a three-hour excursion to the summit of the bridge, and I literally mean on top of the bridge! Walk through interior workings of the bridge all the way up to the top and then back down. Phenomenal. Highly recommend.

Sydney Opera House: Ah, the Sydney Opera House. Stroll along the Harbour and there she is. The architecture is so gorgeous, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Although construction started in the 50s, the expressionist design set forth by Danish architect Jørn Utzon is timeless. If you have time, try and catch a show — heard great things.

Bondi Beach: A Sydney landmark. The Icebergs Club pool is fabulous.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks: If it’s not on your bucket list already, be sure to add it. For an up close and personal experience with the fireworks show, one of the best ways to do so is by boat, like we did. Harbour of Lights Parade, good food and drinks, 360-degree views of the fireworks — we couldn’t ask for more.

More Places to Visit: 

Blue Mountains: Breathtaking views and scenery. Very easy to DIY, just rent a car and use the hop-on, hop-off bus. Don’t bother with the line ups at Scenic World – there’s much more to see and the nature walks are totally worth it.

Featherdale Wildlife Park: On your way to the Blue Mountains, stop off at Featherdale’s and see some of Australia’s wildlife up close! You can even feed the wallabees and pet the koalas. Say hi to Cooper, my koala friend below! Insider tip: Skip the line and buy your tickets online before arriving.

Royal Botanical Gardens: At 200 years old, this is the world’s oldest royal botanical garden. Excellent for an afternoon picnic.

Manly Beach: Only a short ferry ride off the coast of the Sydney Harbour. Charming beach town with a laid-back atmosphere. Short on time? Can be done in just a few hours.

Where we had coffee:

Workshop Espresso: Churns out flat whites as of 7 am out of a garage. Fantastic coffee & great people. Satisfied our caffeine cravings on the daily.

Where we shopped:

The Queen Victoria Building (QVB): Located in a gorgeous Victorian-style building with original floors and wall tiling. As good for shoppers as it is for design-enthusiasts.

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