Help me spend a few days in Sydney

Old Jan 18, 19, 2:14 am
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Help me spend a few days in Sydney

I'll be in Sydney for the first time (apart from an airport transit) for a few days in early March and looking for some pointers to make the most of it.

I'll be arriving from BKK with EK (sadly that flight stops a few months later) and hope to upgrade and use their chauffeur drive service in to town from the airport. Unfortunately, EK recently announced chauffeur drive would not be available on upgrades so unless I get availability early enough I'll need to make my own arrangements.

I've read about the Opal Card and the airport charge, but also a potential method to avoid it. What are opinions on the best way to get in to the CBD from the airport?

Regarding hotels, I've been told that staying centrally is best to give quick access to the touristy stuff I'll likely be doing, especially considering my time will be limited. I'm only there for a couple of nights and don't mind paying the going rate for a good hotel, but I'm Scottish so always like a bargain. Any recommendations, hidden gems, areas to avoid or other ideas?

I was looking at Super Rugby fixtures but as I'm there midweek look like I'll miss them. Any lower leagues or other sporting options on 5th or 6th March?

Returning to the airport I'll be in the same position as arriving regarding chauffeur drive (probably even less likely to get it considering it's a few days later again) so best options to get there for a 21:45 flight?

Thanks for reading.
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Old Jan 18, 19, 3:52 am
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A taxi or the train are both okay options from the airport to central Sydney. The taxi will cost a bit more but might suit you if your hotel is not near a railway station or you just want to minimise the hassle. Your flight times are such that you might avoid peak hour on the roads - when the train can be quicker.

Yes, it's possible to take a public transport option that avoids the airport train charge, but you should not waste your time with that on your short trip.

If you use public transport at any point in your visit be aware that you may not need an Opal card - they claim the system now works with any contactless card such as a credit card. This should save you from sacrificing any unused credit if you were to buy an Opal card. [Can't post link but you will find it under 'Opal News'.]

I'm not a luxury traveller and don't stay at hotels in Sydney city but I will venture to suggest: If you like historic buildings or want to be right near the big sights of the harbour bridge and opera house you might appreciate staying in the area called The Rocks or other places at the northern end of the CBD. Prices are high and depending which street you are in you will be surrounded by other tourists or office buildings. Mid-week it can be a bit lacking in street life north of about King Street. If you like lots of street life and interesting ethnic food (mostly Asian) then the southern part of the CBD towards Central Railway might suit you. It's still less than a mile to Sydney Harbour but you won't see it out of your window (unless you are on the 30th floor!). There are lots of big charmless hotels on the western side of Darling Harbour near the casino. Not recommended unless you like charmless casinos.

Last edited by TeddyR; Jan 18, 19 at 5:21 pm
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Old Jan 18, 19, 2:36 pm
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Originally Posted by ft101 View Post
I've read about the Opal Card and the airport charge, but also a potential method to avoid it. What are opinions on the best way to get in to the CBD from the airport?
It depends on where you are staying, and how much luggage you have, but I much prefer the train. If that requires a big walk from the station to your hotel, and/or you have heavy luggage, then it isn't a good option however.

Originally Posted by ft101 View Post
Regarding hotels, I've been told that staying centrally is best to give quick access to the touristy stuff I'll likely be doing, especially considering my time will be limited. I'm only there for a couple of nights and don't mind paying the going rate for a good hotel, but I'm Scottish so always like a bargain. Any recommendations, hidden gems, areas to avoid or other ideas?
Something I consider a bit of a 'hidden gem' is Harbourside Serviced Apartments on McMahons Point. These are decent quality apartments at a reasonable price, and for a bit more you can book a spectacular view of the bridge/harbour. Although it requires a ferry, the ferry terminal is right outside the apartments, and just 1 stop to Darling Harbour and 1 stop to Circular Quay. So quick access from the airport train, and quite a lovely scenic ferry ride, night or day. Many visitors will buy a ferry trip just to enjoy the harbour, in this case you get it as part of your journey. Although you need a ferry to get back, it's quite easy and IMO a better way to travel around Sydney anyway. Of course depends on what you want to see.
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Old Jan 18, 19, 8:01 pm
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A good hotel choice is the Adina on Crown St. in Surrey Hills, actually a serviced apartment as hotel doesn't have restaurants etc. but they have better (Bill's, a famous restaurant, is downstairs and does room service). That area is lively and filled with interesting shops and people, much nicer than the CBD, yet still easy walk to CBD and to Central (train) Station. Taxi from airport costs AUD 25 as it avoids traffic to CBD and doesn't need to use the toll road (train is about AUD 15 and you still have to get from train station). The best parts of Sydney is in the surrounding suburbs, as with most cities. As mentioned some parts, such as the convention hotels by the convention centre and casino, can be depressing though they still have the harbour view.
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Old Jan 21, 19, 2:45 am
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Thanks for the replies.

Originally Posted by TeddyR View Post
If you use public transport at any point in your visit be aware that you may not need an Opal card - they claim the system now works with any contactless card such as a credit card. This should save you from sacrificing any unused credit if you were to buy an Opal card. [Can't post link but you will find it under 'Opal News'.]
I found the reference to contactless cards so that sounds good. Should I be looking out for Dynamic Currency Conversion here, or elsewhere in Australia, or is it all usually above board? I have fee free foreign currency cards I would hope to take advantage of.


Originally Posted by CPMaverick View Post
Many visitors will buy a ferry trip just to enjoy the harbour . . . .
I like the sound of that, even if I don't stay on McMahon's Point. What ferry route would you recommend as there seems to be a lot of ferry options?


Originally Posted by number_6 View Post
A good hotel choice is the Adina on Crown St. in Surrey Hills, actually a serviced apartment as hotel doesn't have restaurants etc. but they have better (Bill's, a famous restaurant, is downstairs and does room service). That area is lively and filled with interesting shops and people, much nicer than the CBD, yet still easy walk to CBD and to Central (train) Station. Taxi from airport costs AUD 25 as it avoids traffic to CBD and doesn't need to use the toll road (train is about AUD 15 and you still have to get from train station).
This sounds like it might suit me well (although it took me a while to find the right Adina as there are a few). I'll hopefully be travelling quite light so walking is not a problem.
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Old Jan 21, 19, 3:39 am
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I agree with those suggestions about staying in Surry Hills or the northside of the harbour such as McMahons Point or Kirribilli. To these I would add Potts Point and Kings Cross. Especially if someone was looking to stay for a week or so and wanted apartment facilities. If you end up with a good deal on a normal hotel in the central business district, that will be fine as well for a few nights.

A ferry trip is definitely a great way to see the harbour, especially recommended on a sunny day. Pretty much all the routes are worth doing. You will get a great view of the city skyline, opera house and harbour bridge as you leave Circular Quay. The 'main' part of the harbour stretches east from the hub of Circular Quay and small ferries ply the stops along the north side of this stretch. All very picturesque. There are foreshore walks between some of them. The routes to Milsons Point, McMahons Point and Balmain take you under the harbour bridge which is an interesting view. There is a route all the way to Parramatta in the western suburbs which is also worth taking but only if you have plenty of time and some other need to visit Parramatta.

The most popular route is direct to Manly. There are fast and slow boats. If you feel like outdoor activity, Manly has kayaking etc on protected waters, an ocean surf beach, and also a protected ocean-side beach (Shelly Beach) where people do snorkeling etc. You are no more than seven miles from central Sydney but you feel like you've been somewhere. This jaunt will tick off some major sights, harbour, ferry and beach in half a day if you want. (Assuming the beach is on your list.) If you go to Manly, don't bother with a trip to Bondi Beach. Unless it's to do something else like the Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk.
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Old Jan 21, 19, 3:45 am
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Originally Posted by ft101 View Post
I like the sound of that, even if I don't stay on McMahon's Point. What ferry route would you recommend as there seems to be a lot of ferry options?
A lot of people will grab a ferry between Circular Quay and Darling Harbour. And a long but nice trip is to go out to Manly Beach. They go opposite directions from Circular Quay so pairing the two gives you a good overall tour.

But if you just want a short trip, going to McMahon's Point and back ticks a lot of the boxes. Great views of the bridge and opera house, the rocks, and Luna Park.

A good tip is to do your ferry rides on your arrival day, if you take the train with an Opal card. The Opal card is capped at $15.80 a day (or $2.70 a day on Sundays!). This doesn't include the airport access fee, but essentially if you take a few public ferries after your airport trip especially on a Sunday), at some point they start being free. So try to stack all your Opal card use on certain days if you can (or Sunday if possible!).

Last edited by CPMaverick; Jan 21, 19 at 3:50 am
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Old Jan 21, 19, 6:33 pm
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Originally Posted by ft101 View Post
I was looking at Super Rugby fixtures but as I'm there midweek look like I'll miss them. Any lower leagues or other sporting options on 5th or 6th March?
That time of year is a bit of a dead zone for sport, the cricket has finished but the rugby league and AFL hasn't started. Super Rugby is very much a distant 3rd in terms of spectators and general interest – rugby is on life support in Australia. The Shute Shield (Sydney suburban rugby comp) is considered more entertaining and with a better atmosphere than Super Rugby these days, but doesn't start until April and doesn't have mid-week games.

For ferries, if you don't want to go all the way to Manly then a trip to Watsons Bay with beer and lunch at the Watsons Bay Hotel is a great way to spend an afternoon.

We had some friends from overseas in Sydney over Christmas and booked them into Mrs Banks Hotel (thankfully they're as unexcited at being a house guest as I am). They were very impressed with it. It's a converted old bank building, which I assume is where the name comes from. You certainly won't be struggling for dining options.
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Old Jan 21, 19, 8:38 pm
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We took the ferry from Circular Quay to Pyrmont Bay. It’s a fun, cheap way and you go under the bridge and pull up next To Luna Park on the journey there. Then we walked around Darling Harbor and crossed the pedestrian bridge and took the ferry back from Barangaroo. Another day we did the trip to Manly and back. Darling Harbor was $6 each way and the Manly round trip if you take the public not private ferry was about $16. Compare to a sightseeing cruise cost this was a really nice and inexpensive way to see pretty much the entire harbor are to the Pacific Ocean. It was very memorable.
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Old Jan 21, 19, 9:10 pm
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I'd try to be very close to Circular Quay, including the Rocks. If you have elite status or collect points in some chain, there are options such as Westin, Sheraton on the Park, IC, PH, FourPoints, etc. [I don't like the old CBD where the Hilton is located.] From here, you can walk to the Rocks, aquarium, botanical gardens, opera house, art museums, and ferries to Manley and the zoo. It's generally a pleasant area and you might get a good view from your room or a lounge. Others may disagree, but I like the Observatory (formerly an Oreient Express hotel) on the far side of the Rocks, but others I know prefer IC, PH, or SOTP.
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Old Jan 21, 19, 10:38 pm
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Originally Posted by bensyd View Post
That time of year is a bit of a dead zone for sport, the cricket has finished but the rugby league and AFL hasn't started. Super Rugby is very much a distant 3rd in terms of spectators and general interest rugby is on life support in Australia. The Shute Shield (Sydney suburban rugby comp) is considered more entertaining and with a better atmosphere than Super Rugby these days, but doesn't start until April and doesn't have mid-week games.
The preseason would've started in both the AFL and NRL but as is often the case these days those games are played at lesser venues outside of the city. For instance, the JLT community shield has a game out in Blacktown on the 6th I think.
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Old Jan 21, 19, 10:46 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Others may disagree, but I like the Observatory (formerly an Oreient Express hotel) on the far side of the Rocks, but others I know prefer IC, PH, or SOTP.
That's now The Langham Sydney so a very nice and luxurious hotel.

On the credit cards front it won't accept discover and you don't get charged a foreign transaction fee but that is up to your card provider. What it doesn't get is the caps and discounts that you get on an Opal Card.
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Old Jan 21, 19, 10:56 pm
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Originally Posted by Nugget_Oz View Post
The preseason would've started in both the AFL and NRL but as is often the case these days those games are played at lesser venues outside of the city. For instance, the JLT community shield has a game out in Blacktown on the 6th I think.
I don't know about the AFL, but the NRL would have started and finished by then, and there are no mid-week pre-season games, iirc.
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Old Jan 21, 19, 11:00 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
[I don't like the old CBD where the Hilton is located.]
The oldest part of the CBD is around Circular Quay and the Rocks, the Tank Stream that runs pretty much straight down Pitt St was the original water source. But you are correct, that if you want the postcard view of Sydney then the southern end of the CBD is not where you will get it.
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Old Jan 22, 19, 1:04 am
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Certainly lots of options on places to stay. I've spotted an apartment in Surrey Hills that appeals to me but an obstacle is that I have an early arrival and a late departure so would probably be wanting to store luggage on my first and last days. Apartments tend not to have that where hotels do. Another option I see on the Central Station website is they have baggage storage facilities so can anyone tell me is this suitable for a decent sized suitcase - not a carry on?

A plus point is that I caught upgrade availability on my inbound to SYD after posting yesterday so bagged that, and I'll be able to use Emirates chauffeur drive when I arrive. To upgrade my return I need the miles I'm earning on the outbound so resigned to making my own way to the airport. Baggage storage at the station could be convenient for that too.

More hotel ideas appreciated as every one so far has appealed to me for different reasons.
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