Imagine you took LA’s beachy parts, paired them with the best of Tribeca, and then took out the Manhattan traffic. That is central Sydney: walkable, with good, fast buses, and a robust ferry network. You can get quite far in half an hour.
To that end, walk to the Circular Quay, the commuter harbor. The Opera House on the right is all swooping sails and gull wings; the Harbor Bridge, to the front, arches toward the city’s north side. Yellow commuter boats zip through gorgeous surrounds. Read this article before you go; you’ll appreciate the Opera House even more.
From Circular Quay, take a ferry to Manly Beachy for $7 AUS. Sit on the outside of the boat, toward the back, on the starboard (right) side. You’ll see different angles of the Opera House. On the thirty minute trip to Manly, you’ll traverse the Harbor, which looks so .. livable. Sydney residents seem to have figured out something the rest of us have not.
Organize at least one night around food. The Friday night market in Haymarket is worth a visit. If you’re American, opt for the Malaysian or Indonesian food, since it’s likely better here than what you get at home. (Roti and skewers from Hawker are popular.) The best desserts are the cream puffs, three for a dollar, from Emperor’s Garden. The best cold-weather drink, if you need it, is warmed soy milk. If you go to Dodee Paideng (and you should) try the sausage made from lamb, tofu, and chestnut.
For Australian food, try the muffins at Organism, the lamb sausage at Bourke Street Bakery, the toast at Lox, Stock, and Barrel, and the coffee ~anywhere. Vegemite is easy to find if you’re looking for it, but it’s not readily offered to tourists. In Sydney it is easy to find both chia seed pudding and fresh-cut french fries, though rarely at the same place.
The Museum of Contemporary Art seems to have very good visiting exhibitions. When I was there last: digital bookshelves (I’d absolutely put these in my apartment), mesmerizing blinds, frantic alarm clocks, and sticker propaganda.
Buy, and then use, a sheet mask from one of the Korean skincare stores, like MD Ranking. Sephora sells sheet masks in the US now, but the variety and prices are better in Sydney. Try one with charcoal (blackhead reducing), snail mucus (skin softening), or hydraulic acid (moisturizing.) Or, if that’s all too odd, get one of the animal masks. Local Papaw ointment may be little more than well-packaged vaseline, but I’m a convert to its restorative powers.
Watch the Sydney Swans play. They’re the local Australian football team, and they play what looks like a combination of rugby and cricket. Thirty-six players on the field at once, a melee if you don’t know the rules.
If you have time, take the 60 minute flight to Melbourne. Their coffee is even better, and you will see a hipper side — street art, vintage stores, absurd latte art — to Australia.
It is a long flight to Australia from North America, but once you are in Sydney you will be in an alternate, sunnier America.