Exploring- Picton

A perfect weekend escape for Sydney-siders who want a change of pace after a busy week of go, go, and go of the Sydney rat-race.

Picton is a town located 91Km South-West of Sydney CBD via the Hume Motorway, the most common way to get out  to the sprawling expanses of P-town is by car (roughly an hour and 10 minute drive using the Hume Motorway). But for us, we used a more circuitous route today to get to Picton.

Aside from my interests of Food & Drink, audio entertainment, and exploring our fair city, an enduring interest of mine are cars. Not all shapes and sizes, not all makes and models, not all vehicles 4 wheeled or two-ed, but specifically…sports cars! So to meet other like-minded individuals, naturally my mate and I are involved with a sports car club and today was the first gathering for 2019- a cruise from Penrith to Picton for Go Karts, before a nice pub lunch at the historic George IV Inn.

What I personally love about this sports car club, is the fact that the start and end of each cruise is book-ended by food & drink! *Thumbs-up*. To jump-start the morning, the club met-up at the once bustling Krispy Kreme Sydney HQ store located in Penrith. Remember those days of late night drives with mates to Penrith KK? At the time, the one and only KK store which was open for like 24 hours a day (at least it felt like it) serving up their glazed melt-in-your-mouth original donuts. Mmmm. Remember lining-up for upwards of 45 minutes at midnight, shuffling past the glass wall where you could see the donuts being made, smelling all the sweet aromas of melting sugar…….. OMG! And when you finally reached the head of the line, ordering 1 or 2 boxes of the 12 original donuts, and another box or 2 of the assorted mixed donuts, justifying your purchases because your roommates/parents/siblings/grandparents would need to eat as well! Right? Do you remember those days? When we were more innocent, when we knew that donuts were probably bad for us, but we’d still consumed them. Well, that was all before we decided that we were too healthy for soft-drinks, fast-food, full sugar bubble tea, and of course too healthy for the Krispy  Kreme donut. Boo! So as unbelievable as this sounds, but that original Krispy Kreme store in Penrith is still trading, but it’s a far cry from what it used to be, today there were only a few patrons- a couple of mum’s catching-up over coffee (pretty sure no donuts in front of them) and then a group of guys with their sports cars rocked-up. Haaha. But as our fellow car club members rolled in, after saying our ‘hi, how ya doin’, they too went next door for a more healthy breakfast option- McDonalds. *Shrugs*.

But after hanging-out at a long table for more than a dozen, with our Krispy Kreme coffees and giving adequate time for those who always rock-up late – in a convoy of 9 sports cars we headed off on a 60 minute south-bound cruise to Picton, where we had a date with an open air track, an unlimited speed limit, but with a kart that didn’t go beyond 70km/h.

62 Km down Silverdale Road connects the West to the South-West, (on paved, not the smoothest of roads), which at points reached speeds which you’d never dream to reach in Sydney suburbia; we had a chance to stretch our sports cars legs, allow our engines to breathe in the fresh country air and clear their  throaty exhausts. We cruised past bushland, farms, and with only 1 speed bump, and 2 roundabouts along the way to encourage us to slow down, all too soon we had reached Picton, the outer limits of sprawling Sydney.

A characteristic of this particular sports car club, is the fact that a number of members are keen Go Karters! So when the opportunity arises, we incorporate a car cruise in-line with track and Go Kart availability.

Picton Karting Track- 200 Picton Road Illawarra

We elected ‘Arrive and Drive’, where you just show-up and you and your group are assigned to the next available group of people who are going out on track. Today’s wait was only 20 mins long and after paying $70 for 2x 15 minute sessions (+$10 License fee which is valid for 12 months) we were on-track and pushing the little Go karts as hard as they could go on little 6 inch tyres- the chassis, engine, human combo  reaching up-to 70Km/h on the back straight.

After expending enough adrenaline to leave us worn-out, muscles aching, sweaty and hungry, we came in after our cool down lap and compared lap times. The quickness of a Karter is dependent on the inter-play between 3 variables – the height/weight of the individual; the set-up and maintenance history of the kart; and the Driver’s natural feel for manoeuvring a 4 wheeled vehicle around curves and corners.  So understandably lap-times were varied and reflected these critical attributes, the fast will always be fast, while the slower guys will ……. Well, putting it nicely, could benefit from more practice laps and the jettison of any excess weight? Jks Jks. But everyone enjoyed themselves regardless of their standings, and with the need for speed and excitement met, the next need to be met on Maslow’s pyramid of needs, was drink and food! In that order!

George IV Inn- 180 Argyle Street, Picton

And heading back to the town’s centre, we located the historical George IV Inn-  and parked our pride and joys in a spacious car park (parking is hard to come by along the main drag of Picton), but this lot was a short short walk from the Inn. The big George is a rambling single story estate, said to be one of the oldest hotels in Australia (built in 1819- Wow! It’s 200 years old this year!); but it definitely didn’t look its age- methinks an extensive renovation occurred recently as everything looked and felt new, the place was gloriously cool, AC blowing out strong to keep diners comfortable (rainy in Sydney today, but sunny with some clouds and top of 23 in Picton). The Bistro had an extensive menu, with the usual pub favourites, but on-top of those staples, there was an extensive grill menu, a more gourmet listing, Chef’s recommendations, and a list of pizzas. I think since we’ve started this blog, we still haven’t had pizzas, so craving something cheesy, I ordered the ‘Big George Pizza’, while the others ordered all different sorts of stuff, from steaks to seafood pastas, vegetarian dishes to burgers. And way before putting in our food orders, we grabbed our drinks (as I had mentioned it was higher on the priority list than the food), so as we chatted with the guys and their partners (sports cars and go karts isn’t just a dude’s thing, but    many guys bring their significant others), we sipped on our refreshing IPAs (surprisingly bitter though).

When the food arrived (all at the same time- pretty impressive considering there were 10 of us with food with wide ranging cook-times), we all tucked in, and my Big George wasn’t just big by name, it was BIG! It had 3 types of meat on it from spicy salami to grilled chicken pieces, with a nice thick, yet thin pizza crust. And you know when it’s just the right thickness when the centre of the pizza isn’t all limp and soggy, but soft while still able to keep its pointy tip when picked-up. And since we had an early start and had skipped breakfast- oh yeah! The pizza hit the spot! But like I said, it was a Big boy, so after 2 slices I was already offering to others to take a slice if they wanted; and after 4 slices I was done, really done  (and there were still another 4 slices left!). So for $24 (not bad for country-town pub prices) I was filled and I even had pizza to go (fed us tonight as well!).

And after chatting for another 30 mins, sadly all good things must come to an end and we said our farewells in the car park (dudes checking out each other’s rides), and we made the trek back to Sydney- up the Hume Motorway and didn’t stop at a single traffic light until we reached Zetland! Which is 50 mins into a 70 min drive, not a bad run hey?

This time we didn’t get much of a chance to check-out all that Picton has to offer, but if you came out here with the family, there is so much to see and do! Picton is a well preserved historic town. There is a 29 stop self-guided walking tour which can guide your visit; pick-up a map from the Wollondilly Visitor Information Centre (look for the old Post Office with the clock-tower).  Allow the self-guided tour to take you on a stroll to the original Picton Court House (built in 1864); Post Office with historic clock tower (1892); Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Building (1885); St Marks Anglican Church (1857); and of course the historic George IV Inn (1819), to name a few stops along the way.

If you’re an active soul, you’ll love the Picton Botanical Gardens with 9Km of cycling and walking tracks through the landscape gardens- giving visitors a brilliant view of the surrounding vistas and there is an amusing bottlebrush maze for the kids to get lost in.

And if your kids love Thomas and trains in general, a bit further out from Picton is Trainworks, located in Thirlmere. Claiming to be the oldest and the largest train museum, (yes you read right, the oldest and the largest!) it boasts of many historic trains, and it marries the old with the new- the exhibits come to life with 3D holograms of people who used to work on the trains, telling their story and explaining the workings of the locomotives. Pretty cool hey!? Open 7 days a week, 9am – 5pm on the weekends.

For more information about the area and things to see and do in Picton visit this great web-site!

And of course there is Picton’s main street, including a variety of gift shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs. For a listing of all the things to see and do in the Wollondilly shire, check out this link:

Can you spend an entire day in Picton and surrounds? Heck yeah! There is so much to see and do! You could stay the night and spend an entire weekend out here! Or alternatively, come back on several different weekend day trips, for kids who fall asleep as soon as they get into the car, the 70 min car trip is idyllic!! I can’t recommend more highly the virtues of the W-shire!! Like most outdoor heavy destinations, visiting either in early autumn or late spring would be ideal. And if you’re into cars like me, replicating our cruise from Penrith to Picton via Silverdale Rd is also an idea which you can add to your list of potential weekend activities. Not to mention, as it’s becoming more and more popular to have ‘Walking’ meetings with colleagues, a ‘Driving’ catch-up with mates is pretty cool as well! In each of our hour-long point to point stretches from CBD to Penrith; Penrith to Picton; Picton back to the city, the time passed so quickly as my mate and I chatted all the way.

P.S. Apologies for the lack of photos, today was a spousal free-day, so unfortunately my wife’s photography prowess wasn’t on hand to add colour to this otherwise drab post.

Exploring- Balmain

Darling St, Balmain

Balmain is a suburb located 6Km West of Sydney CBD, a peninsular jutting out into Sydney harbour; home to many residents and the home to Darling Street, a vibrant 5-6 block commercial strip.

How to get there? Balmain is a short (approx. 15 min) bus trip from the CBD, departing from York Street (behind the Queen Victoria Building). The 442 bus will get you there, making multiple stops along Darling Street (Adult Opal fare $2.20 each way).

On the last day of 2018 we started our day trip to Balmain by making the short walk to the York street bus stops, or better known as the back-side of the Queen Victoria Building (or these days better known as the side of the building not impacted by the light rail construction). Walking down the line of bus stops, look for signage for the 442 bus, this bus performs a continuous loop into Balmain and surrounding suburbs before looping back around to the City.

Within 5 mins our 442 bus arrived, and a fair few people boarded (this was around 10.30am on a Monday), so much so that we probably got the last 2 seats on the bus.

The bus ride over to Balmain is surprisingly quick, as soon as the bus pulled out it must have gotten all the green lights; so that the first time we stopped we had already made it over the ANZAC bridge and we were already in Rozelle (the suburb just before Balmain). The final 1.5Km into Balmain was slower though, stopping to drop off passengers at each stop and navigating narrow residential streets. But soon enough we were at the start of Darling Street (the Rozelle end), where we got off the bus and continued on foot.

Darling Street is the main strip which runs from one end to the other end of Balmain, with intersecting streets branching off the spine of the suburb like ribs. In all directions you end up going, i.e. walking down the length of Darling Street to the east end, you’ll eventually reach the water. And if you went left or right down the streets which branched off Darling Street, you’d eventually hit water as well due to Balmain’s peninsular make-up (I’m sure some streets will culminate in a dead-end, but water does surround most of Balmain). For this reason Balmain is an affluent suburb, the small terrace homes valued in the millions, thus these days Balmain is home to professional couples who make the short commute into the City for work.

**Note: The historical demograph of Balmain was quite different in the past, the original residents were blue collar workers who used to work on the ship yards and wharves. And these humble beginnings are still evident in present day Balmain with the large amount of historic pubs, and the modest architecture of all the shops which line both sides of Darling Street (narrow but deep 2 story commercial spaces).

On this day we were catching up with friends for lunch, so we had planned to arrive in Balmain an hour in advance to leisurely check out Balmain before we caught up with them. As we had hopped off the bus at one end of Darling Street, our plan was to walk down the left hand side and then walk back up on the other side  of the street and that would take us to lunch-time.

As we walked, we took in the shops, my initial assumption of Darling Street was that the majority of stores would be independent boutique-ie type stores. However we did find some national chain stores like Flight Centre and Chemist Warehouse along the way. The majority of stores along Darling Street can be grouped into the following categories: Food & Beverage (many cafes, ethnic cuisines, butchers/bakeries, and pubs); Fashion and Beauty (clothing stores, nail salons, beauticians, and hairdressers); and Health (pharmacies, medical centres, and massage parlours) catering for the local residents.

After 5-6 blocks the shops start to thin out, where the shop facades and overhead shelter ended and where the blazing sun beating from above started. After reaching this point, walking down another 8 blocks to the shore-line seemed less attractive (once again, our Sydney-sider mentality was showing through, how we’re not much of an outdoorsy bunch as soon as temps get into the 30s). So from that point we decided to turn back and we crossed to the other side of the street to re-trace our tracks. Along the way, we ditched off several times to check out Gladstone Park near the heritage listed Balmain Hospital (and stand under some glorious shade), a tiny arcade, and then a rando spot where we could just sit and people watch. Most people who were out and about seemed to be locals, people doing their grocery shopping, presumably before a New Year’s Eve party. Parents jogging after their kids who were on scooters. Or neighbourhood teens catching up over their summer holidays (we heard a few UAC conversations).

And unfortunately we were confronted with the reality of Zumbo Patisserie’s demise. I can still remember the time when we purposefully travelled to Balmain for Zumbo back in 2010, where I stood in-line with my folks for 45 minutes just to get inside of their front doors. And now it’s all over! A shame!

And then it was lunch time, and although a portion of restaurants were closed (don’t do lunch trade) or were closed until the New Year; there was still plenty of choice and we elected Kafeine. It was pretty crowded but the tables were turned over pretty quickly, thus the wait wasn’t long before we were seated in the cool air-con.

As we waited for our dining companions to arrive, we ordered some refreshments as we were pretty hot and sticky after walking up and down Darling Street. With a wide selection of fresh juices on offer, I had the Hangover Recovery (freshly juiced beetroot, carrot, watermelon, apple, and orange) and my wife had the Clear Skin (Freshly juiced beetroot, carrot, celery, spinach, cucumber, and orange) – I was pre-empting a big NYE night, while my wife didn’t really need hers as she already has pretty clear skin.   

Hangover Recovery (left) and Clear Skin (right) fresh juices

It was great to catch up with friends over good healthy food, Kafeine was known for its healthy and vegan options. My wife ordered Mushroom Goodness, I had the Corn Fritters, my mate had the Samurai Burger (fish burger), and his wife the Lunch Bowl with tofu and soba noodles (their 15 month old ate bits from both of their dishes, and snacks from her lunch-box. Awwww cute!).

My corn fritters was sweet from the corn kernels, sour from the cherry tomatoes, healthy feeling from the leafy greens, substantial because of the large piece of grilled ham, and texturally interesting as the fritter had a crunchy baked top. All very tasty, while being healthy and hitting the spot.

After lunch, it was pretty much time to head back home; as we wanted to beat the crowds back before everyone started to head into the city for a prime spot to see the fireworks.

Getting back, you just need to catch the 442 again, but this time on the opposite side of the street from where you had originally gotten off. The wait for the bus was around 10 mins, and once you’re on the bus, the trip into the city is just as quick; in moments you’re on Market Street and free to get on with your day. Or alternatively there is a scenic option, you can catch a ferry from one of several wharves, which will transport you to Circular Quay (a nice option if you have the time).

What else can you do in Balmain? If you’re young enough (while old enough) you could do a killer pub crawl, there are many, I mean MANY pubs/historical hotels in Balmain for you to try! Get ready for the list (unfortunately some have stopped trading): Cat and Fiddle Hotel, Cricketer’s Arms Hotel, Dick’s Hotel, Dry Dock Hotel, Exchange Hotel, Fourth and Clyde Hotel, Kent Hotel, London Hotel, Mort Bay Hotel, Norfolk Pines Hotel, Pacific Hotel, Riverside Hotel, Royal Oak Hotel, Ship Rites Arms Hotel, Star Hotel, Town Hall Hotel, Unity Hall Hotel, Volunteer Hotel, and the West End Hotel (the names alone already hint at Balmain’s colonial and working class history). And if your liver is still operational, and you can focus with a full bladder, you might be able to ask around and find some historical points of reference to the Australian Labor Party? As the ALP first started in Balmain back in the 1890s.

If you have kids who are keen cyclists or pushers (what do you call one who rides scooters?), perhaps drive to Balmain and pack the bike/scooter. As Mort Bay Park has an idyllic path suitable for the young-ones to safely cycle/push around. While the ones old enough to appreciate a good vantage point, may enjoy the incredible views of the back-side of the Harbour Bridge (a spot many flock to during NYE to view the fireworks).

And there are plenty of restaurants/cafes in Balmain, according to Zomato, Balmain alone has 103 places to eat and drink at. Some notable restaurants are Contessa (Modern Australian); Efendy (Turkish); Nutie Donuts Balmain (Desserts); Riverview Hotel (Pub); Euforia (café); and The Cottage Bar and Kitchen (Wine bar).

Final thoughts, Balmain is a quaint suburb to visit, a great location to catch-up with friends over brunch/lunch/dinner as a mid-way meeting point. Perhaps there is not enough to see and do in Balmain to keep you entertained for an entire day, but for a feed and perhaps an hour on either side of your meal, there is plenty to explore in Balmain. Let me know in the comments section if you ventured to the Peninsula, and/if you visited any of the historical hotels and gave your liver a work-out…or a beating. Haaha.  

Exploring- Chatswood

When you’re on holidays overseas, you do your research and pinpoint areas where you want to go, restaurants you want to eat at, and time your visits to maximise what you can see and do. But why can’t we extend this same level of preparedness to visiting a suburb in our own fair city? Turn a regular weekend into an inexpensive weekend adventure? Become a tourist in our own ‘backyard’?

So here starts our monthly exploration of suburbs in and around Sydney, starting with the City in the North, Chatswood!

Chatswood is located 10Km North of Sydney CBD, and is a major commercial and retail district for peeps in the North Shore. A go-to for shopping, entertainment, restaurants, and a hang-out place for locals in the North Shore area…And with the soon to be completed Hills to Chatswood Metro train line, an alternative destination for those living in the Hills District if they want a change from their current go-to shopping and entertainment precincts.  

How to get there? Chatswood is only a 20 minute train trip from Town Hall train station. Trains depart frequently (no more than a 10 minute wait at most). Catch the train on the T1 North shore line ($4.40 adult Opal fare each way).

On this summer’s day we set out during the hottest part of the day and it was noticeably warmer in Chatswood, compared to Sydney CBD. Stepping off the train and walking down Victoria Avenue, you were reminded that Chatswood is a City in its own right, but it is also set in the suburbs. The sounds of cicadas chirping in the heat, an odd combination to the otherwise city feel of Chatswood.

Arriving by train, the vast majority of shops and restaurants are located along or just off the main strip of Chatswood which is Victoria Avenue. So as you walked to wherever you’re aiming for, there is much to see and many distractions (good distractions) along the way. For example, on Thursdays and Fridays there are the Melody markets (food and craft stalls along the pedestrianised portion of Victoria Ave – otherwise known as Chatswood Mall). Although today was a Thursday, unfortunately the stalls were not set up due to that weird time in between Christmas and New Year’s. But from previous visits to Chatswood, we remembered the mall being lined with food and craft stalls, good to experience if you can time your visit to Chatswood right.

On this visit to Chatswood, in my mind I’d dubbed this visit a ‘Chatswood mall crawl!’ The aim was to duck in and out of the 8 shopping centres/Malls/Arcades located within the Chatswood CBD to take in what each centre had to offer. So with a list, we began our Mall crawl. **Musings: If an individual who hangs-out all day long at a mall is known as a ‘Mall Rat’. Then being promiscuous and seeing many malls at one time, will we be known as a ‘Mall Cat’? If so, that’s fitting, considering Chat is French for cat! …… I’m channelling my inner Jonathan Goldstein with that musing.

Mall 1: Chatswood Chase- We first went to the furthest of the shopping centres with the aim to work our way back towards the train station for our departure. Chase is the second largest mall in Chatswood, and used to be known as the ‘classier’ mall, with the higher end clothing stores. But I’m not sure if it’s changed over time, or perhaps I’m just older and the brands don’t wow me anymore, but the brands now all seemed like your regular run-of-the-mill chain stores. So 4 stories to the top, and a basement food court at the very bottom,  it was a nice stop along the way and small enough that we could easily walk the length and breadth of each floor. On a sensory level, the air con was nice and cold (revitalising us) and oddly the whole entire centre was fragranced by the same perfume (they must’ve piped it into the air ducts), so the entire place smelt very pleasant indeed.

Chatswood Chase Shopping Mall

Mall 2: Westfield Chatswood- A short walk in the direction back towards the train station and on the other side of the street (still on Victoria Ave) is the much larger Westfield Chatswood. It’s so large that getting in and out you’d always appear and reappear from a completely different entrance/exit, needing to walk around kind of lost for a bit trying to regain your bearings. By far Westfield was where everyone was; don’t get me wrong, Chase had a fair few people but Westfields had many many more. There was just a hub-bub of many people moving and talking at the same time. Westfield has 5 levels, each level quite large so we didn’t do a circuit of each. But we caught the escalators all the way up to the top floor, and by that time we already got a little bit hungry and gave in to our rumbling tummies and we made our way all the way back down to the ground floor food court.

A couple of years back Westfield installed Hawker Lane, a corner of the   food court devoted to Asian eateries. The stalls lined up one-after-the-other with seating down the centre. So we made our way to this part of the food court and found stores from all your usual Asian cuisines, e.g. Malaysian, Vietnamese, dumplings etc. And after making a round, we actually opted for Indian (Chachu’s). On their menu they promoted their Signature Roll, and being a sucker for trying what a restaurant is known for, my wife and I both opted for a roll and for an extra $4.50 we made our rolls into a meal (includes drink and a side). I opted for a Crispy chicken roll, fried chilli potato and apple juice (yeah, I know….. I’m consuming processed sugars again after being off it for 7 months); while my wife had the Saffron roasted chicken roll, garlic naan and Mango Lassi (for an extra $1.50 on-top-of-the meal price).

Hawker Lane at Westfield food court

Armed with a buzzer (that was great! As it suggested that our food was made to order), we sat on high stools in the centre of Hawker Lane. And after a short wait, we were called back for our food. We didn’t know what to expect with our ‘Indian rolls’, methinks it’s naan-traditional? (get it…..naan-traditional, as opposed to “non-traditional”? Yes/No?!?). But we were pleasantly surprised that it was like a wrap, the wrap being a thin tortilla which had been pan fried so that the outside was blistered and flaky! My crispy chicken bits were well-sized, lightly battered, tender chicken tenders, which reminded me a bit of a chicken wrap from KFC, i.e. lettuce, and a mayo-like sauce, but having tasty Indian flavours, and additional Indian herbs/spice fillings. My wife was pleased with her roll as well, it was spicy but not just a ‘hot’ spicy, but a ‘tasty’ spicy. Although our sides were a bit hit and miss. The spicy potato was interesting enough, it was a potato mash, with all sorts of spices mixed into it, but then it was re-shaped back into a potato shape, and then deep fried. So the outside was nice and crunchy, while the inside was soft and melty. It came with a chilly dipping sauce, but it was tasty enough without it. But the garlic naan was a miss, it was stale so we gave up on it (but we were already quite full by then). And lastli, the Mango Lassi was really tasty, not like a smoothie (as a smoothie is watered down with juice), but the Lassi was more like a yoghurt but liquid enough that you could drink it with a straw. Very tasty, refreshing and filling at the same time. So when we were done eating we were very satisfied, and satisfied to kick onto the next mall on our list.

Our neatly packaged lunch from Chachu’s

Mall 3: Mandarin Centre- By this time when we re-emerged from Westfields (from another completely different exit) it had gotten hotter again, so the prospect of hunting around for the 6 other smaller arcades seemed a little less appealing now. What can I say? Sydney-siders only enjoy the great-outdoors when the weather is in-between 20 and 28 degrees, anything more or less, and we’re more than happy to remain indoors. So we just walked past Victoria Arcade and made a beeline to the Mandarin Centre (the third largest of the malls in Chatswood).

Mandarin Centre

One thing about me, is that I’m predictable and bound by routine. So for the past few years, always at this time in-between Christmas and New Year’s, I’d come out to Chatswood> Mandarin Centre> Trade Secret to buy a new pair of jeans, adding it to the “jean rotation”. While saying that, last year we must have skipped our annual Jean Day as in the interim Trade Secret had been taken over by TK Maxx, and European chain which did something similar i.e. offered designer brands at a discounted price. But unfortunately the store wasn’t quite the same, yes the stock was now more orderly, but there were less things on offer. In the past there were so many designer jeans to choose from, you could narrow down your search by size, cut, brand, and then colour. In past years, I’d have 5 pairs to try on, to select the best fitting one. But this time they only had 2 racks in total, and no surprise I couldn’t find even one pair in my size. Boo! So we left empty handed, so I guess after years of scoring designer jeans for half of the RRP, its back to General Pants Co for full-priced jeans. *Sad look*.

But when leaving the Mandarin Centre, this image did cheer us up though!  

Giant panda at Mandarin Centre

Mall 4-8: Chatswood Interchange, Lemon Grove, The Gallery, Victoria Plaza, and Orchard Arcade. Unfortunately we didn’t have the stamina to locate and walk the 5 smaller centres/mall/arcades. But maybe you can continue where we left off? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

After the Mandarin centre, we started to develop separation anxiety from our beloved Sydney CBD, so we went home. Haaha.

What else is in Chatswood? If you drove, you can visit Windsor Gardens and Seven Gables (both heritage listed sites).

And there are plenty of restaurants located in the centres/malls/arcades and on the street level for you to try. According to Zomato, you have 301 bars and restaurants to choose from in Chatswood alone! Some notable restaurants are Manpuku (Japanese/Ramen); Burger Patch (Trending Burger Joint); Kho Pla (Thai); Mamak (Malaysian); or Chimichuri (café), and many many more!

Final thoughts, Chatswood is like any other major central business district, but still worth checking out if you haven’t been recently. And if you’re looking for something in particular (retail wise) and willing to hang around for both lunch and dinner you can most definitely turn a visit to Chatswood into a whole day trip! Enjoy!

4 Days in Sydney- Day 4: Saturday

Itinerary:

Morning: Breakfast at Bondi Beach

Afternoon: Lunch in Manly

Evening: Dinner in Cronulla

So it’s the last full day in Sydney, we’ll miss you guys! So you’ll have to jam everything in and make the most of your last hours in Sydney! Obviously, if  you’re in Sydney for a wedding, you’ll have to do what you need to do today; however if you’re free as a bird, thus far there has been gaping holes in your visit to Sydney, that being the lack of time at Sydney’s famous gold sanded beaches and time on the Harbour! But today we’ll change all that!

9.00am Breakfast at Bondi Beach

Sydney CBD to Bondi Beach: 33 minutes by bus

It’s going to be a long day today (it’s 8.10am now), but not a particularly active one; so there will be many opportunities to just sit back and relax. First things first you’ve got a Bondi bound bus to catch, the 380 bus departs from Elizabeth Street near Hyde Park (a short 5-7 minute walk). **Note: There’s a packing list for today, in a bag bring with you a towel, hat (if you have one), and sunscreen.

Once the bus drops you off at Bondi beach, you’re there! The world famous Bondi beach is   just across the road! Along this main strip of Bondi (Campbell Parade) locate a café for breakfast.

Trio

56 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach

And if you still trust my restaurant/café recommendations, dine at Trio- which overlooks the beach. Elect alfresco, and as you breathe in the salty air, have a breakfast inspired by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines!

After you’ve eaten your fill and feeling the caffeine coursing through your veins, get on down to the beach- roll up your pants, slip off your shoes and socks, and let your tootsies sink into the soft sand of Bondi beach. For those who have come prepared, slip off your outer-wear (assuming your bathers are underneath) and take a dip in the Pacific Ocean! Bondi is a relatively small beach, but at this early hour hopefully the crowds haven’t descended upon the sand yet, so take this opportunity to enjoy a frolic in the surf and see what all the hype is all about!

For those who aren’t likely to de-frock and run laughing into the surf, you can try a uniquely Bondi special, the Deep fried Mars Bar at Bondi Surf Seafood (128 Campbell Parade). If you haven’t heard of the Deep Fried Mars Bar before, picture a regular full-sized Mars bar dipped in coconut batter, then lightly cooked, before being dropped into a deep fryer! When asked what does it taste like, well……. “Tastes like a fried Mars bar.” *Shrug*. So you can have one each…. Or best is to share one between two. And as enticing as the fresh seafood looks at Bondi Surf Seafood, be patient as you’ll be grabbing something similar at your next destination- Manly Beach!

1pm Manly Beach

When you’ve gotten enough of the sun, surf and sand of Bondi (it’ll be around 11.45am now), catch the 333 bus from Bondi Beach Campbell Parade to Circular Quay where you have a Ferry to hop onto! This leg of the trip will take approx. 38 minutes, when the bus drops you off at Circular Quay look for Wharf 3.

Circular Quay to Manly: 30 min by Ferry (Route F1)

You can use your Opal cards on the ferry as well, so it is pretty hassle free to transition from land to sea. As you board the ferry (there are ferries coming in once every 15 minutes) elect to sit outside and make your way to the back of the boat. Back of the boat everyone! As the ferry peels away from the wharf, get your cameras out as you’ll get a perfect photo opp of the Opera house as the ferry leaves Circular Quay. And coming up, there will also be a real nice photo opp of the Harbour Bridge! You’ve been to the top, now here is a view of the bridge from sea level. I personally love the fact that everyone can enjoy Sydney Harbour without paying big bucks to a charter boat tour company, and the harbour ride isn’t just a pointless circle, but actually getting you from point A to point B! To reach Manly, the ferry will be entering open waters but the swells are pretty small on most days so don’t worry about sea sickness. *Slaps hand over mouth*. And after a half hour at sea (there are restrooms on board if you’re curious to know), the ferry’s engines will start to power down and then reverse as it pulls into Manly wharf.

Manly is a northern beach-side suburb which has seen a recent spike of new restaurants opening up along the main commercial strip (the Corso), so you  shouldn’t have any problems trying to find a good place for lunch.

Where the ferry pulls in is the Harbour side of Manly, where you want to be is the beach end of Manly; you can get to the beach by walking along the pedestrianised foot mall, lined with restaurants and retail stores on both sides and after a number of blocks you’ll reach the beach/ocean end of Manly. But before checking out the sand and sea, grab some lunch.

Fishmongers Manly

Shop 4 Rialto Square, 11-15 Wentworth Street, Manly

Set a block back from the beach in a café, is a well-known Fish & Chip shop- Fishmonger Manly. After purchasing your F&Cs, go and take them to the beach to enjoy! **Note: At this point it is advisable to re-apply your sunscreen.

Manly is known for having a long beach, unlike Bondi, so you can keep walking in either direction until you find a nice spot to set-out your towels, kick off your shoes and sink your toes back into some sand as you enjoy your fresh seafood and chippies.

And after you’ve had your fill, you can have a nice post meal snooze, just lower your hat, close your eyes and lie down, enjoying the rhythmic sounds of the waves crashing on the sand.

And after a relaxing hour, if you need to kick-start your alertness again, you can grab your second coffee of the day from Havana Beach.

Havana Beach

14 South Steyne, Manly

And sitting at their outdoor alfresco seating, you can people watch while getting your afternoon caffeine fix, before collecting yourselves and head on back to the city on the ferry (It’ll be around 4pm now).

6pm Cronulla Beach

And as the Ferry pulls in to Manly, hopefully you had a chance to close your eyes and allow the gentle rocking of the ferry lull you to sleep? So you’re re-charged for the final leg of the day! After disembarking from the ferry, make your way to Circular Quay train station.

Circular Quay to Cronulla: 1 hour 12 mins by Train

First catch the train which will take you to Martin Place station where you’ll get off and change to the T4 Eastern Suburbs Illawarra line. And on your third mode of public transport of the day, head southerly to the Sutherland shire, a chance for you to see another aspect of Sydney. You’ll notice that the speed of life will slow down even further as you get further south of the CBD, and when the train pulls in to Cronulla at the end of the line, disembark and walk over to the commercial precinct of Cronulla for a few sneaky cocktails before dinner. **Comment: Cronulla is a beach side suburb 30Km south of the CBD, the only beach side suburb accessible by train.

Low and Lofty’s

51A Cronulla Street, Cronulla   

And with cocktails in hand, enjoy the up-tempo vibe of L&L’s, as you enjoy your last hours in Sydney overlooking your third beach vista for the day. *Sigh*. When you feel adequately relaxed, you can kick on and grab some food here or elsewhere, it’s up to you! But if you’d like to move on, I’ve got a great place in mind.

Zimzala

The Esplanade, Cronulla

To this point you still haven’t properly tried a restaurant serving Modern Australian (although they have been options along the way, which you may not have taken-up), Modern Australian cuisine is a ‘Western’ knife and fork meal, but what will be served up has been influenced by all the cultures who now call Australia home. Picture Asian influences, French techniques, Mediterranean/Middle eastern sauces, Latin spices etc. etc. and there you’ll have Modern Australian! And pair that with a nice local wine, while watching the sky darken over the ocean….. It can’t really get much better than this?!

And when you’re all beached-out for a day, head back to the train station. **Note: Trains continue to depart from Cronulla to Town Hall station until midnight. But I’m sure you guys are getting tired, look at you rubbing your eyes. Haaha. And tomorrow you’ve got a long trip ahead of you, be that a flight back home, or to another stop along the way on your epic Southern hemisphere holiday! But either way, I hope you’ve enjoyed your time in our fair city of Sydney, it’s been a pleasure showing you and sharing with you all of my favourite spots in our hometown.

Just remember to set your phone alarm, and getting to the airport can be done via the airport Train-link, or you can schedule an Uber to pick you up. Have a safe trip, and hit us up below on the comments section below when you’ve arrived home safely. As I’d like to know that you’ve gotten home OK, and enjoyed your time in Sydney! *Waves*.

NB: If you’re staying more than 4 days in Sydney, or if you prefer to spend less time exploring the CBD and more time exploring the great Aussie outdoors, you might like to visit Katoomba/The Blue Mountains in the west (around 2 hours from the city by train), do a coastal walk (e.g. Bondi to Bronte), or take another scenic ferry ride to spend a day at the famous Taronga Zoo.

4 Days in Sydney- Day 3: Friday

Itinerary:

Morning: Brunch in Surry Hills

Afternoon: Shopping and free City Walking Tour

Evening: One of six dining and entertainment options 

So you’ve earned yourself a bit of a sleep in today, after all the walking you’ve done thus far and the lavish dinner last night. Therefore today’s wake-up call is a little bit later, with the itinerary starting off with brunch in Surry Hills.

10.30am Joe Black

27 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills

I hope you’ve got your walking shoes on again as installed for you is another day where you’ll get your step-count right up there! Your first destination for a late breakfast (or brunch) will be in the neighbouring suburb of Surry Hills. Surry Hills is a trendy inner city suburb which starts to resemble a conventional neighbourhood i.e. one to two story terraces, tree lined streets, and the lucky few might even have a front-yard (albeit a 1m by 2m rectangle of concrete). To get to Surry Hills, head up Liverpool street in a easterly direction and as soon as you cross Elizabeth Street (a busy north-south street which has taken-up much of the motor traffic after George street was closed), you’ll noticeably feel the change in pace. It’s a more relaxed vibe in Surry Hills and where you’ve entered it, you’ll see a large expanse of grass (Hyde Park on the left (you’ll get a chance to enter the park later today) but for now keep walking until you reach Commonwealth Street, the location for brunch.

From all accounts Joe Black hits on all three criterias- good food (check), friendly service (check), and reasonably priced (check)! And their coffees are also good too! So depending on your hunger levels after last night, you can choose to have a lighter breakfast or throw caution to the wind as ‘you only live once’, and go all out on a big breakfast! And when you’re done with brekkie, surprise surprise! There is more walking to be done! **Comment: At least you’re probably burning a good portion of the calories as you consume them. 

12 noon Shopping

For those whose eyes lit-up at the sight of the sub-heading, you’ll be pleased to know that you’ll be let loose for a couple of hours to self-medicate with retail therapy! On your first day in Sydney, you spent a short amount of time walking past these locations, but this afternoon you can properly go back and check-out what’s on offer! From Surry Hills to the shopping precinct which starts around George and Druitt streets, you can get there by walking down any north-south running street (either Elizabeth, Castlereagh or Pitt). Which street you end up choosing, keep walking northwards until you reach Park street and then turn to the left and keep walking until you reach George street (Park street eventually turns into Druitt street). As a quick re-cap of what shopping hubs you can visit, there is the historic Queen Victoria Building- great for shoppers and non-shoppers alike as it’s a grand old building inside; there are the stores inside Galleries Victoria where you had coffee on the very first morning (which probably feels like a life-time ago); when you head towards Pitt Street Mall you’ll come across Myer- a 9+ levelled department store which sells everything; or cross onto the opposite side of Market street and check-out their rival- David Jones (another 9+ level department store); or stroll up and down Pitt Street Mall, where there are a handful of shopping malls lining both sides of the foot mall trying to entice you to ‘come in, come in’; there is ‘The Strand’ arcade, a miniature version of the QVB with niche one-of-a-kind stores; and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, your best bet will be Westfield Sydney- the benchmark for shopping malls across all of Australia.

For those who aren’t here in Sydney to buy stuff, spend this time just walking the streets of downtown as you might find something which interests you, down one of the smaller lesser-known streets. But if historic landmarks is what interests you, don’t spend too much time tracking them down as I have something installed for you which will satisfy that need! 

At 2.30pm, assuming that some people went their own way, re-group at Sydney’s most popular meeting spot ‘Town Hall steps’, where I’m going to hand you over to the professionals who will take you on a proper Sydney Walking tour, and the brilliant thing is that it’s FREE! (**Note: If you’re heavy laden with shopping bags, you’d probably want to rush back and drop them off at the hotel first.)

2.30pm Sydney Town Hall & ‘I’m Free Walking Tours’

And for the next 2.5 to 3 hours you’ll be guided by proper tour guides who will take you to all the ‘must see’ spots in the city and beguile you with tales about the history and significance of each landmark. Look-out for your guides in green shirts stating that ‘I’m free walking tour’ on their backs. Their meeting spot is slightly off to the side from Town Hall steps at Town Hall Square. These tours only run twice a day so the numbers will swell, so serge on in and make sure you’re close enough to the guide to hear them clearly. The tours will proceed rain, hail or shine and will cover:

Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay, the Harbour Bridge, The Rocks, Cadman’s cottage, Customs House, Hyde Park Barracks, the Rum Hospital, Reserve Bank of Australia, Parliament House, St Mary’s Cathedral, Australia Museum,  Macquarie Street, and Martin Place. 

Before continuing onto Hyde Park, Pitt Street Mall, Sydney Tower, Queen Victoria Building, Town Hall, Sydney’s oldest cemetery, Hilton bombing, underground tunnels, St Andrew’s Cathedral, and along the way guides will point out Sydney’s hidden bar culture, laneway art, and free things to do in Sydney.

**Note: I’ve bolded all locations and features you haven’t seen yet in your own travels thus far. And those locations you have seen? It’s still worthwhile to re-see, as you’ll observe them in a different light now that you know more of the history and interesting facts about the place.

At the conclusion of the tour at 5pm – 5.30pm (back at Town Hall Square), return back to your hotel to rest and freshen up before the evening’s activity, where you can choose your own adventure!

6.30pm Evening options

Depending on what interests you, you can elect one from six options:

  1. Remain in the heart of the city and have dinner at Mr. Wong (Modern Chinese) and then kick on to the Ivy Bar- specifically the Ivy Pool Club, where it’s literally a party by the pool! (a huge rooftop swimming pool). Be sure to dress nice for this option!
  1. If you want to experience a different kind of night-life outside of the CBD, you can elect dinner in Potts Point– specifically ACME (Modern Italian). And after dinner, kick on to the ‘Red light’ district of Sydney- Kings Cross – for a few drinks at a bar or club (perhaps at The Roosevelt) for some beers and whisky. **Note: Potts Point is a short 5 minute train trip from Town Hall (get off at Kings Cross station). Please make sure that everyone in your party is 18 or older and has a form of ID/Proof of age on them.
  1. If you want something a little bit more high-brow, head to Paddington, another Inner city suburb. Catch an Uber to Fred’s for a Modern Australian meal with an ever changing menu due to only serving in-season fresh produce. And afterwards hit-up a wine bar, or alternatively just head downstairs from Freds to Charlie Parker’s for some cocktails and be transported back to the 1920s-30s, the era of speakeasies in the States.      
  1. With some pre-planning this option might work-out! If you’re into musicals and live stage productions keep checking the Lyric Theatre site for upcoming shows and dates. If a show of interest aligns to your stay in Sydney- book some tickets to the theatre located at The Star Casino precinct (a short light-rail ride away- departing from Paddy’s Market light-rail stop). And after the show you can grab a bite to eat at one of many restaurants located at the Casino. If you can fit in another night of Japanese, check-out Sokyo for delicate yet inventive takes on Japanese food. 
  1. If you’d like to get completely out of the CBD/Inner city area, you can catch a train across the Harbour Bridge to the Northern suburbs of Sydney (approx. 20 min train trip), namely Chatswood, a mini CBD in it’s own right. If you get there early enough you can check out the stores and shopping malls along Victoria Avenue, then settle on a restaurant for dinner. There are heaps of options to choose from, but to narrow down your search you may like Japanese (Manpuku), Korean BBQ (San Ma Ru); or Malaysian (Mamak Chatswood). After dinner you can walk around Chatswood a bit more before settling on dessert at either Celsius Dessert Bar or Passion Tree.            
  1. Or alternatively you can stay local and take a night stroll around Darling Harbour, and elect to have dinner at one of the many restaurants on either the Cockle Bay side or the Harbourside side. Your dining options may end-up being Braza (Brazilian BBQ); Hurricanes (Ribs & Grill); or Steersons (Steakhouse). And afterwards you can chill out at one of a number of Cockle Bay bars with live music like Tokyo Hotel, enjoy the music and views while sipping on some cocktails.

But whatever option you end up choosing, don’t stay out too too late (1am curfew); as you’ll have a pretty big day installed for you tomorrow, on your last full day in Sydney!

4 Days in Sydney- Day 2: Thursday

Itinerary:

Morning: Bridge Climb and early lunch

Afternoon: Walk Circular Quay, Barangaroo, King Street Wharf, Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Cockle Bay/Harbourside, Darling Harbour, Chinatown

Evening: Catch-up with family/friends or dinner at Tetsuya

I hope you’ve had a good night’s sleep, as you’ll have much to see and experience today! You’re probably still a little bloated from all the eating from yesterday so skipping breakfast and having an earlier lunch shouldn’t be a problem? And instead start the morning with some exercise?

8am- Sydney Bridge Climb

From the hotel, flag a cab or request an Uber to pick you guys up. The trip will take less than 5 minutes as it’s literally at the other end of Kent street (but don’t try walking it, as it’ll take more than a half hour and you don’t want to be worn out before the climb.

To join a Sydney Bridge Climb you’ll have to book in advance and admittedly it might not be for everyone, e.g. if you’re afraid of heights, and it is a bit pricey at $330 per adult. But it’s worth the money (we’re price sensitive and we Climbed the Bridge and to this day it’s still one of the most memorable things we’ve done 8 years on).  It is a unique privilege to climb a world famous landmark like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and you don’t have to be particularly fit as long as you can climb steps and a few ladders.

The total experience (briefing and climb) will take 3.5 hours – the climb starts at the South end of the bridge, and with a dozen other people, your guide will lead the group up the arch of the ‘coat hanger’ by the way of evenly spaced steps to the highest point  of the bridge, before walking across the width of the bridge to the opposing arch (a group pic is taken at this point), before descending the west arch which will take  you back to the South pylon and back to the starting point. The climb is totally safe as you’ll be provided with a jumpsuit with harness which will protect your street clothing and the harness is connected at all times to a steel safety cable at waist height. On this morning don’t bring anything of value with you e.g. rings, large amounts of cash in your wallet etc. as you’re required to leave everything behind in lockers when you put on the jumpsuit, as they don’t take any chances with items coming free to strike cars down below; sunglasses/glasses are still OK as they’ll give you a band to attach to them but you’re not allowed to bring cameras or Go pros. So the amazing vistas you’ll see, you’ll just have to stow them as your personal memories and know that you are the lucky few who will ever see Sydney from this vantage point! The tangible memories which you can take with you (i.e. purchase), will be the pictures the guide had taken of you and the entire group, and the pic of your own individual group- be that you and your partner or family. And I imagine after the early start and all those steps, you’re thirsty and ready for some food?

11.30am Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel

19 Kent Street, the Rocks

And for something a little bit naughty and cheeky, why not have a before-noon pint of locally brewed beer! Hey, ‘when in Rome’, besides you’re on holidays and you deserve it after the climb! The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel is the oldest continually licensed hotel in Sydney and its heritage is obvious from the look and feel of the old building. To balance-out the beers you’ll be consuming, have an early lunch- choose from either the Nepalese menu or the more conventional Modern Australian menu. As you can see Sydney’s culture is eclectic and draws from all the cultures which call Sydney home!

And after the early lunch you can explore ‘The Rocks’ again (now that all the shops have opened up as opposed to yesterday) or you can head back to Circular Quay and the Opera house for another photo opp.

1pm Barangaroo Walk   

And when you’ve had enough of the O-house and H-bridge, you and your party can explore the other precincts which line the harbour foreshore. From ‘The Rocks’ you can first check out Barangaroo, the latest (and still in progress) re-development of the Sydney harbour front. You can follow the waterfront by the way of a pedestrian walkway, explore the re-created headland which includes a grass area where you can soak up some rays, or peer into some rock pools (the re-created headland a throw-back to Sydney’s pre-colonial days).

1.30pm King Street Wharf & Wild Life Sydney Zoo  

1-15 Wheat Road, Sydney

And after Barangaroo just keep following the shore line towards Darling Harbour, first passing by the boardwalk of King Street Wharf- a wharf for small boats to pick up and drop off passengers. And the “land” side of the wharf is inevitably lined with more restaurants- in Sydney you’ll never run out of dining options! And just before reaching the precinct known as Darling Harbour, you’ll reach Sea Life Sydney Aquarium; Wild Life Sydney Zoo; and Madame Tussauds. If on the previous day you ended up purchasing the 2 Attractions Sydney pass, you can use your second attraction pass now. My personal recommendation is to use your pass to visit the Wild Life Sydney Zoo – as housed in the small zoo are Australian native animals like koalas, kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, platypuses and Tasmanian devils. 

3pm Darling Harbour

And after seeing Australia’s furry marsupial friends, it’s time to check out Darling Harbour! My absolute favourite Sydney precinct! You can choose to remain on the left hand side (East side) of Darling Harbour and do a shorter walk, passing by Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Quarter and the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Or if you’re not too tired from walking, you can walk across the Pyrmont pedestrian bridge to the other side of Darling Harbour where the Harbourside Shopping centre complex is located, where you can buy yourself an ice cream/frozen treat as a reward if it’s a particularly warm afternoon.

And when you re-emerge you can continue on your way past the modern (and newly built) International Convention Centre, past a small square of greenery called Tumbalong Park and onto Darling Square (a new precinct still under construction). 

By this time it ought to be around 4pm, you can choose to explore Chinatown again and perhaps pick up some inexpensive Australian souvenirs from Paddy’s markets, an eclectic flea market in the midst of Chinatown (open till 6pm). Or for those who are tired from all the walking, you can head back to the hotel to rest-up, before tonight’s activities.

7.30pm Tetsuya’s

529 Kent Street, Sydney

And depending on the reason why you’ve come to Sydney this time, you can use tonight to catch-up with friends and family if this is the purpose of your trip. But if you’ve come to Sydney for a special celebration (perhaps an anniversary), treat yourself to a romantic night at one of the finest restaurants in all of Australia!

Tetsuya’s is a Japanese fusion restaurant which only serves a 10 course degustation menu inside a historic sandstone building. The food which will be served up to you will be creative, delicate, unique, and fresh, each element on the plate thoughtfully added for its flavour contribution to the dish or to add texture. Prior to the next course, you’ll be kept blissfully in the dark to what will be served up next, but be confident that you’d be wowed and pleased by it (just tell your server if you have any allergies at the beginning of the night). The standard degustation will cost $220 per person before drinks.

The meal is a lazy 3 hour affair, and if you elect the pairing wine menu, when you’re done don’t stress! As your hotel is only a short half block stagger away! Now do you see why I’ve recommended Fraser Suites? Location, location, location! But needless to say, you’ll need to book in advance for Tetsuya’s,  advising to book via their website 3 months in advance isn’t a joke if you don’t want to miss out!

So after having a divine meal (or a joyous catch-up with family/friends), get a good night’s rest as tomorrow will be another big day with much to see, do and eat!