Living in Sydney for a year enabled me to experience what it’s like as a local. Most of my friends were Australian and they welcomed me into their lives, introducing me to hidden beaches, trivia nights and local events across the city. While I’ve always said that the best way to see a place is with the people who know it best, I was to discover that sometimes you also have to see a city as a tourist in order to experience the full range of activities on offer, and I chose to see Sydney with Contiki before joining them on an epic adventure up the east coast.
The Contiki BEACHES AND REEFS tour to Cairns includes surfing, sea kayaking, jetpacking, bungy jumping, a 4WD safari, sailing, snorkelling, scuba diving, rock slides, an unbelievable array of beautiful scenery, some interesting local wildlife, a Dracula cabaret and an unhealthy amount of partying.
SEE SYDNEY WITH CONTIKI…
AND CONTINUE YOUR ADVENTURE UP THE COAST!
The first two days of the Beaches and Reefs tour are spent in Sydney, and here’s a taster of what you can expect.
Not only had I visited the Blue Mountains within the past few weeks, but we’d actually done exactly the same itinerary – a walk down to Wentworth Falls and a stop at Echo Point to see the Three Sisters.
I could have been a stick in the mud and chosen to sit this one out, but in my experience, you can do the same thing one hundred times and still get something different out of it.
Hiking along the footpaths was a great opportunity to chat to other people in the group and form some early friendships. When we arrived at Echo Point, the sun was shining and the views were clear, unlike my first trip when fog had descended over the entire valley.
VIEWPOINTS, STEAKS AND TEAPOTS
We were staying at the Holiday Inn in King’s Cross and this happened to be one area of Sydney I’d never been to. On our drive back from the Blue Mountains, we also toured parts of the harbour I’d never seen before, as Trys, our tour manager, pointed out the homes of Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe.
We stopped at Mrs Macquarie’s Point for simultaneous views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and, in the evening, we discovered Stacks Taverna, where you can cook your own steak, as well as The World Bar, where cocktails are served in teapots.
Sydney’s Vivid festival takes place in late May/early June. This included light displays on some of the most iconic buildings in the city, many of which were interactive. I’d explored some of these already, but the first official night of our Contiki tour provided the opportunity for some of us to head to Darling Harbour for the big light display.
Sometimes it takes a group of people with a different perspective (or an equally odd sense of fun) to discover the slightly quirkier sides to a city.
Within 10 minutes of leaving Darling Harbour, we met a dog wearing glasses, witnessed a massive street brawl and arrived at Scubar just in time for the first round of crab racing.
By far the weirdest part of our weekend in Sydney was visiting Manly. If wandering through the city as a tourist had been weird, then rocking up in the very suburb in which I’d lived – on a very conspicuous Contiki bus – felt extremely strange.
Despite the past week having seen nothing but torrential rain, the sun shone brightly over Manly beach. After some souvenir shopping and a final goodbye to a few local friends, I caught the Manly ferry to the city for the last time. As Manly disappeared behind the headland, a spectacular rainbow appeared, some big waves splashed over the side of the boat and Titanic reenactments took place.
AWESOME START TO AN EAST COAST ADVENTURE
I couldn’t have imagined a better farewell to my new favourite city. Our two days in Sydney with Contiki were packed with interesting and exciting experiences and I was laughing so hard with the amazing people on our tour that I barely had a chance to feel emotional about leaving. My tour group enabled me to see a place I thought I knew well from a whole new perspective and I’d encourage everyone to do the same in their home town.
MORE ACTIVITIES IN SYDNEY
Before you see Sydney with Contiki, why not consider spending some time there by yourself? Some other fantastic activities in and around Sydney include a day trip to the Hunter Valley to sample wine and vodka, hiking in the Blue Mountains, running the coastal track from Otford to Bundeena and kayaking to some of the Northern Beaches’ best hidden coves.
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My Beaches and Reefs Tour was sponsored by Contiki. While they requested that I write about my trip, the choice of topics has been left entirely up to me. Any opinions expressed are a genuine reflection on how I felt about the experience.
Thanks to Emma Thornton (aka Kate Winslet) for letting me hijack some of her photos!