Sydney, Australia has struck a chord with me that no other city in the country has. With breathtaking iconic views, plenty of classic Aussie beaches and a vibrant bar scene; this city is well worth a visit and has stolen a bit of my heart. The Harbor Bridge and the architecturally enormous Opera house seemed to call out to me, “Stay!”, when I first laid eyes upon the gravitational landmarks. Indeed I did stay in Sydney for four months and discovered Sydney has many layers, and when you keep peeling away, the more and more exciting to-dos in the city you find!
The typical tourist or backpacker area of Bondi beach would defiantly be the first and most stereotypical layer of the city, and is a part that many backpackers don’t leave. While the beach itself lives up to its fun and beautiful self, it is also filled with English accents more than the local Aussie. Luckily with the help of some local friends I was able to experience some deeper and even more exciting layers of Sydney and to dig in a bit and feed my personal appetite.
Being an American in Sydney is advantageous as the city is so packed with European, UK and Irish backpackers that flaunting my American accent around guaranteed to spark up an instant conversation with a local Aussie who seemed to be very interested in where in America I was from and what I was doing down under. Talking to the locals is by far the best way to get great recommendations of the good restaurants and bars to frequent. The Aussies certainly have a reputation of being friendly and fun. It is a reputation they definitely live up to. It is almost a safe bet that you are going to be invited to a drink out with the local you start to chit chat with. The only thing in Sydney that would rub an American the wrong way is the insanely high cost of literally everything from shampoo, to lunch, to a cab fare. Most will feel the burden of the hefty prices after a booze filled night out, as a “cheap” beer will cost you eight dollars. The safest bet is to buy a jug (pitcher) and stay away from the shots that will cost you upwards of ten dollars.
When going out, I found that often the bars that are the most packed with locals and sought after pubs in Sydney will actually hang American flags and American brewed ale. These American aesthetically friendly bars are actually American prohibition era style speakeasies that are popping up around the city. Speakeasy modeled bars such as The Baxter Inn and Shady Pines boast a constant flow of smooth and upbeat twenties era jazz music that puts everyone in a light hearted mood. From American to Australian to foreign beers and whiskies, (forget the fruity little cocktails), any persons taste will be complimented. The best part of these speakeasy bars; they are very hard to find, which makes the novelty of going to one not likely to wear off. They are often unmarked, down alleys or side streets, where you then have to climb down stairs to enter the establishments, gives a cheeky vibe off the bat.
In my down time one of the best ways to take in the city is to people watch. There must be something in the water the Aussies drink because there are heaps of good looking Aussie men and woman. The men tend to sport clean cut Boardwalk Empire style haircuts, with ray bans and neon colored or print filled tank tops, while the woman sport lean figures, fringed, high waisted shorts and a confident stride. The array of good looking locals could certainly cause some insecurity in one’s foreign self if not careful. An observer’s eyes are never disappointed in Sydney whether you are people watching on the beach or at a coffee shop. Once and awhile I even got the occasional greeting of “G’day” in passing, which of course, made my day.
The most surprising and most appreciated fact I realized while living in Sydney is that I did not need to travel hundreds of miles inland to the outback to get a proper country feel. Just a short two hours out of the city is the lovely Blue Mountains where you can really country up Australian style! For me, the Blue Mountains were a familiar place where I could feel like I’m back in the Midwest by the country lifestyle but with the twist. Instead of deer jumping out at me in the woods there were instead kangaroos and wombats. Those mountains are a complete and sometimes well needed 180, from the hustle and bustle of the big city. The Blue Mountains hold all the classic elements of the Australian wilderness: gum trees, kangaroos and some Aboriginal legends regarding the landscapes, such as the Three Sisters rock formation.
Feeling my way from the tourist center of the “Bondi bubble”, to the popular bar scene and surrounding countryside, I got a feel of Sydney that unfortunately many backpackers do not end up experiencing. Sydney is often not given enough credit since people tend to focus only on the high prices or assume the Opera House is the only attraction in the city. Of the five cities on the East Coast I lived in/visited, Sydney was the by far the most beautiful and the most exciting with so many places in and around the city to explore. The city is a gem and if you rub it a bit, the city only sparkles more.
Amanda Hill is a 24 year old active world traveler from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Being a solo traveler has not only opened her eyes to many countries and cultures, it has proved to her that the best university is the world itself . She can be found at her blog