Since I was already on the west coast in Cabo San Lucas Mexico, I decided to continue my trip with a three day stop in Sydney Australia. I hopped on the Delta flight from Lax to Syd. 15 hour flight time. Luckily I got first class so the flight flew by. I slept at least half of it.
After I woke up, I started looking at hotels. The number one best value hotel on TripAdvisor was the Shangri-La Hotel. It’s a five star hotel and was only $230 a night. Check out my separate review of the hotel.
Before arrival, the airline supplies first class passengers with a fast pass through customs as well as a customs form that must be filled out.
After exiting the plane you hustle to customs. There is a kiosk which will help expedite those who didn’t get the special fast pass. Then you skirt around baggage and are placed in random lines. Because I was coming from Central America (or Africa or Asia) I had to get a dog sniff test. But it was less than 5 minutes. Then you exit into the main terminal. From start to finish I was in and out of customs in less than 20 minutes.
The train is connected right in the terminal. It is super fast easy and clean. Also safe. There are window with people to assist as well as machines. Super nice facility. As was the train. It was a quick 30 minute train ride to Wynward station.
I then had a rather annoying trek .4 miles to my hotel which had a few stairs and some hills. However, the Amora Hotel was right across from the Wynward station on York Street. That might be a great location.
I chose to stay at the Shangri-La Hotel. A five star hotel overlooking the harbor and opera house. Check out my separate review for the hotel!
After checking in and grabbing a shower, I headed out to the Opera House. The earlier you arrive, the better your pics will be! It’s packed in the afternoon and hard to get a photo without a bunch of people in it. After a stroll around, we meandered through the botanical gardens. Very pretty and bordering the harbor.
Next stop was lunch. China Doll. The . #27 restaurant in Sydney. This place was packed and full of beautiful trendy people. The Menu was phenomenal with a great selection of Asian fusion dishes. We tried several and lunch was delicious.
After lunch we jumped on the Big Red Bus Tour. Basically the same as the Hop on Hop Off bus with recorded commentary and multiple stops throughout the city.
We opted to stop at Darling Harbor to check out the Wildlife Zoo. If you bought multiple parks tickets at the same time, you received a discount so we got the sealife aquarium tickets too.
Both these Parks are super interactive for children. Which is kinda annoying. Some area were overcome with children. But the zoo really stood out. There were koalas and kangaroos and wallabies and a bunch of foreign animals I had never seen before. The aquarium was pretty much like every aquarium.
But the highlight of the zoo was the koala encounter. For an extra $25, you got five minutes for two people to get up close photos with the koalas. No touching but you get really close. Unfortunately if the koala isn’t in a good spot, your photos won’t be as good. But if you get that lucky moment when the koala is out, it’s amazing.
After that, we got back on the bus and headed to the stop closest to the hotel. And a great night sleep after a cold shower. Australia is super hot in January!
Day two consisted of a wine tour. I did a full day Hunter Valley wine tour with Boutique Tours. A great company for small group tours.
I was promptly picked up at my hotel. After a few other hotel stops, We were on our way. It’s about an hour for all the stops.
It’s a two hour drive to the first winery with a half hour pit stop in between for coffee.
The first winery we hit was Savannah winery. Savannah is the daughter of the Peterson family who has been winemakers for years.
It was the best winery we visited and we got to try a variety of 9 wines. They were fantastic.
Next stop was the Irongate Estate where we tried 6 wines. Nothing was really very good here.
We then took an hour for lunch. We went to a cafe called Oscars. We had a set menu of 8 choices ranging from burgers to salads to fish and chips. I got the winemakers lunch which was a spread of cheeses, meats, crackers, fruits and olives. Very light.
After the hour lunch we headed to our last winery, capercaillie winery. The hostess was the most knowledgeable here and really talked about each wine. We got to taste 7 wines here. About half were good.
Then we hopped back on the bus and drove the two and 1/2 hours back to Sydney. The Hotel drop off was included. The price for the day tour was $105.
We had a full group of 14 passengers. My group was friendly and fun so it was an enjoyable day.
My third day I did a tour to the blue mountains. Viator posted this as a small group tour but it’s a large full bus. This tour was run by AAT Kings.
I was almost immediately disappointed with this tour. I prefer small group bus tours over the larger ones. They waste too much time herding people.
But the real kicker was Featherdale Wildlife Park. This tour was the only one that said you can feed the kangaroos. But anyone can. Just get a $2 jar of grass and you can feed the animals. Well, you can, if you can get around the hordes of people.
So that’s why I chose this tour as I thought it was the only one where you feed the animals. So that was rather disappointing.
The animals were great at Featherdale though. We spent an hour and 15 minutes here.
Another hour and a half drive to the small town of Leura. Which the aboriginals named molten lava. A cute mountain town where we stopped for a hour 15 minutes for lunch. We ate at the Garage. We had a set menu of four choices. I got the pork sandwich which was yummy.
Then we had time to explore the cute street of quaint local shops. It was charming.
After lunch we headed to Scenic World in the Blue Mountains to Katoomba. The ride took about fifteen minutes.
This park has two cable cars and an incline train to go from top to the valley floor and great scenic views.
We immediately jumped in line for the yellow cable car while out driver got our wristbands. The ride took off a few minutes later. It’s like 5 minutes across the gorge. On the right is the waterfall and left is open expanse.
We were told by our driver to head to the blue cable ride down to the base and the red train back up, so that’s what I did.
Had to wait in line for about half hour. It’s about 15 minutes between cable cars. Once you go down the three minute ride, you exit to the valley floor where you walk through the base of the rainforest. It’s pretty but nothing special. If you have been to Muir Woods, you can skip this.
On the bottom, I took the quick ten minute stroll past the coal mine and then back up the red line on the incline train. It was the coolest part of the trip!
Round trip top to bottom with lines took one hour. I then did a quick 25 minute cliff walk trail to a scenic viewpoint for a couple pics and back to the bus.
Basically I thought the rides were a huge waste of money. They pack you in like sardines and it’s hard to get near a window for pics. Even on the train there’s screen in front of you which ruins photos. If you are dying to hike the Blue Mountains, I suggest doing a small group tour that stops along the many viewpoints and allows you to do a few hikes. Scenic World itself was a big waste of money.
It was a an hour and a half drive back to Sydney for our cruise. We went to Olympic Park to catch the ferry back. We waited in line for about 20 minutes before the ship departed. Unfortunately it was raining and foggy so the cruise was lackluster.
The cruise took about 45 minutes and we got one drink included. I grabbed some local rose wine which was nice.
All in all, I thought the $167 price of the tour was not worth it. This was the most expensive tour to the Blue Mountains because it included all the rides in Scenic World. It was pretty but definitely not the best mountains I’ve been to. It was boring.
I headed back to Los Angelos on the fourth day. Flights were crazy overbooked and the airport was a chaos. Apparently the busiest time in Australia is summer holiday between December 26-January 4. It’s also hot and humid and generally uncomfortable this time of year!
Train was super easy. 40 minutes to the airport from the Quay. Exits right in the terminal.
Took half hour through security and another 10 minutes to get to the gate. So plan accordingly. A ton of standby passengers did not make it on. The 14 hour flight was exhausting. But overall, a fun three days Down Under!