After five weeks living in a campervan and traversing New Zealand, we had all but forgotten what it was like to live any other way. The nomadic, camping life suited us and felt quite normal in short time. Six people sleeping in a tiny space, preparing meals in a teensy kitchen, wearing the same clothes every day, showering weekly, … doesn’t everyone live like this? Ok, it wasn’t luxurious but it was fun. We were all a bit broken-hearted when we arrived in Auckland and had to surrender our six-berth Maui van.
Then we arrived to Sydney and OH MY GOSH! I was immediately reminded of all the things I had missed. Beds that don’t rock when you roll over, showers you can enter without flip-flops, a washing machine with no coins required, bathtubs, closets… a bedroom door! None of us knew how much we had missed these things until we had them back.
I washed every article of clothing inside my suitcase (because it all smelled like musty campervan). I hung it up to dry in the glorious Sydney sunshine and folded it into clean, tidy piles. I bathed all the children and scrubbed them spotless. Michael stopped into a barbershop and came out clean-shaven–the kids didn’t recognise him! Slowly but surely we were transforming into city people again. Aahhhh…
This was our fourth visit to beautiful Sydney in the past six years and because we have already done the touristy things (the zoo, the aquarium, the botanical gardens, etc.), we didn’t feel the need to be tourists again. Instead we could hang out, get caught up on homeschooling, enjoy afternoons at the beach, catch up with old friends, get to know the neighbourhood and pretend to be locals. We rented an apartment in Bondi, which turned out to be the perfect location for our surfing crew. It was just blocks from the beach and surrounded by great cafes, shops and restaurants.
Sydney is such a vibrant, hip, fun city and we enjoyed soaking up ten days of its great energy. It provided an easy (albeit short) re-entry to urban living with great food, amazing coffee, pretty beaches, warm sunshine, big waves and thousands of happy people who know how lucky they are to live there. Wish we could have stayed longer!
Here are some highlights from our stay in Sydney:
- Messina Gelato: An almost daily stop for us. Every Sydneysider we met recommended this famed gelateria and they were right—so good!
- Sabbaba: We love falafel and these guys do it superbly with super fresh produce and delicious flavours. There are about eight varieties of falafel to choose, ranging from the classic to the super spicy.
- Harris Farm grocery store (I could have moved in!): Six years ago we stayed in Bondi and loved it. Our only minor gripe was the lack of a great grocery store. Obviously others notice this too and along came Harris Farms. This store is packed floor to ceiling with awesome fruit and veg (mostly Australian), delicious dairy, fresh bakery goods, and just about everything else you need to make a healthy meal.
- Gertrude & Alice bookstore café: We were told this charming bookstore served the best coffee in Bondi and we can’t disagree. They also made delicious scones and a ‘Pineapple/Mint Frappe’ that we’re all still dreaming of. Baskets of kids’ books to peruse made for happy children too.
- Fish & Chips at Bronte Beach: Fish and chips beachside seems an Australian favourite, and this popular spot just behind Bronte Beach had customers queuing each evening. We loved the NZ Hoki. Just be sure to visit the cash point/ATM first. No cards here.
- Lox, Stock & Barrel in Bondi: Thirty seconds down the hill from our apartment, this place was packed with customers–and for good reason. The bagels with lox and cream cheese were as good as any you’d find in NY, albeit with an air of ‘healthiness’ that made you know you were in Sydney.
- Sonoma Bakery: Lots of people recommended we pop into Sonoma, and it didn’t disappoint. They have great bread, delicious pastries, and tasty sandwiches (perfect to grab and take to the beach!).
- Fish & Chips at Balmoral: Another impossibly popular fish and chips shop. This one offers a larger menu than the one in Bronte, and draws larger crowds too. Worth the wait though.
- Gelbison Pizza in Bondi: There’s no shortage of good pizza in Bondi these days and we regret we couldn’t try them all. This long long running pizzeria with classic Neapolitan style pizza and old school(a bit worn) décor hit the spot on our fist night in town.
- Longrain: After weeks subsisting on our pared-down, home-cooked, camper van menu, we’d forgotten how sophisticated food can be. Then our friends Emma and Simon brought us to this awesome Asian-fusion restaurant in Surry Hills and it was like an explosion of flavours with every bite.
- Bondi to Bronte coastal walk: a Sydney must-do!
- Northern Bondi rock pool: Great for little kids who are intimidated by the waves (it can get busy on sunny afternoons and weekends).
- Surf Bondi: There’s lots of rentals and the foam boards are kept separate from the fibreglass, giving beginners a safer area to learn.
- Bronte Beach: A more family friendly beach than Bondi, with a rock pool and a nice playground behind the beach.
- Parsley Bay: This harbour side beach is beautiful and tranquil, with a large grassy park and playground beyond the sand.
- Balmoral Beach: We’ve stayed here before on a previous trip, so we got to know this neighbourhood well. It’s a pretty beach with cute local cafes – and the Bathers’ Pavillion is a great spot to pick up lunch too.
- Sail boat ride in the harbour: Our friends Simon and Tahnee organised a harbour cruise of the famous Sydney sites and we were blown away. Seeing the city from the water is a special experience, made all the better by swims aside secluded beaches only reachable by sea.
- Bondi Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings (9am – 1pm): So many great vendors. Do your weekly produce shop while enjoying lunch or breakfast in the grass (you can rent picnic blankets if you’ve forgotten one!).
- Playground/park in Rushcutter’s Bay
- Although we didn’t do the more touristy things this time, we highly recommend the Taronga Zoo, the aquarium and the Botanic Gardens if you’re visiting Sydney for the first time.
- We used Airbnb to find this wonderful apartment in Bondi Beach. Our hosts, Cassi & Anthony, could not have been more welcoming and their lovely apartment was full of toys and books, making for very happy kiddos!