Sydney: Hitting the Tourist Highlights

Australians might snub those who incorrectly think that Sydney, not Canberra, is the capital of this sun-scorched country. But are outsiders really the ones to blame? Sydney is by far the largest and most populated city in Australia, often grazing news articles around the globe. When I tell people I live in Australia, they automatically conjure images of crowded beaches, the Sydney Opera house, and recite “P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney” in a voice that’s always impressively nasally.


Despite all the hype, it actually wasn’t until a few months ago – two years after moving to Australia – that I finally discovered what all the fuss was about for myself.

Beautiful beaches speckled with Turkish towels and lounging bodies, decent surf spots, quirky restaurants, and cultural hubs, it’s easy to see why Sydney is so alluring.

I took advantage of Sydney’s public transportation system over the course of a week while Mo attended a conference. Here’s a snapshot of one of those days.

The Sydney Opera House

Call it cheesy, call it a tourist trap, but the first thing I had to see while exploring Sydney: The Opera House. Hordes of tourists flocked with selfie sticks to the entrance, positioning themselves perfectly in front of the structure. A young, buff German man approached me with two taut, generously bosomed, twin beach babes on each arm.

“Can you take our picture? Nobody has been able to get it right so far.”

Ugh. What is it about walking around on your own that leads others to assume that you’re chomping at the bit to take their photo, desperate for any human interaction?

The girls puckered their lips and positioned themselves on each side of the man’s cheek. Raising his caterpillar eyebrow, he then shot a smirk and a thumbs up for the camera.

“Wow. Looks incredible.” I said without an iota of sarcasm.

“Eh, can you take another?”

They posed again. The girls’ backs arched so much, I feared they’d snap in half.

After six rounds of photo taking and repositioning, I shoved the camera back into his hands and bolted away. I suggested that they learn how to use a tripod and self-timer (like the rest of us vapid folk). From the side of my eye, I saw Tweedledum and his Tweedledees approach another victim for more pictures.

Sydney-Opera=House sydney-harbor-bridge-opera-house

Note: this picture bothered no one.

Note: this picture bothered no one.

Originally, the Sydney Opera House was supposed to cost just $7 million dollars and take three years to build. Sixteen years and over $100 million dollars later, we now have architectural feat known as the Sydney Opera House that’s so iconic today (you can read an interesting take on its history from The Everywhereist).


And because it’s Australia, the closest shop to swipe your credit card at near the Opera House is of course, the UGG store.

Sydney Royal Botanic Garden

I walked through the Royal Botanic Garden, perfectly primmed in a way that only countries that tax the bejeesus out of their citizens can prim. The park weaves through downtown, bordering the harbor and home to oddities like water birds and pink bananas (that apparently aren’t very tasty).
pink-bananas  sydney-royal-gardens

I unzipped my backpack and pulled out a Tupperware with a soggy tortilla wrap inside. It’s not in desolate or natural places that I usually feel alone, but in big cities instead. Couples embraced under a shady tree, friends laughed at their phone screens, and tour groups obsessed over the words of their guide. Spending the day alone in a place where company isn’t an option is easy – being alone in a place where you share an experience simultaneously with hundreds of people and no one, is much harder. Then again, my main prospect for company that day viewed me as a human tripod, so hanging solo isn’t that bad after all.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

At sunset, I walked up the steps of the Sydney Harbour Bridge – apparently the happening spot during sunset in a city like this. Without a cloud in the sky, I could see ocean and building-smothered land for miles. Security guards stood every few hundred meters and though they mainly focused on the joggers and DSLR wielding tourists pacing over the bridge, I occasionally caught their eyes tracking a boat slowly driving in and out of the harbor, just as mesmerized as I was.


Grids of thick metal hung above us, like strings on a puppet suspending us over the sea. A tall, barbed fence curved inwards to prevent people from climbing over and jumping into traffic or the water below.


At the end of the bridge I sat on a small bench and waited for nightfall. I heard the chattering voices of people walking past, breathed the fumes of the thousands of cars making their daily commute, and goosebumps raise as the sun disappeared. A month earlier, I’d quit my job to pursue one of the world’s least stable professions. A loop of self-doubt played in my mind as I watched a girl my age stare upwards, fixated on the cables above.

The sky turned black. I stood at the edge of the bridge to admire the lights of the city.

sydney opera house reflection sydney opera house overlookcluseup sydney opera house overlook opera-house-boat-lapse opera-house-sailboat-lapse
I rested my forehead against the fence and lost count of the blurs of boats below. I relished in the ability to stare out into the sea as long as I wanted, with nobody to pull me away.
The highlights of Sydney, Australia - Don't miss seeing these highlights!

Receive Updates!
Never miss a post by subscribing via email. Follow for stories and inspiration about travel, extreme sports, yoga, and adventure.
I hate spam. Your email address will never be shared with anyone else.

You may also like...

29 Responses

  1. Sheri says:

    Sydney is beautiful and I would love to live in Australia or New Zealand for so many different reasons. Sydney is quite far away from where we live now but when we do visit we will likely be over there for about 4 weeks to really see both places and explore our options. Great pictures!

  2. Shounak says:

    Nice to read your travels in Sydney. One of the biggest highlight you could add is Bondi to Bronte walk
    Also I wrote my Sydney experience here
    Sydney has great tourist attractions, probably more than Melbourne, but must say that I prefer Melbourne over Sydney, specially from a safety point of view at night

    • Chantae says:

      The Bondi to Bronte walk is the next post on my list 🙂 Hm, interesting you felt Sydney was unsafe. I love Melbourne too (more cultural highlights) but fortunately I never felt unsafe in Syd.

  3. Rea says:

    I loved Sydney a lot, I was there just over a month ago and I had a really great time. Unfortunately the weather was not on my side to take some nice pictures of the Opera 🙁 However, the thing I liked most about Sydeny is the iconic Bondi beach 🙂

  4. My apology (in-advance) but I’m kind-of lusting Sydney this past weeks, and now here it is! I love how you capture those perfect photos.
    Blair Villanueva recently posted…How to Shop Like an IT Girl and Get Your Own Stylist for FREEMy Profile

  5. Brooke says:

    Lovely city. It was too big and could-be-any-big-city-in-the-world for me though and crazy expensive!), I preferred Melbourne. It’s funny everyone has a favorite city in AUS though (the Australians I mean) either Melbourne or Sydney and typically those Aussie friends of mine who prefer Sydney prefer LA to SF in California, and those who prefer Melbs, prefer SF. Every place has it’s beauty though! I wouldn’t say no to a free vacation house in Sydney:)

    • Chantae says:

      That’s really interesting! Melbourne has more personality IMO but Sydney is a bit more outdoorsy, which I like 🙂 I can see why the SF/Melb correlation exists for sure. Still gotta say Perth is my favorite (if only bc it’s a base for the rest of WA!)

  6. Your pictures of Sydney are beautiful, loved the way you have captured them. And lol yes we too have experienced the way tourists treat you like their personal photographer but one you faced was too much. Glad you got rid of them 😉

  7. Linda says:

    Awesome shots! I love the shot of you lying in front of the opera house! Makes me want to go to Sydney toooo!

  8. Voyager says:

    The Opera house, iconic landmark of Sydney is beautifully photographed. And yes one of the hazards of travelling solo, is every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks that your are waiting to be their chartered photographer 😉

  9. I also love Sydney! These were three of my favorite things to do there! I was lucky enough to see a show at the Opera House. It was worth it to have cocktails and snacks on the beautiful balcony too.
    Stella the Travelerette recently posted…How to Have a Perfect Day in Mitte in BerlinMy Profile

  10. Liana says:

    Wow, those photos are amazing! I’d love to visit Sydney, and I’m planning to. The Sydney Opera seems just one of the most beautiful place on Earth! For me, Australia is just one of those place that seems crazily amazing!

  11. Danielle says:

    Ahhh Sydney – its been up there on the bucket list for so long! Loved the piece, you really painted a great picture of the city. And I know exactly what you mean about feeling alone in big cities – it sometimes does get difficult when you’re surrounded by strangers.

  12. I love Sydney and haven’t been there for years, but it was lovely to revisit this vibrant city through your interesting post and with such lovely photos too. The Opera House and Bridge may be popular with tourists, but why not, they are such iconic symbols of this city!

  13. Tamshuk says:

    You’ve done some pretty amazing photography there. The views from the Syd Harbour bridge are outstanding.
    Tamshuk recently posted…When in Hong Kong, Take a HikeMy Profile

  14. JONA says:

    Hi there, Chantae! Lovely observations you got here! The scene by the Opera House is funny! And I know how you feel. I have experienced that at time. I offer a hand, especially when I’m in a good mood for a humanitarian cause! Haha!
    JONA recently posted…Cafes as a Destination in SingaporeMy Profile

  1. July 14, 2016

    […] A city slicker, I am not — which means I jump at any chance to get away from concrete, traffic, and the smell of urine that lingers around every single bus stop in the world (fact). My friend Mel, her boyfriend, their friend, Mo, and I piled into a car to escape Sydney for a quick day trip to Jervis Bay, a national forest outside of Sydney. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge