My mom presented me with the most amazing offer in December 2016, go to Sydney with her and she would use her United miles to fly Emily and me (as well as my sister) to Sydney in first class (hello, flat bed seats). Done!
- Using United Miles fly first class from Honolulu to Sydney via Seoul on Asiana Airlines.
Part I – Central Business District (see below for details)
- Day 1: Check into Four Seasons Sydney, lunch at the Australian Heritage Hotel and visit the Wild Life Sydney Zoo.
- Day 2: Breakfast at Kansas City Shuffle and visit to Taronga Zoo and the Sydney Eye.
- Day 3: Breakfast at Four Seasons Sydney, tour the Rocks, visit the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Botanical Gardens, afternoon tea at Sir Stamford Circular Quay and back to Circular Quay for dinner.
Part II – Darling Harbor (click here for details)
- Day 4: Relocate to Radisson Hotels and Suites in Darling Harbor, visit Madame Tussauds and the aquarium and enjoy a dinner from Harry’s Cafe du Wheels.
- Day 5: Visit the Sydney Fish Market for breakfast, browse the boths at Paddington’s Market and take an evening ferry out to Manly,
- Day 6: Walk from Congee to Bondi and visit Bondi Icebergs before heading back to Darling Harbor to eat dinner at Tetsuya’s.
- Day 7: Visit the Queen Victoria Building and Hyde Park and eat a late lunch at Ippudo at the Westfield Shopping Center.
- Day 8: Return home.
In order to use of my mom’s miles to fly first class to Sydney, we ended up flying on United’s partner airlines, Asiana, and taking a roundabout way of getting there via Seoul. While this caused us to double our flight time, those flat bed seats more than made up for the length.
The only problem was that Seoul was the worst airport I had ever visited for a layover. (Although I’ve had friends travel to Seoul as a destination airport and they loved it.) The problem with Seoul is they require you to go through security in order to get to your next gate, meaning that when you walk off the plane from your first flight you need to leave the secured area and go back through security again. Our flight departing from Seoul was two gates away from the gate we arrived at and yet it took us over an hour to walk out of the secured gating area, get through security again and go back into the secured gating area mere steps from where we initially arrived. On our way back to Hawaii the plane was delayed leaving by almost two hours to accommodate the layover travelers trying to make their way through security.
Four Seasons Sydney – One of the Best Hotels Out There:
Upon arriving in Sydney, we made our way to the first of two hotels we would be staying at, Four Seasons Sydney. Since we arrived early in the morning our room wasn’t ready yet but we were offered the use of their spa facilities in order to shower and change.
The room came with a mini-fridge and with a convenience store right across the street, we are able to be well-stocked morning, noon and night with any snack or drink we could want. The first night we had a knock at the door and opened it to find a gentlemen standing there with milk and cookies. Yum!
The view of the harbor was stunning and the location was great both during the day and at night.
The morning breakfast buffet while pricey, was one of the best buffets I’ve seen with a rotation of food items each day and very eclectic in what they were serving. We used Expedia to reserve the hotel room and it came with breakfast included so see if you can get a similar option if you stay here.
The location itself is perfect. My mom and sister were able to enjoy elegant restaurants just a short walk away while I felt perfectly safe and at easy walking around at night, pushing my toddler in her stroller while we visited the nearby fast food eateries. My mom got pretty sick while we were in Sydney and (while not cheap) a quick call down to the concierge was able to procure a doctor who visited us in our room, checked her out and provided her antibiotics that fixed her right up! Last but certainly not least, waiting for us on our bed when we checked in was a mini robe and bath slippers along with an adorable koala stuffed animal for Emily. That koala bear completely made our trip to Sydney for her.
25 hours, 2 flights, 2 countries and a shower later and we were ready to explore Sydney. First stop: eating kangaroo for lunch. We headed over to the Australian Heritage Hotel for a pizza filled with emu, kangaroo and crocodile. Sadly they were out of the crocodile pizza so we ordered a bacon pizza to sample with our “coat of arms” (the name of the emu and kangaroo pizza). You order from the bar instead of a waiter, which was a little more hectic when they were out of some of the beer that was supposed to be on tap as well as the crocodile but eventually we got our order placed. The problem came when we were eating the pizza a little while later and found two long black hairs baked into the cheese and dough of the pizza. No thank you. On a positive note, this ended up being the only disappointing meal of the entire trip.
Next up was the Wild Life Sydney Zoo. Back in 2016, I bought three adult Sydney 5-Attraction Passes which allowed us access to The Wild Life Sydney Zoo, The Sydney Tower Eye, Sydney Sea Life Aquarium, Madame Tussauds Sydney and the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary for $70/pass (Emily was free). I believe you can still get the $70 pass but it no longer includes the Manly Sanctuary, which closed its doors for the last time in January 2018. The Wild Life Sydney Zoo was pretty small, which means it was pretty expensive for what you got to see (an adult ticket will cost you $42 at the door), but perfect for four tired travelers including a toddler. It was a must-see stop on my itinerary because you could take pictures with koalas! Note: it is illegal to actually hold a Koala in New South Wales (as well as a couple other Australian territories), so pictures only.
There was a long line to take pictures with the koalas so if you go to the Wild Life Sydney Zoo make sure you get there early. On the plus side, there was snack bar and some zoo animals for bored children to color while waiting to take pictures.
Finally, exhausted after all the traveling and our mini zoo adventure we headed back to the room relax for the night.
Be forewarned, the most direct walking routes in Sydney tend to come with A LOT of stairs.
Our first full day in Sydney started with a delicious breakfast at Kansas City Shuffle. It was listed on almost every “best breakfasts in Sydney” lists I read and I was not disappointed.
After breakfast we made our way to Circular Quay in order to catch the F2 ferry out to Taronga Zoo. Talk about making an entrance. There are two ways to enter Taronga zoo, via an 18-minute walk up a hill or via the sky safari cable car (price for the ride is included with the entrance ticket). The car fit four of us plus my fold-able pram/stroller and was a wonderful way to enter the zoo.
Looking back on where we came from during our sky safari ride
The elephants and giraffes were our favorites!
One thing I learned about when building out our itinerary for Sydney was Taronga Zoo’s Roar & Snore Program where you get to sleep overnight in the zoo in a tent. Unfortunately. the youngest age allowed to participate in the Roar & Snore Program is 5 years old so Emily didn’t make the cut. If I ever get the chance to visit Sydney again I would definitely like to try this out.
After Taronga Zoo and a quick nap (because that’s what you do when you travel with a toddler) we headed back out again to the Sydney Tower Eye located at Westfield Shopping Center (included on our 5-attraction pass).
Since it was getting late we picked up food from the food court on level 5 (your starting point for the Sydney Tower Eye). Note: we picked up food from the first place we came to but the two best places in my book are Ippudo (discussed in my next post) and Din Tai Fung (my friend recently returned from Sydney and ate there more than once because she liked it so much).
One more thing to add about the Westfield Shopping Center is that the changing area for babies was AH-MAY-ZING!!! The one negative comment I have about Sydney is that changing tables are not as readily available as they are in the U.S. I felt so bad changing Emily from time to time on the dirty bathroom floor or balancing her on my thighs while I sat down on the toilet in order to turn my own body into a changing table for her. Then we arrived at Westfield and followed the signs to the baby changing area and found a parent’s dream come true. In case you couldn’t tell, Emily was very excited too.
As mentioned above, our room at the Four Seasons came with a free breakfast buffet so we gave it a try on Day 3, and it was amazing with its international options providing the perfect Scottish, Japanese, Indian, Australian or American breakfast buffet, just to name a few of the cuisines they featured. The going rate for the buffet is AUD 42 for adults and AUD 21.50 so see if there is an inclusive option when booking through Expedia or similar.
After breakfast it was time to start exploring the Rocks, the oldest area of Sydney covered with cobblestone streets and gorgeous views of the Harbor. From the Rocks we made our way to Circular Quay and finally back up to the Sydney Opera House to get an up close and personal look.
One thing I wanted to do at the Sydney Opera House was take in a play, ballet, musical… really anything. I figured with Emily in tow that wasn’t gong to be an option for me but the Opera House has a lot of options for kids of all ages. Unfortunately, in a rookie itinerary creation mistake I tried too late to get tickets and they were sold out during the dates I was available. So book early!
After soaking in the views from the Opera House we made our way to the Royal Botanic Gardens and Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. The tranquil park in the middle of bustling Sydney was a surprising treat and we spent the rest of our morning looking at all the different flora, checking out the Opera House from a different vantage point and simply tumbling around on the grass.
A visit to Sydney did not seem complete to me without an afternoon of high tea, which we partook of at Sir Stamford at Circular Quay located right next to the Royal Botanic Gardens. What was great about the tea here is that they even had an option for our youngest traveler who would much rather enjoy a ham and mayo sandwich versus a curry puff (both were excellent).
That night my mom and sister enjoyed a lovely fine dining experience at Altitude Restaurant in the Shangri-La Hotel with unparalleled views of the city.
While not as fancy, I also thoroughly enjoyed my night out with Emily wandering through Sydney CBD and eating dinner at Four Frogs Crêperie and McDonalds, the former because both the savory and dessert crepe options were drool-worthy and the latter so that I could try the highly recommended (by an Aussie friend) sweet chili and sour cream fries.