Australia Trip Report: Sydney Opera House and Manly Beach

After checking out of the Park Hyatt Sydney, we took off for a day of sight-seeing. Earlier that morning, a giant Royal Caribbean cruise ship quietly snuck into the harbor. I was sitting on the balcony, working on my laptop and when I looked up, it was blocking the Opera House.

The Rocks Sydney Harbour Cruise Ship
The Rocks Sydney Harbour

Despite the large influx of passengers, the area wasn’t too crowded. The only indication that a large number of tourists had just been unloaded onto the docks was that they all seemed to be heading immediately to the ferry.

Before joining them, we headed to the Opera House for the obligatory Facebook profile picture.

Sydney Opera House Circular Quay Harbor
Sydney Opera House
Opera House Sydney
The Opera House
View of Harbour Bridge from the Sydney Opera House
View of the Harbour Bridge from the Opera House

Considering the most exercise I’d been getting around that time was walking in and out of a Starbucks, I was pretty beat when we made it to Manly Beach.

Manly Beach New South Wales Sydney Australia
Manly Beach

I sat down on the steps and almost immediately, two 12-year-old Korean girls ran up and asked if they could interview me. The first thing that came to mind was “this has got to be some kind of scam.” I half expected one of them to rob me while the other asked me my favorite color. But they looked so angelic, I put my cynicism aside. Turns out my initial instinct was wrong after all. These girls were on a school trip from Seoul and their assignment was interviewing English-speaking strangers so they could brush up on their own language skills.

They were both incredibly smart and self-assured. You don’t come across many 12 year-olds with the guts to just walk up and talk to people they don’t know. But then again, I have to question their teacher’s judgment for sending two young girls on the lose in a foreign country to talk to strangers. Some gems from the interview were as follows:

“So do you think light skin is better or tan?” One of the girls explained, “In Korea, everyone likes light skin but here it is the opposite. I don’t know why!”

“When you were younger, how did you like to spend your free time?” – Drawing and having water fights with the other kids in the neighborhood (rain or shine).

“How is Australia different from America or Afghanistan?” (Oh, the fun I could have with this one!)

I thought they asked some astute and humorous questions. They explained that while they were enjoying their trip so far, the hot weather was tough to get used to. They were also sharing a hotel room with two other classmates and having to share a bathroom was a hassle in the morning. I didn’t have the heart to tell them the fate that awaited them in college dorm rooms…

The girls left and my cousin and I sat there for a while while our aching feet recovered, then walked further up the promenade. On our way up, we noticed the two girls, who were now interviewing another group of strangers, smiling and waving at us. I do hope a chaperone was keeping an eye on them from a distance.

Ferry to Manly Beach Sydney Australia
Me and two future reporters

I wouldn’t call Manly a tourist trap per se, but it’s definitely overrun by them. It also happened to be the only place in the city where I saw an actual religious institution.

Church in Manly Beach Sydney Australia
Church in Manly Beach

Despite the onslaught of tourists, the souvenir shops were dirt cheap – cheaper than any other place I’d come across. At one store, stuffed animal Kangaroos were just $8 – the same ones were well over $20 at the airport. I realize that isn’t a fair comparison because everything is overpriced at the airport, but it certainly looked like this place enjoyed the same amount of foot traffic.

Manly Minicipal Council Building Sydney
Manly Minicipal Council

There were plenty of places to eat, but they were either packed or empty (i.e. There was a long wait, or the food was terrible and people were avoiding it). I’d heard a lot about Nandos and asked my cousin if there was one in the area. It turns out it was right in the ferry terminal. For those wondering what Nando’s is, it is to Portuguese food what Chipotle is to Mexican food. I did like the chicken and thought the peri-peri sauce was pretty good. When I eat at fast food places abroad, I always wonder why McDonald’s is so popular.

Nandos Manly Beach Ferry Terminal Sydney Australia

On the ferry ride back, the weather had turned gloomy. The boat was literally rocking back and forth like it was about to tip over. The only thing more terrifying than that boat ride was watching this one.

After this, we walked around the city, which reminded me of San Francisco. Many stores were having post-Christmas sales, with dirt cheap prices on everything.

Shoes on sale on King Street in Sydney

I can think of a million ways to torture myself before I chose to spend my time shopping when I don’t particularly need anything, but it wasn’t bad. We walked into a Meyers department store on King Street and I was surprised by how affordable everything was, considering the constant talk of sticker shock.  I tried on a jacket and when I looked in the mirror, I was taken aback by the tomato-red shade of my face. Had I forgotten to wear sunscreen that morning? I think for the first time ever, I did. And it showed because I had red arms to match my face.

It turns out my cousin was burned just as badly and neither of us had noticed until that point. We shopped some more and it started to get late. We were supposed to take a train back to Quaker Hill, however, my feet were in massive pain and I was dead tired, so we decided to stay another night.

I used the business center at the Park Hyatt to book the Hilton Sydney. It was really between that and the Intercontinental. Ultimately, it came down to which chain gave us free breakfast as part of an elite perk, so the Hilton won out. One of the bellmen at the Park Hyatt hailed us a cab and 10 minutes later (using some creative routing to pad the fare a bit), we arrived at the Hilton Sydney.

The Rocks Neighborhood Sydney New South Wales Australia
The Rocks at night

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  1. I had my first Nando’s last month at the Dubai Mall. Good stuff.

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