Sydney is a walker’s city, so I’m hard pressed make a recommendation for where to stay. Anyplace you choose, within your budget, of course, would be fine as far as location goes. I highly recommend the Four Points Sheraton, located smack-dab on the shore of Darling Harbour, and linked to it by walkway. The Ibis Hotel is another great facility, located a few blocks further within the city, next to the theater district.
The centerpiece on this end of the city⎯ and there are centerpieces throughout Sydney⎯ is Darling Harbour. It’s hard to describe this venue, except to say that it is the epitome of mixed-use waterfront development. Darling Harbour is a beehive of activity. Here you’ll see people walking, biking, eating, smooching, and just plain touring. A monorail system seamlessly winds its way through the waterfront. In short, it is a photographer’s paradise.
One can choose to walk around Darling Harbour or cross an always-busy pedestrian bridge that links both sides in the middle of the harbor. There is an Imax theater, convention center, every ethnic food imaginable, even a bagel shop that… well, it’s not a New York bagel, but it’s good.
The harbor itself is humming with boat traffic, mostly tourist venues taking people out for a cruise around the famed Sydney Opera House. But there are also jet boat tours, kayakers galore, even fishermen fishing at harbor’s edge. Replicas of the original lighthouse and of Captain Cook’s ship, The Endeavor, draw in tourist crowds.
One interesting eatery is Grill’d Burger, where one can grab burgers of every description, including three different kinds of veggie burgers, plus a selection of Aussie beers. It is relatively inexpensive as far as Sydney prices go.
Sydney also boasts an active Asian community, and Chinatown here is well known for its shops and high quality restaurants. Just a few blocks from Darling Harbor, on Sussex Street, you’ll find one of the best restaurants on the outskirts of Chinatown, a fusion Thai property known as Home Thai. Let’s just say that I challenge you to find better tasting Asian food anywhere! A telling sign was that, with the exception of two other men, my wife and I were the only Caucasians present. Pad Thai may sound boring to you by now, but try it here and you won’t regret it. I saved half of my generous portion to eat for breakfast the next day.
And, speaking of breakfast, if you’re near Darling Harbour at that hour, you simply must try Waldemere’s, a small boutique establishment run by Menno Tabbernal, a Dutch immigrant with a degree in hospitality management. It shows in his exceptional attention to customer service and the meticulous way Waldemere’s food is served. From basic yogurt with granola and fruit to eggs and brown bread, every dish is superb. The restaurant also offers free Wifi, not universally available in Sydney, so the pricey nature of Waldemere’s is more than made up for by its relaxed atmosphere and warm hospitality. Next up… New Caledonia!