We’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year… and what a year it’s been!
We started 2015 in Cairns, where we stayed until May, working and biding our time until we had to fly home for two weddings.
Once we were on the road again, our task was fairly simple – explore the east coast of Australia. After a magical visit at Paronella Park, we passed through Townsville and Mackay before heading inland to the beautiful Lake Elphinstone.
We spent about three weeks in Brisbane because Dave needed some medical attention, but it was great to spend time with friends in that beautiful city. As we approached the Gold Coast, the dark clouds returned and by the time we got to the Best Of All Lookouts, we couldn’t see a thing!
We crossed the border into New South Wales and bee-lined straight to Byron Bay for a few days in the easternmost town of Australia. We were lucky to get a few days of sun but the drizzle returned as we made our way to Coffs Harbour. Finally, with some sun, we got to enjoy the beautiful coastline from Port Macquarie to Newcastle.
We enjoyed a tipple in the Hunter Valley before spending a week on the Central Coast, helping out a family with their household duties while Juz scored some work with a school holiday program in Gosford.
Arriving in Sydney was a little surreal. It’s the biggest city in Australia and we spent a lot of time walking around the city getting exhausted. We also have a few friends in Sydney so it was great to catch up and spend time with them.
We headed inland to the Blue Mountains and Central West just in time for a freakish cold front to sweep through the area. We had the pleasure of experiencing subzero temperatures and snow, as well as seeing the Dish in Parkes and exotic animals at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.
With a few more friendly visits in Kiama and Milton, and a stop at the Big Merino in Goulburn, we finally visited our country’s capital. We called in at the War Memorial and National Mint and even saw our old travel buddies Tom and Bella.
Once we returned to the coast, the wet weather reappeared and we reached the Victorian border within a day or two. From then on, there was no point stuffing around – we were 4 hours from home. On Sunday the 2nd of August, we rolled in unannounced and enjoyed a hot shower and warm bed.
Since our return to Melbourne, we’ve been busy. We got jobs, reconnected with friends, and started making plans for the future.
We’re going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the silly season and spend time with our family and friends. We’ll see you all in the new year with more posts about the last leg of our lap around Australia, as well as our run down of Tassie later in the year.
Sydney is the biggest city in Australia, so this $100 Day was epic. So epic that you might have to split it into a few days to make sure you can get the most out it!
We’d like to dedicate this $100 Day to Blake, the awesome bloke we met in Newcastle at the YHA. Blake – if you’re reading this, make contact with us. You are always welcome to stay with us when you’re in Melbourne.
1. If you plan to travel around Sydney for a few days, grab yourself an Opal Card, top it up with some cash. Otherwise, you can buy a single ticket for the ferry into Circular Quay for $6.20.
2. Grab a coffee at The Fine Food Store.
3. Go for an explorative stroll through the alleys and laneways of the Rocks, and pop in to the Sydney Harbour YHA for some insight into how life was back in the old days. If it’s the weekend, they hold a great market here from 10am.
4. Do the Pylon Lookout for great views of the harbour and city.
5. Make your way through Circular Quay to Bennelong Point and marvel at the architecture of the Sydney Opera House.
6. Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens on your way to Martin Place, the heart of Sydney. Peek into the Channel 7 Studios, gape at the GPO, and if you feel like it, duck into Lindt Café and grab some chocolates for $9.99 per 100g.
7. Head south along Elizabeth Street to Hyde Park. Check out Archibald’s Fountain, The Pool of Reflection and whatever street performers are lingering around before ducking across the road to St Mary’s Cathedral. Nearby is the St James Church – sometimes they do free lunchtime chamber concerts.
8. Hungry yet? Head back to George Street and catch the free shuttle bus down to Haymarket.
9. Market City has an awesome food court with a great selection of Asian food. Have a filling lunch.
10. Go for a quick stroll through Chinatown and head towards the Chinese Garden of Friendship.
11. It’s time for beer – walk down Liverpool Street to the World Square, and duck into the Sydney Brewery for a beverage. At $5 for a schooner, you can’t go wrong. We recommend the Lovedale Lager.
12. From the brewery, head back to George Street and go north towards Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building. If you feel like ice cream, duck in to Regent Place and grab a sea salt soft serve sprinkled with pop rocks from Aqua S to share.
13. From here, you can take the bus home. If you have a topped up Opal card, great – otherwise buy a single bus ticket from $2.40. Ticket costs depend on how far you’re going.
Bam… a massive day of sightseeing and eating with 70 cents to spare. Of course, there is heaps more to see, like Luna Park on the other side of the river, and heaps more to eat, like Mr Crackles in Darlinghurst or Vienna Sandwiches in North Sydney – but we’re only human and we can’t do it all.
Sydney is big, beautiful, colourful, and exhausting. We spent several days in the city, walking around and trying to see as much as possible, but we still didn’t see everything. We’d always run out of steam and head back to base. But our time in Sydney wasn’t just about sightseeing, we met up with friends and family and got stuck in the thick of it.
Perhaps our favourite Sydney activity was going to the pub to watch the State of Origin Decider with our mates. A few records were broken by that third decider match – the most painful being the huge 52-6 victory for Queensland, which is the largest winning margin in Stage of Origin history. By half time, most the patrons of the pub had left and there were lots of unhappy faces. Juz was secretly siding with Queensland – her team choice was purely based on the average temperature of each state. And considering it was a chilly winter night in Sydney, Queensland was a clear winner on all fronts.
We saw heaps of stuff – beautiful days, fog so thick you couldn’t see 100 metres in front of you, rain and lightning, bikie busts, homeless people, and of course two of Australia’s most recognisable landmarks – the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. We also got to spend some time with friends and family, including Dave’s uncle and Juz’s old colleague, Gareth.
Sydney is located on the world’s largest natural harbour.
Residents of Sydney are called Sydneysiders.
The population of Sydney is over 4 million.
A town plan of Sydney was submitted in 1790 but was rejected by the colony leaders, and this is why the layout of Sydney is so disorganised.
The region where Sydney is located has had occupants for thousands of years, but the first Europeans came in 1770. All the kids learn at school how the heroic Captain James Cook sailed into Botany Bay on the Endeavour and liked what he saw. The First Fleet arrived 18 years later with over 1000 settlers and the British colony was established on 26 January – what we now call Australia Day.
Not all passengers were free – there were 778 convicts on board and they were put to work to build the colony and expand farming. Over the next few years, more boats full of convicts arrived, but due to sickness, many of them died. In the meantime, aboriginals were dying because their food sources were depleted and their immune system was no match for introduced diseases like measles and small pox.
Sydney officially became a city in 1842 and as always, the discovery of gold in Bathurst in 1851 caused a massive population boom from around 40,000 people to over 200,000 over 20 years. This rapid growth meant that infrastructure needed to be upgraded, like railways and ports, but the boom was stolen away by the Victorian gold rush. People started to flock south to Melbourne and this was the beginning of the rivalry between these two cities.
In 1901, when the colonies were united to become the Commonwealth of Australia, both Sydney and Melbourne applied to be the capital of the country. The dispute was settled with the creation of a new city – Canberra.
In 1942, Australia’s involvement in WWII stepped up a notch when Sydney Harbour was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Three midget submarines entered the harbour and two of them were detected and attacked before being scuttled by their crews – who all perished. The third sub fired a torpedo that killed 21 people aboard a converted ferry. It then disappeared until it was found in 2006 just north of Sydney by some amateur scuba divers. Though damaged, the two scuttled submarines were quickly recovered and one complete vessel was made and put on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In September 1993, every Australian was glued to their TV, watching with anticipation for the announcement of the next host of the Olympic Games. The IOC President at the time, Juan Antonio Samaranch, then said those famous words:
“The, the winner is Syd-a-ney, Australia…”
Sydney went on to host the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. Australia came in 4th overall and won 58 medals – 16 gold, 25 silver, 17 bronze, with the majority of them coming from the swimming pool. Interestingly, all of the bronze medals handed out during the Games were made at the Royal Australian Mint from melted down 1c and 2c coins.
Points of Interest
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Affectionately known as the Coat Hanger, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was built over 9 years and completed in 1932. It’s a masterpiece of forethought, as back in the 1930s, there was only a handful of registered cars, but these days it’s the busiest road in Australia. While we were in Sydney, we drove across it, walked over it, caught a train across it, rode the ferry under it and Dave even climbed it.
Sydney Opera House
You can’t get more iconic than the Sydney Opera House. Located at Bennelong Point and sometimes called the Dish Rack, the performing arts centre was opened in 1973 and is one of the most popular attractions in Australia. The nearby Opera Bar is a popular place to hang out and have a beer.
Sydney’s Luna Park
Located on the opposite end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is Sydney’s Luna Park, a theme park that’s been operating since 1935. This retro, Coney Island inspired playground is free to enter and is seriously fun.
The place where the original convicts were sent to live, the Rocks has transformed into an area full of beautiful heritage buildings, cafes and shops, charming alleys and cobblestone laneways and tonnes of history. To learn more about the area, you can either go to the Discovery Centre, or visit the Sydney Harbour YHA to see the original foundations. On the weekends, there’s a cool market that runs from 10am to 5pm.
A pedestrian mall in the heart of the city, it’s home to several Australian banks, Martin Place Railway Station, the Seven Network news centre and the glorious GPO building. It was also the site of the Sydney Siege in late 2014, where 18 people were taken hostage in the Lindt Café. It was a shocking event and to pay our respects and get a bit of sticky beak action, we visited the café and bought some chocolate.
The oldest public parkland in Australia, Hyde Park is a splash of green in the grey of the city. Within the park is the Pool of Reflection and Anzac War Memorial, but the centrepiece is the Archibald Fountain, which was designed by a Frenchman as a ‘thank you gift’ for Australia’s contribution to the First World War.
We also found a giant outdoor chessboard, some enormous seven metre tall bullets that pay tribute to indigenous servicemen and women, and a man entertaining some kids with bubbles. Next to the park is St Mary’s Cathedral, the longest church in Australia – 107 metres.
Kurnell & La Perouse
These words might not mean much to you, but they are important locations in the history of Australia. Kurnell is on the southern headland of Botany Bay and it’s where the seamen of the Endeavour first stepped onto Aussie soil way back in 1770. There are monuments celebrating this event, and the best way to see them is on the Burrawang Walk, which starts at the Kurnell Visitor Centre. The walk passes Captain Cook’s landing place and acknowledges the other members of his team like Isaac Smith, who was actually the first Englishman to set foot on Australia, and Forby Sutherland, the first Brit to die in Australia. There’s also an obelisk that commemorates 100 years and 200 years of Cook’s Landing.
The northern headland of Botany Bay is named La Perouse after the French explorer Jean-Francois de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse (what a mouthful!), who landed there on the 26th of January 1788 with two ships, the Astrolabe and Boussole. According to history, La Perouse was coming to Australia to claim it for the French. Unfortunately for him, the First Fleet from Britain had arrived a week earlier on the 18th of January, so they were there to meet him and his crew. The French stayed in Botany Bay for six weeks before continuing their adventure to New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands, where the two ships disappeared, never to be seen again.
To the South
To the south of Sydney are a few notable landmarks. Bondi Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world and in true ONA fashion, as soon as we arrived, it started to rain. Further south along the coast is Coogee, the place of the infamous poo poo ice cream incident a few years back. It seemed appropriate to seek out a sundae for our visit but for some strange reason, the only eatery in the area still selling sundaes was McDonald’s.
Further south still is the Sutherland Shire, named after Forby Sutherland, the first British man to die in Australia. This is where Dave’s uncle lives so we got to spend a few days hanging out with family. Dave and his uncle even went and had a look at Royal National Park, the first national park in Australia.
To the North
The northern beaches start at Manly, a seaside suburb that was named after the ‘manly’ indigenous that lived there when the First Fleet arrived. The Manly Wharf is a popular spot for a feed, with a few fancy restaurants and cafes, or you can catch the ferry from Manly Cove to the Sydney CBD.
Further north is Pittwater, a valley estuary that separates Sydney from the Central Coast. At the entrance of the estuary is Palm Beach, a hilly area stuffed with big houses perched on cliffs with decadent views of the coast.
While you’re in the north, take a detour on the Mona Vale Road to the Bahá’í Temple, one of seven in the world. The temple was built in 1961 and welcomes all faiths. It’s almost 40m high and has nine sides with nine entrances, which represent unity. When you visit, please note that it is a quiet zone so turn your phone off and shush.
Eat & Drink
There are so many great places to eat and drink in Sydney. Just close your eyes, spin around 10 times and order something from the first place you bump into. Here is our post on the yummy places that we ate at.
We sniffed out a few breweries in Sydney, only missing out on one in the Rocks. They all had a great selection of beers but our favourites were Young Henry’s in Newtown and Batch Brewing Co in Marrickville. Check out our post about Sydney Breweries here.
Information & Accommodation
The public transport system in Sydney is pretty straight forward. There are double decker trains, insanely fast buses and relaxingly slow ferries, and you can either buy a single ticket, a multi ticket, or save yourself the confusion and get just an Opal Card. Opal cards can be picked up for free from certain outlets and you just put money on it and touch on and off to travel.
For accommodation, there are several YHA locations, including Bondi, Sydney Central, Sydney Harbour, Glebe and two up the northern beaches. We stayed at Glebe Point YHA so that we could have somewhere to park the Troopy and still be close to the city, but we also checked out the Sydney Harbour YHA too.
Mankind asserts its dominance over the earth in three ways – building things, destroying things, and climbing things. Like Mount Everest and the Great Wall of China, Sydney offers the brilliant experience of climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Bridge Climb opened to the public in 1998 and since then, over 3 million people have climbed Sydney’s giant ‘Coathanger’, including scores of celebrities and sports superstars.
Because Juz got to visit the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, it was my turn to do something spectacular and the weather put on its Monday best with a clear and sunny day.
The Bridge Fast Facts
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the busiest road in Australia.
Construction took 9 years to complete, employing 1400 workers, and was officially opened on the 19th of March 1932.
The bridge is 1,149m long, 49m wide and 134m tall.
Over 6 million rivets were used to hold all the massive steel pieces together – all hand hammered into place. For the tricky spots that didn’t have any safety access, an unharnessed worker would stand on the beams with a baseball mitt style glove while a second worker would heat up a rivet until it was white hot. He would then throw it to the gloved guy, who had to catch and hammer it in within seconds. As it cooled, the rivet would shrink and hold the beams together.
An Irish guy named Kelly fell 50m off the bridge into the water. He copped two broken ribs, and his boots split and ended up around his thighs. He was given a gold watch as compensation and was back at work in 4 weeks. He became a local hero and people would buy him beers at the pub to hear his story.
The granite that makes up the two pylons at each end of the bridge was quarried in Moruya, 300km south of Sydney. The pylons are not load-bearing – they are 100% aesthetic.
My experience started at the Climb Base, where I got to have a look at photos of celebrities who have done the Climb. In the pre-prep room, there were 11 other people who would be in my group – six Americans, two Brits, one Mexican, one Ecuadorian, and one other Aussie. The room was buzzing with nervous excitement.
After a quick breath test, our instructor gave us overalls so we could start getting suited up. With our pockets emptied and overalls on, we strapped ourselves into our safety harnesses and started accessorising – clip on cap, beanie, hankie, warm fleecy jumper (in case of cold), water proof jacket (in case of rain), and a radio. Once the radio check was complete, our tour guide Richard led us out.
We emerged underneath the bridge and clipped our safety harness onto the cable, where we would be attached for the next 90 minutes. The first thing I noticed was the noise of the traffic above. We ducked and weaved our way through the underside of the bridge until we went through a hatch and popped up at road level. This was the noisiest point of the climb – eight lanes of cars plus two lanes for trains can be quite deafening.
As we climbed the inner arch, the traffic noise slowly disappeared and the breath-taking views came into sight. We gazed out at the Sydney Opera House and looked back at the city. To highlight the growth of Sydney, Richard pointed out two buildings – the ANZ building, which was the tallest back in the mid-60s, and another Victorian style building that was the tallest in 1932 when the bridge was opened.
We reached the top of the bridge and reeled at the all the activity below. Cruise ships and ferries in the beautiful green waters of Sydney Harbour, Fort Denison, Kirribilli House, and the cliffs at Manly in the distance. We also spotted the other bridges that span the harbour – Gladstone Bridge was constructed in the 1960s and Anzac Bridge was erected in the 1990s. From the top, there were incredible 360 degree views from the Pacific in the east to the Blue Mountains in the west.
A few days later I found out Eva Longoria was in my Bridge Climb group. After Juz told me Eva Longoria s a famous actress, we looked at the group photo and Juz pointed her out to me.
Bridge Climb experiences vary from express climbs to precisely timed sunrise and sunset climbs. It’s perfect for corporate groups, birthday gifts, and very unique weddings. For more information on the Bridge Climb, visit http://www.bridgeclimb.com/
Sydney Harbour YHA is not your ordinary YHA. It’s a new purpose-built hostel with state of the art facilities that’s located within the historic Rocks precinct of Sydney. It boasts incredible views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge and has won more than 30 awards, but the real feature of this hostel is that it is built on top of the archaeological remains of colonial Sydney.
When Sydney was first established, most of the convicts were sent to the Rocks to live. Houses were built on actual rocks (hence the name), and the suburb earned itself the reputation of being a rough neighbourhood. The bubonic plague hit Sydney in the early 1900s, and because the Rocks was densely populated, it was assumed that it would suffer the most casualties. Despite the deaths of only three people, most of the buildings were demolished and those who survived the plague were moved to other suburbs.
The current YHA site was not used much between 1901 and 1994, it was mainly an empty lot for car parking. In 1994, excavations of the current YHA site began and the foundations of over 30 colonial homes were found, as well as thousands of artefacts. The insight that these discoveries have provided show that perhaps the Rocks wasn’t such a scummy place after all, with some of the artefacts quite fine and expensive, and evidence of a healthy diet.
The area was in limbo because of its archaeological significance so the public was invited to make suggestions on how to utilise the land. YHA submitted a tender which was approved, and in 2008, construction of the hostel began. The hostel was built around the archaeological dig, and officially opened in April 2010 with only 2% of the site being affected due to construction. Over a million dollars were spent to make the hostel environmentally friendly and sustainable, and many of the archaeological remnants are displayed in cases within the hostel.
The adjacent The Big Dig Archaeology Educational Centre also opened at this time and accommodates large educational groups from primary school students through to uni groups. About 30% of the guests at the hostel are educational groups and there’s a separate dining room for large groups. A great part of The Big Dig is the façades around the building that simulate a glimpse back to colonial times.
There are 354 beds in the Sydney Harbour YHA, and a percentage of your accommodation fee goes to the archaeological upkeep and development of The Big Dig Centre. Accommodation options include air conditioned multishare dorms and double/twin accommodation, and all rooms have ensuites – some with separate toilet and bathroom. Many rooms also have views of the Sydney Harbour and Sydney Opera House.
The common areas are colourful, modern and spacious. There’s a large fully-equipped kitchen with plenty of storage space and a huge lounge and dining area. The rooftop has a BBQ area and sun chairs, as well as unobstructed views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House and CBD. The hostel has accessibility access, free Wi-Fi hotspots for guests and a coffee bar at reception.
BridgeClimb– one of the most unique Sydney experiences is only 300m down the street.
The Fine Food Store –located on the corner of Mill and Kendall Lane, this café makes great coffee and a tasty croque le grill.
Supermarket – there is a major supermarket in the Metcentre on George Street, about 700m south of the hostel.
Circular Quay – one of the major terminals of the Harbour City Ferries is only 750m away. Catch the ferry to Manly! It is also a busy bus terminal serviced by the free city bus.
Martin Place – 1.2km away in the heart of Sydney, Martin Place is a pedestrian mall with an entrance to the underground railway station.
Sydney Opera House – while you can see the Opera House from the rooftop of the hostel, there’s no harm walking 1.6km to see it up close. While you’re there, why not have a beer at the Opera Bar.
Sydney’s Luna Park– the 2.2km walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge will warm you up for a day of fun.
Market City – south of the city, 2.5km away is Market City. While there are stalls that sell stuff, the best thing is the food court upstairs that dishes out great value Asian meals.
Sydney Harbour YHA is located at 110 Cumberland Street in The Rocks. Reception is open 24 hours. For more information about accommodation and availability, phone 02 8272 0900, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website.
We went to five breweries while we were in Sydney, only missing out on visiting the Lord Nelson Brewery on the Rocks. Still, we think we got a really good picture of how clever and crafty you can get with beer.
This place was cool. Set in a colourful street art laneway in Newtown, this warehouse style tasting bar had high ceilings, grand fermenting tanks behind the bar, exposed brick walls, pop art hanging on the walls and an awesome soundtrack. A paddle of six beers was $15 and we were really impressed with the variety. The favourites were the Natural Lager with its crisp and refreshing taste with a warm yeasty finish, and the New Hop Ale with sweet hops and roasted malt bitterness. The creative beers were the Young Mussel Wit, which was made with mussels but you wouldn’t know it if they didn’t tell you, and the Pink Lightning, a cloudy peach coloured beer with a floral perfume of rose, hibiscus and elderflower.
Young Henry’s have been brewing for 3 years and they really take beer making to the next level. Stop in for a beer or grab yourself a growler to take away.
Batch Brewing Co.
Another brewery operating out of a warehouse, you can see the operations behind the bar and get a good look on your way to the bathroom. They’ve been brewing for two years and have a fridge full of takeaway bombers (longnecks) and big growlers.
The place is a little hipster, offering a tasting crate of jars for $20, but don’t underestimate the beer because it’s fabulous. We had a few favourites, like the Big Kahuna, which was made with coconut to give sweet coconut flavours to the smooth, rich brew, and the Elsie Milk Stout, a thick, dark beer made with lactose for a fine milky head.
We stumbled across this place during our $100 Day and discovered that it’s actually the sister cidery to the Lovedale Brewery in the Hunter Valley. We’d sampled their beers a few weeks earlier so we focused on the ciders. They had a new concoction of mulled cider with various peels and spices, which was a great idea to release during winter, and we also tried a fantastic seasonal cider with agave and ginger. What a great combination of sparkling cider and refreshing ginger! We really loved it and ended up taking a squealer home.
After a tasting session, we went for a backstage tour of the cidery and learnt a little about making cider – who would have thought that the process is more like wine making that brewing beer! Before heading off, we sat down in the stylish bar with our favourite Lovedale brews. Dave went with the Rye IPA while Juz stuck with the crisp Lovedale Lager.
4 Pines Brewing
The first brewery we visited in the Sydney metropolis, this location is more like a bar with timber tables and stools and an awesome view overlooking Manly Wharf. We assume the main brewing operations are done elsewhere and this venue is dedicated to customers and small batch brews that are made in the small room behind the glass.
We sat down and ordered a Harbour Bridge inspired paddle of beers. The cloudy Hefeweizen was full of banana sweetness while the Kolsch was more floral, crisp and dry with a hint of passionfruit. Dave loved the Pale Ale with its balance of hops and citrus sweetness. It was a pretty cool place with an awesome soundtrack – we can definitely imagine ourselves here for a Sunday session.
Rocks Brewing Co.
It was hard to find this brewery, and even harder to find a park, but we made it to the venue eventually. It was a lot bigger than what we were expecting, with a nice beer garden outside and two clear areas inside, the brewing area and the bar area.
We ordered a paddle and sat down, shivering because the doors to the beer garden were open letting all the frosty cold air in. We sipped the beers and found they weren’t that great. In our opinion, the flavours weren’t balanced at all and many were just too bitter to enjoy. At least they had an interesting convict theme with the names of their beers.
Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, Luna Park has something for everyone. The moment you walk through the mouth of the enormous smiling face, you enter a lively atmosphere full of colour and fun.
The original Luna Park was located at Coney Island, NY in the early 1900s. The idea of the theme park was brought to Australia and the first Luna Park to open was in Melbourne in 1912. Around 23 years later, Sydney’s Luna Park opened using relocated rides from Adelaide on the site that was previously used by contractors to build and assemble pieces for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The park hit the ground running and has been a huge success ever since… except for one tragedy.
In 1979, a deadly fire ravaged the Ghost Train and killed seven people! The park closed and much of it was dismantled and destroyed, including the infamous Big Dipper. Over the next twenty years, Luna Park reopened and closed several times, undergoing renovations and redevelopments and working its way through red tape. They even got a new steel rollercoaster to replace the noisy, wooden Big Dipper but even though it was really quiet, the merry screaming of people enjoying the ride caused some party-pooper neighbours to complain and the ride was sold to Dreamworld.
The park finally reopened in 2004 with a fresh face but plenty of traditional 1930s character. Heritage buildings like the Big Dipper Entrance, Crystal Palace and Coney Island Funnyland still stand today and contribute to the nostalgia of Luna Park.
Luna Park has all the classic rides. There’s a huge Ferris wheel that gives you amazing views of the harbour, while the Wild Mouse Rollercoaster takes you on a thrilling 400 metre trip through zips and dips. They have a beautiful Carousel with pretty horses, the ever-popular Dodgem City, and the timeless Rotor, a gravity-defying ride that has been open since the 1950s.
Along with the golden oldies are some newer, more extreme rides, like the Hair Raiser, which takes you up around 50 metres before dropping at 80km per hour! Because we visited during the school holidays, there were a few more rides available than usual. Dave was brave enough to go on the Freak Out, a high tech thrill ride with a ‘claw’ full of passengers that swings and rotates. Dave got off the ride a little giddy and with an unravelled beard.
Apart from all the rides and games, there’s also the fantastic Coney Island, a house of eccentricity and craziness. There are wacky walkways, jerky floorboards, rotating tunnels, a mirror maze, and giant slides that you ride down in hessian sack. Juz had a hard time mustering the guts to go down the steep drop at the beginning of the slide, but she did, and she screamed, and her legs turned into jelly. Dave had a few turns on the slide because it was so much fun. We were the oldest kids playing in Coney Island.
Entertainment is on offer all over the park, with crazy characters on stilts and in costume. At dusk, there is a fantastic ceremony that gives you the chance to flick the switch and turn on the 30,000 globes that light up the park. It was really fun to participate in the fan fare and hope for our names to get pulled out of the barrel.
After the lighting ceremony, we had an insightful interview with Mr Luna himself, an exceptionally tall fellow with a cheery disposition and charming smile. He gave us the scoop on how Luna Park prevents ‘protein spills’.
Because fat and dairy are the main culprits for ‘protein spills’ on rides, all of the food at Sydney’s Luna Park is specially formulated to contain less fat and dairy than regular foods while still tasting great. This drastically reduces the number of incidents, with any rainbow projections usually being the result of food from the outside world.
Juz had to taste it for herself, and went over to the ice cream parlour for two scoops on a waffle cone. While her meticulous palate could detect that there was something different about the ice cream, it was still bloody good.
Sydney’s Luna Park is located at 1 Olympic Drive, Milsons Point and it’s easily accessible by public transport. The Milson Point train station is less than half a kilometre away, the bus travels along Alfred Drive and is a short walk from the entrance, or catch the ferry to Milsons Point Wharf.
Our first night in Sydney was spent at Glebe Point YHA, a relaxed hostel in Sydney’s inner city area. With public transport nearby, it’s just minutes from the city centre and there’s plenty to do within walking distance, like restaurants and cafes, pubs and shopping centres.
The hostel sleeps 151 guests and has a variety of accommodation options, such as multi-share dorms, double/twin rooms and ensuite rooms. There’s plenty of space around the hostel, so it’s great for families too.
On the ground floor, you’ll find the reception area and tours desk, with jobs and car sales noticeboards nearby. There’s also a funky games room with a few consoles for any gaming nerds.
Downstairs is another games area, with a ping pong table, pool table and fusball table. If you’re looking for a more quiet stay, there is a study area and free Wi-Fi. The kitchen is fully decked out with gas stoves, toasters and microwaves, and there’s heaps of storage space for food and fridge stuff.
One of our favourite parts of the hostel was the rooftop area. With BBQs, sun chairs, comfortable lounges and an awesome view of city, you could spend all day up there.
Bus Stop – 35m from the hostel. How good is that! The 431 bus will take you through the guts of the city, all the way to the Rocks.
Supermarket – The closest supermarket is Lucky 7, about 270m down the road. If you want a bigger supermarket, IGA is 800m from the hostel, while the major supermarkets are 1.6km away at Broadway Shopping Centre.
Pub – the Toxteth Hotel is only 400m away and does trivia, cheap meals and live music.
Light Rail – The Glebe Light Rail is a 750m walk away towards the Toxteth and takes you all the way into the city.
Market City – 2.7km. Markets and the best Asian food court in Sydney.
Martin Place – 4.2km. The heart of Sydney and the location of the Channel 7 studios and Lindt Café.
Young Henry’s – 4.2km. A great craft brewery in the backstreets of Newtown.
Bridgeclimb – 5.6km. For a unique Sydney experience, check out Bridgeclimb. If you have an Opal card, it’s a short bus trip away.
Sydney Opera House – 5.6km. Australia’s most famous icon.