Wow January was quite the month! Traveling to Australia was a long time dream for me, I've always wanted to visit and with my oldest brother and his family living in Sydney that obviously made me want to visit even more!
Whenever I'm heading to a new area I do a ton of research on the area and the top places to visit, less touristy the better in my opinion! I love the idea of of just living the way of life in that area (or at least as much as possible!) However at the end of the day I'm a tourist who just likes off the beaten path spots with a few tourist "must see" spots thrown in. So if this is you and you are hoping to visit Sydney or Oahu I've got some of my favorite spots and details below!
favorite City spots
There are so many cool pubs and cafes in this area, I enjoyed just exploring the streets and ended up making my way back around to the harbor. I'm a sucker for cool architecture and this is probably the best place that I personally found for that.
I had passed through Moseman a few times heading to balmoral beach ( we'll talk about that in a sec) and loved what I saw passing through! It was probably one of my favorite shopping areas! This area was just pretty to walk around and enjoy the area. The shops were adorable (window shopping prices though!) My favorite places in the city are the ones that feel more quaint and down to earth with cafes and little boutiques.
There are too many cool shops and cafes to name off here, however one that I just have to mention is August the Old Place! Can I just live in this beautiful café? If not can I just tile my house to at least look like it? I had whizzed by this place and proceeded to frantically google the name to find a menu and details about the blur of a beautiful café that I saw. When I finally made it inside August the Old Place did not disappoint! I only ordered a coffee, which was delicious by the way, however the menu is most definitely going to draw me back for another visit next time I'm in Sydney.
Queen Victoria Building - Sydney
I felt like I was shopping in a palace, such a beautiful building! It has a really interesting mix of stores, from custom leather shoes to imported middle eastern jewelry. It's just a fun place to walk around in and if you're not into shopping just go for no other reason but to admire the architecture! There is so much more to see in this area and I could've just walked around this area of Sydney for hours easily!
Other must see's
Sydney Zoo ( Take the Sky Safari for some beautiful views, if you don't use it to get to the zoo!)
Take a ferry to Manly! It's about a 20-30 minute ferry ride if I remember right and incredibly inexpensive to take! You not only get beautiful views on the way, think Sydney Opera House, Sydney bridge, sail boats and beautiful homes on the coast, you also get to explore beautiful Manly! I wish I had more to time see Manly, there is a distinct laid back, casual feel in Manly (I had a guy pass me heading to the beach skatingboarding while holding his surf board) The beaches are beautiful, there's some fun shops and beautiful cafes to visit!
Royal Bontanic Gardens! Gorgeous gardens, right next to the Sydney Opera House. Would make for a beautiful picnic spot after checking out the Sydney Harbour.
For those traveling to Sydney with kids (during the summer!) Check out the super cool playground at Darling Quarter! Hidden in the middle of the city is this gem of a playground! Balance ropes, huge swings and then the water works area where kids can cool off. Seriously wanted to join in but thought better of it.
Chinese Friendship Garden, my brother and I just stumbled on this beautiful spot and decided to check it out. The $6AUD was well worth it! So quite and tranquil in the middle of the city! There was also a really nice lunch spot inside with amazing views of the garden. Kinda wish we hadn't had lunch before we had gone in!
Hiking and Beaches
Now for more of the natural beauty in the Sydney area!
Love this beach, it's more in a quiet, family friendly area. There's a few nice cafes to grab lunch or a coffee at by the beach. This is the beach near the Mosman that I talked about earlier. Something really cool in my opinion about this beach is the lil lookout spot that separates the beach into two different areas. I went up to this lookout spot to have lunch and found myself just sitting and looking out on the water and not really wanting to move, it was so relaxing! On the smaller beach side, if you walk all the way to the end you will find a really pretty rocky area, the patterns in the rock are really interesting and a fun area to walk around in.
Definitely do a beach walk while you are in the Sydney area! We did the Bondi to Clovelly walk and it was amazing! (Busy but Amazing!) Views of the ocean and the walk weaving in and out of different little beaches/bays. I would definitely suggest taking your time and exploring the different areas. Enjoy some food from the cafe in Clovelly or stop in one of the many places in Bondi. Something that I couldn't get over was the many salt water pools that were right next to the ocean (Including the famous Bondi Icebergs pool)
Blue Mountains and Jenolan Caves
This is an absolute must in my opinion! I just found the Blue Mountains so gorgeous and wish I could've spent more time there! Next time I will do AT LEAST one hike! ( My niece was a little young to make one of the hikes)
The Jenolan Caves were absolutely breathtaking as well! Driving through the cave alone is amazing in my opinion.
Don't miss the grand arch ( I think it took me about 15ish minutes to hike to the top) at the top is a view through the arch to the blue lake! Which by the way is another can't miss! Walk down to the Blue Lake at some some point while you are there because it's breathtaking! The Blue color is like nothing I've seen before.
Royal National Park
We only scratched the surface of this amazing National Park! We chose to hike to the circle eight pools which was awesome! We were warned that it was a really strenuous 40 minute hike, while it had some steep moments I didn't find it bad. I think it probably took us 20/30 minutes. Part of which was walking along the beach and then climbing over a pretty rocky area (which was necessary to reach the circle eight pools!) I just went barefoot and enjoyed the very different terrain. It was just beautiful!
The circle eight pools are just crazy cool, I'll just let the photos speak for themselves..
This is what a not so prepared girl looks like, I just hopped in fully clothed and hiked back soaking wet. Worth it. After the hike we drove to one of the beaches in the park and again was not disappointed by how pretty it was! Definitely check out one of the beaches to cool off! (Sorry didn't get many photos of the beach, too busy enjoying it and climbing around the rocky areas)
Artarmon Reserve area
Connected to Artarmon reserve is a beautiful, easy hiking trail! This area is about 15/20 minutes outside of Sydney.
Other Favorite spots in this area would be
The Incinerator - Really cool cafe with nice outdoor seating as well as an art studio downstairs.
Forsyth Coffee House is another wonderful coffee shop that I stopped at multiple times while visiting! Beautiful little sitting area outside and awesome coffee!
I loved being able to stay in Willoughby (15ish minute bus outside of Sydney) it allowed me to see more of the way of life than the constantly touristy parts of Sydney. Walking through the neighborhood areas in the morning and visiting new cafes was my favorite way to start the day!
Yet another favorite coffee shop is Little Giant Roasters Coffee House, I didn't get a photo, however I very quickly became a regular and stopped in my Last day in Sydney for one last coffee. It has a really nice sitting area and the people working there are super friendly! (They have some heart marshmallows that they gave to my niece when I took her in!)
So after an amazing two weeks in Sydney my brother's family and I flew to Oahu to meet up with my parents for a week. This was a semi last minute decision, it all just came together and was way too good to pass up! We stayed in Waikiki, however I would probably stay next time on the north shore or somewhere near Kailua.
I had several hikes planned but unfortunately managed to visit Oahu during an unusually rainy week. I guess all the more reason to go back!
We made the drive to the North Shore on one of those rainy days and it was an amazing drive! Think country views with a good portion of the drive being right next to the ocean and I mean right next to it!
We stopped in Haleiwa for lunch at the food trucks and got Giovanni's garlic shrimp, super good, however if I'm being super honest I would suggest going to Gilligan's Shrimp Shack back in Waikiki! Dang it was good!
In Haleiwa I stopped in The Beet Box Cafe and wish I could've gone back a few dozen more times! Because oh my gosh their Acai bowls are amazing! I got the Pitaya bowl and now thanks to writing this really want one!
If you go to Oahu you have to visit The Beet Box Cafe!
They have a cafe in Kailua as well!
Our last day in Oahu we drove the Kalanianaole Hwy and stopped along the way to enjoy the views, one of which was this super cool blow hole! (Sorry don't know the name!)
Other favorite spots!
Kailua - Loved the laid back feel here, beautiful beaches near by, some really cute shops too!
The Beet Box Cafe
Waikiki Bay - Pretty beach and fun watching the surf lessons
International Market Place - Really beautiful shopping area that feels like you stepped into another world. Some really fun shops as well.
Wow that was a long blog post! This trip was amazing and it honestly wouldn't take much to persuade me to move! I'm already dreaming about the next trip to Australia and the places I want to visit next. Seriously you should visit!