Visiting Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Tasmania, and Melbourne from January 27 to February 10, 2018.
A year ago, I visited Sydney for the first time. On that trip, given the first opportunity to explore that part of the world, I bolted straight to New Zealand. While I don't regret the decision, I had to put off seeing more of Australia until my next visit.
This Winter, I got that opportunity. After spending a week in Sydney for work, I met up with my friends Lily and Yih-Jen and we spent 10 days exploring the country. We hit the big tourist spots in Sydney, took a day trip to the Blue Mountains, and explored Tasmania. On our way home, we stopped in Melbourne for a short first visit.
On my first visit to Sydney, I visited a few restaurants, went to a beach or two, and snapped a photo of the Opera House. Returning for my second visit, the first thing that struck me was the architecture. When I landed, I stopped into a cafe for tea, then walked around the neighborhood near my hotel, and took my first photos.
I can only describe this wooden sculpture as a bee hive. Creepy!
My hotel was right next to Central Park, a recent high rise development with green walls.
It's simple, but I love this alley that cuts between two apartment buildings.
Eager to get out and see the coast and bay, I took a ferry to Watson's Bay and Hornby Lighthouse. This neighborhood makes up the southern tip of the entrance to Sydney Harbor.
It's hard to take the ferry in Sydney without getting some good photos of the Sydney Opera House.
"The Gap:" Cliffs alongside the easter side of the peninsula.
Hornby Lighthouse is almost carnival-like in appearance.
Later in the week, Lily arrived in Sydney, a day before Yih-Jen. We booked ourselves a welcome dinner at Bennelong, the restaurant located inside the Sydney Opera House. I'm not sure what was better, the food, the atmosphere, or the way the building is lit at night. We were both expecting a bit of a tourist trap, being located in the Opera House and all, but Bennelong is far from it.
The restaurant is absolutely stunning from the outside.
I loved photographing every angle of the building.
When you enter the restaurant, you walk down the stairs towards the dining room, the ceiling seeming to expand around you.
Not only was the restaurant absolutely beautiful, the atmosphere was casual and lively; not stuffy as we might have imagined.
After we ate, we walked outside to get a few more photos of the Opera House at night.
We finally tore ourselves away from the pier and headed home.
When Yih-Jen arrived the next day, we had one thing on the mind: brunch. Luckily for us, we found plenty of yummy options near our hotel.
A beautiful brunch. I love the presentation of the tea.
Feeling well fueled, we took a bus across Sydney to Coogee, where we traced the popular Coogee to Bondi walk. Winding its way past cliffs and beaches, the hike was a great way to start the weekend.
Lily and Yih-Jen on the Coogee to Bondi hike.
I love the small inset beaches along the walk.
After a full day walking along the coast, we made our way home, passing the Opera house along the way.
Later that weekend, we went to the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. While we saw plenty of cute ocean creatures, I'm not sure I'd feel the need to return there. It's hard to beat the Boston Aquarium...
Left: A stingray with a school of fish. Right: A friendly dugong.
The jellyfish were staged with all sorts of different lighting.
On my first trip to Sydney, I made sure to get to see the Sydney Opera house. Still on my bucket list, however, was to actually go inside and see a show. On this trip, which happened to align with Chinese New Year, Lily, Yih-Jen, and I booked tickets to see a Chinese Opera performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Walking up to the Sydney Opera House never gets old.
I love the way the light plays off all the corners of the architecture.
Not to be outdone by the exterior of the building, the concert hall itself is completely stunning.
During the intermission, I got a chance to explore the rear gallery.
On our last full day in Sydney, we took the ferry to Manly, a neighborhood north of Sydney Harbor, known for the popular Manly beach. With little on the agenda, it was definitely the most relaxing day of our trip
We made a beeline for Manly beach.
As we walked along the coastline, we spotted some lizards sunbathing. Seems like they had a similar idea
Just a few minutes walk south from Manly is Shelly beach, which is much quieter and, despite it's name, quite sandy and beautiful.
Later that evening, after basking in the sun, we headed back to the CBD, where we enjoyed dinner with a view of the Opera House, yet again.
Early on in our trip, we booked a bus to take us to the Blue Mountains, a few hours outside Sydney. The morning of our tour, we had a few hours to kill, and we decide to splurge on short helicopter tour of the city. Departing from Sydney airport, the trip took us across the city, offering an aerial "greatest hits" of the city.
Central Park (the building covered in plants) looks beautiful from the air.
We got to see the city and its beaches from the air. Stunning!
A view of Manly beach from the north. I love how the water transitions from navy to teal as it reaches the coast.
The helicopter ride flew by. After a handful of minutes of ogling the coastline, we were headed back to the helipad.
The Blue Mountains
Located about 50 miles west of the city, Blue Mountains National Park was a welcome escape from the city. We were lucky with weather most of the day, and while it did start to get stormy at sunset, I was more than happy to avoid the worst of the hot, New South Wales sun.
A beautiful cliff face in the Blue Mountains
Every corner and outcropping was photo opportunity. Can you blame us?
We hiked along the cliffs, following a path that frequently dipped underneath an overhang. I love the green of the moss that grows under here.
Each of us wanted a photo with the Three Sisters. Three friends, three sisters? Is that something?
I barely remember snapping this photo, but I love the way the sunset illuminates the clouds from behind.
After a packed weekend in Sydney and the Blue Mountains, we hopped on an early morning plane to Hobart, Tasmania. I'm not sure how common a misconception it is, but when I first was recommended to visit Tasmania, I assumed it was a country of its own, like New Zealand. (In fact, it's an island state of Australia.) The flight, just two hours from Sydney, passed in no time, and we found ourselves zipping down the left (correct!) side of the two-lane highways, towards Port Arthur.
I stopped the car to take this photo of a somewhat somber lake.I'm not sure what it is about the vegetation that pulls me in to this scene, but I love it.
I found myself stealing away from Lily and Yih-Jen to capture the scenery from particular prospectives.
We ate lunch at Lavender, a restaurant that grows fields of their namesake flower. The bees were happy!
Just a few minutes up the road, we spent part of our afternoon at "Unzoo", a wildlife reserve slash zoo that has allows animals to co-mingle with people. So cute!
This mama kangaroo had a joey in her pouch, feet dangling out.
The kangaroos were as friendly as dogs, happy to eat food out of your hand and be pet and patted. This one liked me :)
We got to see a Tasmanian devil feeding, although we weren't allowed to pet it. They were too stupid, we were told, to be safe around humans. Apparently, they have a rat-sized brain. And yet, they live on.
As we drove along the peninsula toward Port Arthur, we stopped by the Tasman Arch, to admire the natural cave (sinkhole?) that has formed over many years.
The arch gives off pirate vibes, don't you think?
I love this menacing cliff face.
After taking in the scale of the Tasman arch, we continued on to Port Arthur
We walked along the shore at Port Arthur, and saw this cool boat frame sculpture, assembled by the coast.
The rocky beaches of Port Arthur were a new texture to us on the trip. And those trees!
After a busy first day, we burned a bit of midnight oil, driving a few hours north after dinner to an Airbnb outside Freycinet National Park. While tiring, the decision paid off, allowing us to get started on the next days event early. After a beautiful breakfast in nearby Coles Bay, we set out for a day-hike.
Before reaching the trail head, we stopped at Honeymoon bay.
As we made our way up the hike towards Wineglass Bay, I noticed this beautiful tree, which stood above the rest of the brush.
From the apex of our hike, we had a great view of Wineglass Bay, named for the near perfect arch and shape of it's coastline.
We made our way down the mountain to the beach, which did not disappoint.
After a snack an some time to relax, we turned around and walked back, up and down to the other side of the mountain range.
That night, we drove back to Hobart, where we spent the rest of the day. We had planned a third day on Bruny Island, but, fearing getting stuck on the wrong side of the ferry during a forecasted thunderstorm, we canceled. Instead, we made impromptu plans to visit the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). While the thunderstorm didn't really pan out to be much more than a drizzle, this was absolutely the right call.
I quickly fell in love with MONA for it's architecture. Built mostly underground into the side of a hill, the building is at once unremarkable from the outside and stunning on the inside. Even more impressive was the exhibition and curation. My favorite pieces were several by James Turell, an American MacArthur Genius Grant-winning artist that works mostly with light and space. I first discovered him when I saw his site-specific installation Meeting at MOMA PS1 in Long Island City. (Others may know him for his work creating the colorful rooms in Drake's Hotline Bling music video.) Unbeknownst to me, he also has several installations at MONA in Hobart, including Event Horizon, a room whose walls, ceiling, and floor all meld together into one seemingly never-ending space. His artworks rarely travel to other museums, and others do not allow photography, making me feel even more fortunate that we were able to make the trip to visit.
Before we went inside, I snapped this picture of a cement truck built out of steel.
Yih-Jen, outside the featured exhibition, Zero.
I love how these two pieces play with non-concentric circles.
Blue rods form a unique, wave-like object.
Richard Wilson’s 20:50 is a room filled to brim of a steel barrier with recycled motor oil, reflecting the open sky above.
I love how this installation plays with light and prospective.
Turrells piece titled Beside Myself is a corridor of light which changes color periodically.
A library full of blank white books.
I love the view from of the museums many cafes.
I wouldn't want to drive this Ferrari.
After a full day at the museum, we had dinner and enjoyed sunset by the pier in downtown Hobart.
We left from Hobart early in the morning, headed to Melbourne. We quickly learned that with only two days left in our trip, we didn't have nearly enough time to get to see or do all the things we wanted to in the city. I wont let that happen on my next trip. In our brief time in Melbourne, we explored boutique shops, ate some great food, and enjoyed lots of street art.
A tiny door built into a brick wall.
Melbourne's street art is political, beautiful, and everything in between.
I loved these three artists. Left: Street art made entirely of garbage. Center: Tiny pun-based dioramas. Right: Street art made of string and other objects tied to chain-link fences.
Oh yeah, and plenty of good ice cream.
After barely 24 hours in Melbourne, we made our way Back to Syndey, Los Angeles, and finally New York. The trip was lots of fun, and showed me just how little I know about the country. I can't wait to go back!