City Guide – 4 Tips On How to 7 Sydney Sights In 8 Hours

On the way to Auckland recently, I had an 8 hour stopover in Sydney with my pre-teen in tow. For once, the usually organised me – did not have a plan.

My last visit to Sydney was probably over twenty years ago. My daughter has never been to Sydney so since a stopover was a must, to get into Auckland as all the other flights were full – I decided – heck, why not!

So we landed at 6am in Sydney with no idea what to do except advice from a friend that I could take a train to Circular Quay from the airport terminal and work out the rest from there so that is exactly what I did.

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We ended up seeing 7 places in the short span of 8 hours, having a great meal by the Darling harbour and getting back to the airport in time and here are 4 useful tips on how to do that.

1. Foodstuff – Pack It With A List    

We arrived with two hand carries. One filled with computers, charges and iPads and the other filled with foodstuff so that we did not have to open our heavier main luggage when declaring it going into Auckland.  Not the wisest move to bring food out of transit in Australia, as Oz is the home of “Border Patrol” and they have strict, if not the strictest restrictions on what you can and can’t move out of customs. So if you are ever on transit here and in the same predicament do yourself a favour (like we did) and write a comprehensive list of what’s in your food bag. Eg. 1 packet dried shrimp. The general rule – no raw eggs, meat or honey and no seeds. Also do not take any foodstuff off the plane as that is also not allowed. Yes, leave the bottled water and the packet of nuts behind. If you have no food on you and don’t want a hassle queueing – that should be a point you want to note.

2. Find a Storage Locker

We found one in Sydney airport, right next to the Flower Shop after we happily cleared customs. For something like $12 for 8 hours per hand carry – it was the perfect drop off.

3. Look for the Train

The local train into the city runs right into the airport – a very good thing about Sydney’s airport.  Go to the end of arrivals and board the train into Central Sydney. We bought a day pass for under AUD50 each and off we went. It may seem high – but leaving the airport is already AUD15 and back is another AUD15, individual stops if you get off and on are AUD3 to AUD4 per one way.

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We got off at Circular Quay by 8am, home to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and within walking distance to the Rocks and the Darling Harbour so that was four attractions covered off in one stop.

4. Look for a Sydney Attractions Pass Booth

We headed to the Rocks for breakfast and coffee and around the area, ask any of the Tourism Info Centres where you can buy an attractions pass.

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Sydney is built for tourism and the good thing about Sydney is that the attractions are all nearby to each other – at least the main ones for kids are.

We found this place where you can buy it at one of their booths or online and we bought tickets (about AUD$65 each) to 3 attractions (the Aquarium, the Wildlife Centre and Madame Trussard’s Wax Museum) which we discovered were all located side by side along the Darling Harbour waterfront (our 7th and final stop) where we afterwards had a lovely late lunch before getting back to the airport by 3pm to catch our 5pm to Auckland.

City Stopover Summary  

  • 6am Landed in Sydney
  • 7am Cleared customs stored luggage
  • 745am Train to Circular Quay
  • 830am Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • 10am Breakfast and Coffee at The Rocks
  • 11am Buy Attraction Pass and walk to Darling Harbour Waterfront
  • 11.15am Aquarium Visit (its small with a travelator that goes under the fish dome that does not move so you can walk through. So expect to be done in 45 minutes)
  • 12pm The Wildlife Adventure (liked this best out of all the attractions as it was more unusual)
  • 1pm Madame Trussard’s Wax Museum – after all the goofy pics that we took and the realisation that some of the stars were actually shorter than I thought that they would be in real life, we got hungry!
  • 145pm Grabbed a quick Italian lunch at one of the lovely waterfront restaurants
  • 230pm Took the half hour ride back to the airport in time for our 530pm flight to Auckland

Other top Sydney Attractions HERE

Best and most productive and efficient 8 hours ever spent in one city!

 

 

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Road Trip To Rotorua, New Zealand

The next time you are in Auckland, New Zealand put a 2 day road trip to Rotorua into the itinerary. It’s a rare opportunity to get out of the city, a fairly leisurely drive and just enough activities to get you busy, immersed in both nature and a bit of Maori culture for two plus days.

I love how the Kiwis just get to the point with their quick deals.

This was evident pre-trip, when we headed to JUCY rentals and emerged having rented a car from their El Cheapo range of budget cars.

Our trusty rental was a great deal – a 1.6 litre sedan at about NZ$50 a day. We added on a rental GPS (although you could use your phone if you have data) and we were off out onto the open road with a rough itinerary in mind.

Can you see the rainbow in the distance on our front windscreen?

Day 1

From Auckland to the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves 

The drive to Rotorua is about 3 hours long. Leave in the morning and stop for lunch,  coffee and cake along the way. New Zealand coffees are just the best – perhaps its the weather or the fact that you have enough time to savour your cup of joe instead of hastily gulping it down before rushing to your next meeting.

 

Our first stop was Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. I would rate this a must-go, something you do before it gets dark (closes at 5pm) and a max 1.5 hour stop. Don’t expect a glitzy theme park experience from this nicely set up, modern looking ticketed attraction with a gift shop ensuite. This is definitely all-nature and all about your experience taking a peek into it. You are literally brought into the experience, rather than having it present itself to you so it takes a bit of an open mind to appreciate the visit. First up, you are ushered by a guide into the cave where there is a request for silence or minimal noise. Leave the bawling babies and noisy kids at home. You listen to stories told in first person by an experienced host about the history of the cave and how it was discovered. After a short walk in, you get on to a boat and ride the rest of the way into cave – all mobile devices on silent, in complete darkness – right into the heart of the cave where you see glow worms nesting in the recesses of the cave ceiling above you, their tiny bodies giving off an eerie faint blue light. You look up and it seems that the night has come and all you see above are a million stars. Surreal!

Check into Hotel and have dinner at Food Street

Staying along the Lakeside – would be my advice as the main city of Rotorua is built along the lake. You know that you have arrived when you wind down the car windows and the pungent smell of sulphur greets you head on. The closest description of the smell is rotten eggs. We stayed at the Novotel, Rotorua Lakeside. Very comfortable, has its own mineral spa (think onsen) inside the Hotel which is free for guests and is right next to the pubs and eateries along the next door main dining thoroughfare known as Food Street in Rotorua.

Day 2  

Tepuia Hot Spring Geysers

Tepuia, is the closest hot spring geysers to visit in Rotorua, This is a ticketed attraction with a walking guided tour, a visit to the Maori cultural centre in side and gift shop.

The pools are hot enough to cook food in and most definitely not safe for a swim or leisurely dip of any kind.

After the walkabout, wander into the Maori craftsmanship areas where weaving and boat building techniques are explained and demonstrated.

Expect to spend about 1.5 to 2 hours here. In perfect time for you to drive back down to the Lakeside area and check into the Polynesian Spa which we did not visit this trip as we were already too spa-ed out at the Hotel spa.

Tamaki Maori Village 

Our dinner highlight on Day 2 was boarding the bus arranged by the Tamaki Maori Village which took us to the village, about half an hour away.

The Maori villages are actually run and owned by existing Maori families here in New Zealand.

Here, we were given the works – a Maori traditional welcome ceremony, an explanation of the significance of each tradition. This was followed by an engaging evening of Maori folk songs, dancing and performances which ended in a traditional Hangi meal.

The Hangi is a meal much like the Hawaiin Luau where the food served has been buried in a pit below ground and using the natural volcanic heat and a combination of steam heating, meats and veggies are cooked and served in a large communal buffet style spread.

Day 3 

To Hobbiton and then back to Auckland 

We wanted to get our trip time’s worth so with some Trip Advisor Forum advice, we managed to craft a detour from our original trip to Hobbiton and the Shire, before heading back to Auckland.

Make sure that the day you head to this ticketed attraction is dry as there is a fair bit of walking to conquer around Peter Jackson’s set which apparently was torn down after the movie and recreated again on premises.

A stop by the village pub – The Green Dragon is mandatory.

Definitely a must-visit for all LOTR fan’s.  With that under our belts, we drove back to Auckland back to the safe haven of The Langham Hotel and the comforts of its marvellous Club Lounge.

Below – the round-trip route for anyone who wants to brave the journey.