It seemed somehow fitting to end our tour of Australia in Sydney. In the city that you might assume was the capital, if you hadn’t paid too much attention in geography class.
The site of the first British colony in Australia, only 230 years ago. Selected due to its extremely accommodating natural harbour, which now provides Sydney with miles of expensive river front properties and a perfect setting for its two most iconic buildings.
The opera house may be the most familiar building in Sydney, but for me, the harbour bridge dominates the scene. Built in the 1920’s to provide a road and rail link between Sydney’s central business district and its northern suburbs, the bridge has become an iconic landmark. You know you’re in Sydney when you spy the towering arched framework, which forces itself into view around almost every corner.
A visit to the Rocks museum, tucked away in a small stone warehouse down a maze of side streets, offered a glimpse into the effort that went into building the bridge. A black and white video was playing on loop, showing the extreme disregard for health and safety that prevailed in 1923.
Thousands of working class men were offered lucrative employment opportunities when construction started. But the money on offer was partly danger money, with a days’ work involving heavy manual labour on partially built steel girders, hanging hundreds of feet over the river below. Not the place to be if it should get a little wet, or windy, or both.
16 workers died during the building process and it seems surprising that the figure wasn’t even higher given the conditions.
We were staying in Manly, around ten miles down river from the city centre. Manly harbour is the site where Captain Arthur Philip received a spearing from one of Sydney’s original inhabitants. It’s now a trendy commuter suburb, where one bed flats cost eye watering amounts and you’re not short of options for a morning coffee or afternoon gelato.
To blend in with the locals, we decided to arrive in style by catching the commuter ferry from Sydney harbour. After an effortless train journey from the airport that directly connects to the harbour terminal, we set sail under warm blue skies. There can’t be many better daily commutes and it sure beats my usual run up the M4.
We made this same ferry journey twice a day, every day we were here. It was worth leaving the house just to stand at the front of the boat, enjoying a cooling breeze and watching Sydney’s incredible coastline unfold.
Lexi loves an aquarium and we had high hopes for Sydney’s offering. After a journey involving two ferries, we pulled into Darling harbour and stood in line to be unburdened of some cash.
We learned that Octopus have eight hearts and blue blood, and that Dugongs are distant relatives of elephants and require feeding every ten minutes. That may seem excessive, but to be fair they only eat lettuce all day, which must get a bit boring.
After several hours underwater, exploring everything from sharks to starfish, we eventually had to surface for some lunch.
Luna Park Take Two
Set almost directly beneath the harbour bridge, it hadn’t taken the kids very long to discover that Sydney was home to another Luna Park. We’d spent the whole day in St Kilda’s Luna Park during our stay in Melbourne, so it seemed unlikely that we’d escape another visit.
Luna Park is an old fashioned amusement park, but with modern day prices. We got good value out of our day in St Kilda, because the park was relatively quiet and the kids were able to go on most of the rides together, without having to muster up a brave adult to accompany them.
The park in Sydney had a different combination of rides, and Lexi was too small to go on anything exciting without a responsible parent in tow. This was unfortunate, because it meant I also had to go on some rides to keep Kiera company.
The kids did love the indoor play area, which contained a variety of wooden slides and some genuinely antique looking games.
Both kids seem to have inherited my competitive streak, so they particularly relished the opportunity to nudge some smaller kids down a spinning wheel contraption, to claim the title of last child standing.
We arrived on 9th May and left on 3rd July, with our eight weeks spent touring around a fair-sized portion of the country.
Western Australia already feels like a slightly distant memory, but we won’t forget our first kangaroo spotting expedition, or the many hours we spent in Kings Park and Hilarys Harbour.
It was great to spend some time with my family in Adelaide. Hopefully next time will beat the previous 25-year gap.
As hoped, we all enjoyed the slightly cooler climate of Tasmania, with its laid back friendly atmosphere and the charming cobbled streets of Hobart.
Melbourne and Sydney were both cities where I could imagine spending more time in the future, with so many possibilities we only scratched the surface with a few days in each place.
I’d also like to take on another long distance Australian drive at some point, but on a more leisurely timetable than our RV relocation deal allowed.
But the kids have started to speak with an Australian twang and have memorised the timings of their favourite programmes on the ABC kids network, so it’s time to move on before we need to apply for a residency visa.
We’re heading across the Pacific, with a stop off in the sunny island of Oahu, Hawaii. I can’t imagine we’ll often be passing by Hawaii, so it seemed an opportunity not to be missed. I’m hoping to visit Pearl Harbour, but I think the family may have other ideas in mind, possibly involving sun tan lotion and some inflatables.