When you go on a road trip, the trip itself becomes part of the story. Once again, we piled into a car and tore down the left side of the road. South this time to Sydney. Leaving our friends behind in Brisbane was bittersweet but the road trip ahead took us through some of the best of Australia. Charming towns and cities line the shore almost the entire way.
The drive is about eleven hours city to city, so we decided to stop for a night in Byron Bay to break up the trip. This small hippie town is right on the water and a summer retreat for many families from the big cities. Great surf, warm weather, and a bohemian vibe attract plenty of visitors. We stayed in a small five room bed and breakfast, an early 1900’s home converted into an inn. Our place was just a short walk into town, so we decided to stroll the main street and take in the sights. The carefree attitude of the people is infectious, and I was immediately slowed down in pace - comfortable with the surroundings. The town has countless restaurants, bars, clubs, and small bohemian boutiques. It was a perfect place to spend a day window shopping. We also found a taco shop that didn’t disappoint. I would love spending a summer here – a place to lose yourself for a month or two.
Once out of Byron Bay, Sydney was still about seven hours away, so we stopped in for a night at Port Macquarie – a small blue-collar city on the water. Not much to talk about in terms of attractions there, but it gave a glimpse into what a small middle-class town in Australia was like. Kind people and a seemingly safe town free from drama. As we got closer and closer to Sydney, you could feel the transition. The pace of the drivers quickened, the roads became more crowded, and the small locally owned businesses gave way to multinational chains. The suburbs then gave way to the big city and we had arrived in Sydney, our last stop in Australia.
Sydney represents the best of what a city has to offer. Diverse both culturally and geographically, Sydney has something for everyone. Beaches to rival Rio, a dense downtown full of skyscrapers, charming old neighborhoods, and impeccably clean streets – Sydney is like San Diego, New York, and Portland combined. So diverse in terms of neighborhoods it is difficult to describe. There were times that I felt like I was in a small town and others when the only reason I didn’t think I was in Manhattan was because of the kindness of passers-by and the unmistakable Aussie accent.
The largest city in Australia and the financial capital of the country, Sydney is arguably the most important city in the country and the highlight of the trip for me. We stayed in a small Airbnb in the Redfern neighborhood. About a twenty-five-minute walk to the CBD, Redfern is an old eclectic neighborhood, most of its buildings constructed in the early 1900’s. Full of street art, coffee shops, and tall shady trees, this walkable neighborhood feels like the very definition of urban renewal. Repurposed buildings line the streets, and youthful upwardly mobile residents rush from one place to the next. It was a great neighborhood to feel connected to the lifeblood of the city center.
We spent our time in Sydney eating the delicious food, walking the Harbour Bridge, marveling at the Opera house, and people watching at Bondi & Manly Beach. We visited museums, took ferries, and wandered the neighborhoods. We window shopped, actually-shopped, and imagined how easy and fun a life here would be. Sydney is one of the best cities I have ever visited. It has everything a big city has to offer but somehow manages not to feel too big – probably because the citizens don’t lose the Australian style kindness I have grown so fond of.
New South Wales was the best saved for last. The small towns along the coast and the big city. A long road trip and the excitement of urban living. We enjoyed some of the best food, views, neighborhoods, and towns in Australia. I already miss it. // Jeff