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Intel from Sydney and Byron Bay, Australia: Indagare Member Molly V.W.

Indagare Member Molly V.W. shares favorite finds and travel intel from her recent trip to Sydney and Byron Bay, Australia:

Sydney, Australia Recommendations

FAVORITE PLACES

  • STAY: The Kimpton Margot in the Central Business District (CBD), which is right next to Hyde Park. We had a one-bedroom suite with a large bedroom and large living area (with a queen rollaway) and one full bath and one half-bath. The service was great. We ate at the restaurant for breakfast, which was very good. It's a very nice walk through Hyde Park and into the Botanical Gardens; this is also where the art museums are and a beautiful 50-meter outdoor public pool. It's one block from the tram that takes you to the harbor if you don’t want to walk (which takes about 20 minutes). We preferred staying here and not at the harbor because the harbor is a major tourist area, and the CBD was closer to the neighborhoods we wanted to check out—like Paddington, Surrey Hills and Bondi, which all have great restaurants.
  • EAT: Bar Patrón was very good—their version of Mexican; I thought it was more of a Mexican/Spanish mix. It has a cool setting with outdoor seating in an alleyway if you want that.
  • EAT: Chin Chin was recommended by a number of people for modern Asian fusion in a super fun atmosphere. We did the option where the server could choose a number of courses for us. Great people-watching and food was really good.
  • EAT: Red Lantern for Vietnamese was superb, probably my favorite food. We also had the waiter choose for us here.
  • EAT: Fred’s for farm-to-table. They cook in the middle of the restaurant and there's incredible precision of service. Truly special experience.
  • EAT: Bondi Iceberg—we had a spectacular lunch here, and the views are iconic.
  • EAT: Alimentari is a really good Italian-style café in Paddington. Order at the counter and then eat at the communal tables in the garden (indoor) in the back or outside. Definitely recommend.
  • EAT: Restaurants I would love to try if we go back include Sean’s Bondi Beach and Saint Peter in Paddington.

ITINERARY OVERVIEW

  • Day 1: We toured the War Memorial in Hyde Park, the Sydney Art Museums in the Botanical Gardens (the modern collection is really cool—and we learned a ton about Aboriginal art), the Opera House, Sydney Bridge, the Rocks and also took a tram back to the hotel.
  • Day 2: We did the Spit Bridge to Manly Walk (highly recommend). At parts, the path isn’t completely clear, but everyone is friendly and helpful, so just ask. The hike goes through inlets, woods and heather, with incredible views of the water all along the way, and it ends up in Manly, one of the famous beach towns. You can walk around the town and then take the ferry back to Circular Quay at the harbor. There are great views of the Sydney Bridge and the opera house from the water.
  • Day 3: We did the Maroubra to Bondi Walk, which is really long but completely gorgeous. Most people do the Coogee to Bondi or the reverse. You can stop at the famous bath houses along they way. They are public rock pools—lap pools that get filled with ocean waves when the tide is in, and food and drinks are served. Bondi Iceberg is the most famous, so it’s kind of nice to end there. We also shopped in Bondi, which is a beach town and has a totally different vibe from the main parts of Sydney, where people dress more like they do in New York. Bondi is beach all the way.
  • Day 4: We met up with our guide and saw a ton of the other Sydney neighborhoods, which was fun, then went shopping in Paddington.
  • Day 5: We walked through the Botanical Gardens, saw the market on the Rocks and did more exploring. That night, we went to Madama Butterly at the Sydney Opera House!

Indagare Member Tip:

Getting a rental car was easy and definitely necessary. I didn’t need the international drivers license. The flight from Sydney to Ballina was also very easy. They don’t even ask for your ID for domestic flights. You don’t need to be at the airport early—an hour prior would be the earliest.


Explore the Indagare Guide to Australia, with expert advice on where to stay, eat, shop and more.


Byron Bay, Australia Recommendations

FAVORITE PLACES

  • STAY: We stayed at Elements of Byron Bay, a resort of all villas. We rented a two-bedroom, two-bath with laundry and a kitchen. It was very comfortable, and we both loved staying there. The resort has two pools (one adult pool with a swim-up bar and food service and cabanas) and one large pool with families as well as an adult section. I had room service one night, and the food was really good. The service was fast, and everyone was super nice. We had a massage at Elements that was great too.
  • EAT: Moonlight was highly recommended for Japanese-fusion. It was tapas-style, so we ended up not ordering enough food.
  • EAT: Light Years calls itself “an Asian Bar and Diner.” We ordered a ton of plates and mains and loved all of it. The atmosphere is really fun, and the décor is cool. It was probably my favorite place we had dinner at in Byron Bay.
  • EAT: Bang Bang for Asian Fusion; we also ordered a ton of plates. Really good food and atmosphere— a great place all around.
  • EAT: Belongil Beach Italian is owned by the same people who own Bondi Iceberg. The food is fresh with an emphasis on seafood, and it’s across the street from the beach, although you can’t see the beach from the restaurant. It wasn’t very full when we were there (as opposed to Light Years and Bang Bang, which were packed), but the food was really good. It has a more relaxed but still sophisticated vibe.
  • EAT: Barrio was a surprise find and we loved it! It’s hidden in an indoor/outdoor courtyard with stores that we would have gone back to if we weren’t leaving the next day, and it’s close to Elements (not in the main part of town). The food was amazing and the service was great, and it was very pretty with good people-watching.
  • EAT: Bayleaf Cafe for breakfast/brunch/lunch/coffee. It's the best breakfast spot we’ve been to in a very long time. They make their own coffee blends and the food is interesting, fresh and unbelievably good. We went back two days in a row and wish we could have gone more!
  • EAT: Three Blue Ducks at The Farm—The Farm is just outside of Byron Bay, about a five-minute drive from Elements, and it’s a working farm. The restaurant at the farm is outstanding. You sit outside under an overhang and look out at the farm. Really good service, fantastic coffees and food. They also have a market, if you want to bring food back to your villa.
  • EAT: Restaurants we’d like to try if we return include: Harvest at Newrybar is supposed to have an amazing farm-to-table menu (it’s a little farther from Byron Bay); Rae’s at Wategos for lunch or brunch, on the way to the lighthouse; Beach Byron Bay for a long lunch to watch the surfers or for dinner.

ITINERARY OVERVIEW

  • Day 1: Lighthouse Walk: We parked in the main lot at the beginning of town (next to the public pool at the beach) and walked from there. You could walk in the sand for the first part, but we stayed on the path because it was more shaded. Once you get through town it starts to get more interesting/prettier, with some areas of boardwalk, inclines and places to stop for pretty incredible cliff views. I found out afterwards that instead of walking back the way that we came, we could have continued past the lighthouse and into the parking lot/building area, and there’s a different path that winds down the other side, where you can see hang gliders and then rejoin the original path.
  • Day 2: We went to the Farm, Bangalow (a fantastic smaller town) and Newrybar. Woods in Bungalow is supposed to be great for lunch.
  • Day 3: I swam in the Byron Bay pool, spent some time by the pool and walked on the beach. You can walk farther than you’ll have energy to go if you go to the left. Walking to the right will take you to Byron Bay, but you can’t do the walk at high tide. There are some really good hikes in the area. Go to the local bookstore; they have a book of hikes and will show you the ones they like the most. We were going to check one of those out, but ended up spending more time in town at the shops instead. Other excursions you could do: go to Brunswick Head and swim in the river at high tide, eat at Trouble San, and there’s also great surfing, horseback riding on the beach, concerts, etc!

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Published onMarch 6, 2024

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