Sydney 30 Years On

Sydney was my first overseas city which I traveled to solo At 19 at scored a holiday job a summer job with a multi-national oil company in Sydney’s Rocks area. A few weeks ago my latest trip was because I was taking a travel writing course

Sydney Ferries Under the Harbour Bridge - Dwarfed by a Liner

Sydney Ferries Under the Harbour Bridge – Dwarfed by a Liner

Sydney Transport Options

The first time I arrived I caught a bus into town, although this is still an option I took the train instead this time: the train was only $1 more than the bus, and much, much quicker: Sydney’s congestion hasn’t got any better over the years. It still has a reasonable public transport system though, the extensive, and spectacular ferry service, really makes paying for a harbour cruise unnecessary. I re-played one of my favourite day trips from 30 years ago by taking the ferry to Manly. The prices had gone up and the Corso had been very, very tidied up, but nothing had fundamentally changed.

Accommodation in Sydney – Then And Now

In 1980 I discounted staying at a Youth Hostel hostel (this was before backpackers were invented) as I wanted somewhere to stay for up to a week while I found a summer sub-let Hostels only let you stay for 3 days and locked you out during the day. Instead, on my mother’s recommendation I headed for the YMCA on Hyde park (now the Y Hotel Hyde Park) I mean headed literally – I had no way to book in advance, credit cards hadn’t been invented yet, and it didn’t even occur to me to make an expensive international phone call to book. Oh and my mother’s experience of Sydney – she’d stayed there in 1953! (No I am not making this up). The early morning flight would get me there plenty early enough to walk the streets if I had to. Yes they had room, yup it was a perfectly fine place to start, though I think I moved somewhere cheaper before finding a summer sub-let for the majority of my time there.

This time as I was attending a course in Milson’s Point (the northern end of the Harbour Bridge) I wanted to stay in the Rocks. Now that Youth Hostels, tend to go by the moniker YHA, and are if anything rahter more focused on the older and family market, they are my hostels of choice in Australia.

The YHA Sydney Harbour is one of YHA’s flagship hostels, only opened in 2010, and actually built on stilts above an archaeological dig it features pretty amazing views over Sydney Harbour, and some pretty nifty amenities. Apart from being only a quick walk across the bridge to my course, it also features ensuite bathrooms in the dorms, only 4 or 6 bed dorms and individual reading lights which included a power point, plus a power point in the lockers as well. You no longer get locked out, access is via key cards and the reception is 24/7.

I did however need to book, since the Internet, this is actually far less spontaneity in travel, and most budget travellers do book in advance, particularly in major cities. I booked weeks in advance to get a dorm in peak season.

View from Sydney YHA Towards the Opera House

View from Sydney YHA Towards the Opera House

Sydney Hadn’t Changed, I Had

In fact Sydney hadn’t basically changed much in 30 years: yes The Rocks is flasher than it used to be, Darling Harbour is now a destination not a run-down docks area, yes you can now climb the bridge. But the main attractions are still the Sydney Opera House, the beaches and the harbour.

These days it looks all very tourist orientated to me, but then I’m pretty familiar with Australia, and Sydney isn’t my preferred coastal city – that’s Perth – but if I rolled back the years I still don’t think Sydney is a bad place to start exploring Australia form.

Manly Beach from Shelly Beach Sydney

Manly Beach from Shelly Beach Sydney

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  1. Irene S. Levine on April 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Always fascinating to return someplace that many years later and compare then and now.

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