Friday, 1 April 2016

Sydney, Australia - The top 5 things tourists do which locals avoid.

Have you ever wondered whether Egyptians visit the pyramids, Parisians climb the Eiffel Tower or New Yorkers wander around the Statute of Liberty? David and I have done all these things as well as countless other iconic activities around the world, but I have often wondered whether locals living their lives every day in the shadow of such massive tourist drawcards ever bother to visit them.

Mention Sydney and 'Things to do' to any tourist and I can almost guarantee which activity will be the top of their list.  It has become so popular it is almost synonymous with the city. Yet I haven't done it, nor has David, our adult children, or most of our friends. I am sure you can guess what I am talking about: if you have been a tourist in Sydney you have probably done it yourself.


I am talking, of course, about the Bridge Climb. The lack of enthusiasm most Sydneysiders have for our most famous activity got me thinking about what other things tourists have on their 'must do' lists which locals just yawn and wave at in passing so I drew up a list of my own - 'things to avoid' and added a few local tips just in case you intend do these things anyway.

1. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge -


Sydneysiders walk, drive and cycle across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We sail under it and we fly over it but most of us don't climb it. Why would we - it's a bridge! Do you climb bridges in your home city?

David and I have never climbed the bridge, nor do we have any desire to do so. A quick straw poll amongst our friends came up with the same attitude for all but a few, and those who have climbed the bridge were generally underwhelmed by the experience.

I am not saying you shouldn't climb the bridge. Try to do it on a fine day; take in the spectacular views, and love every minute of it, but don't imagine you are doing what the locals do. If you want to do that, buy a train ticket from Wynyard to Milsons Point Station and ride across the bridge in a train.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge
I took this from a Helicopter - the absolute best way to get a great view of the harbour.

My Tips - 

  • Walk across the bridge - There is a walkway on the eastern side of the bridge with views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour. They are spoiled a bit by a safety fence built to prevent people jumping off but they are still good. Access the walk from Bridge Stairs on Cumberland Street in The Rocks or the steps near Milsons Point Railway Station. There is also a path on the western side of the bridge which is reserved for cyclists. Caz and Craig from 'ytravelblog' have written a great guide to walking across the bridge. Click - here - to read it.
  • Climb a Harbour Bridge pylon - For $13.00 per adult (about a million dollars each less than the Bridge Climb) you can visit the lookout at the top of the south-east pylon. As well as the view, you get a series of exhibits on the history of the bridge. Access the lookout from the pedestrian walkway on the eastern side of the bridge. Click - here - for the Pylon Lookout website. Paula Morgan of Sydney Expert has written a great post on the Pylon Lookout. Click -  here - to read it.
  • If you really want stunning views of Sydney Harbour, forget the Bridge Climb and take a helicopter flightseeing tour instead.  It costs no more than a daytime Bridge Climb. Click - here - for my blog post on helicopter flightseeing over Sydney Harbour. 
  • If you absolutely must climb the bridge, my friends in the travel blogging world, Sue and Dave of  'Travel Tales of Life', have written a helpful post on what you can expect. Click - here - to read it.

2. Celebrate Christmas Day on Bondi Beach -


Don't be fooled by all the hype about Australians celebrating Christmas Day at the beach. Like everyone else in the world Australians have homes, and at home with friends and family is where you will generally find us on Christmas Day. If however you hail from Northern Europe then head down to Bondi where you can join thousands of other temporary refugees from cold-weather Christmases.  Be warned however, after celebrations got out of hand a few years ago there is a 'no alcohol' policy in force.

Manly Beach, Sydney
Manly Beach, in late autumn, because I have never been to the beach on Christmas Day

My tip - 

  • Arrive early. Bondi gets crowded on Christmas Day. If you want the atmosphere with a few less people head to Coogee or Manly instead. There will still be crowds but they won't be quite as overwhelming as Bondi.

3. Do a Tour of the Opera House -


It is possible to tour the Opera House in seven different languages. There is a standard tour, a backstage tour, a Vivid Sydney tour, an adventure tour and a junior tour. I'm sure visitors to Sydney love them. Locals don't do them. They go to the Opera House for what it was built for - to see concerts, operas and plays.

I confess, I am not a great fan of opera but Sydney's most famous landmark is not just about opera. Ballets, stage plays, concerts and children's shows all make regular appearances. Click - here - for what's on at the Opera House.

Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House

My tip -

  • There are two main venues at the Opera House - the Concert Hall  and the Joan Sutherland Theatre. Operas, concerts and ballets are all staged in these venues and these are where you will get the full Opera House experience complete with stunning views across the harbour at intermission. The Drama Theatre, Playhouse and Studio are all underneath the main building. You could be anywhere. They just don't have the same magical feel. Click - here - for a plan.

4. Worry about being bitten by poisonous creatures -


Yes, we have some of the world's deadliest creatures but I have never known a single person who has been attacked by a shark, bitten by a snake or died from a spider bite. Just ignore the hype. Most Australians don't see a dangerous creature from one decade to the next.

Crocodile warning sign
My tip -

  • Respect warning signs, don't be an idiot and you will be as safe in this country as anywhere in the world.

5. Get sunburnt


I am stretching it a bit here. Plenty of locals do get sunburnt from time to time. Generation Y - I am talking to you!  Sunburn is however endemic among tourists, especially Northern Europeans. 

My tips - 

  • Don't underestimate the strength of the Australian sun. It isn't just the beach where you need suncream and a hat. You can get burnt just about anywhere outside. 
  • Be particularly vigilant on cooler, windy days. It is easy to get burnt and not realise it until hours later.
.................................................................

No matter whether you are a tourist or a local, Sydney is a wonderful city and a great place to spend a few days - or a lifetime. If you have been to Sydney and done any of the things on my list, add a comment and tell us what you thought.

Do you live in a place with 'must-do' tourist attractions? Have you done them? What is it David and I should avoid in your city if we want to blend in with the locals?


61 comments:

  1. Your number 1 about the Bridge Climb breaks my heart! That was one of our favorite activities during our time in Sydney and we really loved learning about the bridge along the way. Next time we will add helicopter to our itinerary. Agree with your tip to see a show at the Opera House versus take a tour.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad you enjoyed the Bridge Climb. I don't mean to suggest that tourists won't enjoy it, just that most locals don't bother.

      Delete
  2. In New Zealand ... don't got to Queenstown

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not sure why you say that. We have been to Queenstown many, many times and always loved it, although we tend to steer away from the adventure activities and just enjoy how beautiful it is.

      Delete
  3. Most Philadelphians probably only visit the Liberty Bell on class trips and when out of town relatives visit.

    PS: Our son did a semester at the University of New South Wales. He had to do a marketing plan for the Sydney Bridge Walk. He thought it was overpriced.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We took our boys to see the Liberty Bell when we were in Philadelphia years and years ago but we were tourists so it was okay - lol. We also went to see a baseball game. I still don't understand the rules but we had a wonderful time. People in the seats around us realised that we had no idea how the game worked and took it upon themselves to explain it too us as the action happened. They were so friendly and generous I have never forgotten it. We even participated in the seventh innings stretch - something we had never heard of.
      For what it is worth I agree with your son about the Bridge Climb being too expensive.

      Delete
  4. Lyn I appreciate you sharing our experience on the BridgeClimb. Having done many adventures around the world I will admit to being surprised by the 'underwhelmed' feedback. That wasn't our experience but of course each person has there own perceptions which I definitely respect.

    During our time in Sydney when locals asked what we had planned and we mentioned the climb many people told us how much they had enjoyed it. The helicopter ride sounds fabulous too. Since I haven't done it I can't compare the two but should we return to Sydney we will put it on the list.

    Thanks again for the shout out. In all honesty our time on the BridgeClimb the BridgeClimb was a fabulous experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad you enjoyed the Bridge Climb. I suppose I am not so much telling people not to do it as assuring them that it is not the end of the world if they come to Sydney and don't climb the bridge. There is so much more to Sydney than climbing the bridge. That said, David and I have done plenty of things as tourists overseas which we have just loved but might not bother with if we were living in a place.

      Delete
  5. I for sure did every single one of these in my two years in Sydney... even once I considered myself a local :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello, I must say that I have deadly spiders in the back yard and just wave hello to them and keep doing what I'm doing, snakes too.... BUT I have done BridgeClimb when one son turned 16 and my husband did it with another son for his 10th birthday. It really is fabulous.... mind you, we've only been here 17 years !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Only 17 years - definitely still a tourist - lol. We have funnel-webs in the back yard but we see them very, very rarely and I can't say that I think about them much. We find them around the pool after heavy rain which is a bit creepy, but no-one in the family has ever been bitten - touch wood.

      Delete
  7. Brilliant. This is a fabulous list and so true. When I was writing my book I frequently found myself surrounded by tourists. I think it is assumed somewhere that anyone who can get to either of our countries has enough disposable income and will pay hideous prices to do "tourist" activities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Hideous prices' - you are definitely on the same wave length as me. My big objection to some of the 'must-do' attractions is that they are often completely out of reach for families and yet their marketing is so pervasive that you would think you hadn't seen a place unless you have done them. That doesn't apply to Christmas on Bondi Beach. It is absolutely free and I still wouldn't do it - lol!

      Delete
  8. Locals definitely don't do most of the touristy things around town. Spending Christmas on Bondi Beach I consider something akin to a nightmare!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you on Bondi Beach but partly I think I am just the wrong generation. My generation Y son and his girlfriend spent Christmas Day on Coogee Beach, just down from Bondi, and loved it. My son's girlfriend is Welsh. She has been in Oz for about a year and she desperately wants to do the Bridge Climb. Lovely girl - but still a tourist at heart.

      Delete
  9. I think locals anywhere will always have "localitis". We all think so much further afield about doig amazing things in other countries and often ignore the fabulous things under our nose. Having recently just written a guest post about my own home city in Oz, it was wonderful to know that everything I was promoting were things we had done ourselves and continue to enjoy. I did laugh at your number 2 and of course the bities. So many funny myths about Australia. #theweeklypostcard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have lived in Sydney almost my whole life and have definitely taken our beautiful harbour for granted but just lately David and I have spent a lot of time on and around the harbour and I have begun to really appreciate how lovely it is. Ironically, I do have a friend who was bitten by a funnel-web and spent a very long time in hospital but it turned out she was allergic to the antivenine.

      Delete
  10. Love this post - Sydney is definitely on my list although I am tempted by a bridge climb! I think it's easy to forget about all the things that draw visitors to your city: I do like occasionally being a tourist in London but I've probably had more days out since my daughter was born than the decade before living here! #theweeklypostcard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have been to London many times but not for a few decades now. It is a fabulous city to be a tourist in. There is so much to see. If you ever come to Sydney drop me a line and I will give you a local's perspective on the best things to do.

      Delete
  11. What a fun post! I would never climb a bridge - that sounds pretty scary. I live in a very small town in Vermont, USA, and even here there are museums and historical sites that I have never been to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David and I are coming to Vermont later in the year. We are staying in Burlington. David just adores New England - in the warmer months (lol). We have been a few times but this time we are bringing our bikes and cycling as many of your bike paths and rail trails as we can manage.

      Delete
  12. I love these Sydney tourism tips. Like you I have only walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and I have no urge to climb atop it! It is funny how tourists tend to just go to the same old touristy spots when there is so much more on offer. I see this on the Gold Coast all the time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Gold Coast is such a tourist mecca. David and I go there a lot but not for the beach or the night life. Ironically it is a great place to cycle. I love cycling along next to the seaside and it is so much fun looking at all the fancy houses.

      Delete
  13. I think I must be a tourist at heart! Haha :) There's something about living abroad and coming home that makes you appreciate things differently - I definitely do things now that I would have thought were "too touristy" before we lived away for a while. I loved the bridge climb - I did it with visiting friends :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David and I lived in Hong Kong for four years. For family reasons we came home quite often. It was always amazing seeing Sydney through the eyes of someone who was living in one of the most crowded cities on earth. It always felt so empty. After being home for several decades, it certainly doesn't feel empty now.

      Delete
  14. How do you rate the Sydney Tower. Is it as expensive as the bridge climb. And how is the Opera House acoustically. I read it didn't match up well with other venues. Sydney is on my bucket list but I don't want to plan for more than I can afford. Thanks for the tips. The helicopter ride and Manly ferry look like the the top items to do. And one more thing. Does the footpath stretch all the way from Hornby Lighthouse to Botany Bay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't been up the Sydney Tower for many years. It is quite a distance from the harbour and so high that you don't get the kind of spectacular view which you would from either the Bridge or a helicopter. If you are looking for value for money, I would probably give the Sydney Tower the miss - it will be a lot cheaper though than the Bridge Climb. Perhaps you should consider climbing the Pylon instead. There is a link to the Pylon site in my blog post.
      Definitely do the Manly Ferry - or consider Captain Cook's Hop On Hop Off Ferry. The post before this one on my blog was about the Hop On Hop Off - Click here or get to it via the 'Home' tab http://www.thetravellinglindfields.com/2016/03/captain-cook-cruises-hop-on-hop-off.html

      Hornby Lighthouse is at Watsons Bay which is in Sydney Harbour and a long way from Botany Bay. You would need to cut through a lot of streets and it is about 20 km.
      There is a lovely walk along the foreshore though at Botany Bay. It runs parallel to The Grand Parade at Brighton-le-Sands. One of my friends in the travel blogging world has a blog called SydneyExpert. She writes a lot about walks in Sydney and has done a great post on Sydney by public bus. If you are coming to Sydney it would be worth having a look at her blog - http://sydneyexpert.com/

      My best tip for seeing Sydney Harbour is to take a helicopter ride. Unfortunately the one David and I did leaves from Bankstown Airport which is a bit tricky to get to without a car but there are plenty of helicopter flights which go from the main Sydney airport too.

      Delete
  15. I was smiling as I read your post. I live in NY and have not been to the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building. I also avoid Times Square!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha - I have done all of these as a tourist. I would love to see Times Square on New Year's Eve but like the fireworks on Sydney Harbour it would probably be so crowded I would hate it.

      Delete
  16. I think that we only go to the Opera House to have a drink at the Opera House Bar and to see concerts, though it is nice to send friends for a tour. I remember writing about being a tourist in New York and locals telling me they hadn't seen all of the things themselves. I would rather walk across the bridge than over it myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love concerts at the Opera House. It has such a magical feeling at intermission and there is always the challenge of not spending your whole life trying to exit the car park. Our personal record for being stuck in the car park is an hour which is the pits after a wonderful concert.

      Delete
  17. Great tips, Lyn. I'd probably be guilty of making some of these mistakes, but when you are a tourist you tend to do more crazy things than you'd do when you are at home. I would very much love to come visit the Opera House in Sidney, but I would like to attend a performance there, not just take a tour. Thank you for joining #TheWeeklyPostcard this week-end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you ever decide to come to Sydney I will be your personal tour guide and we can go to a show at the Opera House.

      Delete
  18. I so want to walk across the bridge! And I remember watching the Christmas Day festivities in Australia via Snapchat - they still seem to be pretty rambunctious! I found you through the Weekend Travel Inspiration link up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Walking across the bridge is free and easy - something every visitor to Sydney should do.

      Delete
  19. You'll be pleased to note we did none of those things when in Sydney last year, mind you we didn't hit a Christmas Day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you avoided the sunburn and I hope you had a great time.

      Delete
  20. I've visited Sydney 6...or is it 7? times now, and the only thing I have reliably done almost every visit is get sunburned. I try, I really do, and I hate getting sunburned with a passion, but I'm usually caught out at some point despite my best efforts and SPF50+. I've never been able to afford BridgeClimb so no fear there, plus it all sounds like too much of a performance to me. I don't tend to worry about creepy crawlies although I will err on the side of caution with those massive spiders that hang at face height across the pavements sometimes! I've had an Australian Christmas and we did not hit the beach, far too much else to do!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am with you about the spiders. If we are thinking of the same ones they are not poisonous but if I walked into one I think I would die of fright - they are just gruesome. Sunburn is an national hazard in Australia. When my younger son was little I used to put so much zinc on his face at the beach he would look like a ghost and he would still get burnt. He has that freckly red-headed skin which is just plain dangerous in Oz.

      Delete
  21. The Inner Harbor is the big tourist attraction in Baltimore. I wouldn't say don't go, in fact, I run through it a few times a week. It has lovely scenery and people watching. I have been to Sydney a few time and haven't done the bridge walk, only because I'm terrified to do it! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have been to the States many, many times but never Baltimore. Maybe we need to put it on our list.

      Delete
  22. I've walked across the Harbour Bridge and that's plenty for me. The bridge climb seems way overpriced to me too! I'd rather use that money for a nice meal out in Sydney! And I tend to get sunburnt every time in Sydney even when it's like 18 or 20C outside!

    In Istanbul, very few locals actually shop at the Grand Bazaar. Only after living there for nearly 3 years did I finally meet some good vendors whom I could trust when I had friends visiting and eventually I bought from them myself. Otherwise, there's a lot of scammers out there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We haven't been to Istanbul but I know what you mean about scammers. The markets at Luxor in Egypt were full of them, quoting 10 or more times the usual price for souvenirs. I don't enjoy bargaining but unless you do it you just get ripped off.

      Delete
  23. Many people take advantage of where they are from - I'm from Nashville, Tennessee and I still haven't done some things that others travel from all over to see and do! Thanks for linking up to #WeekendWanderlust :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe we should all start a movement - 'Be a tourist in your own back yard'. Sometimes the night before a trip and yet another awful long haul flight (one of the downsides of living in Australia) I lay awake and think 'Why are we doing this. Why not just stay home and do touristy things in Sydney.'

      Delete
  24. We can't wait to do all these things! My daughteer is migrating to Australia January of 2018. Although she will be a local years after, we will be tourists in the beginning and do all of these things!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow - how exciting. Whereabouts in Australia is she coming to? I hope she loves it. Moving to a new country is great fun when you are young. I am not sure I would have the energy to do it now though.

      Delete
  25. It's similar in many places, but if someone visits the place for the first time and doesn't plan to go there again, no wonder he does these things ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suppose you are right but the main thing is to enjoy the things you do and not stress too much about the things you don't get to do.

      Delete
  26. LOVE this post! Can't wait to come to Sydney and take your advice. In my town, San Francisco, locals seem to miss out of Alcatraz Island, which it turns out is a shame. A native, I first visited with my own child! And all I can say is I should have gone long before. I've been back numerous times, most recently for a fabulous Wei Wei art exhibit. So this is one "tourist trap" you should not miss here! Here's a little tidbit re. what you will see and hear, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH9xnyWvJNQ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha - thank you. We have been to San Francisco twice. The first time we went to Alcatraz. It was an amazing experience. The boys were young and that night we watched 'Escape from Alcatraz' on TV which was a lot of fun.
      The last time we were in San Francisco we had our bikes with us and went cycling around Sausalito. It was just lovely.

      Delete
  27. Likewise, I never bothered going to the top of the Empire State Building even when I lived 3 blocks away. I appreciated your list of things locals don't bother with. Glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't fancy a bridge climb. I just hope I can find suncream strong enough to keep my fair skin from a burn. #theweeklypostcard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We went to the top of the Empire State Building when we first visited as tourists but the kids were young enough that it was a thrilling experience for them. It isn't the strength of the suncream which is the problem it is that most people put it on once and then forget to re-apply it. I have done that a few times myself.

      Delete
  28. When people live in a town they get caught up in real life which includes being tired from a day at work and just wanting to chill out. Weekends are also filled with such commitments. When you are juggling bills it's difficult to commit money to local attractions or rather justify something like the bridge climb instead of a trip to thr aquarium.
    In my hometown the big thing a lot of locals do is spend their Saturday getting ready to go out in the evening but I would rather wander down the river or visit museums with the tourists. Also a sizeable chunk opt to go to a chain pub for breakfast or Sunday lunch at the weekend, so if you go where the locals go you'll have an underwhelming dining experience. Familiarity breeds contempt so we won't spend money on things we see every day as they don't seem as special as things we see when we are on holiday. We also think we know our cities but going on a tour in your home town can be a real eye opener and make you realise that there is more to it. I have done all the top tourist stuff in my city as we get so much revenue from tourism- the tourist attractions are my city

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand what you are saying but I find I am more willing to spend money on attractions at home than when we are on holidays. The problem with pricey tourist attractions on holidays is you are already spending so much money. It isn't so bad if there are only two of you but we travelled a lot with our boys when they were young and when you multiply the cost of admission by four, even with children's rates, it costs a small fortune.

      Delete
  29. We spent a month in OZ, and I have to admit to not doing any of those things. I did admire the bridge, though, and actually went to an opera performance. And also noted the croc warning in Cairns. Maybe I could apply for permanent resident status?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have been to Queensland many times and have never seen a crocodile in the bush except on a boat tour of the Daintree Rainforest. I think they are like all dangerous wildlife - chances are you will never see one except on a tour. I hope you enjoyed the Opera - great way to see the Opera House.

      Delete
  30. Sue, from "travel tales of life " reccomend your blog as a great source of information on Australia, since my husband and I will be visiting in February. I am loving reading it. I was thinking of climbing the bridge, but now I think the helicopter ride sounds more interesting, I will have a good look around your blogs for some more interesting ideas😄

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi traveller. I love the name. I'm sure there is a story behind 'interrupted'. The thing about the bridge climb is that it is horribly expensive but it has been advertised brilliantly around the world such that people see it as a 'must-do' thing to tick off their bucket list. If you are a bucket list person and you think you might be disappointed if you go home without having done it then I would say go for it. Australia is a long way from just about everywhere so chances are you will only come here once or twice. Personally I would do the helicopter ride again over the bridge climb any day but I love helicopters.
      If you have any questions about visiting Oz please feel free to send me an email. My address is in the 'Contact' tab at the top.

      Delete
    2. Lyn, we will be in Australia for 3 weeks in February visiting family in Perth and in Brisbane and then the last 5 days in Sydney on our own. We are beyond excited about it. I will be perusing all your posts for tips, thank you so much for your kind response.

      Delete