Sydney Christmas/New Year

Niamh Quinlan on 16 December 2008

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I decided to go to Australia for Christmas to visit my son, who like thousands of other Irish, had gone to Sydney to find work and explore the country for a year.

On previous visits I had been to Queensland and stayed in Cairns, Port Douglas and the Rainforest, had visited Hamilton Island and stayed in the Coral Reef Hotel and then onto Brisbane and the islands offshore, The Gold Coast and finally to Sydney.

This being my third visit down under I had no hesitation in staying put in Sydney for the two weeks as I was on limited time and wanted to enjoy this amazing city and harbour.

I stayed the first 4 few nights at Bondi Beach in the Swiss Grand Resort and Spa Hotel overlooking the famous Bondi Beach. This is an all suite hotel so you have a separate bedroom and living area which comprises a pullout sofa bed with a TV in both rooms. It is deal for families and has a great bus service outside the door into the centre of Sydney. Bondi of course is also a great beach and the infamous surfers who seem to be there permanently. There is a lovely coastal walk here offering visitors to Sydney an opportunity to join in and do what the locals do. The Bondi to Coogee Walk is a popular coastal walk offering beautiful coastline vistas, cosy beaches and cafe strips for refuelling. It is 6kms long and takes about 2 hours to complete at a good pace, but break that with a freshly squeezed juice or a relaxed coffee and you could take all day - finishing with a relaxed swim at Coogee Beach. There is a very interesting cemetery half way along the cliff full of Irish names that gives you a real sense of belonging.

I was very fortunate to be offered an apartment in Coogee and moved there after a few days. Coogee is a smaller version of Bondi and again has fantastic beach with gas barbeques freely available to the public. Do what the locals do and go to the beach and bring your own food and cook it. Coogee too has very easy access to Central Sydney and various coastal walks. Most days I walked or swam in the morning and then headed into Sydney in the afternoon. I visited Darling Harbour which was very festive for the time of year. There is so much to see in the Harbour and it has numerous Bars and Restaurants.. The Aquarium is fantastic and you can spend a good two hours in here. Take time too to visit the children's park and Naval Museum and here you can walk to Paddy's Market and Chinatown where there are great restaurants. Visit the Opera House and on Christmas Eve you can go to the free “Carols in Hyde Park” concert. When I was there Delta Goodrem was singing along with Brian McFadden, a great event for children.

Christmas in the sun was definitely a first for me and it was strange looking at all the Santa hats on the beach! We had our Turkey dinner in the garden and sat outside until midnight in shorts and t-shirts.

St. Stephen’s day or Boxing Day as it is known in Sydney is a family day at the beach and also the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race. We watched it all from the beach in Coogee.

Over the next few days we drove to some of the Northern Beaches such as Manley and Palm Beach where Home & Away is filmed. We also drove to the town of Newcastle which is about 2 hours North of Sydney and has the best beaches I have ever seen in a town with spectacular waves and great for “boogie boarding”. Needless to say I also took advantage of all the fantastic sales that were on in the city centre.

The highlight of the trip had to be New Year's Eve. You have to get there early so we went down to the Harbour mid afternoon and got our spot on an embankment looking onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the north side. Families were everywhere and people bring their BBQ's, card and board games and everyone spends the day here waiting for the fireworks. It was so worth the wait, I have never seen a fireworks display like it and the camaraderie and the people we met will stay with me for a long time.

Sydney is definitely a must for families, single and couples alike. If you would like to know more about my experience and getting there at the best price please contact me.

Niamh

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