Thursday, 15 February 2018

Sydney - The Rocks, bridge climb and a cruise ship farewelled

On the morning of Sunday 28th January we took the train into Circular Quay station, with my little carry bag as I would be departing to Perth in the early evening.
We wanted to explore the Rocks area, and as we left the station we were excited to see the huge Carnival Spirit cruise ship docked at Circular Quay where there is a passenger terminal.

The Rocks is a historic neighbourhood under the Sydney Harbour bridge, that was established shortly after the formation of the colony in 1788 and is very popular with locals and tourists. It has some of Sydney's oldest pubs, old cottages, open-air markets on the weekend with around 100 stalls, and lots of upscale restaurants with harbour views.

We strolled around the area admiring the old cottages, that were used by the workers when the bridge was being built.  During the 1920's  several hundred buildings were demolished when the Harbour bridge was under construction.
Luckily some of these cottages are still standing due to public protest  in the 1970's that brought about the area's preservation, as more than once the area was threatened with demolition to give way to high rise development. Some of the cottages now house art galleries, gift shops or small eateries.

Old cottages, Courtyard of one of the buildings with an open air bar, chairs and huge tv, Open air markets

Old cottages turned into small restaurants, under the Sydney bridge, open air markets

Called "First Impressions", this sandstone monument was designed and sculpted by Bud Dumas in 1979 and honours the soldiers, the settlers and the convicts that that arrived from England aboard the First Fleet in 1788 and that started the colony in New South Wales. 
"First Impressions" monument - Soldiers, settlers and convicts

The Rocks Discovery Museum in Kendall Lane is worth a visit. Entry is free and  the museum is opened daily from 10am to 5pm,  bringing us the history of the Rocks from the pre-European days of the Gadigal tribe until the present.
As I made my way out of the Museum, there was an Asian couple having their wedding photos taken in front of a restaurant in the laneway.
Rocks Museum at the end of the lane, couple taking wedding photos, and artifacts from the Museum
At the end of Argyle street is a tunnel - Argyle Cut - that cut through the sandstone cliffs enclosing the Rocks district and opening access to Millers Point and Darling Harbour. An impressive engineering feat started in 1843 with convicts chipping away at the sandstone with picks. Due to the enormity of the work it was later suspended and resumed in 1859 with the use of explosives and council labour.
Before the tunnel, The Rocks was separated by a steep rocky ridge and people had to go a long way to cross from east to west side of the community.
Rubble from the tunnel was used in the construction of many of The Rocks stone buildings and the walls of Circular Quay.

The Argyle Cut Tunnel
Lunch was eaten at the Caminetto Italian Restaurant, where we sat in the cool courtyard that is next to a rock wall.

I wanted to climb the bridge,  just to go to street level where I would have a great view, not really do the crazy bridge climb!  My husband decided to stay at the quay with a cup of coffee just enjoying the comings and goings  on the water.
Following the map I came across the entry to the bridge stairs and followed a whole lot of people going up.

Entry to bridge stair, various views of the bridge at street level and climbers on top of the bridge (bottom right)
I'm glad I climbed the bridge to the street level walkway (on the eastern side, there is a cycleway on the western side), as the views over the harbour are amazing!
There is a lookout in one of the pylons supporting the bridge's 504mt arch, but admission costs $15.
The walk across takes about half an hour or less depending on how many times you stop for photos, lol.
Once you reach the other side there is another set of steps that will lead you to nearby Milson's point railway station where you can either catch a train or a ferry to Circular Quay again.

My husband sitting (blue t-shirt) near the black wall, amazing views from the bridge walkway
Sydney views from the bridge walkway
I didn't go down the other side, but rather turned around and met up with my husband by the stairs by the Museum of Contemporary Art. I didn't get to visit it as it was closing (5pm) by the time I arrived.

The cruise ship was also about to depart , sounding it's horn, and people were gathering near the quay to see it sail away. The Carnival Spirit has some impressive statistics - it carries 2124 passengers, has a crew of 961, a length of 292 mt and cost US$375 million to build.

Carnival Spirit at Circular Quay, Sydney

Quite exciting to see this huge ship manoeuvre it's way out the quay while other vessels crossed the bay, until it disappeared behind the Opera House.

Carnival Spirit departing Circular Quay in Sydney

After it disappeared from sight we walked to Circular Quay train station where I would get the train to the Domestic Airport.  
Just outside the station a couple of buskers performed their music or like the one in the photo did some magic.

My husband got me the Opal card for use on Sydney public transport which makes it easier to just tag on and off. Train fares are slightly cheaper if you use the card as well, but because the airport station is not Government owned but was built by private enterprise there is a very high airport access fee of $14,30.
The magician outside Circular Quay station, Circular Quay harbour

On arrival at the airport I had almost two hours to wait, so strolled around the shops for a while and then sat down reading a magazine I bought. 
The Qantas flight home was comfortable and I watched two movies - "Victoria and Abdul" and "Wilson", both released in 2017. 
I loved the historical film Victoria and Abdul, but didn't care much for Wilson, not much of a fan of the main actor, Woody Harrelson, but there wasn't anything else that I felt like watching...
The flight was shortened by about 25 minutes which meant I arrived home by taxi close to midnight,  the time when I should have been landing, which was great.

Sydney Airport, flying take-off over Sydney and over the clouds

And back to earth.....Perth!


  1. Those balconies are beautiful and the markets look interesting.
    Yes, those were brave people back then.

    Hmm. Is there a story behind the wedding-picture, I wonder?

    Looks kinda romantic with the trees leading to the tunnel.
    Awesome views from the bridge, but guess I´d never go up there!
    That ship is really huge. And, wow, expensive! As the fare.
    Oh, that reminds me of a flight with Malaysian Airlines. My monitor was broken, no movies, that was a long, boring flight.

    It sounds exhausting, hope it´s Sydney soon only for holidays!

    1. The markets were great, I bought a nice cotton dress.
      I wouldn't climb the bridge at the top, but street level was fine.
      My flight to Sydney was with Jetstar, no food, no entertainment (unless you pay extra).

  2. What an amazing final day in Sydney. I think one of the things that struck me was how those old cottages had been built for construction workers and I suspect the rent was cheap. Now, the rent must be sky high and NO construction worker could afford to stay there, unless they made excellent wages.

    Another thing that struck me was how a city that was built and lived in/settled by (supposed) convicts, flourished and became such a powerful and bustling city. I really enjoyed the atmosphere from this final day you shared with your husband in Sydney. Glad you are now home, but I bet you miss your husband already!

    1. I loved that area of Sydney, and there's still lots to see in The Rocks. Yes those cottages would now be worth a lot due to their location, anything close to the water has exorbitant prices.
      Hubby will arrive tomorrow and stay 5 days which will be nice.

  3. ...Sami, what a beautiful and exciting city, I wish that it wasn't on the other side of the world from me!

  4. I feel like visiting the city!
    I have cousins living in Sydney who have invited me so many times to spend some time with them... but just thinking of the 28 hour flight...


    1. 28 hours is probably with stopovers no? You could always break it up by staying for a couple of days on your stopover. When we fly from Perth to Lisbon it takes us about 20 hours with 1 stopover in Dubai. We always talk about breaking up the trip by staying for a couple of days in Dubai but have yet to do it.

  5. Replies
    1. Vale sempre a pena uma visita a Australia Francisco.

  6. Beautiful shots. First Impressions particularly stands out to me, and that bridge is iconic!

    1. Thanks William. Yes that statue is very nice and thoughtful. The bridge is well known all over the world :)

  7. Hi Sami - this is a great post on Sydney things to do and see, I have yet to do the bridge climb proper myself, like you I have keep myself lower down. It is such a spectacular city isn't it? I love the real wow factor of that harbour bridge area. I would imagine sailing in on a cruise liner would be amazing!
    Wren x

    1. I'm not brave enough to climb the bridge, so have to stick to street level, and the views were already pretty good from there. I think it would be amazing to do a cruise on a massive ship like the Carnival spirit. When we win lotto..... :) Have a nice weekend Wren.

  8. Those cruise ships are enormous, aren't they? I'm so glad they preserved this area, which really looks charming. I especially love the First Impressions monument. That's some beautiful work.

    1. Thanks Jeanie, I'm happy too that The Rocks area was preserved, it's so quaint and so beautiful to walk around. That monument is beautiful.

  9. Fiquei deliciado com tudo o que relatas e mostras em fotografia, Sami !
    Incrível a vista da ponte com a Ópera e a marina !!!

    Um beijo amigo.

    1. Obrigada Joao, realmente as vistas da ponte sao fantasticas. Bom fim de semana.

  10. You've got me looking forward to our visit in April Sami 😀 I enjoyed our catch up yesterday ✨

    1. I had a wonderful day Grace, thank you. There's always something new to see in Sydney, at least even in areas I have visited I know there is more to see.

  11. Dearest Sami,
    SO happy for you that you got to explore this beautiful city of Sydney.
    Walking that bridge for the spectacular view made me recall our Conference of September 1993. We did have a bus tour for visiting some mushroom markets and would be coming back over the tall bridge.
    In front of us was a German couple seated, he was the chairman of the German mushroom Association. Both had fallen asleep and were loudly snoring... She woke up first, only to raise hell to him that he had neglected to video tape the view for which they come along!
    Oh my, priceless indeed.
    We came here several times and always different. Did you ride the monorail? Probably not enough time to do it ALL.
    Sending you hugs,

    1. That's a funny story Mariette. I hate to disappoint you but the monorail no longer exists. I rode it on my visit to Sydney when my son got married there on 22nd June 2013 and it's last trip was on the 30th of June 2013. The whole area around Circular Quay has changed a lot.


I would love to hear from you, please leave a comment.