My Mom’s childhood best friend lives in Sydney Australia and usually flies to the US to visit us and then to Canada to visit her family and for as long as I’ve known her she has asked us to fly to Australia to visit her. She finally gave us her ultimatum to visit her. She wants to be able to take us around (before she gets any older and can’t be our tour guide) so my Mom, Dad, Sister (Yuntiha) and I finally made the long trip to Australia for 2 weeks to see her, Sydney and Melbourne (we have relatives and friends in Melbourne).
17 Days in Australia; 8 Days in Sydney, 5 days on the road traveling, 4 days in Melbourne. Australia is just so far, and everything is so far apart! I had an amazing 17 days in Australia, and my list of things to do and see was long. I made it to almost everything on my initial list, but now I need to comeback to see everything else.
Day -1: Leave San Diego
We booked a redeye flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne. We all worked half day, picked up our rental car and drove north for 3 hours (thanks to traffic) from San Diego to LAX.
- Pick up rental car
- Drive to LAX (drop off rental car)
- Fly to Australia
Day 0: Lost a Day in the Air
We crossed the international date line and a whole day basically vanished as we headed west.
Day 1: Arrive in Australia
We arrived in Melbourne bright and early in the morning (6:30am) to transfer and take a domestic flight to Sydney. Arriving in Melbourne meant that we had to go through customs before flying out to Sydney. It was a nice little break where we could do everything (like exchange money) before arriving in Sydney and made it easier on our Aunt who did not need to wait for us to go through customs, just a little wait for us to get our luggage.
- Arrive in Melbourne and go through customs
- Transfer flight to Sydney
- Arrive in Sydney
- Lunch in Cabramatta: Binh Dan
- Stay awake and get settled in at home
- Dinner in Canley Heights: Grand Chateu
Day 2: The Sydney Bridge Climb and the City
On our first full day in Sydney, we drove out to the “City” and checked do the “Sydney Bridge Climb” off of my bucket list then had lunch at Pancakes on the Rocks. This was also our only day in Sydney where we walked everywhere. From the Pancakes on the Rocks, we walked along Circular Quay for views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
- Sydney Bridge Climb
- Pancakes on the Rocks
- Walk Circular Quay to the Sydney Opera House
- Free City Bus to Chinatown
- Walk to the Star Casino and Gelato
- Sydney Tower Buffet
Day 3: Seafood and Beaches
9/8 – Auntie was always telling us about the amazing seafood in Australia (and how much better it is compared to the seafood in Southern California). She took us to the Sydney Fish Market for brunch and the seafood was rather amazing! Auntie then checked beaches off on our wish list off as soon as she could. I simply dipped my feet in the water at both Bondi Beach and Manly Beach, each were uniquely different from each other. Oh! And we stopped at Luna Park for a few pictures since they’re closed that day. For dinner we headed back into the suburbs (Canley Heights), and found the 2 restaurants Auntie wanted to take us to closed. We ended up getting Korean BBQ which was ok, but not my favorite.
- Local coffee shop
- Sydney Fish Market
- Bondi Beach
- Outside of Luna Park
- Manly Beach
- TK Something BBQ Restaurant in Canley Heights
Day 4: Taronga Zoo
9/9 – We left the van at home and hopped on public transportation. Auntie made it a point for us to try almost every type of public transportation in Sydney. From the suburbs, we took a train to the city, then a ferry to Taronga Zoo and back. From there, we headed into Chinatown via light rail and then we hopped back onto the train to the suburbs.
- Morning coffee
- Ferry to Taronga Zoo
- Taronga Zoo
- Light rail to Chinatown
- Dinner at Home Thai Restaurant
- Aqua S – Soft Serve Ice Cream
Day 5: Drive to Melbourne
9/10 – Australia is big and Melbourne is not close. Although it’s only a 1 hour flight it was still an 8 hour drive. The scenic drive was stunning with rolling green hills, sheep and black angus but it was a long drive. We arrived, and ended up at Aunties friends house for a few hours waiting for her friends to get home. Auntie rested, but I was getting a bit irritated. I wanted to rest at our accommodations. We did get a decent meal at Vinh Ky Restaurant though.
- Cabramatta to pick up lunch
- Drive to Melbourne
- Visit Aunts friends in Sunshine, Melbourne, Australia
- Dinner at Vinh Ky Restaurant
Day 6: Koalas, Kangaroos, Wallabies, and Penguins
9/11 – Our first full day in Melbourne was the highlight of Melbourne. It was another long day. We started out by wandering around CBD Melbourne for a few hours and then joined a half day tour (pre-booked) to go see Koalas, Kangaroos, and Penguins. It was pretty late in the evening by the time we made it back to our accommodations.
- Pho Mekong Vietnam
- Evergreen Tour to Phillip Island
- The Islantis Surf Experience
- Koala Conservation Center
- Phillip Island
- Penguin Parade
- Supper in Chinatown
Day 7: Slow Day Wandering the Streets / Laneways of Melbourne
9/12 – After a long day out, we started the next day with a much slower pace. We went to Victoria Market, and then strolled CBD and the many laneways of Melbourne. And then for dinner, we met up with some of my Moms friends relaxed along the Yarra River at the Crown Casino and then headed to dinner in Chinatown.
Day 8: Eureka! and Relatives
9/13 – We walked pass the Eureka Tower everyday. After breakfast, we finally made our way to the observation deck for views of all of Melbourne. We sent out some obligatory souvenir postcards from the observation deck and then headed to lunch in Degraves Lane. We then drove out to visit some relatives and had a nice dinner in Docklands.
- Breakfast at Crown Casino Foodcourt
- Eureka Tower
- Degraves Lane and lunch at Cafe Andiamo
- Hangout with Family and Docklands
- igg Seafood Buffet in Dockands
Day 9: Mis-Communication Beach Day
9/14 – There was a lot of mis-communication with Auntie. After having Dim Sum with our relatives (without Auntie), we bought some train tickets and made our way to Brighton Beach (without Auntie). As we arrived in Brighton Beach she was worried wondering why we hadn’t returned to our Airbnb apartment. Instead of heading to St. Kilda we waited for her and her friend to pick us up. She didn’t take us to St. Kilda!!! Instead we went back to her friends house and sat there for a few hours….
Day 10: Driving back to Sydney then Lobster Dinner
9/15 – And that was the end of our stay in Melbourne. We headed back on the road and made our way back to Sydney. Of course not before stopping in Cabramatta for an amazing Lobster dinner. She promised this to us long before we even arrived in Australia. Yumm!
- Drive back to Sydney
- Rest at home
- Dinner at Iron Chef in Cabramatta
Day 11: Hunter Valley
9/16 – We were pretty much on the road everyday during the 2nd half of our trip. I’m really the only one in my family who drinks wine and my auntie was not drinking wine as our driver. So Hunter Valley was more of a scenic afternoon (though I did buy a couple bottles). Auntie also took us to a few of her favorite spots along the way.
- Drive to Hunter Valley
- Wine Tasting Constable Estate
- Wine Tasting Scarborough
- The Entrance
- Drive back to Sydney
- Dinner Temasek Singapore and Malaysian Cuisine
Day 12: Canberra
9/17 – Canberra wasn’t really on our original itinerary and was planned after we arrived in Australia. Auntie said that our stay in Australia coincided with Floriade; a big flower festival. So Auntie knowing how much my Mom loves flowers took us on the 2 hour drive to the capital of Australia (she has allergies and couldn’t even go inside, I guess that’s just what best friends of 40+ years will do).
- Drive to Canberra
- Parliament House
- City Centre
- Australian War Memorial Museum
- Canberra Art Gallery
- Drive back to Sydney
- Dinner at Broken Rice
Day 13: Blue Mountains
9/18 – We waited for a day with good weather to head to the Blue Mountains, and it took all the way to our 2nd to the last day in Australia. Once again another road trip out into the mountains to go to a place called Scenic World then another long drive to the Jenolan Caves.
- Drive to Blue Mountains
- Echo Point and Giant Stairway
- Scenic World
- Jenolan Caves
- Drive back to Sydney
- Dinner at Papa Riches
Day 14: Last Full Day
9/19 – Tired of all of the driving and eating out, we did our final souvenir shopping ate some of Aunties local favorites and then ate at home and got all packed up. Oh! And then Auntie took us out to “party” at a club…Dooleys Lidcombe Catholic Club that is. It was more of a club for my Mom and Auntie.
- Paddy’s Market and Chinatown
- Brunch at Zhu Mothers Taiwanese Gourmet
- Lunch at Dong Ba Bun Bo Hue in Cabramatta
- Cabramatta Market
- Dinner at home
- Dooleys Lidcombe Catholic Club
Day 15: Fly home
9/20 – And then we woke up super early for a morning flight to Brisbane and then transferred to LAX.