What are two of my favourite things to do in life other than travelling and exploring? Exercising and going out, so it seems fitting that today I would be exploring Sydney by bike and by booze.
As I awoke to the sight of the Sydney Opera House from my accommodation at the Sydney Harbour YHA, I knew today was destined to be a good day. The first stop on my daily itinerary was at Bonza Bike Tours, which was only a few minutes down the road.
Not only is Bonza Bike Tours Sydney’s top eco-friendly city tour, it is ranked #9 out of 233 activities according to TripAdvisor for things to do while in Sydney. Bonza offers various tours to suit your personal needs and time constraints ranging from 2 ½ hours to 5-hour tours through the city.
Pedal to the medal – I took part in a 5 hour, 22km Harbour Bridge Ride . The Harbour Bridge Ride includes all the highlights of the Classic Tour (Sydney Opera House, The Rocks, Chinatown, Hype Park, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Observatory Hill, Darling Harbour, Royal Botanic Gardens, etc) as well as views from the other side of the Harbour Bridge (Kirribilli/Governor’s House, Luna Park & Lavender Bay). I can’t think of a better, more fun way to see the city in such a short period of time!
After checking in and getting fitted for bikes and helmets, the group was ready to explore! We made our way down to Circular Quay on the Harbour to begin the tour. Our tour guide was great! He had been doing tours for many years and was just a book of knowledge about Sydney. One of the first things he told us was that if you don’t follow his hand signals and stop when instructed, you might end up in the Ocean, which ends up being a $13,000 fine. You’d be lucky if you only had to pay $13,000 because the Harbour contains sharks as well. To make a long story short – don’t go swimming in the Harbour.
The morning was spent biking along side the Harbour and eventually led to crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Following the SHB, Luna Park was explored in detail. Luna Park is one of Sydney’s only amusement parks and has existed for decades. Luna Park has experienced various issues over the years in regards to noise complaints, construction issues and unfortunately a few deaths (many years ago) and every time it has re-opened, a new face is put on the entrance. I didn’t think I had a fear of clowns, but that face is extremely creepy close up!
Following Luna Park we headed to Kirribilli and the Governor’s House were the grass is always green. I say that meaning that even when Sydney experiences a drought, the Governor’s house’s grass always seems to stay green… hmm? The tour guide mentioned the Governor would get in trouble for this.
We continued the journey and made our way back across the bridge to our lunch spot on Observatory Hill! I was very impressed with the lunch selection Bonza provided! They offered various sandwich, pita or wrap options with various dressings and condiments to make your perfect meal! Sitting on Observatory Hill looking out onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge was definitely one of the nicest lunch locations I’ve sat at in a while.The afternoon portion of the tour consisted of various areas in Sydney I normally wouldn’t of considered visiting if it wasn’t for this tour. We biked through Chinatown, Hype Park, Darling Harbour and eventually made it to the Royal Botanic Gardens. The Royal Botanic Gardens was stunning with trees and greenery surrounding you at every angle. We all got off our bikes and took a leisurely stroll through the gardens and had a chance to take in what we had seen that day and where we were currently. I found it as a nice chance to reflect on my day and how happy I have been in Sydney the past couple days. It was a very nice ending to an amazing day in the city.
I found that the Bonza Bike Tour was designed to at a perfect pace and length so the biker isn’t completely worn out and exhausted afterwards. My group was filled with people of all ages, and fitness levels! It provided the chance to see a large area of Sydney in a perfect amount of time, as well as it ensured the group had time to stop and photograph the sights. The tour ends on a very high note, and leads up to a sight you can’t put into words. I would tell you what it was, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. Maybe you should book a Bonza Bike Tour yourself and see what I am talking about – you won’t regret it!
Ketel One Bar Tours
Following the bike tour, I definitely had worked myself up an appetite. I quickly returned to my hostel and jetted out to the city to meet up with the Ketel One Bar Tour.
Ketel One Bar Tours – a sophisticated exploration of Australia’s best bars & drinks. Far from being a uni pub crawl or a backpacker booze-up. Ketel One Bar Tours aim to guide tourists and locals alike to a better understanding of Australia’s dynamic bar scene.
Ketel One Bar Tours offer various styles of tours to suit your personal interests. From a Mid-Century Pop Tour to a Manly Beach Bar Tour, 1920’s Cocktail Tour to the CBD Hidden Bar Tour, there are lots of options! I had the chance to experience the Hidden Bar Tour with a private tour guide.
The Hidden Bar Tour is something very different compared to my usual “going-out” style. Down hidden laneways and behind unmarked doors, tucked away in Sydney’s CBD is where you’ll find a new breed of bar. Passing by these bars is quite common as many of them have no signs, no doormen and no music playing to lure you inside. You really need to be “in the know” to experience these bars.
Going back to my “going-out style, ” back in Canada – pubs and clubs are the norm. Very visible and well-known places are generally where I spend my evenings. Places that can hold hundreds to thousands of people, and have more than 1 bar serving the crowd. As I made my way through the three bars on the tour, I noticed something was different. To begin, there is only 1 bar, and only a few people tending to the bar. The bars only fit between 50 – 100ish people at any point in time, and they are hidden amongst small alleyways, basements or cracks in the wall.
Despite the fact that these places are small and hidden, they sure pack a punch. The first bar we went to was called ________ and it was located in a small alleyway in the Sydney CBD. When I first arrived I walked in and out of the bar 3 times before realizing I was in the right place. It was very dark and mysterious and didn’t attract much attention from the outside. I sat down and my tour guide arrived shortly after me. Her name was Denea and she was such a sweetheart. We hit it off instantly and she definitely made my bar tour experience better than I could of imagined. At _________ we were served the bar special which consisted of, Vodka, Crème de Mure, Caramel Syrup, passionfruit puree and pineapple juice. You may be thinking, “yuck!” but kid you not, it was delicious. So delicious that we had to get a second round! Accompanying our drinks we were served the “ploughmans platter” which consisted of grilled bread, pate, green salad, cheese and pastrami. I’m usually not one to try fancy-esque meals but it was delicious! I was extremely content after just the first bar and we still had two more to go!
The second bar we went to was called _______ and it had a cap of 50 people at any time. It was located in a basement of a building with just a small window being the only source of light in the daytime. It was set up as if you were visiting your grandmother’s place with rocking chairs, small stools and colourful couches for people to sit on while they dine. The atmosphere was extremely homey and welcoming, and the staff added to that feeling as well.
Denea and I ordered two more drinks which including a specialty pina colada and a knickerbocker. We also split an order of Jaffles. Jaffles are a specialty that _______ is known for and essentially they are in the shape of a pizza pocket. They are filled with whatever you fancy such as chicken, cheese, onion and jap mayo or a vegetarian option if you prefer. Dipped in a side of sour cream and you have magic happening in you mouth. It took us a while to get up the energy to leave this place cause we were enjoying ourselves to much!
Our last stop on the hidden bar tour was at a place called _________. All that was used to identify it’s location was a sewing machine stationed at the front door. As we entered the bar, we were greeted with a smiling face and were found a table immediately, even though the bar was filled to the brim. Two specialty drinks were delivered immediately as well as a selection of food options to choose from. The three bars that were chosen to complete the hidden bar tour all had a similar feel to them, but were very different in many ways. It was such a nice change from the typical bar scene that many young university and college students are used to. You could call it a “secret society” knowing about these hidden places, and those who know about them – typically return very frequently. A more intimate and personal experience is delivered at these venues and they create for a unique Australian experience I will never forget.
Wonder why I blanked out the names of the bars? Well they are hidden for a reason, and I’m not going to publicly announce them to you… it just means you need to do the bar tour yourself!
Today was a huge success! It was filled with an outdoor biking adventure in the public, followed by an indoor bar tour in the private. I am really starting to fall in love with Sydney over again, and it scares me cause I have serious thoughts of moving here in the near future. Might not be too bad of an idea anyways 😉
Until next time,