Sydney was probably one of the earliest stops we’ve decided on, once we started considering Australia for our honeymoon. And we knew, that if we could choose a time during our trip to be in Sydney, then we would want to be there for New Year’s Eve! But more on how we’ve spent our time in Sydney shortly after some info about visa application, flights, and hotels.
If you’ve followed our previous blog posts, you probably know that we’re no strangers to doing our research on visas. The Department of Home Affairs’ website offers a visa finder application. This helps to narrow down what is the best visa option for your visit. You will have to answer a few simple questions such as: what is the purpose of your visit, what is your country of passport and the length of your stay. Visitors from EU countries and some other Schengen area countries can apply for a free eVisitor visa for a stay of up to 3 months for tourism or business.
The application for an eVisitor visa consists of making an account on the Department of Home Affairs’ website, filling up a form and uploading a set of requested documents. They recommend applying a few weeks before making any travel arrangements. I believe that is because in some cases they request some additional documents, as it was our case as well. The list of additional documents was longer than I had expected.
This included: proposed itinerary and description of activities with dates and all, bank statements, tax records, a letter from your employer and contact information of the person writing the letter. After receiving this request, you then 7 days to gather the additional information. One of the requirements was that the documents uploaded be translated to English – which had us a bit worried. Since we live in Denmark all of our bank statements and tax records are in danish, and the cost of translating these was crazy. That did not seem to be a problem in our case. We received the answer that our visa was granted 6-7 days later. Success! At this time we could finally start planning our honeymoon!
Finding a hotel in Sydney, over New Year’s Eve that’s not crazy expensive?! Not an easy task. Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for hotels. Especially if you’re planning to be in Sydney over New Year:
- Start looking for hotels early. We’ve booked our hotel at the beginning of September. At this time, about 90% of the hotels and Airbnb’s in Sydney and surrounding areas were booked
- Most hotel room offers are non-refundable. This is because the policy for most hotels is that the New Year’s night is non-refundable. We’ve considered splitting our hotel bookings for the days before and after New Year’s. This way we could be able to book part of our hotel stay with cancellation.
- Consider the location of the hotel. Consider what you’re planning to do for New Year’s Eve. And keep that in mind when you choose the location of the hotel/Airbnb. Getting in and out of the city on New Year’s Eve can be challenging.
- Be prepared for crazy prices. About one and a half million people are gathering around the harbor for the fireworks. Some of these ( if not most) of those would need a hotel
We’ve decided to spend New Year’s Eve at the Royal Botanic Garden. We also wanted to find a hotel that’s a walking distance from here, to make getting there and coming back home easy. We’ve been lucky enough to find Castlereagh Boutique Hotel, a boutique hotel in the Sydney Central Business District, close to St. James train station.
And on to my favorite part of the planning ( and of the trip): finding what to do and what explore. Of course, Sydney is one of those places where you could still have things to do and places to see after a week of being there. See below what we’ve chosen for our 5 days in Sydney.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks
One of the main activities on our bucket list, ringing in the New Year in Sydney, while enjoying the fireworks display.
For finding out what are the best vantage points and for which locations you need a ticket, check out this website. The most popular non-ticketed viewing spots will fill up quickly. Queuing before the opening time is needed in order to secure yourself a spot.
We’ve chosen to go for one of the ticketed areas: Midnight At The Oasis in the Royal Botanic Garden. The price of a ticket was of 275 euros (440 $AUD) and it included a reserved table with a 3-course menu and live music. Drinks are not included in the price and have to be bought from them, can not be brought from outside.
The vantage point was great, with an unobstructed view of the Opera and the bridge. The only downside, the area is entirely outdoors. Generally, this should be more of a plus than a minus, since, hey, it’s summer down-under in December. Well, the weather this year came with a series of summer thunderstorms on New Year’s Eve just as we were settling in. The entire evening was still amazing despite the rain.
Bondi Beach and surroundings
Located only 7km from the Sydney CBD, Bondi Beach is one of the most popular beaches around Sydney. You can get there by bus or by train to Bondi Junction and bus from there to Bondi Beach. The following buses will take you there: Bondi 333, 380, 381; Bronte 378; Coogee 374; for more information check the Transport NSW website.
We went there on a Sunday ( and 30th of December), and it was packed! Most of the beaches we’ve been on in Australia are big on safety. There’s clear marking if swimming is permitted and there are lifeguards on duty. The water temperatures in December are around 22-24 degrees, good for a quick swim, and a lot of sunbathing.
One of the things we knew we wanted while here: a coastal walk. Since we’ve went to Bondi first, we’ve ended up doing the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. The walk is about 6km and it took us about 2.5 hours to do the entire walk at a comfortable pace.
The views along the walk are simply breathtaking: the infinity of the ocean, the sound of the breaking waves, and impressive sandstone cliffs. We found the walk to be suitable for most fitness levels. For the most part, the walkway is paved, with portions with stairs here and there on the path. And you can always stop at one of the beaches on the way for a quick dip, or consider doing only portions of the entire walk. The first part of the walk, roughly up to Mackenzies Point was quite busy, so I would recommend hanging in there for the rest of the walk, it’s well worth it. It’s popular to do only part of the walk, from Bondi to Bronte. Check out this website for more information on the Bondi to Coogee walk and other coast walks around Sydney.
Once done with the walk, go and check out any of the restaurants around Coogee Beach. We’ve walked by Coogee Pavilion and the rooftop looked great, but it was sadly full. We’ve looked around where we could have a quick bite and came across a little seafood street food kind of restaurant. With a quirky name A Fish Called Coogee offers fresh seafood, fries, and vegetables cooked on the spot. Like many other restaurants in Australia, the restaurant is a BYO ( bring your own) drinks kind of place.
We needed a light activity for the 1st of January. So we thought what better way to relax than by exploring Watsons Bay. The ferry trip takes about 20 minutes and you can grab the ferry from Circular Quay.
Watsons Bay is located on the South Head peninsula and it’s Australia’s oldest fishing village. What not to miss while on Watsons Bay: a walk around the coast, some bits of history about Sydney at war, the Hornby Lighthouse, and Gap Bluff. Oh, and last but not least, an amazing view of Sydney and the Harbour Bridge from Camp Cove Beach. Even more so if you happen to be there just as the sun was setting. By far one of the best places to enjoy the sunset while in Sydney.
Before heading out to Watsons Bay, remember to top up your Opal card enough for return as well, you might have a surprise and the machine on Watsons Bay is out of service, as we did!
There’s so much more to write about Sydney! So we’ll be back with more posts about our time spent in Sydney, our favorite walks, and our restaurant picks.