This journal was written as a physical diary by me during my gap year. I am typing this up to share my gap year experience. At the beginning of travels I was 22. I travelled with a friend (Kieren) and anybody else involved will be introduced during the journal. For more details, check here.

To spend a year in Australia, we got working holiday visas. These allow up to 1 year of travel and work in Australia. Find more information here.

For the first week in Sydney, we decided to do Ultimate Oz. This included group activities and help setting up life in Australia (e.g. bank account). Find more information here.

Check out the last instalment here.

Welcome to Part Five of my Gap Year Travel Journal! Previously, I spent 2 weeks in Bali. Today, we move on to Sydney, Australia.

14th October 2017

The flight to Sydney was approximately 6 hours.

Flight ticket from Bali to Sydney.

15th October 2017

We arrived in Sydney at 7.05am (local time). It’s 3 hours ahead of Bali time. By the time we got our bags, it was about 9.30am when we arrived at WakeUp Hostel. We weren’t able to check in until 2pm so we dropped our bags and went for a walk.

Our first stop was Sydney Harbour, where we saw the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. The Opera House is less white than I thought – more of a cream colour. The Harbour Bridge is grey, which I definitely should have known but didn’t for some reason*. We then walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens – v. pretty!

We got the bus to Bondi Beach – number 333 from Liverpool Street. The bus requires an Opal Card, which is basically the same as an Oyster Card. I had a lovely sleep on the beach and when I woke up it was cold! We wandered around Bondi and found loads of nice shops/cafes. We ended up waiting 1 hour for a bus back to Sydney because they were so full and kept going past without stopping, which was obviously super annoying.

(a) Sydney Harbour Bridge. (b) Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club and Bondi Beach.

When we got back to the hostel, we checked in. For dinner we had instant noodles and a baguette which was reduced to half price…. trying to save what little money we have until we get a job.

We decided to walk back to the harbour to see it in the dark, and I thought that it was so much prettier at night! We went for a drink at Opera Bar (at the bottom of the Opera House) and everything was so expensive that we each got the cheapest drink – a lime and soda (this was still $4.50 though!).

(a) Sydney Harbour Bridge. (b) Sydney Opera House and that damn expensive lime and soda.

*The Sydney Harbour Bridge was designed by the same people that designed the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and they are very similar. Apparently work on the Sydney bridge began before the Tyne Bridge but the Tyne Bridge was completed first. The Harbour Bridge is grey whereas the Tyne Bridge is dark green. I am from Newcastle so in my head the bridge is green – this explains the confusion.

16th October 2017

We met up with the Ultimate Oz group in the morning and the first activity was a walk to Darling Harbour. There’s probably around 25 people in the group, majority English. My first impression is that many of them don’t seem like my kind of people. On the way back to the hostel (no longer as a group activity) we came across a guitar shop and Kieren had to go in (obviously)*.

I had my first Timtams** since getting here and they were incredible! Black Forest flavour!

In the evening, the Ultimate Oz group met in Side Bar (downstairs in the hostel), where we got a free drink and some pizza. I only got like 2 slices of pizza though. Kieren and I decided to leave – we went to Hard Rock Cafe at Darling Harbour where there was an open mic night on. Kieren played a few songs, which was awesome. Because we are on a budget now***, we literally shared a diet coke…

*Kieren is a musician.

**Australian biscuits. I’d had them as a child because a family friend’s son lives in New Zealand and sent some over. They were my favourite biscuits but I was unable to get them in the UK so obviously I was so excited that I could actually get them again!

***Australia is expensive and we only had a set amount of money to start off with. Bali was incredibly cheap so budgeting never had to happen here but once we got to Australia we had to live on hardly anything until we found jobs.

17th October 2017

This morning, we were given a 2 hour talk about travel/work in Australia – boring but helpful!

Today’s activites included a boat trip from the harbour. We got on a catamaran boat from Darling Harbour and from here we sailed to Sydney Harbour. We got amazing views of the bridge and Opera House. The boat went past the harbour, docked near a small beach and we could jump off the boat. The water was so cold so I only managed about 20 seconds! Captain Rick did a BBQ (first Aussie BBQ) but unfortunately there was no shrimp!

(a) View of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the boat.

During the boat trip, I finally found a couple of nice German guys in the group but they’re not very talkative and don’t seem to want to be friends? So far the nicest people I’ve met have been Australian people that we’ve met doing our own thing.

No group activities planned for tonight so we went to an Irish Bar where there was another open mic night!

18th October 2017

Today was the last day in the hostel so we checked out, then the entire Ultimate Oz group headed to the bank to set up at account. While signing some forms, I was asked for my national insurance number and I didn’t know it (I’m not sure why but I thought this was a UK specific thing so that I’d never need it while travelling). I had to ring my mum back home and because of the time difference it was about 3am*… Oops.

We took the bus from Sydney to Port Stephens (approx. 3.5 hours) and checked into Melaleuca Hostel. So far I definitely prefer this place to Sydney – it feels so much more ‘Australian’, compared to Sydney; which just sort of feels a bit like London.

Pizza for dinner then the majority of the group headed down to the beach to chill. The stars were so beautiful from the beach.

*The previous day I’d bought an Australian SIM card for my phone, which included international minutes.

19th October 2017

Up early for sandboarding! We drove to Stockton Sand Dunes in 4x4s. Fact: They are the largest moving sand dunes the Southern Hemisphere. We boarded down 35m dunes – it was easier than I thought (definitely easier than surfing) and was so much fun! Next stop was Stockton Beach, where we raced ‘pippies’ (weird shellfish that move into the sand).

We then went to Tomaree National Park, where we walked up Tomaree Mountain (more of a hill, really). Beautiful views from the top!

Chilled beach afternoon followed by my second Aussie BBQ – still no shrimp! A cool Aussie guy came with lizards and snakes and we got to hold them!

(a) Me holding a snake. (b) Tomaree National Park.

Check out the next instalment here.