New contributor, Jessica Higgins writes about her relocation from Perth to Sydney and her first impressions –
Throughout my life, I have made gradual steps towards larger populated areas, oddly usually ten-ish years apart. When I was eight we moved from the tiny town of Brookton to the thriving metropolis of Merredin. Then when I was 17 I moved from Merredin to Perth. Ten years on and I’ve gone larger again, this time to Sydney. I suppose in 2026 you will find me in Beijing.
As soon as I arrived I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory, partly due to the increased stimulation and partly because I instantly started to eat a lot more icecream.
I don’t know how long I will be here for, so I have been capitalising on each weekend, and touring around Sydney. I almost exclusively hang out with Perth ex-pats, not on purpose, but we are somehow drawn to each other. Some I already knew, and some discovered I was from Perth and latched on. This means that I have a group to explore Sydney with.
I’ve compiled a list of experiences and observations I’ve had while living in Sydney these few short months, categorized under “HOT” or “NOT, to help would-be tourists or people looking to settle in Australia’s best-known city.
HOT: Spit Bridge to Manly walk
You will find this walk listed on all of the websites promoting interesting activities to do in Sydney, and for good reason. It’s stunning. It is a three-hour walk, hugging the coastline and looking across the Harbour towards Watson’s Bay. It is beautiful. A must-do for anyone who likes bushwalks and sweeping views.
We struck up a conversation with a man who had paused to take in the vista, and he was able to give us a detailed history of the area. There were two small huts flanked by cliffs and wild bush land, with no other buildings anywhere nearby. The man said these huts used to be for fishermen, then people had squatted in them for years and the NSW Government bought the bush land and allowed them to remain as caretakers. Over time this arrangement dissolved, and now to his knowledge the huts were abandoned. I was keen to make the journey down to review what could be a more affordable housing option, but it would have added another 2-3 hours to the walk, and we were aiming to have fish and chips in our bellies within the hour. Another day.
NOT: Cockatoo Island
Recently some friends and I went to visit Cockatoo Island. Cockatoo Island used to be a prison for convicts who re-offended, and then became a shipping yard. We heard that you could “glamp” there now, and thought we’d make the journey to explore the history and check out Sydney’s alternative to Perth’s Rottnest Island. We arrived by ferry and strolled the entire island in about 10 minutes. It is a very small island. We thought it was not as picturesque as Rottnest, and the glamping seemed a bit boring (fancy tents with no shade).
We mounted Dawn Fraser (#ThingsYouNeverThoughtYoudSay) and went back to Circular Quay.
Overall an underwhelming experience, but the island café seemed surprised and offended to have patronage, which reminded us of home.
TBC: The locals
As stated previously, most of the people I have befriended are Perth ex-pats, or people who have moved to Sydney from elsewhere. It is said that true Sydney-siders are difficult to crack, and will not invite you to their houses (mainly by outsiders – couldn’t get a local to comment).
When I moved in above a café I was already feeling soaring levels of trendiness, and then I got the chance to invite our neighbours over for wine and cheese. Jen (housemate) and I excitedly prepared a cracker (ha) of a cheeseboard and selected our medium-finest wine and looked forward to a life of open doors, neighbourly chats and running out of pesto and borrowing the neighbours without asking because WE’RE THAT CLOSE. Jen and I tightly crossed our fingers that they had a pet we could then co-own (a phrase which here means pat all the time but not buy food for).
The neighbours cautiously entered our house and I filled their glasses. The wine was delicious – I know because I had already drunk half of it. We sat down and started chatting, and after a few bottles and a fast dwindling cheese board, it dawned on Jen and I that we were the only ones eating and drinking. When I realized I immediately stopped talking because whilst I was pretty sure I was hilarious, I had already managed to insult one of them by explaining precisely why standup comedians were the scourge of the earth, and then discovering that she dabbled in amateur standup, which was interesting because it was only the type of standup I specifically loathe and thus was unable to redeem myself.
They left after a few hours of talking, and having only drunk one glass of (nearly perfect) wine.
Jen and I wondered what we would be served if they returned the favour, and resolved to eat and drink everything in sight. But we needn’t have spent energy wondering, because we have not seen them since.
I reluctantly laid my dream sitcom life to rest.
HOT: Sydney Harbour Bridge
No matter how many times I see it I never get tired of the view from Circular Quay. Sydney’s harbour is stunning and if I’m ever doubting my decision to move here, a glimpse of the harbour will have me feeling like the luckiest duck in the pond in no time.
Sometimes I get off the train at North Sydney and walk across the Bridge after work. It’s a great walk, and not too far. Best of all, it’s free.
HOT: North Sydney Olympic Swimming Pool
Ordinarily pools are not a huge source of entertainment for me, as I’m useless at swimming and get a bit bored floating in the water for long periods of time, but this one is special. The tiered grandstand seating by the pool offers a first class view of the Harbour Bridge (see above).
HOT: (controversial) The Sirius building.
The Sirius building is an unusual looking building at the foot of the south end of the Harbour Bridge. It looks like building blocks stacked neatly on top of each other, and has foliage growing out of it. Sirius was built for public housing but recently the NSW government has been clearing residents out with the aim of demolition. This intended outcome has enraged some Sydney residents, who feel the unique Brutalist building should be preserved. The government says it’s an eyesore, but fans feel it is exceptional.
Currently there is one resident remaining – an elderly woman with bad eyesight and one of the best and probably most expensive views in the world. But it is her home and she shouldn’t feel forced to leave. As we were all taught by the Australian Constitution aka The Castle*, ‘a man’s home is his castle.’
NOT: The footpaths
Sydney footpaths are tiny, and nearly impossible to walk side-by-side with a friend. If you’re trying to walk on a footpath on bin-day, good luck to you sir.
It’s particularly irritating to me, because I have a ninja-light footfall. One of my all-time favourite pastimes is sneaking up on family members and colleagues and scaring them. When I am walking behind someone on the footpaths and there is no room to cross, I have to lightly cough, or purposefully scuff my feet so they hear me and let me through.
Perth footpaths are far superior and I’m surprised it’s not featured in Tourism WA ad’s.
Hot: Waverley Cemetery
You might think this is a morbid location to include on a hot-or-not list, but think again. Waverley Cemetery sits on what must be some of the most expensive and sought-after real estate in Sydney. Its residents have uninterrupted views of the South Pacific Ocean, and it is just down the road from a little beach called Bondi, only recently made famous by the reality series, ‘Being Lara Bingle.’
The cemetery is still in use, and is home to a few well-known Australian celebs, including Henry Lawson.
Despite packed beaches either side of the cemetery, walking around it is a peaceful and humbling experience.
Verdict: There are many other things to review in Sydney, and I’m certainly not the only one doing it. But overall, it is a HOT city, and well worth investigating further.
Four and-a-half stars
* classic Australian movie
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