Intro: Off Peak To Australia On A Sweet Spot USAir Award
Part 1: Getting To Sydney The Long Way
Part 2: Stunning Sydney And A Climb To The Top Of The Harbour Bridge
Part 3: Exploring The Outback
Part 4: Cairns And A Trip Up The Coast To Port Douglas
Part 5: Beautiful Tasmania
Part 6: Melbourne And The Ride Home On United Global First
We landed at SYD early in the morning. There was a fast track line through immigration for F class passengers, but I wanted to try Smart Gate (since I had Global Entry.) The machine appeared to use facial recognition technology as a means to identify individuals requesting passage. I was extremely groggy, and I must have flinched as it was doing the scan (or something,) because I got rejected and so headed back to go through the old fashioned way.
There is an express train from the airport into the city and in about 20 minutes, I was stepping off the the train into unseasonably warm weather.
The Radisson Blu Sydney was a short five minute walk from the harbor front central train station, and even though I arrived early, I was allowed to check in to my upgraded suite early. The room was spacious and the bathroom huge. Location was excellent. A great value at 50k Club Carlson points for 2 nights with the CC visa free night benefit.
I was exhausted, but even so, was electrified by the beautiful, sunny city. It was still winter but with temperatures in the 70s, felt more like spring. I set out to explore.
The city is extremely easy to get around in and I spent a few hours just wandering around the waterfront. There was also lots of shopping and a great China town. The people were ultra diverse and very friendly. I felt very at content in this city!
After an early night and a bit of a struggle with jet lag, I made my way to the pier the next morning to take the fast ferry to Manley Beach. The beach town is a surfer’s haven and a quick 20 minute ride away from Sydney Harbour. There is a central area of walk streets with shopping and miles and miles of beach front to stroll. It was off season, so relatively quiet, but I really enjoyed wandering around for the day.
It was starting to get dark so I hopped back on the fast ferry for the quick trip back. The Sydney Opera house and downtown were beautifully lit up as we floated by.
The following day I packed up, checked out of the very comfortable Radisson Blu, and made my way to the Park Hyatt Sydney. I had splurged on two nights at this ultra luxurious hotel, using 22k Ultimate Rewards points per night to make the booking. And it was worth it. I was upgraded to an opera house view room, normally retailing for around $1000/night. The hotel had just been through an extensive renovation, and the rooms were sumptuous. The only down side: I didn’t want to leave!
After check in, I met up with a fellow miles and points junkie who happened to also be in town, for a fun afternoon of travel talk. I also made my way over to book my climb up the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A tour leaves just about every hour, costs around $220 and lasts about 4 hours. I’m afraid of heights so I wasn’t sure what the heck I was thinking by going, but I really wanted to do it. I locked in the reservation. There was no turning back.
The climb starts in an enclosed area under the bridge, and includes extensive safety videos and briefings. You are required to remove anything that might fall (and potentially injure those below) so cameras weren’t allowed nor was any type of jewelry, watch or hair ornament. We were issued coveralls and a whole slew of safety gear and outerwear in case it got cold (it didn’t.) Safety harnesses and cables connected everyone individually to the bridge at all times. I felt really safe and even though I had a bit of a panic attack at one point near the beginning, it wasn’t all that scary. It was a clear day and the views were stunning. I’m really glad I did it!
Four days wasn’t nearly enough time, yet it was time to move on. I checked out of the Hyatt and made my way to the airport where I would be meeting up with a family member to continue on to Alice Springs on a Qantas flight booked with Avios. I arrived with plenty of time to check out the domestic lounge and make the flight to ASP.