Man's oldest dream has been to fly and thankfully nowadays this goal is within reach of each of us. Unfortunately flying is addictive. After that first plane ticket, that first view of the earth from above and all the people "like ants" down below, well then life on the surface will never be the same.

Aerial view between the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas

At first it starts with window seats and a neverending gaze out the window at the terrain below. But eventually flying gets boring. You gradually start opting for aisle seats instead of windows. The whole process becomes a chore, rather than a joy.

So I bought a drone. And that helped, briefly. Once again I felt as free as a bird, flying high above "the ants" below me.

Aerial view of Sydney Harbour

But eventually even drone flying becomes boring. So what is the next logical step? Getting a recreational pilot license! One of my best friends back in Austin got his earlier this year and swears it is the best decision he ever made.

Flying a floatplane into Sydney Harbour
Landing our floatplane in Sydney Harbour

Flying lessons are fun, but they take time. Before embarking on such an adventure, make sure you are somewhere that you don't mind staying for a while. Flying lessons in Sydney are a great idea because not only is Australia gorgeous from up above but Sydney is a diverse city with plenty of ways to pass the time when not up in the air.

Still uncertain? Check out all these unique and unusual things to do in Sydney in between your flying lessons.

  flickr // dullhunk

Published in Australia

The beauty of having a boat is the travel freedom it provides. Not just short cruises and day trips, but also longer, more exciting adventures. And while Sydney is a great place to call home, the Harbour is a bit busy. So the next time you feel like taking your boat our for a spin, head to one of these destinations:

Broken Bay-Hawkesbury

Over millennia the waters of the Hawkesbury River have carved out a deep, intricate and expansive collection of waterways. With so many small nooks and cranies to explore here there is no reason to ever visit the same exact spot twice. Feel the need to go ashore? No worries, there are plenty of small marinas and safe anchor points, as well as several National Parks to explore. For that reason no matter how often I cruise up to Hawkesbury, I am still never bored by it.

Port Stevens

Newcastle is for newbies. The real boating fun lies just north, at Port Stevens, one of the most boater-friendly regions on the entire coast. Ramps and moorings are everywhere, as are sights and activities (both water- and land-based). Islands and coves also abound here and are just begging to be explore. However the area's real claim to fame is Myall Lake and the Myall Lakes National Park, located further upriver. Definitely not one to miss out on.

Clarence River (aka Big River)

The beauty of the aptly-nicknamed Big River is that your fun doesn't stop a few kilometres upstream....it just keeps on going and going! Even 150km upstream there massive gorges, cliffs and underwater sinkholes. This region is home to some of the best produce and largest prawns in the country. Just make sure you have plenty of time to explore because after one glimpse, you'll be in no rush to return to the chaotic Harbour.

Illawarra

The attraction with Illawarra is not the rivers but the coastline and numerous bays. From Lake Illawarra on down to Jervis Bay (the boaters' jewel of the region) there are tons of water-based activities and sights to explore. Scattered throughout the region are a variety of small towns and villages for you to go ashore and rest a night (or three). Did I mention that since there is no more commercial net fishing here, this has become one of the best recreational fishing areas on the eastern coast of Australia.

Unfortunately, at some point you are going to have to return home to Sydney and return to a land-based lifestyle, at least briefly. Just don't forget to stow your boat properly -- and make sure to have a good custom boat covers to ensure that your baby stays in perfect shape for her next grand adventure. Happy boating!

Published in Australia

Unique and offbeat activities and adventures make every destination more exciting. Thankfully, Sydney has a world of quirky, cool, and unique activities, many of which tourists do not visit. The next time you find yourself in the Harbour City, be sure to squeeze a few of these sites into your trip:

Sydney Harbour aerial photo
Sydney Harbour

Cockatoo Island

Located out in Sydney Harbour, Cockatoo Island was a penal colony in the early- to mid-1800s before becoming the site of one of Australia's largest shipyards. Nowadays it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and intriguing blend of prison and shipbuilding history. It has also become a regular venue for festivals, art installations, and outdoor events. Definitely a must visit during the warmers months.

Sydney's Best Offbeat Beaches

Sydney's most popular beaches are always crowded, but there are alternatives. Check out the second oldest national park in the world, the Royal National Park on Sydney's south coast — great for surfing, snorkeling, or just relaxing on the beach. Or go north up to Manly and check out secluded Collins Beach at Little Manly Cove. The beach is small, but when visiting on a weekday you are almost guaranteed to have the sand to yourself.

Explore Bundeena

Located just a short train ride to the southern suburb of Cronulla, there is a little place named Bundeena. This hip, quirky village is home to large number of artists, and not-so-surprisingly is full of boutique cafés and independent art galleries. Definitely a great day trip and chance to escape the crowds of the city.

Walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of the best unique and offbeat things to do in SydneyImage via Flickr by Mertle

Cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge ... on Foot

Over 200 trains and nearly 200,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day, but few people cross on foot ... by walking across the top of the bridge. Yes, that is what you can do thanks to a company called BridgeClimb. The entire expedition takes 3-1/2 hours and comes with a complimentary group photo, bridge climb completion certificate, and hat.

Witness the Bondi Rescue

Since 2006 a reality TV show / documentary known as Bondi Rescue films every summer at Bondi Beach and then begins broadcasting in February. If you are visiting Sydney during the summer months, consider taking a brief stop at Bondi Beach to watch the lifeguards hard at work dealing with shark scares, water-related injuries, drunk beachgoers, and other beach hijinks. Did you know the lifeguards here perform over 5,000 rescues every summer?

Learn More About Rugby

One of Australia's most popular sports is rugby and catching a game firsthand in Olympic Park is one of the unique, iconic things to do when visiting Sydney. Never seen a rugby game before? Its similarities with American football will make it an interesting experience for visitors from the United States. Rugby season runs February to July, with the semi-finals and playoffs taking place in late July and early August.

  Ready for an offbeat Sydney adventure?

  More Offbeat Travel Guides
Published in Australia

History

Both cities belong to the oldest settlements in Australia and try to preserve old building and sights.

In Sydney, the district "The Rocks" right by the Sydney harbour is the oldest part of town which has been restored during the last decade. You find small museum as well as souvenir and other shops, nice old-fashioned cafés and restaurants as well as quite contemporary upscale shopping opportunities. You should take part in a guided walking tour through the Rocks to learn everything about the life of the early immigrants.

Melbourne's history is connected to the figure of Ned Kelly, the famous bushranger. You can observe his self-made armour and more relicts in Melbourne museum and visit the museum of Old Melbourne gaol, where Ned Kelly was imprisoned before he was hung.

Beaches

Like most Australian cities, both Melbourne and Sydney are situated near the coast.

Sydney has several beaches in suburbs, for example the famous Bondi Beach, but no less beautiful (and crowded) Manly and Coogee Beaches.

Melbourne has one beach located near the city center, in the district of St. Kilda.

While Bondi Beach is famous for surfing, St. Kilda Beach is blessed with big waves, because Melbourne city is located by a bay, Port Phillip Bay. Melbournians prefer to drive a little farther out of town, up the Great Ocean Road, to Torquay (Bell's Beach), Lorne or Apollo Bay.

Aerial view of Sydney Harbour in Australia

Shopping

You should find everything you're looking for in both cities. But if you're looking for shopping malls rather than prowling the city centre, you will probably like Sydney better. The Queen Victoria Building (QVB) looks old-fashioned but offers a great variety of modern shops and cafés, besides its impressive Victorian architecture. Another shopping centre has been opened in Darling Harbour, Sydney's up-and-coming trendy district.

Melbourne's Central station has a big shopping centre with dining and entertainment options ― a cinema occupies the top floors ― but it lacks the atmosphere and architecture of the QVB.

Lifestyle

Business versus Culture/Leisure ― this is how I would break down the atmosphere in these cities to easy terms. Sydney CBD is busy with the financial sector workers and dominated by the big office buildings, whereas the Melbourne area is filled with restaurants, cafés and art. But this is just my personal impression. While both cities have their trendy spots, party miles and entertainment venues, Melbourne offers a wider variety of multicultural cafés and restaurants from different immigrant home countries: Greece, Italy, Ireland, France and various Asian countries for example.

Culture

A big plus for both cities. You get to experience a lot of cultural events there all throughout the year, in addition to the cultural 'classics' you can always visit: In Sydney, you can of course have a look at the Opera house ― if you're not into opera performances, you can take a guided tour through the Opera house during daytime, and you'll also learn a lot of interesting things about its remarkable architecture.

Melbourne has the amazingly central and amazingly concepted Fed(eration) Square – it's THE public place to be. A lot of events happen here on a small stage or are transmitted on the big video screen, and on a normal day, there are street artists entertaining the crowd that always gathers there.

Public Transportation

The best way to get through Sydney is actually by bus ― there is a big network of bus lines, but for someone who's new in town, in can be a little complicated. There are also a few CityRail train lines and regular ferry services departing from Circular Quay to a number of beach suburbs around the Sydney harbour.

In Melbourne, tram lines are still in use, which adds to the city's nostalgic charme. Of course, city train and bus lines exist as well. The tram system works well, and there is an extra tourist tram ― it runs on a circular route around Melbourne's CBD and also plays a recording with information on the sights in passing. The so called City Circle Tram is free; the tourist tram line can be easily recognized and distinguished from the normal, chargeable tram lines because it uses old-fashioned, dark red tramcars.

Entertainment

Both cities have a stadium for major events and concerts, a few musical and a few more acting theatres, cinemas, and a lot of live musicians bringing life into the pubs even on weeknights. Have a look at one of the free city magazines for a weekly overlook ― there'll surely be something you'll like. During summertime, both cities usually have big open air events, either in the Botanical Gardens or in the harbour area (of either city).

Sports

Although Sydney had the famous Olypic Games in 2000, Melbourne regularly hosts internationally renowned sporting events like the Australian Open or the Formula 1 Grand Prix, just to name a few.

The Conclusion

Basically, it's head-to-head. Both cities offer everything you might look for in a modern and diverse metropolis, but they are still different in the details and the atmosphere. Which city you like better in the end is based on personal preference.

Published in Australia

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