My Marathon in Sydney

Jonah Webb – Finance and Math Combined Major, DMSB/COS ’21, Waterville, Maine

I think one of the coolest things about the Program is the in-sight excursions run by our program leaders. Not only do you spend your semester studying abroad and immersing yourself in the culture, but Northeastern runs incredible programs that showcase cultural and physical aspects unique to the country you are living in. During my semester in Melbourne, Australia, this included programs ranging from visiting an animal sanctuary with native Australian animals like Kangaroos and Koalas, to attending an Australian Rules Football match, to a trip along the Great Ocean Highway followed by surfing in the Southern Ocean! But none were more special than our weekend trip to Sydney. We only had about 48 hours in total on our trip, but I made the most of the trip, walking over 30 miles, covering every corner of the city! Here is the story of my marathon in Sydney:

Unlike most of the day trip programs had taken us on in and around Melbourne, this program had less structure: for the majority of our time in Sydney we would be free to explore on our own. We were given public transit passes for the weekend, and provided a voucher for 2 free experiences from a list of 10 different options all over Sydney. The program was set up by Real Australia, a tour company who worked with our host university, Swinburne University of Technology, to provide students with real Australian experiences. Our flight left Melbourne on the evening of October 14th, 2016, getting us into Sydney late into the night. I spent the flight talking with our Real Australia tour guides, getting pro tips and must visit places in Sydney. After landing, we were shuttled to the YHA Hostel in downtown Sydney, a popular hostel for world travelers. While I started with a quick walk around the neighborhood we were in, I focused on getting a good night’s sleep before my big plans for the weekend.

After waking up early and enjoying the complementary continental breakfast offered at YHA, I was off on my adventure, beginning with a walk toward the Anzac memorial and beyond that, the Sydney Botanical Garden. It was exciting to see the Anzac memorial, having briefly touched on its importance in our Australian Politics and History course, required curriculum for the Program. Beyond the memorial, the Botanical Garden was absolutely beautiful, and the warmth of the sun hit my back as I made my way through, the forecast for the day was just about perfect: high seventy degrees Fahrenheit, hardly a cloud in the sky. As I made my way to the end of the Botanical Garden, I came to the waterfront, the bright aqua-green harbor overwhelming, with Sydney’s famous green and yellow ferryboats darting every which way through Sydney’s complex harbor.

After taking in the beauty of the harbor for 30 seconds, I turned to the left to see one of the most iconic sights in the world: there was the Sydney Opera House, in all its glory, and perhaps even more impressive, the Harbour Bridge in the background. Similar to the Taj Mahal in India, or the Golden Gate Bridge in the United States, these feats of architecture simply took my breath away. Immediately I FaceTimed my family, who were getting ready to go to bed back home in Maine. My day was just beginning.

I continued to make my way around the harbor, toward the Circular Quay, a small district of art exhibits and outdoor markets, located directly in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge. After taking in the local artists around Circular Quay, I embarked on my way up the Harbour Bridge, and crossed toward the north side of Sydney. The views from the bridge were jaw dropping, and the misty breeze felt amazing on the hot day. Once I reached the North Side, I walked down along the harborside, toward Luna Park, a small amusement park just around the corner from the Harbour Bridge.

From Luna Park I took advantage of my public transit pass, taking the harbor ferry to Barangaroo Wharf, a popular area just west of the Central Business District, full of tourist attractions. I passed by the Sydney Aquarium on my way to cross the Pyrmont Bridge, a footbridge that took me to Pyrmont, where I spent an hour walking around the National Maritime Museum, another chance for me to see exhibits on pieces of Australian history I had learned in class at Swinburne University. As I finished perusing the museum, I started to get hungry for lunch.

For lunch, I hopped back on the ferry network, this time riding all the way out of the Sydney Harbour to Manly, a small suburb of Sydney famous for Manly Beach. Just a short walk from the ferry dock was 4 Pines Brewing Company, a small brewpub that had become famous in Australia for their craft beers. I enjoyed their Fish & Chips special. After my meal, strolled along the entirety of Manly Beach, one of Sydney’s two most famous beaches, before catching the ferry back into the city.

Once back on the mainland, I took a stroll up to the Sydney Observatory, located in Observatory Hill Park, with a beautiful scenic overlook of the Sydney Harbor. Following the recommendation from the Real Australia tour guide, I then checked out the Lord Nelson Brewpub just a block from the observatory. Lord Nelson is proudly Australia’s oldest brewpub, and I enjoyed their homemade lager while befriending some local Aussies. As the sun began to set, I made my way to the Sydney Tower Eye, planning to take in the sunset from its 309-meter-tall observation deck, using my Real Australia voucher to get free admission. The view of the sunset over Sydney from above was magnificent.

Once the sun had set, I made my way to Chinatown and the peaceful Chinese Garden of Friendship. I ran into a couple of other students on my walk, who told me they were on their way to the Darling Harbour Fireworks show that was starting in 15 minutes! I joined them and we made our way back to the Pyrmont Bridge, where we were treated to an amazing firework show over the Sydney Harbour – apparently, they do this every Saturday during the summer in Sydney!

After the fireworks show, I was getting hungry again and decided to travel via the Sydney Subway to Oxford Street, a popular district of Sydney for night life, to find some dinner. I ended up at a small, local burger joint, which was nothing special, but it hit the spot and kept me going! I then walked along Oxford street, taking in the local culture. As it was getting late, I had just one more destination in mind.

As a diehard Tottenham Hotspur supporter, my semester in Australia led to a unique challenge of watching them play, as games often started late into the night. In Melbourne, I had found the Melbourne Spurs supporters group who met at the Imperial Hotel. During my trip to Sydney, Tottenham were set to play Saturday Night, with kick off just before midnight. So, having done my research, my last stop of the day was the Surry Hills Hotel, conveniently just a few blocks from our YHA Hostel. At the Surry Hills ‘Triple Ace’ Hotel, I was welcomed by the Sydney Spurs Supporters group! I was introduced to Cameron ‘The General’ Whyte. Cameron is well known throughout Tottenham-supporters circles around the world, and he has been a leader of the Sydney Spurs for many generations. I learned that one of his traditions is to bake mini Australian meat pies at halftime for everyone, which made for a scrumptious midnight snack! Unfortunately, on the night Tottenham did not play well, drawing 1-1 to a mediocre opponent, but the camaraderie of the Sydney Spurs was delightful, and for the night I felt like a local! After the match I made my way back to the YHA to get some much-needed sleep before day two!

On my second day in Sydney, I again got up early and enjoyed the complimentary breakfast before catching a bus out to Coogee Beach, south of the Sydney Harbour. Another recommendation from my Real Australia tour guide was the Australian Coast walk, starting at Coogee beach and going 3 miles up the coast to Bondi Beach, Sydney’s most famous beach.

The weather was again perfect, and the walk was stunning, weaving in and out of small alcoves along the coast, as well as some large beaches along the way. I couldn’t help but stop and take a dip in the ocean along the way, the water was a perfect temperature to take the edge off of the heat. At one point, I made my way around a corner on the trail to see a beach full of dogs! Marks Park just south of Bondi Beach is a famous dog spot for locals, and I was overwhelmed with joy watching so many dogs jump around in the waves.

Finally, I made the final turn into Bondi Beach, which was full of people enjoying the lovely weather. I FaceTimed my parents again, showing them another iconic Sydney site before they went to bed. After walking the length of the Bondi Beach, I used my last Real Australia voucher to get a free lunch: Sydney’s famous Fish & Chips from Bondi Surf Seafood. Bondi Surf Seafood was an award winning, true Australian Fish & Chips shack, full of surfers and beach bums grabbing a quick lunch. Their Fish & Chips were slightly better than my first day’s lunch at 4 Pines.

After lunch, I had to catch the bus back to YHA as it was sadly time for me to meet up with and catch our return flight to Melbourne. The weekend had flown by, but I can confidently say I made the most of my 40ish hours in Sydney. In the end, I had totaled around 34 miles on foot alone, on top of really taking advantage of our public transit passes via Sydney’s busses, trains, and ferryboats. It was just one of many amazing weekends during my Experience.

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