travel

Travel Guide: Sydney to Auckland (Pt.1)

To say this trip was spontaneous would be an understatement. When my sister called me in May telling me how she booked a plane ticket to Auckland and had no idea how long she was staying, I knew I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. Thankfully I had some sky miles and was able to get the flight cheap(er) than usual…

There were a few unexpected aspects of traveling to Australia and New Zealand that we wish people would have told us when preparing—so if you plan to head “down under” make sure before you leave, you have/remember

(1) You have to go through Australia to get to New Zealand

(2) You need a travel Visa to get into Sydney

(3) We flew out from Atlanta, so there was about 24 hours of plane travel (so rock those compression socks like it’s your JOB)

(4) Their seasons are backwards from ours, so keep that in mind while planning ;)

Because you have to stop in Sydney, we decided to spend a few days in the city. Sydney is basically like if you took all the people from Whole Foods, the coolest hipster coffee shop you know, and the girls who work at anthropology, and stuck them in one city and gave them cool accents. Everything and everyone was super fit and healthy—even the McDonalds seemed somehow not as bad for you as it is here ;)

Not letting jet lag get the best of us, we headed out to the Sydney Opera House, The Royal Botanic Gardens, the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art, and Zumbo’s Patisserie (as seen on the Netflix original “Zumbo’s Just Desserts)

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The Opera House is located in Circular Quay which is a great place to chill and grab a cocktail. The Opera Bar serves famously fancy cocktails that make you feel like your on the set of Gossip Girl—but watch out for the seagulls (they are a little extra).

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Right in the same area is an amazing contemporary art museum. Most of the artwork is inspired by Asian and Aboriginal culture. The best part about this museum is that they have a rooftop cafe that is the perfect spot to grab a cup—or gallon—of coffee to get you through the rest of the day.

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Before you head home for the day, take a walk along the Royal Botanic Gardens. You can take a short walk or spend an hour walking to a nearby beach for a quick dip in the Pacific. The trees in this garden are outrageous and make for a great picnicking spot.

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Because we only had 2 days in the city, we had to pack a lot in. The second day, though locals said we couldn’t do it, we wanted to see the famous Blue Mountains, and the Sydney Zoo (because I mean come on…kangaroos!) all in the same day.

The Blue Mountains are an hour train ride into the outskirts of Sydney, tucked away in this cute little mountain village. We decided to take this double decker tour bus that would drop you off at each of the National Park sites. The bus starts the tours at 8am and runs until 5pm, so If you can, get there early so you don’t miss anything! Since we had limited time, we decided to choose three spots to spend our time on—(the Three Sisters, the famous Hot Chocolate Cafe, and the Scenic Railway). I would recommend doing this bus tour because all of these excursions cost money, and not all of them are in walking distance, so it was way more convenient to drop a few dollars on this all-inclusive ticket.

This is the Three Sisters. Around it are several walking trails with various levels of intensity. We chose the 10 minute walk and it was easy, we had a great view, and the entire walk was absolutely gorgeous!

This is the Three Sisters. Around it are several walking trails with various levels of intensity. We chose the 10 minute walk and it was easy, we had a great view, and the entire walk was absolutely gorgeous!

The  Scenic Railway  is the steepest railway in the World! At the top of the railway is a food court with a coffee shop and gift shop, but at the bottom, you can get off and explore this portion of the national park. There are several hiking trails to go on depending on how long you want to stay there. This ride is so fun—just make sure to hold onto all of your belongings hahha

The Scenic Railway is the steepest railway in the World! At the top of the railway is a food court with a coffee shop and gift shop, but at the bottom, you can get off and explore this portion of the national park. There are several hiking trails to go on depending on how long you want to stay there. This ride is so fun—just make sure to hold onto all of your belongings hahha

When they tell you this is the best hot chocolate in the world, you need to believe them…because this is the most literal form of hot chocolate. The ladies that own  Blue Mountains Chocolate Company    melt their homemade chocolate, mix it with steamed milk, and bring it straight to your table!

When they tell you this is the best hot chocolate in the world, you need to believe them…because this is the most literal form of hot chocolate. The ladies that own Blue Mountains Chocolate Company melt their homemade chocolate, mix it with steamed milk, and bring it straight to your table!

Our last stop in the Blue Mountains was the  Scenic Skyway . This all see-through, glass cable car glides back and forth between the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley and gives you the best view of the major sites of the Blue Mountains.

Our last stop in the Blue Mountains was the Scenic Skyway. This all see-through, glass cable car glides back and forth between the Three Sisters and Jamison Valley and gives you the best view of the major sites of the Blue Mountains.

Unfortunately, the best time to visit the Taronga Sydney Zoo is when it is warm outside, but it didn’t stop us from seeing those sweet koalas! The best (and cheapest) way to get to the Zoo is to buy a ticket at Circular Quay that includes the ferry boat ticket as well. The ferry gives you one of the best views of the harbor and only takes about 20 minutes.

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The Zoo is shaped sort of like a slanted pin-ball machine, so they take you on a a ski-lift to the top, and you basically just work your way back down to the entrance. The map was a little confusing, so just accept the fact that you’ll need to ask people where to go haha.

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To finish Part 1. of this travel guide, I’ll list some of our favorite food spots in throughout our shot stay in Sydney, as well as our cute little AirB&B that you should all check out:

Fav Food Spots:

Zumbo’s Patisserie  is so dreamy and fun! Our favorite dessert was the Lemon Tart, but everything looks and tastes delish!

Zumbo’s Patisserie is so dreamy and fun! Our favorite dessert was the Lemon Tart, but everything looks and tastes delish!

No. 12 Vintage  Coffee Shop: We started and ended our trip at this quaint little coffee shop within walking distance from our AirB&B. The owner was so nice and fun, and she gave us a lot of ideas for our short stay in Sydney. This was my favorite spot for cool gifts to bring to friends because everything was vintage or handmade! our favorite sip was the Turmeric Latte—and be sure to grab a ham and cheese croissant on your way out!

No. 12 Vintage Coffee Shop: We started and ended our trip at this quaint little coffee shop within walking distance from our AirB&B. The owner was so nice and fun, and she gave us a lot of ideas for our short stay in Sydney. This was my favorite spot for cool gifts to bring to friends because everything was vintage or handmade! our favorite sip was the Turmeric Latte—and be sure to grab a ham and cheese croissant on your way out!

Four Frogs Creperie : French food (check)—delicious Rosé (check)—modern & minimalistic atmosphere (check)! This little spot was vibrant and so fun! The crepes were bigger than my face, yet we each ate one savory one for dinner and split a sweet one for dessert ;) We splurged and got the seasonal dessert crepe—so when you go, trust their recommendations—because we LOVED everything we tried here.

Four Frogs Creperie: French food (check)—delicious Rosé (check)—modern & minimalistic atmosphere (check)! This little spot was vibrant and so fun! The crepes were bigger than my face, yet we each ate one savory one for dinner and split a sweet one for dessert ;) We splurged and got the seasonal dessert crepe—so when you go, trust their recommendations—because we LOVED everything we tried here.

Inner City Self Contained 1br Unit —Kensington: This AirBnB was EVERYTHING. The location was PERFECT. Were we able to walk to get coffee in the morning, then head on a bus, and within 10 minutes we were in the city center. While we were in Sydney we used public transportation to get everywhere. Our hosts were kind enough to have public transport passes already loaded and ready for us when we got there, which made life so much easier for us! The owners are some of the kindest people we have ever met. This apartment is tucked in right behind their home, but with just enough privacy so you don’t feel like you are encroaching on their lives. They gave us maps, guides, and helpful tips on navigating the city—they even gave us authentic Vegemite Toast to try:) With two people, we had more than enough space in this little studio apartment. It had a great kitchenette, a spacious bathroom, and a perfect little lounge area!

Inner City Self Contained 1br Unit—Kensington: This AirBnB was EVERYTHING. The location was PERFECT. Were we able to walk to get coffee in the morning, then head on a bus, and within 10 minutes we were in the city center. While we were in Sydney we used public transportation to get everywhere. Our hosts were kind enough to have public transport passes already loaded and ready for us when we got there, which made life so much easier for us! The owners are some of the kindest people we have ever met. This apartment is tucked in right behind their home, but with just enough privacy so you don’t feel like you are encroaching on their lives. They gave us maps, guides, and helpful tips on navigating the city—they even gave us authentic Vegemite Toast to try:) With two people, we had more than enough space in this little studio apartment. It had a great kitchenette, a spacious bathroom, and a perfect little lounge area!

Travel Guide: San Francisco

After spending a week in Portland (see my travel guide here)  I headed down the coast to San Francisco. 

Since we have friends that live in the area we were able to stay at their place instead of our usual Air BnB. They technically lived in Redwood City so a few of these locations are in Redwood City. 

things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide

We arrived in San Fran right in time for the 4th of July celebrations. 

First off was a trip around Redwood City which included coffee at Red Giant (a stop we frequented almost every morning) 

We walked through the city where everyone was lined up for the parade. We stopped by the local fire station for their pancake breakfast before watching the parade from the rooftop of their apartment building. 

Next we headed towards Downtown San Francisco to pick up some All Birds for our journey before checking out 

Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog
Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog
Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog

PIER 39 

They have tons of shops and food stations inside the piers - we stopped off at a chocolate shop, mushroom store, and ice cream parlor. There is a park across the street and a view of the bridge out back. Perfect for a stroll and people watching. 

Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog

PAINTED LADIES

If you've ever seen the show Full House you'll recognize this historical landmark of Victorian Houses all in a row. The park was crawling with tourists due to the holiday all waiting for the perfect view of the fireworks later that evening. 

Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog

FIREWORKS 

There are tons of firework displays in San Francisco. It's like almost every city has it's own show. We were able to watch three from the rooftop in Redwood City. 

Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog
Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog
Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog
Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog

MUIR WOODS

The next day we made the trek to Muir Woods to see some Redwood Trees (aka the moon planet of Endor from Star Wars)

You have to have a reservation to park at the lot, which you have to make online, and then there is a fee to enter the park. The best advice I can give you is GET THERE EARLY.  We had the earliest reservation at 8am and had the park entirely to ourselves until 9 when all the buses showed up. Luckily we were able to explore in peace before all the people came through. 

things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide
things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide

EQUATOR COFFEE

Another plus is at the end of the hill that leads to Muir Woods is this adorable surfer themed coffee shop. The coffee was delicious as well as the pastries (downside is there is no bathroom so make sure you go before you leave the park) 

Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog
Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog
Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

When you travel back from Muir Woods there are several view points to get a good photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, however our favorite is kind of hidden. Take the first exit off the bridge (on the opposite side of Muir Woods), head up the hill past the official viewpoint, and pull into the gravel lot of the abandoned military fort. Climb up into the fort (there are actually several stairways and access points) but the best is at the very top. It leads to a grassy hill and an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

 

things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide
things to do in san fran
things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide

HAIGHT ASHBURY

This is probably one of the more famous San Fran areas. Famous for housing Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and being the home of the hippie movement of the 60's this street is full of novelty shops and designer stores. I would have loved to visit before it became commercial, but besides getting to say that you've walked the streets there isn't much here. I was actually super surprised that the one record store on the block had more DVDS/VHS's than actual music. 

There are quite a few thrift stores but they have higher price tags but they do have a great selection. You can totally spend hours sifting through all the clothes. 

 

things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide

CHINATOWN 

Chinatown was definitely the most interesting place we visited in San Francisco. From the insane rolling hills - to the people - to the dialect - and the insane amount of restaurants. 

We settled on the oldest Dim Sum restaurant in America - which is located down a little alley way next to a park. This place is pretty clean but do some research before you order because there are no descriptions of the food. It was definitely authentic and a little oily. (and they forgot about our food for 45 minutes) 

But it's probably your safest bet if you want to try something in the district. 

things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide
things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide
things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide
things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide

MISSION DISTRICT

Don't be fooled by the shady nature of this area when you drive through. One of my favorite neighborhoods was the Mission District. This hispanic section of San Fran had my favorite Vintage Thrift Shop - Mission Thrift

Seriously everything was less than $20 and the selection was amazing (especially with how trendy vintage is now) 

They have amazing and colorful murals that reflect hispanic culture. 

Also this area was home to my favorite restaurant of the whole trip, La Taqueria. This place had a line out the door so you know it's good and it is cash only so come prepared. The burritos are giant and the salsa verde has that kick a lot of others lack. I would eat here everyday if I could. 

 

things to do in san fran
Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog
Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog
Things to do in San Francisco - San Francisco Travel Guide - Lifestyle Blog

PACIFICA

Want to check out NoCal (or Northern California) look no further than the scenic drive to Half Moon Bay and Pacifica. We didn't have a lot of time to check out this area (we mostly ate at Half Moon Bay Brewing and stopped off the side of the road at Pacifica - but this was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. 

If I could have spent a day just strolling the beaches at Pacifica I would have. There's just something about beaches that also have mountains that is just so alluring. 

 

REDWOOD CITY 

A few of the other places we went were in Redwood City and ate at several local chains which I would look up if you're in need of something delicious and fast to eat in the area. 

Nick the Greek

Fast, delicious greek food that's super fresh. Also I'm never against Gyros that have french fries in them. 

things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide

In-N-Out Burger

Anytime I visit the West Coast I have to stop at In-N-Out. Typically I'm not one for fast food but their simple menu, fresh ingredients, and fast service make this a west coast classic. 

things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide

Tin Pot Creamery

Fresh, organic ice cream with a vegan option. For how granola San Fran is supposed to be this was the only ice cream shop I found that actually had a dairy free option. I ate here twice. It was delicious. 

things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide

The Blacksmith

This was the first bar we stopped at and although the music was super loud (man I feel so old just typing that) the drinks were strong and delicious. Has a moody ambiance and outside seating, excellent for California nights 

things to do in san francisco - san francisco travel guide

Milagros Latin Kitchen

In a moment of drunken cravings we headed to Milagros for fish tacos, salsa trios, chocolate cake, and churro sundaes. All were delicious but the margaritas were a little light on the liquor which was sad since we had just left The Blacksmith