I have long wanted to go to Australia and New Zealand as my London-based daughter and her husband have raved about both. I knew that their summer happens during my cold, snowy Colorado winters, so I started planning. Knowing that ANA business class to Australia was a great deal, I began my search there! It took days, it seemed, but luckily, I had a lot of flexibility, and finally found 120K business roundtrip flights from LAX-SYD!! Woo hoo! And I could get a free stopover in Tokyo. You’ll be able to read all about the flights here. This is all about my points and miles trip to Sydney, Australia. Hang on as we go Down Under! Hear even more about this trip in this episode of our PODCAST!
We arrived in Sydney, and the customs were pretty straightforward. You need a visa to travel there and can do that here or in several other online places.
We grabbed a taxi once we arrived and headed to our first hotel, The Park Hyatt Sydney. This $1000+ hotel was 40K Hyatt points/night with free Globalist breakfast – worth every point. You can read my full review of this hotel here.
We were centrally located near the Sydney Opera House and harbor and loved the views. The Rock is the nearby neighborhood, and we had a good time exploring and finding cute restaurants. We ate our first lunch, fish and chips, at Lord Nelson Brewery, the cutest pub that our concierge recommended.
We walked around the Opera House and the harbor area. We then went over to the Central Quay area to map out our ferry plans to Manly Beach for the next day. Wharf 2 is the express ferry, and the cost is about $10 each way. You just scan a credit card. Easy, peasy.
Beach day! 🏄♀️ Well, no surfing, really, but my husband did body surf. We took the Express Ferry to Manly Beach. From there, you follow the crowds for a few short blocks and are there!
It was about 86 degrees while we were there and, since it is summer, the beaches are full of people. There are a number of cute restaurants to eat at in the area and, luckily for me, a place to rent chairs and umbrellas!
My husband was in the water A LOT (his happy place), and I was reading (my happy place)! The water was not too cold, though, and it was an enjoyable, relaxing day. We noticed a restaurant on the beach and finally looked it up on Trip Advisor – the Pantry Manly was highly recommended! Perfect! It was the cutest place, and our fish and chicken dinners were delicious!
We got ice cream on our way back through Central Quay and called it a day. And a cheap day it was! We had a late lunch, so we didn’t need dinner. Breakfast was free, as was our stay, so it was definitely a budget day (but on a luxury stay)! Gotta love those points and miles!!
We decided to venture out of Sydney and took this tour to the Blue Mountains. We made a quick stop at the zoo and onto the Blue Mountains. They are GORGEOUS! Part of the tour included a cable car ride and a backward train ride that had us at 90-degree angles looking at this incredible valley as we went back up the mountains. The best part of the trip was our guide, Les; so many dad jokes! This was an all-day tour (8 hours), and he livened it up.
We switched hotels before the trip started to the Four Seasons Sydney. This was basically a free stay due to a Fine Hotel and Resorts credit that I used. After a two-night stay, two dinners, and 2 breakfasts, we paid about $160 for our stay. Gotta love those American Express Platinum benefits – just be sure and take advantage of all your credit card benefits! Staying at the Four Seasons on my points and miles to Sydney was a nice surprise!
We wanted to try a different beach, so we decided to go to Bondi Beach, another top-rated Sydney destination. This had a vast, expansive beach area that was nicer than Manly Beach so that you could spread out. There were no places to rent chairs and umbrellas, though. 🥲 I think we might have spied a place on the hill, but we opted to “tough it out” this day. Again, we saw surfers, bodysurfers, and swimmers. My husband loved the waves and had a great time bodysurfing again. Perfect weather, a beautiful beach, and freezing weather back home – who couldn’t enjoy being there???
After the beach, we went to Fishmongers and had…Fish! Luckily we both love fish, and this was also very, very good!
When we returned to the hotel, we saw that our kayak trip in New Zealand had been canceled due to extreme weather. That reminded us about a chance conversation with a Kiwi the night before about bad Auckland weather. Suddenly, on the tv were pictures of flooding in North New Zealand.
Yikes! We were leaving the following day – I did some research, and we decided to cancel the North Island part of our New Zealand trip and stay in Sydney a couple of days longer before heading to Queenstown, New Zealand, where the weather was better. We were going there anyway. We just went a couple of days earlier. Thank heavens for points and miles – I booked 2 nights at the Hyatt Regency on annual night certificates. When vacation plans change, it is nice to have other options, and having a stockpile of points and miles makes that a LOT easier!! My points and miles trip to Sydney, Australia, got longer, and I didn’t mind because the weather was 👍.
We moved to the Hyatt Regency, where we were upgraded to a Harbor View Studio Suite. Then I enjoyed the harbor view and worked while my husband returned to Manly Beach. This hotel is a great, inexpensive option in Sydney. It is a category 4 hotel, so you can stay for as little as 15,000 points and even use a free annual certificate (like I did).
We started our day with a walk around Darling Harbor after crossing the Pyrmont Bridge, which is one of the world’s oldest surviving electrically operated swing span bridges. It was a Sunday, and the area was bustling with people. There were Dragon Boat races all day, and they were fun to watch. Sydney is celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year, so there were a lot of activities and events, including fireworks at night which were spectacular from our hotel rooms.
We then decided to do a Hop On, Hop Off bus. I wish we had done it the first day because it gave us the “lay of the land” and was quite interesting. We only stopped at one place – to take the Hyde Park Barracks tour. This was super interesting, as convicts basically built early Sydney through their labors. We then walked through the beautiful Hyde Park.
We headed to the Sydney airport, where our taxi was only about $42 compared to $80 on arrival. I know they can vary due to the time of day, but this was extreme. The airport was quick to pass through. We did have to have a visa to enter New Zealand, too.
There were a couple of airport lounges one could use Priority Pass on, but we opted for the American Express lounge as I usually find them nicer. There was plenty of room, it was super clean, and the food was good.
Honestly, my points and miles trip to Sydney was better than I thought it would be. I loved the people; the weather was insanely great, the hotels were fantastic, and we had great food. What else could one ask for? Indeed, there are more exotic places to visit than in Sydney. However, if you want to escape the cold of winter and feel “home,” this is the place. It reminded me a lot of San Francisco but with better beaches and weather. I will be back!
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