We decided that since the Reefs and Rainforests tour didn't really include any time in Sydney that we would add on the four day, three night Sydney Scene package that Contiki offers. I would definitely recommend adding this package to the beginning or end of the tour - they give you tickets to the bus and boat rides, and it's just enough time to get a taste of what the city has to offer.
The first day in Sydney after a loooong plane flight. Well, I finally got to the hotel at about 8:30 in the morning, and surprisingly enough, they let us right into our room. I don't think I've ever been happier to see the inside of a hotel room! Of course, since it was so early in the morning, why waste the day by sleeping it all away? We took advantage of the Sydney Explorer bus tickets in the package from Contiki, found the closest bus stop (across from the museum), and rode around. I know, the idea of sitting on a bus for about an hour after that long plane ride might not be appealing, but let me tell you that it beat walking that first day. We got off first at the Sydney Aquarium to have a look around - think about Finding Nemo and you can just about picture all of the advertisements and signs in this place. Yup, all the kids wanted to see were Nemo and Dory (they could have skipped everything else and had a room of clown fish and I think everyone would have been happy). I guess I should admit that I really wanted to see Nemo also... The seal and shark exhibits were great - you can walk right underneath them and see them from a bottom view. Makes you wonder what would happen if the enclosure ever broke... On our way back to the hotel we hopped back on the bus and of course got out to take pictures of the Opera House just like every other tourist in the city.
As soon as we know when we were going to be in Sydney, we booked the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. Wow - what an experience. After they take about an hour to gear you up (one piece suits, no metal allowed, and enough buckles and snaps to keep you attached to the bridge for safe keeping) and teach you how to climb up the ladders on the bridge, you're finally ready to start your climb. Our guide was great and the views you get while climbing are amazing. You stop every so often because there are other groups on the bridge at the same time, so while it is a long climb up, it's not that hard. Of course they take your picture along the way, and then you reach the top, have a minute to admire the view some more, talk about the "unauthorized" climbs of the bridge, and head back down the other side, back to where you came from. It took about 3 1/2 hours total to experience the entire climb, but it was definitely worth it.
After that we figured that we were close enough to the harbour that we might as well walk around a bit. Did I mention that we walked from the hotel to the bridge climb? It actually wasn't that bad. It only takes about 30-45 minutes to walk to Circular Quay from the Travelodge. There are lots of tourist shops around, a great ice cream parlor, and that's where the Captain Cook Cruises leave from. We also walked through the Botanical Gardens, which was a really nice walk (and saw the flying foxes everywhere). From Mrs. Macquaries Point you get a great view of the Harbour Bridge (this is where most of the postcard pictures are taken from). There was also a small photo shoot going on, but I must say that I probably would have waited until summer to model a small bathing suit near the harbour... We walked back to the hotel afterwards and through the park, a nice way to end out the night.
For our last full day in Sydney we decided to use the Captain Cook cruise tickets that came in our Contiki package. The tour goes over to a bay, and then stops at the Taronga Zoo before stopping and Darling Harbour and back to Circular Quay. We planned on getting off at the zoo and went in. Definitely take the skyrail to the top and walk down from there - it's better than walking up and taking the skyrail down (why do all the work when the skyrail will do it for you?). The exhibits there were definitely nice - they have keeper talks or feedings almost every half hour, so there's usually something going on. Don't do the koala experience though - you just get to stand next to a koala and take a picture next to it (wait until later when you go to the Forest Glen Wildlife Sanctuary - there you get to actually hold the koala). I have to say that my favorite exhibit was the giraffe and zebra exhibit. They have the best view in the world, as right through the trees from their area is the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Not bad, I must say.
We headed back to the hotel early tonight (if you take the cruise, you can get off at Darling Harbour - it's a quick walk back to the hotel through Chinatown). Our guide was hosting a meet and greet tonight for anyone who was around. We signed the obligatory forms and then met some of our new travelers. It was nice to meet some people while in a small group. There were only maybe 20 people there, but there would be about 50 on the tour, so you get to know some people ahead of time. We went down to King's Cross for dinner (definitely wander down there... it's interesting...) and were actually having a good time until the really drunk guy with a completely tatooed face showed up shouting weird things. It was actually pretty funny afterwards. I guess that's what you get for heading into the red light district...
Today we met our tour group for the first time - imaging 45 people from our tour and another tour group (the People to People people... you'll find out who they are) all in the lobby of a travelodge. Yeah, I guess it was some bonding time.