December 25, Friday (Public Holiday aka Christmas Day!)

We decided to go to Taronga Zoo out of necessity (as it is the only place open on Christmas Day). We also paired it up with Manly Beach as it seemed pretty near based on the map, and it’s not like we could’ve spent the whole day at the zoo.

Taronga Zoo

  • You can opt to get the Zoo Express at AUD 53.50, which includes the Zoo ticket + round-trip public ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo (Zoo ticket at AUD 46 for adults, ferry tickets at AUD 5+ per trip = savings of ~AUD 2.50 + no need to queue for Taronga Zoo tickets on the day itself). However in our case, we realized that since we were heading to Manly afterwards (which required additional ferry trips (Circular Quay to Manly ferry costs ~AUD 7 per trip), we could make use of the Opal daily cap of AUD 15. Likewise, our Sydney City Guide included a 15% off discount on the Taronga Zoo admission fees so we would actually save more by buying the Zoo tickets separately (AUD 6 savings per person)
  • Having decided to not get the Zoo Express and just buy Zoo tickets on the day itself, we were quite worried about potentially long queues – so we headed over quite early (we were at the zoo by 9:30am, which is when they open). Our fears were unfounded, as there were no lines – I guess the zoo isn’t a popular local destination on Christmas Day! (or no one wanted to go that early). Note that the ferry will bring you to the base of Taronga Zoo, and you will need to ride a public bus from there to the Taronga Zoo ticket office. If you already have a ticket, you can ride the Sky Cable Safari to the zoo entrance
  • Once we got our tickets, we took the opportunity to ride the round-trip Sky Cable Safari (cable car included in the ticket price), so we could ohh and ahh over the beautiful Taronga Zoo aerial view + the Sydney skyline. Note that queues can get pretty long later in the day, so do it early on while there’s no queue (+ the zoo was barely open at that time, so we figured why not?)
  • We checked out ALL the 9 trails found at the zoo, and it took us approximately 4 hours (with 1 hour used up for our picnic lunch – Taronga Zoo food markets is expensive and not that good, so best to just pack your own lunch)
  • Some of my favorite exhibits are as follows:
    • Reptile World (interesting to read up on all the different snakes, lizards, frogs, crocodiles, etc)
    • Lemur walkthrough – got to see the lemurs up close and personal
    • Seals for the Wild – impressive show, and quite funny (short as well, only ~15 mins)
    • Australia-specific animals: koalas, Tasmanian devil, platypus, kangaroo, wallaby, and emu – they’re so cute

Manly Beach

  • From Taronga Zoo, you can opt to take the bus to Manly Beach (you’ll have to change buses at the Spit Junction – just ask the Taronga Zoo staff for the bus numbers / google the timetable). On the other hand, you can take the ferry back to Circular Quay, then take the Manly Ferry from there
Bus Ferry
Pros –     Faster (~30 mins, depends on waiting time during the bus change though)

–     Cheaper (Total cost at ~AUD 4.20)

–     We were more comfortable with the ferry as we knew where exactly we had to go
Cons –     Unknown place, what if we got on the wrong bus or got stuck at the Spit Junction? –     Takes up more time (~60 mins minimum)

–     More expensive (Ferry to Circular Quay cost AUD 5+, Ferry to Manly cost AUD 7+)

  • In the end, our less adventurous side won and we went with the ferry. We figured, an additional 30 mins didn’t matter much + we’d reach the Opal AUD 15 daily cap, so it wouldn’t be additional expenses for us
  • When riding the Circular Quay to Manly ferry, go to the south side of the boat so you can see the Sydney skyline slowly disappear from view
  • Manly Beach was nice, but not overwhelming. Sand was nice to walk on, waters were clear and clean, et al. The towns and restaurants were pretty much closed, so not much to say there. All in all, for me, go to Manly if you’ve got the time and see for yourself (walk along Manly Beach to Shelley), but skip if you don’t (Bondi and Bronte beach are much better!). I’d say our beaches in the Philippines are much nicer – although perhaps not as clean!

Dinner at Golden Century, Chinatown

  • We made a reservation at Golden Century because we heard it was really good and always packed! Well, those definitely lived up to our expectations – queue was long (despite making a reservation, we had to wait an additional 30 mins), but food was drool-worthy (we ordered some soup – hot and sour, fish head, creamy corn; XO pippies with vermicelli, fried duck in cranberry sauce; Fujian style fried rice; salt and pepper squid). If I had to order again, I’d order the exact same thing, except maybe the salt and pepper squid which I thought lacked flavor. Otherwise, servings were big and food came out really quickly
  • Having said that, Golden Century isn’t perfect. Food is a tad bit pricey (we spent ~AUD 50 per person – pretty cheap by Golden Century standards as we didn’t order much seafood, since we’d be going to the Sydney Fish Market anyway), and service is quite bad (you still have to queue despite making a reservation months in advance, waiters don’t notice you when you try to call them, etc)
  • Would I recommend this restaurant? Maybe. If you’re craving for Chinese food done well and are willing to pay the price, it’s difficult to go wrong with Golden Century. Just make sure to come early before the dinner crowd arrives, to avoid the long queue

For my other days of travel, feel free to click the links below to read more on specific parts of our 7-day Sydney journey:

Introduction: Tips and tricks on enjoying Christmas in Sydney

Day 1: Airport + Hotel and supermarket + The Rocks Tour

Day 3: City Tour + Fish Market + Paddy’s Market + Darling Harbor

Day 4: Blue Mountain + Leura Village

Day 5: Opera House + Rocks Market + Australian Heritage Hotel

Day 6: Bronte to Bondi Coastal Walk + Watson’s Bay + Harbor Bridge + Luna Park

What to see and do when in Sydney (off-the-beaten path suggestions)

Eating my way through Sydney – top picks!

If you’re headed to Melbourne, do check out my blog on what to see, eat, and do while in that fair city also!