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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Adventure before Dementia

Part of my three-day Sydney escape YHA Sydney Central in Rawson Place


It's been a while since I lived and knew my way around in Sydney. So with overseas visitors arriving in December on a short seven-day whistle-stop tour, I thought it best to go to Sydney and take all the wrong turns before they do.

There's no place in Sydney more central than Central Station and right next to it is the Sydney Central YHA in Rawson Place. After arriving at the International Airport, our guests will take the 14-minute Airport Link to arrive on Platform 22 at Central Station.

Downstairs from Platform 22 turn left inside the pedestrian tunnel (marked in grey on the map below; take the tunnel that leads to the 'G Concourse') and up the stairs to the 'Grand Concourse' which looks something like this: (for a printable map click here)

Tap your OPAL card - more on this here - to get through the turnstiles and across the 'Grand Concourse' and out again through the exit marked '2 Pitt Street'.

Right in front is the departure point for Sydney Light Rail which, unfortunately, does not go to Circular Quay while they're upgrading George Street (to go to Circular Quay to visit the Opera House or jump aboard one of the many harbour ferries, take a bus or go back through the turnstiles and down the pedestrian tunnel to the suburban trains. There's always some railway staff near the turnstiles to ask for directions; my favourite is a tall turbaned Sikh ☺).

You can take the Light Rail to either 'Convention' or 'Pyrmont Bay' station to visit Madame Tussaud's and Sealife Aquarium and Wild Life Sydney Zoo. Buy a ticket for all three attractions PLUS Manly Sea Life and Sydney Tower for just $69 per person, or $195 for a family of four - click here - and you've got 30 days to visit them all.

But right now is check-in time so turn left and descend on the escalator under the overhead markings 'To Pitt & George Sts'. Keep walking straight ahead and cross Pitt Street, and on your left is the Sydney Central YHA (if you're not a member, join up on the spot for a room discount; if you're in a group, only one of you needs to be a member; after only two nights you've already saved more than the $25-membership fee - check it out here).

Today's youth-hostels aren't all dormitories: you can also get a private room with private bathroom, double or twin, even a family room. Of course, there won't be room service or wake-up calls (but you can buy a nifty little alarm clock at reception!).

My basic but clean and comfortable private room with ensuite # 812 on the eighth floor

Nor is there a telephone or a television on your room but, hey, you're so central, you won't need to call anybody nor watch any television as all the action is right outside your door (just as I'd got there, an ambulance came wailing up George Street, a police car was woop-wooping along Pitt Street, and a girl in a party of four fainted right in front of me - whether from an overdose of Ice or because she'd spotted me I'll never know).

Ask for a room on the top floor (which is the 8th) so that you have only a few steps to climb to swim in the roof-top pool or steam away in the sauna. Then sit on the verandah and look at Sydney from above.

She wasn't there when I was there or else I might've stayed longer

If it's too early for check-in, put your luggage in one of the many coin- and credit card-operated lockers to the left of the reception. Their rate of $11 for up to 24 hours (pay $4 for the first six hours and top up if you're late) for a locker large enough to hold a big suitcase AND a big bag is cheaper than what's on offer at Central Station.

Complimentary city map

Also on the ground floor is a very helpful tour desk (grab one of their very detailed free A3-sized city maps and don't forget to claim your YHA discount on all your bookings!), internet access, a licensed café/restaurant (try the juicy t-bone steak with chips and salad AND a bottle of beer for $16.90), a cinema, a lounge, even self-catering facilities but who wants to cook when there are literally hundreds of eateries up and down the street and 'round the block and across George Street at Chinatown or in Chinatown's City Market which is right next to famous Paddy's Market.

A great way to see the city is from aboard the Sydney Explorer which leaves every 15 to 20 minutes from Bay 5 in Eddy Avenue which is just outside the arcades as you came down the escalator from the station. If it's a sunny day, make sure you grap a seat on the open top!

Enjoy Sydney! I'm heading for the Blue Mountains.