Racing around Sydney in the Amazing Race

There are so many things to see in Sydney, Australia, it can sometimes be tricky to know where to start if you’re here on holiday. I’ve lived here seven months and have only scratched the surface. If you have a sense of adventure, love a good challenge and like to exercise then have I got a tip for you – do the Amazing Race.

Opera House Double Barrelled Travel

Sydney harbour view of the opera house from the bridge – water like crushed diamonds as far as you can see

The Sydney challenge is loosely based on the US television show (where teams of two are given clues and challenges to complete while travelling around the world). Well I don’t have a TV budget, or a camera crew, but I do love to explore and I’m pretty competitive.  So a few weeks ago I took myself down to Sydney’s Martin Place in the centre of Sydney to meet 140 other people ready for a Amazing Race challenge.

Once in small teams we were given pages of clues and challenges. Our first mission was to get to Luna Park. The 2.5km walk was a bit special. Did you know you can walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge?!  Not climb over it like some people do wearing stylish blue jumpsuits –but walk across as cars whiz by next to you. I was very impressed.  Not only are you walking on this magnificent structure and getting up close and personal to it, but you have uninterrupted views of the Sydney Opera House.

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Setting off to cross the bridge

Once at Luna Park we had a list of cryptic clues and challenges… such as when was the park built (1935) and to take a photo of the miniature Luna Park face (that was a hard one to find!).

Luna Park - Double-barrelled Travel

The colourful rides of Luna Park

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The luna park face – not the miniature one though

We snaked our way along the shoreline, first to Lavender Bay – where the great Don Bradman, Australia’s greatest test batsman of all time – used to live. Then we continued our hike around to Blues Point Reserve and on to Sawmillers Reserve.  From there it was on to Waverton Peninsula Reserve, formerly the home of BP in Australia for almost 100 years.

Lavender Bay - Double-Barrelled Travel

The breath-taking view from Lavender Bay

The space once housed massive oil tanks but conservationists have worked here to revegetate the area. The park is built around the old footprints of the tanks, making for a unique layout which is rich in history. The day we were there about a dozen volunteers were planting native plants to help fill out patches of brown dirt. It’s a great place to spend a few hours and of course there are magnificent views of that famous bridge.

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Me with some of my Amazing Race team mates on the ferry home

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The view of the Opera House from the Sydney Harbour Bridge

We continued on our path to Balls Head and the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability. The centre has information about the Aboriginal people of the area, Australia’s early 20th century industry history (the area once housed a coal port), and environmental and sustainable living. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in Sydney for a few days. The area used to be a sacred ground for the Cammeraygal Aboriginal people and so holds great cultural and spiritual significance.

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An ancient Aboriginal rock carving at the Coal Loader Centre

By this stage we’d been racing for about four hours. The tiredness and hunger was starting to set in. So for the next leg we took the easy road…. just for a bit though. We walked about 800m to the nearest train station and jumped on the next train to whiz past two stations, arriving back near Luna Park. From there we marched on through the neighbourhood, passing beautiful old homes on our way to our final stop – the one time home of Australian author May Gibbs who wrote children’s books – her most famous characters are Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. They’re little children made of gumnuts – part of Australia’s beautiful eucalyptus tree.

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The view of the stunning Sydney skyline from the ferry

By the time we reached the finish line (conveniently the Mosman Rowers Club) it was definitely time for a beer and burger. Beer never tasted so good after five hours of exploring Sydney under the hot Australian sun.

Mosman Rowers Club - Double-Barrelled Travel

The picturesque view from the Mosman Rowers Club

Sadly my team did not win; we finished a respectable fifth out of about 15 teams.  But the ferry ride back to Circular Quay was the stunning ‘cherry on top’ – Sydney’s beautiful waterways never disappoint and the views of the Sydney city skyline, as you glide into dock, are second to none.

Circular Quay - Double-Barrelled Travel

The view as we floated back to Circular Quay

What you need to know:

The Amazing Race – This was organised by the ‘Sydney Explorer’s’ group of Meetup.  Meetup is a way of finding people near you and doing fun things with them. I was the only person in my team who was an Australian national – my other teammates were travellers and students in Sydney. It’s free to be a member but it cost AUS$5 to take part in the race.

Sydney Harbour Bridge walk – It’s free to walk across the bridge – expect to walk about 1.5km plus a bit either side. We started at The Rocks end and finished on the North Shore.

Waverton Park – This 2.5ha site has walking paths dotted with information plaques about the history of the area. It’s a great place for a picnic.

The Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability – A great place to visit for a quick rundown on the early history of this part of the world. There are plans to open a café there too. But until then, there are some beautiful bush areas that are perfect for a picnic.

Mosman Rowers Club – This historic site caters to everyone – no special membership required – and overhangs the water, offering beautiful vistas. They serve food and drinks at very reasonable prices and it’s a five minute walk to the ferry stop. I ordered a burger and chips for AUS$16 and beers were about AUS$6 each.

Mosman Ferry – The Mosman Ferry service runs multiple times every day and it will cost you less than AUS$4 to reach Circular Quay. The ride takes about 20 minutes.

This guest post was written by Rachel Pupazzoni, a journalist for the ABC in Sydney. She met Dave when they were both working for the ABC in Western Australia. Rachel blogs about life in her new city and offers insight into life as a journalist on her blog, Rachel Pupazzoni.  You can also follow her on Twitter.

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