Over the years I’ve travelled on many a Big Red Bus tour in cities around the world. My first was in New York, and after I got over the cringe factor of being such an obvious tourist, I discovered they’re a great way to get to know the layout of the city, and pick up on a few bits of trivia along the way.
Since then I’ve been found baking or freezing on top of big red buses far and wide. But it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I finally decided to be a tourist in my own city and jump on the Sydney Explorer – our very own Sydney Big Red Bus tour.
Fortunately I had two fellow adventurers who were up for the ride. I’d mentioned to my friend Benji and his daughter Isobel a few months back that we should get on the bus one day. And that was something Isobel was never going to forget.
You see, while a big red tour bus is a fun thing for grown ups to do, it’s a REALLY fun thing for kids.From the moment we clambered up the steps to the top of the double decker bus, Isobel was in heaven.
I’d forgotten how much fun it is to be on an open top bus, and the way you get to really feel and smell, as well as see a city. And it was great to sit beside her and see Sydney through her eyes.
For those who are tempted to follow in our big red bus footsteps, the Sydney Explorer has two routes… the first one goes around the city side of things, while the second goes down to Bondi Beach and around the bays.
In the grand tradition of big red tour buses, the Sydney Explorer allows people to hop on and hop off, and you can go for a 24 hour or 48 hour option.
There are two starting points… one at Central Station on Eddy Avenue, and the other at Circular Quay.The City Loop bus stops cover everything from the Opera House, to Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building, the Sydney Fish Market, Power House Museum, Woolloomooloo, the King Street Wharf, and many more.
While the Bondi and Bay loop stops at Paddington, Rose Bay, Double Bay, and of course, North Bondi.
It takes 90 minutes to get around just the city lap if you stay on board, which is what we decided to do on the day.
As locals, we knew we could always go back to the various sights some other time, but for those who do decide to hop on and hop off, the Sydney Explorer bus folks provide Fast Track tickets to queue jump at attractions like the Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife World and Sydney Tower.
For us, though, we were just happy watching Sydney go by, enjoying simple thrills like going under the Harbour Bridge, and ducking branches.
And then there was a special treat for grown ups who notice such things (which I think was just Benji and I on the day).
As we came into the Sydney Convention Centre stop, who should be there but the man who used to run the city where I got on my very first Big Red Bus (and in fact was running it back on that very day.)
Yes, you remember right. That was New York. And there he was, Rudy Giuliani.
Sure, that was an unusual sighting. And if I hadn’t just been telling Benji that Giuliani was in town addressing the Australasian Real Estate Conference that day, I probably wouldn’t have clicked either. But it did put a smile on my face when I thought about my first trip to New York, and my first Big Red Bus tour.
And while it’s easy to learn things about a strange new city, I’m happy to say that we also learnt a thing or two about our own city on the tour. Such as the fact that Kings Cross was originally called Queens Cross, and that Hyde Park started life as a racing track, which is why it has those curved corners.
When you’ve finished your bus tour, some other things you may want to try out in Sydney…