Sydney, Australia is one of the world’s most attractive, cosmopolitan, and multicultural cities. The population is an eclectic mix of cultures drawn from 200 different ethnic backgrounds. The city enjoys a spectacular harbor setting, international cuisine, and impressive architecture. As the cultural heart of the country, Sydney is the perfect place to begin your down-under exploration.
Must-See Sights of Sydney
Many of Sydney’s attractions are within easy walking distance of one another. Start with a waterfront stroll along Circular Quay (pronounced key). Along Writers Walk, you’ll see gold plaques embedded in the sidewalk etched with words about Australia from famous writers. Be sure to take a cruise tour to admire the city’s harbor.
While on the waterfront, it’s impossible to miss the distinctive sail-like roof of the Sydney Opera House. The landmark complex is one of the architectural wonders of the world, housing a world-class concert hall and opera house, ballet and drama theatres, restaurants, and gift shops. Travel Maestro tip: Tours run every 30 minutes (fee) and give interesting trivia about the construction in addition to a peek into the performance halls.
From the Opera House, walk to the lovely 75-acre Royal Botanic Gardens, established in 1816. In addition to an amazing array of botanicals, you’ll find Mrs. Macquaries’s Chair (actually a rock favored by an early governor’s wife) that offers wonderful harbor views. Excellent free guided walks are offered year-round. Travel Maestro tip: In January, the gardens host the Open-Air Cinema, where you can watch films on a three-story screen with the Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge as backdrops.
The easiest way to reach Taronga Zoo is by ferry from Circular Quay. Considered one of the best in the world, with Australia’s largest collection of exotic animals, as well as native koalas, kangaroos, dingos, wombats, and Tasmanian devils in natural environments. Travel Maestro tip: Kids love the overnight “Roar and Snore” tours available periodically.
Take the Metro Monorail to Darling Harbour to visit the Sydney Aquarium which holds the world’s largest collection of Australian aquatic life. Visit the sharks and stingrays on a moving walkway inside a tunnel, walk over a see-through aquarium as seals swim below, see fairy penguins, and even snorkel with sharks native to the Great Barrier Reef.
Darling Harbor also has a huge selection of restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and eateries. You’ll also find plenty of souvenir shopping and more harbor cruises in Harbourside.
The area known as The Rocks is an easy walk from Circular Quay and is the most historic part of Sydney. Cobblestoned lanes and historic buildings give a glimpse of Sydney’s colorful past and rich heritage. You’ll find quaint pubs and great restaurants where you can drink and dine with a view of Sydney Harbor Bridge and the waterfront.
Near The Rocks, the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge connects the north and south sides of the harbor with six lanes of road traffic, in addition to two rail tracks on each side, plus a footpath for walking or cycling. Travel Maestro tip: Start on the north side and walk toward the city just before sunset to take advantage of the spectacular views. You can also take in the views by climbing 200 steps to the lookout atop a pylon near The Rocks (fee, 10am-5pm daily). Adventure seekers shouldn’t miss the three-and-a-half-hour BridgeClimb tour that goes up ladders and across catwalks to the top of the bridge for amazing panoramic views (fee, daily tours every 10 minutes; dawn and night tours available).
East of the city, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, lies Sydney’s best-known strand, Bondi Beach. From October through March it’s quite energetic with all ages sunbathing, surfing, swimming, and walking the promenade. Another favorite is Manly Beach to the northeast, which is shaded by Norfolk Pines and offers many beachfront cafes.
There are many others – Whale Beach, Palm Beach, Coogee, Maroubra, Clovelly, and Bronte Beach to name a few – which are open to the public but rarely visited by tourists. If you visit in the summer, plan to spend a day at one or more of the area’s beaches. Travel Maestro tip: Some of Sydney’s beaches have shark nets installed a half-mile offshore.
Other Sydney Entertainment
Sydney also has a thriving cultural scene, lively nightlife, scenic hiking and walking trails, and a popular amusement park (free admission, fee for rides). A variety of distinctive shopping venues sell signature items such as Aboriginal art, opals, and sheepskin coats. Sydney is also crazy for its cricket (October to March) and rugby (March to September), so you can catch the spirit at a live match. One thing is certain, you’ll run out of time before you run out of things to do in Sydney.
Are you ready to explore this vibrant, trendsetting city? Contact a Covington vacation expert to plan a trip of a lifetime.
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