Sydney; the harbour city, Australia’s first city, at world’s end, also where mother England sent their convicts a century ago ‘for the term of their natural life’. Touted as one of the most beautiful cities on earth, its two greatest icons, the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House are at the centre of this bustling metropolis that’s gained a reputation for being an extremely liveable city.
Indeed its fairly temperate climate comfortably supports an outdoor lifestyle and the city has made the most of its harbour, rivers and beaches with a multitude of fine al fresco dining options. International visitors flock to experience its cosmopolitan and hospitable spirit and love of outdoor life.
History says Australia was discovered by Britain’s First Fleet, (although the Dutch dispute the actual first arrival), many of the city’s foreshores are lined with original remnants of the colonial empire, and The Rocks area, which sits directly underneath the city side of the Harbour Bridge, is a captivating ode to the cities heritage.
The Rocks is a good starting point to get a feel for the city’s roots in a modern setting. Wonderful old sandstone pubs, art galleries large and small, even native Aboriginal artworks are on offer for purchase or just to enjoy. The area has been able to maintain a unique heritage atmosphere through its astute restoration and preservation of buildings dating back to the mid 1800s. With the incorporation of chic eateries with magnificent views of the bridge and harbour, it’s a very pleasant part of the city.
See the city from the top of one of its most recognised symbols. You can climb the steps across the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a guided climb in a completely safe and awe inspiring way to capture the most incredible panoramic views 134 metres above the harbour.
Public transport is easy and there are loads of methods of getting around. Buses, trains, ferries and the monorail in the city are affordable and deliver you easily to all the main attractions.
Next to Cockle Bay on the edge of the CBD, Darling Harbour is a small port that’s been transformed into an entertainment and shopping precinct. Sunny afternoons see many enjoying fresh seafood lunches, famed Australian wines accompanied by local cover bands. This is the essence of Sydney life, great food, good company and happy times. Kids love the roaming clowns, magicians and street performers who add great colour and spontaneity to the atmosphere. There’s an enormous, dedicated children’s playground, and spectacular Chinese Garden that was initiated in the nearby community of Chinatown. Just opposite, the Sydney Aquarium houses a large collection of underwater life that showcases the unusual and diverse inhabitants of the southern oceans.
Sydney has one of the most spectacularly situated zoological parks in the world, perched hillside with the harbour laid out below. A ferry ride from the central harbour ferry terminal at Circular Quay takes you directly to the zoo’s very own pier. A cable car takes you up the sharp incline to the main entrance, and then you can wander through the park downhill, all the while taking in the magnificent harbour views. Sydney’s zoo has one of the most advanced and dedicated ecological teams in the world and there’s more to visiting than looking at animals, it’s a completely intimate and very educational immersion in the world of animals.
When the sun goes down, start with cocktails at the Opera Bar, at the foot of the unique shell-like Sydney Opera House with live music nightly, and a brilliant night time view of the harbour. The city centre houses many night clubs and some of the more happening places come alive in the city’s red light district, Kings Cross. At Cockle Bay, Home Night Club is spread over three levels and pumps to dance music that suits a variety of tastes. Lovers of jazz should check out The Basement just behind Circular Quay in the city. Some of Australia’s (and the world’s) biggest musical names have played at this underground venue which began in 1972. For a bit of a flutter, head to the glitz of Star City Casino near Darling Harbour open 24 hours a day and try your luck at a table game or slot machine.
Sydney has a lively theatre culture and international shows regularly tour the city, from symphony performances at the Opera House, muscials or comedy festival.
Take some time to explore the local markets in the outer lying suburbs of Balmain or Paddington on the weekends, both near the city centre. Balmain is a nostalgic inner city suburb with quaint, working class houses, now a chic and cosmopolitan area. Some of the best Italian restaurants line the main street, old pubs abound and the markets in the grounds of the St Andres Church sell organic fruit and vegetables, hand crafts, jewellery and some unique art works.
Paddington is likewise a unique spot, with bohemian Saturday markets that have grown into over 200 stalls including a section dedicated to emerging designers. You can still find homemade cakes and unique trinkets as you trawl through the many treasures.
Sydney’s coastline has been blessed with many beautiful beaches, each with its own identity and feel. Two of its most famous are Manly and Bondi Beach. Manly can be reached easily by ferry and has grown from a beachside suburb to a modern metropolis in its own right.
Not many more beaches have been used as an emblem of Aussie beach culture as much as the southern beach of Bondi. Apart from the obvious great surf the colourful local life make a visit most interesting. It’s also home to some of the most famous surf lifesavers in the world, the Bondi lifeguards who had a reality TV show made in their honour to capture their day to day stamina and heroics at keeping beach goers safe.
Sydney is a multi-cultural hot pot which is reflected throughout the city in its huge variety of Lebanese, Chinese, Greek and Italian restaurants and cafés. Along with its rich diversity it has developed over the years creating its own strong, avant-garde identity and sits proudly as one of the best cities in Australia, and indeed the world.