- Discover Sydney
Sydney Harbour | Sydney Harbour Bridge | Sydney Opera House | Darling Harbour | The Rocks | Kings Cross | The Blue Mountains | Bondi and Sydneys' other beaches | Sydney Tower Skywalk | Skydive | Jetboating | Surfing | Diving | Taronga Zoo | Manly | White water rafting |
When you think of Australia you will probably picture the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, and Bondi beach among other things. All these things reside in the beautiful city of Sydney.
The Eora tribe once occupied the land which is now known as Sydney and is now home to many people of different ethnicity including Chinese, Middle Eastern and Anglo- Mediterranean. Sydney can be divided into two distinctive parts, north and south of the bridge. North Sydney has its own CBD, which amazingly is the third largest CBD in Australia after Sydney central and Melbourne. However, most places of interest can be found in the city centre on the south side of the bridge. You have Circular Quay where you will see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as the Rocks. To the west is Darling Harbour. Down Pitt Street or George Street from Circular Quay is the city centre as far as Central station. To the east are the Botanical Gardens and Hyde Park. The main suburbs would be Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, Paddington, Bondi and Coogee. The airport is to the south in Mascot.
Catch a cruise around the harbour for around $20 - $50. It is truly a beautiful harbour and getting out on the water is definitely the best way to see it. Cruises leave Circular Quay and Darling Harbour.
The 'coat hanger' connects central Sydney with North Sydney. The bridge, which was completed in 1932, has always been a favourite of the locals mainly because of the boost it gave to employment during the depression.
You can climb the bridge at Bridge Climb, 3 Cumberland Street, the Rocks. They will suit you up with jump suits, headphones, harness, handkerchiefs and baseball caps. If you are doing the climb at night you will have headlamps. In all it's a 1500 metre trek to the top. From the water to the road of the bridge is a massive 15 stories high. You will really feel the height from here as you will be walking under the road on steel walkways that you can see right through. And that's before you even climb the actual bridge. The views from the top are breathtaking, on a clear day, of which there is many in Sydney, you can see as far west as the Blue Mountains. The price starts at $198 depending on time of day and the time of the year. It is an expensive thing to do and you will have to pay extra for an individual photo (you get the group one free) but it is one of the most famous bridges in the world. Remember they will breathalyse you before you go up so go easy the night before.
If you're on a budget, you can climb inside the south-eastern pylon, up to the Pylon Lookout for under $10. There is also a museum housed there which details the incredible history of the bridge. Did you know a quick thinking Irishman was the only man to survive a fall from the bridge (although he did have to have his shoes surgically removed from his feet, which were up near his knees). He broke his fall by throwing his tool belt into the water before he hit. Some people think he actually jumped for a bet to make more money during the depression. He was back to work in 17 days.
The Opera House is undoubtedly one of the most famous buildings in the world and for good reason. It's unmistakable, the fact you are in Sydney really hits you when you see it for the first time, although it's not as white as it looks on the postcards. It's a great place to hang out on the steps or in one of the cafes which are around that area.
Opera tickets can be quite expensive but there are restricted view tickets available for much cheaper but keep in mind that it is exactly what you will get, a restricted view. There are also tours available. They operate from 8.30am to 5pm daily and last an hour. Prices range from $20 to $40.
Darling Harbour offers so many activities and is a great place to while away a day. It's all here, shops, tacky fast food restaurants, classy restaurants and top nightclubs. You've also got the Chinese gardens, the Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife Centre, National Maritime Museum, IMAX cinema, and Star City, which has a casino, theatres, a volcano, a nightclub, a hotel and retail outlets. Take a water taxi, a cruise, or jump on the carousel.
The Rocks are situated where the Harbour Bridge crosses to the north shore. It is the oldest settlement in Sydney and though it has been redeveloped, it has kept its historical feel.
Once upon a time it was home to convicts, prostitutes, and fishermen, but now it’s a delightful place to take stroll around. Pick up a self-guided tour map from the Sydney visitors centre in the old Sailors home at 106 George Street and have a wander around for yourself. Have a look at Cadmans Cottage, the oldest house in Sydney (110 George Street), the Rocks Square (Playfair St), Rocks Centre, Rocks Markets, through Argyle Cut to Millers Point and more. Enjoy a pint in the Glenmore Hotel which has a rooftop beer garden overlooking the Opera House.
You'll see all kinds of people in the Cross, from fellow backpackers to prostitutes, junkies, sailors and trendies. There are the expected strip joints and brothels mixed with upper class restaurants and hotels. The Cross is a great place for backpackers to swap information, get work, and buy/sell a car. Look for the “coke” sign, the Coca Cola billboard which is visible from William Street, the main street to Kings Cross from the city centre. You have to check Kings Cross out at least once.
Follow the Great Western Highway out of Sydney or get a train (2hrs) to Katoomba. You will probably stay in Katoomba which is the main accommodation centre. The visitor centre is at Echo Point, which is about 2km from the train station. To the west of Echo Point are the scenic railway and scenic skyway.
If you're camping, Katoomba Falls Caravan Park is 2km south of the highway. There's also the Blue Mountains YHA if you fancy a hostel (207 Katoomba St). Also there's the Blue Mountains Backpackers (190 Bathurst St)
Things to do
There's an amazing amount of activities to keep you busy in the Mountains. There's rock climbing, abseiling, caving and canyoning among others.
Australian Outdoor Consulting, The Australian School of Mountaineering, Blue Mountains Adventure Company, High and Wild are some of the adventure companies out there.
Bondi is undoubtedly Australia’s most famous beach. Is it the best? Probably not by a long shot, but it's still worth heading down if you're in Sydney. Bondi is big and very busy. It's a great place to go for a swim or surf or just to sunbathe with all the beautiful people; you might even see some famous people. Campbell Rd is the ocean road and is jam-packed with cafés, shops and hotels. It's a 5 minute bus ride from Bondi Junction on the 380 and 381 buses.
South of Bondi are Tamarama, Bronté, Clovelly, and Coogee beaches which are all worth a look. All these beaches are reachable by bus. Alternatively get a bus to Bondi and do the Bondi to Coogee walk, which is a must do in Sydney. The scenery is breathtaking and you can always stop at one of the above mentioned beaches if you get tired. It takes roughly 2 - 3 hours.
Walk around the edge of the Skytower on a moving glass floored viewing platform. Prices vary so check out their website for deals.. The views are very good especially at dusk or dawn.
Try a tandem skydive from 14,000ft from around $279
If you find a cruise too tame, try a jetboat from either Circular Quay or Darling Harbour. See the harbour at 130km/hr. Price is roughly $55.
Get lessons at Manly, Bondi or Cronnulla or take a tour up to Byron Bay with a surf school such as Waves. It's a tour that takes up to 5 days and you will learn to surf at a succession of beaches up the coast. It costs around $550 for the 5 day but there are shorter tours.
Learn to dive in Sydney habour. It may sound dirty but you'll be amazed at the visibility and the myriad of marine life here.
Possibly the best setting and views of any zoo in the world, looking out over Sydney Harbour, Taronga Zoo is well worth a visit. There are 4000 animals, including all the native species. Get the ferry from Circular Quay, then ride the cable car to the top and make your way down. Put aside a whole day for this. Costs around $44 for adults and $22 for children.
Manly is a suburb to the North of Sydney and has one of the best beaches around. Take a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Wharf. Your trip across the harbour will be a highlight of your visit to Sydney. Check out the beach or the aquarium (Oceanworld). You can watch the divers feed the sharks or you can get in with them yourself. Around $245 for an intro dive, $180 if you're already certified.
Check out the purpose built white water river in Penrith. Originally built for the 2000 Olympics, it's well worth a go. Around $94
New Year's Eve in Sydney
Sydney is one of the best places on earth to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Sydneysiders take particular pride in their fireworks display. It is absolutely spectacular. Sydney Harbour Bridge is the focal point for the fireworks, but fireworks are also set off from platforms in the harbour as well as the surrounding buildings. Over 1 million people head to Circular Quay for the party. Get there early with some food and drink to get a spot in which to throw down a blanket and get into the spirit of the occasion.
Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport is located in Botany Bay, around 10 km from the city centre. Sydney is connected by air with cities in New Zealand, China, Japan, The Middle East, Europe, USA and South America. In many cases you will have to get connecting flights due to the distances involved. International flights use Terminal 1. Terminal 2 is for domestic flights to Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane etc.
Trains go from Platform 1 to the centre and cost around $30 as there is a surcharge included. There are also local buses such as the 400 to Bondi Junction. Taxis cost around $40 to the centre and you can get a shuttle bus from around $20 per person.
Flight times to Sydney
Dublin 21.5 hours | London 21 hours | Hong Kong 9 hours | New York 19.5 hours | San Diego 15 hours
Sydney is well covered by its extensive train network. In the city centre the network runs underground. It can be a confusing network at first but well worth getting used to.
Sydney also has an extensive bus network. If you plan on using buses frequently you should print out a timetable from the Sydney Buses website.
Ferries go from Circular Quay down at the harbour. Taking the ferry to Manly is a great way to see the Harbour. You can also take a ferry to Darling Harbour and this route takes you under The Harbour Bridge.
Taxis are usually easy enough to flag down at the side of the street. The sign on tip will be illuminated if they are available. It can be trickier later at night as taxi drivers sometimes won’t accept your fair if you are not heading in the direction they are.
Sydney is quite safe but don't take risks. Don't walk alone at night, don't get drunk on your own, and don’t flaunt your money. Kings Cross is great fun but be aware when on a night out here. It is awash with drugs, prostitution, and some very dodgy people. Stay away from Redfern on Australia day, there has been riots there in the past and problems with the many native Australians who live there. The suburbs in western Sydney have many social problems and high crime rates. The message here, as anywhere, is to take care.
The emergency number is 000.