For numerous visitors to Australia, Sydney is the primary destination whether they spend all their holiday time in this harbour city or head off from Sydney to Australia's many other vacation spots, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Outback.
Why visit Sydney? Here are 10 good reasons why.
The big thing in Sydney is, without doubt, the Sydney Opera House. It is beautifully located on Sydney Harbour, and is one of Australia's World Heritage sites. For visitors to Sydney, it is the perfect backdrop for "I was there" travel photos. You can take your pictures on the approach to the Opera House, on its forecourt, across the water from West Circular Quay in the vicinity of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, or from Mrs Macquaries Point where you can have both the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.
Again this is usually part of the "I was there" photographic record and for those who do the Bridge Climb a unique "I did that" moment. For those who don't climb the bridge, walking or bicycling on the bridge across the harbour is certainly possible. Sydney Harbour Bridge was 80 years old in 2012, having been officially opened in 1932. The bridge and Sydney Opera House are Sydney's most iconic features.
The harbour itself is a major Sydney attraction and harbour cruises — including lunch, dinner or party cruises, in addition to primarily sightseeing ones — are available from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour. At the very least, Sydney visitors can take a ferry trip to any Sydney waterfront location on the regular ferry routes for their fairy tale experience. Popular ferry destinations include Manly, Taronga Zoo (for zoo-goers) and Watsons Bay for seafood dining at Doyles.
Usually described as the birthplace of Australia, what is now Sydney's Rocks district is the site of the first white settlement established by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788. The area features buildings constructed during colonial times as well as more recent structures planned to blend with the architecture of the past. A Sydney visitor center, with maps and information about places to visit in Sydney and other parts of Australia, is located in The Rocks. Pubs, restaurants, and specialty shops are to be discovered in its streets and alleys.
This is a multi-venue destination, which includes waterside walks, restaurants, shops, museums (Australian National Maritime Museum and Powerhouse Museum), exhibition halls, Imax cinema, boating venues, aquarium, and wildlife. Darling Harbour extends along the western, southern, and eastern sides of Cockle Bay and takes in the King St Wharf restaurant area just south of Barangaroo.
Galleries and Museums
For those who love going to museums and art galleries, Sydney is fortunate in having a number of them right in — or close to — the city center. Closest to a Sydney transport hub is the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia which is a short walk from Circular Quay. There's the Police and Justice Museum on Phillip St, also close to Circular Quay, with the Sydney Museum on Bridge St just a block away south. Around or close to Hyde Park are the Australian Museum, Hyde Park Barracks, Art Gallery of New South Wales at The Domain east of St Mary's Cathedral, and the Anzac Memorial within Hyde Park itself. And there are the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Powerhouse Museum in Darling Harbour.
In Sydney, you're never far from sand and surf as the harbours, bays, and shores are lined with any number of beaches. You can go surfing, boating, sailing, snorkeling, diving, or you can simply laze away the day under the Sydney sun. Of course, you need generally fine days for going to the beach, and almost all seasons except winter are fine. Among Sydney's better-known seaside sites are Manly Beach and Bondi Beach, both quite easy to reach by public transport.
Parks and Gardens
You'd be surprised to know how close you are to Sydney's parks and gardens. The Royal Botanic Gardens are adjacent to the Sydney Opera House site and Hyde Park is right in the heart of Sydney. National parks in the city itself or within easy driving distance are easily accessible.
Driving on unfamiliar streets to get to Sydney destinations can be a daunting task for the new or occasional visitor to Sydney. Fortunately, there is a working, if sometimes overly busy, public transport network. City trains fan out from the city center to most major suburbs and there usually is a nearby bus stop anywhere in Sydney for those wishing to go by bus. For harbour and other waterside destinations, see if there's a ferry that will take you there. There's a tram as well on the light rail route from Central Railway Station with stops at Chinatown, Darling Harbour, and The Star casino complex.
Ah, shopping! Depends on what you want to shop for. Souvenir items, jewelry, designer clothes, art — you'll find Sydney shops with items you may not find anywhere else. In the heart of the city, try Queen Victoria Building, Westfield Sydney, Strand Arcade, and the boutique shops in this area around Pitt Street Mall. Don't forget The Rocks just northwest of Circular Quay. On the way to Bondi Beach, you may wish to do a bit of shopping at Westfield Bondi Junction. And for bargain items, there are markets such as Paddy's in Chinatown.