Sydney is an ideal starting point for a visit to Australia and a familiar welcome at the end of a journey. Sydney has a diverse lifestyle ranging from history in The Rocks and Sydney’s Eastside, dining in Darling Harbour and Sydney’s Chinatown, shopping in the city centre, through to Paddington’s fashion and café scene and Balmain’s lively pubs with entertainment.
The Central Business District of Sydney is home to some of the city’s best shopping arcades and malls. There are over four hundred specialty stores in eight major retail centres in Pitt Street Mall alone, where you’ll find the re branded Myer department store.
Other areas of Sydney…
Climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or be thrilled with a jet-boat ride on the water below. Relax on board a Sydney harbour cruise, or hire a yacht and explore one of many hidden coves that line the harbours edge.
Sydney’s award winning cuisine is an experience by itself, complemented by an abundance of famous Australian wines. Try the wide variety of seafood and fresh produce that you can buy direct from farmers at any growers markets around Sydney.
Aboriginal culture is alive and well in Sydney with authentic experiences available through preserved rock art, museums, art galleries, cultural parks and tours.
Events bring a city to life and Sydney boasts a diverse range of international events that are embraced by the locals and are a major attraction for visitors. From top cultural events through to international sporting fixtures, Sydney is a city without down time. Events include Sydney Festival, Sculpture by the Sea, New Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Sydney Film Festival, Mercedes Australian Fashion Week and adidas International Tennis.Sydney’s shopping offers designer fashion, specialty stores with homewares, art and design, discount warehouses and markets with unique gifts as well as the chance to mix with locals.
Incorporating the harbour’s islands and much of the Foreshore, Sydney Harbour National Park brims with picnic areas, bays, harbour pools and beaches to relax in. It’s where ferries, yachts, cruise vessels, jet boats, catamarans and kayaks all jostle for a piece of the world’s best harbour.
Laze on a chartered yacht moored in a bay or unwind on a scenic cruise, plenty of which are on offer from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour. Well worth touring are the historically significant Sydney Harbour Islands – Shark, Clark, Goat or Rodd – where you can enjoy a picnic surrounded by the harbour.
For further stunning vistas one of the many walks you can go on includes the Hermitage Foreshore walk from Rose Bay to Vaucluse, or from Cremorne Point to Mosman. If you’re in the mood for an adrenalin surge flash past the Opera House and zoom towards the Heads on a jet boat ride of Sydney Harbour.
With is shores bustling with commuters, tourists and buskers Circular Quay, located between Sydney’s Opera House and The Rocks, is the hub of Sydney’s water traffic and ferry services. From there you can travel on the ferries Sydneysiders use for commuting for a picturesque way to visit many waterside precincts including Balmain, Darling Harbour, Double Bay, Manly, Mosman and Watson’s Bay.
Sydney’s shores stretch some 350 kilometres across surf beaches, hidden-away harbour beaches, dramatic cliff headlands and sleepy bays. Sydney beaches are the focus of much more than just swimming and surfing. You can scuba dive, fish or watch whales migrate along the coast. You can dine, party, and watch Shakespeare on the beach. There are jazz festivals, food and wine fests, triathlon and surf lifesaving carnivals, and even art and sculpture exhibitions – all on the shore’s edge. And if you’re wanting to explore beyond the shores you can charter a yacht, hire a kayak, parasail or even go hang-gliding.
With every beach comes a different character…
Bondi Beach is Australia’s most famous, colourful and cosmopolitan beach. But further south lie other glorious beach spots – the more peaceful Coogee and Bronte. Around Botany Bay, there’s Lady Robinson Beach at Brighton le Sands, and the golden arc stretch of Cronulla, famous for its surfing.
Inner harbour beaches like Nielsen Park and Parsley Bay, Balmoral Beach, Lady Jane Obelisk beach, are calmer and more serene. Some are magnets for picnickers, the latter two for nude sunbathers.
Then there’s the gorgeous Manly with its great ocean surf as well as safe and sheltered beaches. From here a string of 18 magnificent beaches stretch their way up the Northern Peninsula to beautiful Palm Beach, where Sydney’s rich and famous come out in summer.
A jewel of a harbour
The glittering, emerald expanse of waterway which makes up Sydney Harbour is the city’s focal point. It splits the city in two and is crossed by the famous Harbour Bridge and the Harbour Tunnel.
From the ocean you enter the harbour through The Heads, dramatic cliff portals between Circular Quay in the city and the beachside suburb of Manly. The tops of The Heads are covered by Sydney Harbour National Park, which stretches along the rugged harbourside for kilometres. This haven for native plants and birds really surprises visitors.
Visitors are also struck by the harbour’s beauty, especially at night when the high-rise towers around Circular Quay, the girders of the Harbour Bridge and the ‘sails’ of the Opera House are all lit up. It’s then that the harbour waters take on a magical swirl of reflected colours – red, blue, green.
Green-and-yellow ferries ply the harbour until late in the evening, looking like wind-up bath toys as they trundle off to suburbs far and wide. Sleek tourist craft, tall ships rigged with sails, giant container vessels, water taxis and private yachts flit around too, watched by sunbathers on the harbour beaches.
In the centre of the harbour is a series of islands, the most well known being Fort Denison, with its tiny sandstone castle, which once housed the worst of Sydney’s convicts.
At Cadmans Cottage, The Rocks, you’ll find the Sydney Harbour National Park Information Centre where you can arrange a visit to Fort Denison and other islands.
Shark Island (located between Bradleys Head and Rose Bay) has panoramic views from Sydney Harbour Bridge to Manly and The Heads, and Clark Island is a tiny piece of untouched Australian bushland, with winding tracks through gum trees and natural rocky outcrops.
Climb the Harbour Bridge
Beginning at the BridgeClimb office at Cumberland Street in The Rocks, Sydney Harbour BridgeClimbers don a specialised BridgeSuit, harness and communication equipment, hook themselves to a cable and begin their climb to the top of the arch, 134 metres above the waves.
Safety is a priority. A professional climb leader accompanies each group and provides an expert commentary on the history of the bridge and the sights of the city. As a safety precaution, cameras may not be carried during the climb, however climb leaders are equipped with digital cameras to capture the moment when climbers ‘summit’ the bridge. All climbers are issued with a complimentary photograph of their climb group. Additional photographs taken during the climb may be purchased at the end of the climb.
Climbing at night offers a truly magical experience,Â which adds a BridgeLamp to the equipment package.Â See Sydney turn onÂ its lights for an amazing technicolour show, reflected in the waters of Sydney Harbour.
Tours last threeÂ and a half hours.Â BridgeClimb operates every day (except 30 & 31 Dec)Â at 10 minute intervalsÂ from early morning through to evening. BridgeClimb is suitable for anyone over 12, provided they are medically fit and equipped with a sense of adventure.
The sight of the white, billowy sails of the Sydney Opera House, against the jewel-blue Sydney Harbour has become one of the most recognisable sights in the world. It captures the essence of Sydney and indeed Australia, as a breezy, free-spirited country.
When you look at the Opera House you realise it is a totally organic shape, dispensing with such conventional architectural concepts as walls and roofs. It is one of those rare things that not only does not jar with the surrounding natural landscape, but actually enhances it, and leads the sight of the harbour. It is a monument in its own right. Jutting out onto Bennelong Point, this building entices thousands of people a day to walk from East Circular Quay just to stand on the steps and take a picture.
Up close the Opera House loses none of its majesty. You notice that what from a distance seemed to be pearl-white sails are thousands of tiny tiles in cream and white. From its steps you have a sweeping view of the harbour that makes you feel you own it. Like many wonders, this creation had its birth pangs. In the 1950s young Danish architect Jorn Utzon won a competition to design the building. Years of controversy followed as the building appeared to be beyond the engineering capabilities of the day, culminating in Utzon’s resignation. Yet the job continued and the Opera House opened in 1973 to entertain millions and become an irreplaceable Australian icon.
Vital arts centre
The Sydney Opera House is in fact much more than just an opera house. The magnificent sail-like structure houses a complex of almost 1,000 rooms and many different performance spaces, halls and theatres, all linked together to allow enormous flexibility. The Opera House has the capacity to produce a range of entertainment from classics to the contemporary. In an average year, it presents theatre, musicals, opera, contemporary dance, ballet, all sorts of different musical forms from symphony concerts to jazz, exhibitions and films. Open-air concerts have even taken place on its steps. It averages around 3,000 events each year, with audiences totalling up to two million per year.
A great many people also go there just for the sake of the building. Countless people jump off the train at East Circular Quay and walk up to the Opera House just to take a photograph on its steps, and around 200,000 people take a guided tour of the complex each year. Even the path to the Opera House, along Bennelong Point, is dotted with buskers and all kinds of street theatre. And to think that the Sydney Opera House was created because before its inception in the 1950s, Sydney had no adequate musical venue! Since opening in 1973, the Sydney Opera House is now one of the busiest performing arts centres and attracts talent from all over the world.
Walk the bridge
A walk across the bridge gives you a grand view of the Opera House and of a working harbour in one of the world’s most dramatic settings: the ferries and high-speed catamarans heading in and out of Circular Quay, the yachts, pleasure cruises, water taxis and merchant ships.
Each New Year’s Eve, the bridge stars on television around the world when it serves as a platform for a brilliant fireworks display culminating in a Niagara-like cascade of golden fire into Sydney Harbour.
Sydney Harbour Bridge took 1,400 workers nine years to build. Repainting it uses 30,000 litres of paint and takes 10 years. Once finished, it’s time to start again. Probably the best-known character to have worked on this monotonous task is Paul ‘Crocodile Dundee’ Hogan.
The bridge’s single arch is 503 metres across and wide enough to carry two railway tracks, eight lanes of cars and lanes for pedestrians and cyclists. You can view the bridge and harbour from a lookout in the top of the bridge’s south-east tower. Additionally, a company called BridgeClimb conducts guided walks over the bridge’s massive arches for small groups. You can do this by day or night – anytime except during an electrical storm. It pays to book your climb as far in advance as you can; the waiting list has grown quite long since BridgeClimb began operations in 1998.
Activites and Experiences at Sydney Harbour
- Jet Boating
- Food and Wine
- Water based
- Join a cruise, Charter a yacht and sail at your own pace, or join a crew and compete in Sydney Harbour yacht races held regularly in summer months.
- Take a tour of Fort Denison located in the middle of Sydney Harbour – originally a prison, converted into a fort in the 1800′s.
- Ride the RiverCat to Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush Bay, and Parramatta, bursting with Sydney’s colonial history.
- Parasail from Manly (summer months), or hire a kayak from Middle Harbour, Manly, or Rose Bay and explore Sydney Harbour from a different angle.
- Watch harbour activity from a range of quality harbourside restaurant offering unparalleled views.
Accommodation In Sydney
Discover some of the accommodation in and around Sydney
- AEA Bridgeport
- AEA The Milsons
- Apartments R Oz – Top of the Town
- Avalanche Homestead
- Avillion Hotel Sydney
- Best Western Central Motel
- Blue Parrot Backpackers
- Brindabella Station
- Burley Griffin Motel
- Capitol Square Hotel
- Carrington at Bungendore, The
- Castlereagh Boutique Hotel, The
- Chelsea Guest House
- Citigate Sebel Sydney
- City Resort Hostel
- Clarion Suites Southern Cross on Harbour
- Comfort Inn Airport
- Comfort Inn Cambridge
- Country Guesthouse Schonegg
- Crest Motor Inn
- Crestview Tourist Park
- Crowne Plaza Darling Harbour
- Devere Hotel
- DLux Budget Hotel
- Establishment Hotel
- Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
- Glebe Point YHA – Sydney
- Globe Backpackers, The
- Golden Age Motor Inn
- Goolabri Country Resort
- Grace Hotel
- Grand Manor Motor Inn
- Grand Mercure Apartments One Darling Harbour
- Guy’s Cross Farm B and B
- Hamilton’s Townhouse Motel
- Hilton Sydney
- Holiday Inn Darling Harbour
- Holiday Inn Potts Point
- Hotel Altamont
- Hotel Formule 1 Kings Cross
- Hotel Ibis Darling Harbour
- Hotel Stellar
- Hyde Park Inn
- InterContinental Sydney
- Kirketon Hotel
- Last Stop Ambledown Brook
- Leagues Motel
- Margeurita Motel
- Mid City Motor Inn
- Murrumbateman Country Inn
- Olympia Motel
- Parkway Motel
- Queanbeyan Riverside Tourist Park
- Queensgate Motel
- Rainbow Motel
- Village Cabins, The
- Wallaby Motel
Tours In Sydney
Discover some of the tours options around Sydney
- Aboriginal Discoveries
- Adventure Tours Australia
- Aussie Bush Discoveries
- Australia By Air
- Australian Eco Adventures
- Australian Spirit Sailing Company
- Blue Thunder DownUnder Harley Tours & Escorts
- Bondi Explorer – State Transit Authority
- Bonza Bike Tours
- Bush Track Tours
- Captain Cook Cruises
- Cloud 9 Balloon Flights
- Colourful Trips Australia
- Destiny Tours
- Destiny Tours Sydney
- Eastcoast Sailing
- Frontier Photographic Safaris
- Getabout 4WD Adventures
- Grape Escape
- Gray Line Sydney
- Harbour Jet
- Hunter Valley Wine Tours
- Kookaburra Challenge Pty Ltd
- LIVE Adrenalin Pty Ltd
- Magistic Cruises
- Massage and Beauty Cruise
- Matilda Cruises
- National Parks & Wildlife Services Tours
- Oz Experience
- Oz Jet Boating Sydney Harbour
- Oz Trails
- Rhythmboat Cruises
- Rocks Pub Tour, The
- Rocks Walking Tours, The
- Self Guided Walking Tours
- Surfing Kangaroo
- Sydney Architecture Walk
- Sydney By Sail
- Sydney Golf Australia
- Sydney Opera House Tours
- Ticket Through Time
- Wendt On Tours
- Wine Tours NSW