Sydney is an extraordinarily beautiful city and regularly tops polls for being one of the world’s favourite destinations. Unusually for a big city, it is known for its for natural wonders as well as its cityscape, and locals enjoy an enviable lifestyle and excellent weather. If you are staying in Sydney, there is a lot to see and do, however, with a little planning, you can see a wealth of wonderful sights, museums and of course, beaches! This is just Part 1 of our guide to Sydney, so look out for the next installment.
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
This has become a must-do activity for tourists and locals alike. Those who prefer to stay closer to the ground or have small children can still partake at the Pylon Lookout, a museum and viewing platform inside one of the huge granite pylons of the bridge.
Learn about Sydney’s colonial history
Circular Quay on Sydney Harbour was the site of the first British settlement in Australia. Many remnants of the early years of the settlement can still be seen in the Rocks district on the western side of the Quay. Find Cadman’s Cottage, the oldest building in the Rocks, before checking out the Rocks Markets and the Susannah Place Museum, which pays homage to the working class families of The Rocks. A good way to get a feel for the city and discover some of its secrets is by taking a walking tour.
Peek Tours are one of the best operators in Sydney, and they start walks at 10:30 every morning around Sydney City and the Rocks, taking in all the major sights as well as the lesser known monuments. The guides are cheerful and friendly, and it’s a good chance to meet fellow travellers!
Get on the Harbour
Ferries have been faithfully crossing Sydney Harbour since the early days of the colony. They are a popular with commuters who live on the northern side of the harbour, and their distinctive yellow and green forms have become an icon of Sydney. Ferries also run inland along the Parramatta River to the gorgeous Cockatoo Island, a former convict prison that is now a UNESCO Heritage Site and host of many festivals, including the Sydney Festival and the Biennale of Sydney.
Tip: The main terminal is Circular Quay. From here you can catch the ferry to Manly Beach, Taronga Zoo, the Parramatta River. There are plenty of staff on hand to help, and you can also check timetables here.
Art and About
One of Australia’s premier art museums, the Art Gallery of New South Wales is home to excellent collections of Indigenous, Asian, Australian Colonial and Modern International Art. Situated in the Domain, a stretch of park attached to the Royal Botanic Gardens, it’s the perfect place for a quiet afternoon of contemplation. Also operated by the AGNSW is the Brett Whiteley Studio, an intimate museum in Surry Hills dedicated to the life and work of Whiteley, one of Australia’s greatest painters of the 20th century. Contemporary art fans should make a beeline to the newly-renovated Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay, which hosts several spectacular and though-provoking shows every year.
Bondi is rightly one of Australia’s most famous icons. Sunbathe on the golden sands, swim in the waves, watch the lifeguards and surfers, then check out the pristine rock-pools. Bondi is also home to one of the most beautiful public pools in the world – Icebergs. Do a few laps in their rock-carved ocean pool while the waves crash over the edge. Relax in their sauna, then get a casual lunch from the cool outdoor kiosk, or indulge in some Oysters or a steak upstairs in the elegant, modern dining room. From Bondi to Coogee Beach runs the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk.It’s fairly unlikely that there is a more beautiful walk in any world city and it’s a hit with locals. Each year, the Sculpture by the Sea festival takes over the track, and walkers can see hundreds of creative works by local and international artists with framed by the sandstone cliffs and Pacific Ocean.
Decadent Shopping and Dining
Sydney is a wealthy city and Sydneysiders love a bit of shopping in glamorous surrounds. The Queen Victoria Building is a local favourite and just the spot to do some elegant souvenir shopping. The grand old building is a prime example of Victorian colonial architecture. Enjoy some treats in the Tea Room, before admiring the ‘Great Australian Clock’, a giant mechanical clock which details the story of Australia from Indigenous and British perspectives. Nearby, watch the street performers at Darling Harbour, or dive into Sydney’s Chinatown on Sussex Street. Some of Sydney’s best eateries are also in this area. There’s something for every budget, from fancy French-Japanese inspired Tetsuya’s to the Malaysian street-food experience at Mamak.
These are just a few of the many things to do in Sydney, so we are putting together a second installment – look out for it soon!