Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia
By Matthew Lawson

Sydney SuburbsThe sun shines. The surf beckons. The water entices. And you're just minutes from a world of skyscrapers and corporate suits. Where else could you be but Sydney? This dazzling cosmopolitan city has no fewer than 30 glorious beaches within 20 minutes of the bustling city centre. (Eat your heart out New York and London)

Undoubtedly one of the world's greatest cities, with an enviable outdoor lifestyle, warm climate and plenty of that easy going Aussie attitude to make you feel truly welcome. But there again, I'm a little biased with adjectives, as Sydney is my home town. If you're heading down this way for an outback adventure or vacation of a lifetime, here are some of the things you have to see and do.

Sydney Opera HouseLet's look back
Sydney is a young city. (Captain Cook actually sailed right past the Harbour and landed at Botany Bay.) Just a little over 200 years ago, on 26 January 1788 to be exact, Sydney was founded when ships from the first fleet arrived from England to establish the colony of New South Wales. The city was named after Thomas Townsend, the first Viscount Sydney, who was Secretary of State for the Colonies of Britain at the time of the state's foundation. Today, Sydney is a fast-paced, trend setting city with a population of over 3.5 million people and a land size more than double of New York city.

Water is everywhere
While Sydney is Australia's oldest city and considered the economic powerhouse of the nation, it's not the capital, that's Canberra. But Sydney sets the pace in many ways. Its idyllic location, on the fringes of the Pacific Ocean showcases a lifestyle that's centred around water - whether you're in it or on it. Swimming, surfing, sailing - everywhere you go there seems to be a sunny beach. A magical inlet. A quiet creek. But you can't forget the grandest water haven of them all....Sydney Harbour. One of the best ways to experience The Harbour is also the cheapest. Jump on a ferry at Circular Quay, the main ferry hub, and for a just a few dollars cruise away to your heart's content.

Chinatown, SydneyWhere to stay
If you're organizing accommodation, Sydney can offer you every type under the sun, from lavish 5 star names to smaller boutique hotels and motels, with plenty in the mid-price range. Check out sites such as Sydney Hotels for ideas, great deals and instant online booking.

The iconic Sydney Opera House
One postcard image conjures up Sydney more than any other. It's The Opera House. In 1957, Danish architect Jorn Utzon won a competition to design the Sydney Opera House. It was finally completed in 1973. Its curved "sail-like roof" construction is a miracle of modern engineering and recognised the world over. Each year, over 1,500 performances are staged here, so chances are you can enjoy a show or a concert during your stay.

Luna Park, SydneyThe Harbour Bridge
In 2007, it's the 75th anniversary of the opening of The Harbour Bridge in 1932. If you'd like a breathtaking and safe way to celebrate the occasion, do The Bridge climb. You strap yourself onto a wire, walk underneath the bridge, along one of the curves to the top of the bridge, across the bridge and back down the opposite curve. From the top you experience one of greatest views in the world, especially at night, with the city lights twinkling across the horizon in a velvet sky. Simply spectacular.

Get your Rocks on
Just moments from the CBD, you'll find The Rocks, which forms part of the oldest, residential precinct of Sydney. It's a historic area with charming terrace houses, pubs and cobbled laneways. Despite inevitable changes made over the years, traces of early convict settlements can still be found, evoking memories of the past. The city's oldest building, Cadman's Cottage (circa1816), is located here, along with the Argyle Cut, excavated by convicts in the 1840s. At the weekend, there's a very popular market in The Rocks. Great for souvenir shopping, trendy sheepskin boots and Australian crafts. (Don't forget the boomerang Sam.)

Sydney Millennium TrainPaddington Market
This market launched the careers of many an Australian fashion designer. It's really worth a trip if you enjoy seeking out fashion that's one-off, funky or stylish. There are dozens of stalls packed with everything from novel t-shirts to accessories, bags to homewares. Every Saturday from 10am-4pm at the Paddington Uniting Church in Oxford Street.

Do The Zoo
Every city has a zoo, but what makes Sydney's Taronga Zoo so stunning is the location. It's in Mosman, on elevated land along the waterfront. This is one of the most beautiful vantage points on the Harbour overlooking Sydney Cove, the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Zigzag your way along the paths and lush greenery, among the animal enclosures, as you capture panoramic, photo perfect water views. All this, just a 12 minute ferry ride from town. (Love that ferry service.)

Iconic Bondi
You can't visit Sydney without a trip to Bondi. It's more than beach, with fantastic cafes, trendy restaurants and ocean-filled pools. A people-watching paradise. My tip: do the cliff walk from Bondi past Tamarama, Bronte and all the way to Coogee. The views are stunning. The path is easy to find and a pleasant way to spend an afternoon with a bit of exercise thrown in. Stop for a swim or a cool beer along the way, or bring a picnic or barbecue.

Feeling Blue?
The Blue Mountains are just an hour away by train from the city and truly a world away. Beautiful, mystical, awe-inspiring scenery. Take the popular walk from Echo Point, Katoomba (known to the aboriginals as "shiny, tumbling water") to see the famous Three Sisters rock formation. Go for a ride on the famous Scenic Railway - the world's steepest incline railway, or do what I do - ride the thrilling new Skyway Cable Car.

Doyles on the Beach, Watsons Bay
On a balmy night or lazy lunchtime, there's nowhere better than a visit to Doyles, a Sydney seafood institution that first opened its doors in 1885. Situated right on the foreshore at Watsons Bay, you can sit down to a cool beer, fine wine and super-fresh seafood, served with style. Sit back and chill. This is Sydney at its best.

After reading all this, I hope the elusive travel bug will see you down here one day, or better still, some day soon.

About the Author
Matthew Lawson heads up Hotel.com.au and is an avid traveller. Check out the low hotel room rates for Sydney plus around the world at Sydney Hotels.

Pictures
Suburbs of Sydney
Sydney Opera House
Chinatown, Sydney
Luna Park, Sydney
Sydney Millennium Train at Central Station

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