Sydney, known as the Harbor City, is one of the most vibrant and exciting cities on the planet with an enviable reputation as one of the world’s most beautiful and livable cities. Brimming with history, nature, and culture, its sparkling harbor, dazzling beaches and sunny, Mediterranean climate are matched by an array of world-class museums, art galleries, and a dazzling nightlife! The city enjoys over 300 sunny days each year but travelers will find it comfortable to visit any time of year.
Sydney hosted the Olympic Games of 2000, and continues to attract and host large international events.
Sydney is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, with one-third of its population born overseas. Early European settlers were largely from England, Ireland and Scotland. The Australian gold rush in the mid-19th Century attracted many more immigrants, including a significant number of Chinese. WWII changed the country’s immigration patterns significantly where migrants from countries as diverse as Italy, Greece, Germany, Holland, New Zealand, Poland, Lebanon, Iraq, South Africa and the Pacific Islands began to arrive. In recent decades there has been a huge surge in Asian immigration, which has helped to further shape Sydney’s culture.
As an homage to the many immigrants that have stepped foot on her shores, Sydney has carefully restored Q Station (Quarantine Station) to the tune of AUD19 million. Where it once served as Australia’s first and longest-running quarantine station, and a temporary home for more than 13,000 people over 150 years of operation, it now operates as a profitable tourism venture while at the same time funding the preservation of Sydney’s historic buildings and artifacts.
Preserved within 30 acres of the Sydney Harbor National Park, Q Station’s location is among the most dramatic in Sydney. Secluded in a sandy cove beside native bush land and towering cliffs, it offers views spanning the broadest reaches of the harbor from the city to the seaside suburb of Manly.
Let us not forget that the settlement of Sydney began its life as a penal colony, with a total of 568 male and 191 female prisoner convicts with 13 children, 206 marines with 26 wives and 13 children, and 20 officials having made the voyage.
The Hyde Park Barracks was built in 1819 to house, clothe and feed convict men and boys. This impressive brick building and walled compound, located at the head of Sydney’s historic Macquarie Street, was designed by convict architect Francis Greenway.
After 1848 the main dormitory held newly arrived female immigrants while a handful of government agencies made use of surrounding buildings. In 1862, separate wards for destitute women were added upstairs and the Barracks became known as the Hyde Park Asylum. Sydney celebrated the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1887 with the construction of major public buildings and monuments. The Hyde Park Barracks became a hub of government departments and renamed Chancery Square. Until the late 1970s, thousands of public servants, legal workers and litigants occupied dingy office spaces, courtrooms and corridors, scattered throughout the increasingly crowded complex. Today the Hyde Park Barracks serves as a museum.
Within a 15-minute walking distance from the barracks is the most sophisticated Gothic Revival building in the colony, the Government House , built between 1837 and 1845, for the Governor of New South Wales.
The ground floor state rooms include the dining room, drawing room and ballroom. These contain an outstanding collection of nineteenth and twentieth century furnishings and decoration that reflect changing styles and the differing tastes of the Governors and their wives. The first floor includes state apartments that were used by the Governor, visiting members of the Royal Family and other Heads of State.
The house is surrounded by an important historic garden with exotic trees, shrubs, carriage ways, paths and terraces overlooking Sydney Harbor.
Sydney’s large natural harbor was the reason that the original penal settlement was established in the area, near what is now known as Circular Quay. The area now boasts countless skyscrapers, high-rises, and houses all around its shores.
The harbor is served by ferry services that transport passengers around the harbor. An excellent way to see both the harbor and Sydney attractions is to take a ferry east from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo or Manly or west under the Harbor Bridge towards Parramatta.
The world famous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race begins every year on Boxing Day, at Sydney Harbor. Thousands of spectator craft take to the water to send off the yachts as they commence on their grueling journey to Hobart.
If you please, you can take the climb of your life to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge with BridgeClimb Sydney. With their Climb Leaders as your guide, you will suit-up in their specially designed outdoor gear and ascend. From its fascinating underbelly to its summit, the Bridge is the pride of Sydney. There are four different climbs to the top – The Bridge Climb, The Discovery Climb, The Express Climb and The Mandarin Climb. Each climb route is available at all times of the day (The Mandarin Climb is available during the day only). From dawn until dusk, the view from the top is always different.
For the less daring, there is the New Manly Wharf , just a ferry ride across beautiful Sydney Harbor. This historic gateway to Manly has been transformed into a must see Sydney tourist attraction, with Sydney’s finest waterfront restaurants, entertainment and fun activities such as parasailing and kayaking. The New Manly Wharf is considered an oasis of sensory and gastronomic delights on the waterfront.
With spectacular views of the harbor, Sydney’s much loved Luna Park is a magnificently restored 1930s amusement park with crazy rides like the Tango Train and nostalgic favorites such as the beautifully restored Ferris Wheel.
Situated on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbor, close to the Sydney Harbor Bridge, is the internationally recognized Sydney Opera House. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the facility formally opened on October 20, 1973. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on June 28, 2007, it is among the busiest performing arts centers in the world, hosting over 1,500 performances each year attended by over 1.2 million people. You can take part in one of the many guided tours of the facility which range from simply touring the backstage to the” Tour and Tasting Plate” which combines The Sydney Opera House Tour with world-class alfresco dining at Opera Kitchen. There are also several multilingual tours available. (http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/visit/tours.aspx)
The Royal Botanic Gardens is the most centrally located of the three major botanical gardens open to the public in Sydney (the others being the Mount Annan Botanic Garden and the Mount Tomah Botanic Garden). The gardens were opened in 1816 and access is free.
Bondi Beach is one of Australia’s most famous beaches and among the world’s most well-known beaches. It is located 4 miles east of the Sydney business district. “Bondi” or “Boondi” is an Aboriginal word meaning water breaking over rocks or noise of water breaking over rocks.
The Three Sisters are a rock formation in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. Situated close to the town of Katoomba they are one of the Blue Mountains’ best known sites. Their names are Meehni , Wimlah , and Gunnedoo . The Aboriginal legend of the Three Sisters states that the three sisters lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. They fell in love with three men from a neighboring tribe but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and decided to use force to capture the three sisters. A major tribal battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back.
If one word can sum up Sydney, it is diversity. This is a city of diverse culture, a diverse ethnic blend, diverse shopping and diverse experiences.
Photo credits: Loraine McWilliams