Sightseeing in Sydney
Today, Darling Harbour is primarily an entertainment area in central Sydney.
In the 19th century, it was the busiest port in Australia. However, in the second half of the 20th century the facilities at Botany Bay, to the south of Sydney, took over as the major port, while the zone of Darling Harbour became derelict. Then, in the 1980s a redevelopment project turned it into a big recreational area.
Nowadays, this vibrant place is full of hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. It has three museums, a convention centre, a casino, the IMAX theatre, the Chinese Garden of Friendship, and the Sydney Aquarium. The Aquarium is one of the main attractions of Darling Harbour due to its extensive display of marine life. Sharks, stingrays, and other marine creatures can be observed closely by visiting the 145 meter long underwater tunnel.
Darling Harbour is within walking distance of the Town Hall and of the Queen Victoria Building, and it is easy to get to by regular bus services.
The Opera House is situated at the Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour and is close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the central part of the business district (CBD), and the Royal Botanical Gardens.
The Sydney Opera House stands as a symbol of Sydney and of the whole of Australia. Its distinctive shell-like design makes this building one the best examples of the 20th century architecture. Every year, it attracts millions of visitors who come from all over the world to view the performances and to appreciate its emblematic design. The Opera House stages about two thousand events per year and is a home to a number of performing companies such as the principal national opera company, Opera Australia, as well as the world acclaimed Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and the Melbourne-based Australian Ballet company.
Bondi Beach, on the outskirts of Sydney, 7 kilometres to the south and a 30 minute ride by public transport, has worldwide recognition for its large expanse of sand, great surfing, and bohemian lifestyle. The beach was a setting for numerous films and TV programmes, and in the 2000 Summer Olympics it was home to the beach volleyball competition. It has two renowned lifeguard clubs that have won many prizes in life-saving competitions, and remain on a continuous vigil looking after the safety of swimmers and surfers. Bondi Beach is about one kilometre long and connects to the other beaches in the area through the Coogee coastal walk known for its beautiful views.
Just off the beach, the busy Campbell Parade is full of swimwear boutiques, souvenir shops, outdoor cafes and bars. Other notable locations in the Bondi area are Hall Street with fashion shops, and Curlewis Street with its art galleries. As the sun goes down, the many pubs and clubs take over providing the perfect relaxing atmosphere for the sunburnt beachgoers, and evening and late night visitors.
The Rocks is the birthplace of Sydney. It was in this area that the first convicts deported from England were allowed to settle at the end of the 18th century, and began to colonize the area that became Sydney. The punishment for the crimes they committed was the exile to overseas far-away lands. However, once landed and settled in special camps, some for men, others for women, the recently arrived were relatively free to start their new life. This penal system lasted during the first three decades of Sydney’s history and was fundamental for the eventual growth of the city.
Cadman’s Cottage still survives from that early period, and is one of Sydney's oldest buildings. It was situated at the water’s edge, and was used by the crews of government rowing boats and their coxswains. John Cadman, one of the convicts, sent to Australia for stealing a horse, who was the last government coxswain, lived there. The cottage is named after him. Nowadays, it stands on dry ground as the construction of Circular Quay meant the reclamation of submerged land for the extension of the harbour, which moved some 100 metres into the estuary.
In the 1840s the area became a centre of trading, at a time when Australian commerce was booming. Being a portside location with its convict ancestry, the Rocks attracted and gained notoriety because of all sorts of outcasts who frequented it: convicts, gangs, drunken sailors, etc. Not surprisingly, the area in those days was peppered with pubs and brothels.
Towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century the Rocks became a working- class neighbourhood with the perpetuating reputation of a slum that in 1900 was exacerbated following Sydney’s plague outbreak. The remaining terraced houses of the time should not be missed and can be explored by visiting the Susannah Place Museum that recreates an old day atmosphere of Sydney’s life. In the 1970s the Rocks’ residents resisted the modernization plans for their home area. By doing so, they preserved the Rocks character that now has become an imperative historic touristic destination with its cobbled streets, character buildings, and numerous museums and galleries. Apart from that, it has a vibrant night life and some of the best pubs and restaurants in Sydney. A relaxed way to visit the area is to join one of the tours that take visitors through Sydney’s oldest pubs. It provides an overview of the Rocks’ earlier inhabitants, and of a way of life that some claim to be at the origin of the Australian culture.
The Rocks is also known as a place to indulge into bargaining during market days. Every Friday, the stalls at the Foodies Market is the place to get anything from fresh farm produce, to jams and spreads, or sit down and enjoy some culinary delights; or try the Weekend Markets, which are highly recommended to get authentic Australian souvenirs at affordable prices.
Manly is a popular beach town north of Sydney. Known for its casual atmosphere, it offers its visitors a lot to do in a concentrated space. It is 30 minutes away from Sydney's Circular Quay by ferry boat. The spectacular sailing trip along the magnificent waters of the Sydney Harbour finishes at Manly Wharf adjacent to a tranquil beach and surrounded by waterfront restaurants and bars. Manly Wharf connects to the promenade that encompasses three oceanic beaches: Queencliff, South Steyne, and North Steyne.
There are many pathways and coastal trails, which are easy to explore on foot, or by bike. From Manly, there is a marvellous 10 kilometres walk to Spit Bridge, that takes about four hours at a moderate pace. The walkway goes through parks and reserves and there are lots of scenic views over Sydney Harbour, along the way.
Manly has a Marine Wildlife Sanctuary where the most adventurous visitors can dive in the company of sharks. There is also the Manly Surf School for beginners and advanced surfers. The most experienced venture into the Fairy Bower reef break, which is a sure place to catch a big wave.
The Blue Mountains are one of the most popular Australian outdoor locations not too far from the busy Sydney metropolis, reached in about one hour by car , rail, or one of the many organized tourist excursions. The Greater Blue Mountains Area is included in the UNESCO Heritage List as a place of outstanding natural beauty, a bio-diversity hotspot, and a habitat for rare species of flora and fauna. There are eight national parks included in the protected area.
The best way to appreciate the Blue Mountains is to join the Scenic World rides that are on offer in Katoomba, the major town in the area, 110 Km from Sydney. There is the Scenic Cableway, the Scenic Railway, the Scenic Walkway, and the Scenic Skyway to choose from. Of particular interest is Katoomba’s Scenic Railway. It was built at the end of the 19th century for coal mining extraction. Now it ranks as one of the most popular man-made attractions in Australia. It has the steepest railway descent in the world travelling through a tunnel and down into the forest of the Jamison Valley. The Scenic Cableway is next to the railway; it is the steepest aerial cable ride in Australia, transporting visitors over the Jamison Valley. The recommended circuit starts with the Scenic Railway ride to the Jamison Valley, followed by the Scenic Walkway that takes you through the valley to the bottom where the Scenic Cableway returns you to the top. Katoomba’s information office is at the Echo Point Lookout, which is best the place to stop and enjoy the views of the Three Sisters. This spectacular rock formation is the best known image of the Blue Mountains. It is even possible to view the Three Sisters at night as they are floodlit providing a magical sight against the dark sky.