Less-Explored Sydney

ABOVE Sydney Opera House viewed from a harbor cruise
ABOVE Sydney Opera House viewed from a harbor cruise

Images of Sydney’s iconic cityscape and harbor may be imprinted on the mind, but there are lesser-known – yet no less exciting – sides to this amazing city


LOCATION Sydney is 180 miles (290 km) northeast of the Australian capital Canberra
POPULATION 4,120,000
VISITORS PER YEAR Over 10 million
DAYTIME TEMPERATURES Jan: 79°F (26°C); Apr: 72°F (22°C); Jul: 61°F (16°C);  Oct: 72°F (22°C)
Sydneysiders often claim they live in one of the most spectacular cities in the world and, especially on a sunny afternoon, it is not hard to see why. The city clings to Sydney Harbour, an ancient, drowned river system, which stretches for 12 miles (20 km) inland, twisting and curving to create beautiful, small bays tucked in between imposing headlands.
At its narrowest point, the Sydney Harbour Bridge connects the northern and southern sides.
Known familiarly as the “coat hanger,” this single- arch bridge spans 1,650 ft (503 m) and is 440 ft (134 m) high. Brave visitors can climb the steel arch to the top for spectacular views, which include the dramatic Sydney Opera House.
Poised like a diver on Bennelong Point, the white “sails” of the Opera House stand in bold contrast to the rich blues and greens of the harbor beyond. This architectural marvel took over 14 years to build, amid great public controversy, but finally opened in 1973 and is now a beloved symbol of the city.
These three icons of the city – Harbor, Bridge, Opera House – are undoubtedly beautiful and unquestionably worth the visit. However, Sydney has much more to offer, too. On its seaward side, there are 37 miles (60 km) of white sandy beaches and towering sandstone cliffs that glow brilliant yellows and oranges in the morning light. On the other three sides, national parks rich in astonishing flora and fauna surround the city in a vast green wilderness of Australian bush, lush river valleys, and magnificent mountains with cascading waterfalls.
The area’s history dates back 40,000 years, and ancient drawings can be seen, carved into sand- stone outcrops by the indigenous tribes that lived here. But there are links within the city itself, and you can get an insight into the living history of the Aboriginal peoples by taking a tour with a local guide. Reminders of Sydney’s colonial past, too – though centered on tourist-friendly The Rocks (the early settlement area) – are scattered throughout the city and beyond. There are places that will give you a sense of the tough life and the tough people that founded this amazing place – you can even camp overnight on a former convict prison island.
The city’s vibrant multicultural mix is reflected in many ways, from authentic ethnic dining to local festivals – it’s possible here to attend a corroboree, or parade for St. Patrick’s Day, or dance alongside dragons at Chinese New Year.

Sydney’s little neighborhoods and hidden corners must be explored to discover quiet parks offering spectacular views; gems of modern art and flamboyant counter-culture; chic restaurants and quirky bars; and deserted coves and leafy lanes.



Watch almost any Australian movie and the cinematographer will, at some stage, pan across Sydney’s most spectacular sights: Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. The world is also familiar with seeing them illuminated by spectacular midnight fireworks at New Year.


The key Sydney sights are so well known and photographed that visitors may have a sense of déjà vu upon arrival – you might not experience that true traveler’s thrill of discovery. And comparisons could be odious if you first get to see them on a dull or rainy day.


Catching these icons from different angles can bring a fresh outlook.

Watch the setting sun silhouette the bridge and Opera House from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair in the Botanic Gardens, and make sure you stay for the floodlights which follow. Or walk across the deck level of the Harbour Bridge to Millers Point before catching a ferry that traverses the harbor and stops at some of the smaller bays.


Getting There and Around

Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport is 6 miles (9 km) from the city center.

Where to Eat

Sydney’s multicultural heritage has inspired an exciting fusion of food traditions. Try Cafe Sydney on the top level of Customs House, relax on the open deck at Catalina in Rose Bay or mingle with local beachgoers at Speedo’s on Bondi.

Where to Stay

Blue Parrot Backpackers is a friendly hostel located in trendy Potts Point. The Lord Nelson is the city’s oldest hotel, and is full of character. The luxury Park Hyatt is next to the Bridge, with views of the harbor and Opera House.

When to Go

Sydney’s weather can be rather unpredictable. However, in general, the summer (Dec–Feb) is great for festivals and beaches if you don’t mind the holiday crowds. Spring and fall are cooler, but spring is generally drier and less humid. There may be some cold snaps in winter (Jun–Aug), but it’s a good time for indoor cultural events.

Budget per Day for Two

Allow at least US$170 per day, depending on accommodations, excluding tours and admissions.

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