about Sydney, Australia, by reading Exploring the "Great Down Under"
- Sydney, Australia by
Rich Vallaster, WTA member and leisure traveler. It features all
you'll need to know to plan your trip including how to get there,
objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to do.
At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the contact
information for your easy reference. Enjoy!
Exploring the "Great Down Under"
- Sydney, Australia
Rich Vallaster, WTA Member and Leisure Traveler
Sydney Harbour and Opera House
Whether you are looking
for arts and entertainment – history and culture – surf and sand –
adventure or fine dining and shopping – Sydney has it all. Each year
since 1996, Travel and Leisure Magazine rates the World’s Best Cities,
and for the fourth year in row Sydney has topped the list with good
reason. It has much to offer for the young and old adventurer alike.
As foreign countries go,
you will enjoy the ability to quickly blend in and speak English. You will certainly learn “Aussie talk” and their laid back
approach to life and living – enjoy it or “no worries mate” as they
say. Sydneysiders enjoy the
average of 342 sunny days a year. The
mild climate and access to beaches, surfing, and sailing is a way of life
as is its clean and friendly environment. With a very strong U.S. dollar
(typically $1 USD to every $2 AUDs) tourist dollars go a long way.
The history of Australia
is a short one. Australia
celebrated its first 100 years since Federation in 2001.Ironically, convicts, the soldiers who kept them, and the original
settlers founded the country. Also unique to Australia is the Aboriginal history that dates
back to some of the oldest humans on this earth. Its unique history and eclectic blend of people make the city
and country what it is today.
Sydney is the largest
city in Australia with a population of almost 4 million people. It is simple to navigate and walking is the best way to get around;
it's safe, too. The subway,
overhead rail, ferries, busses, as well as cabs are also reliable means to
navigate the city. Each are also very inexpensive and simple to figure
It is best to orient
yourself to Circular Quay (pronounced key) as this is the center of
activity and leads to all points of interest. The Quay is where you can catch the ferries to beaches, the zoo,
Darling Harbour and other points around Sydney. You will find the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and
the historic “Rocks” district all around the “U” shaped Quay.
The area known as The
Rocks is the oldest part of Sydney. Here you will find a collection of quaint shops, galleries,
pubs, sandwich cafes and during the weekends an outdoor market for
artisans lining the main street. This is a must see! Along the edge of the water are great restaurants with spectacular
views of the opera house. Taking
the historic tour of The Rocks is a wonderful way to learn the brief yet
colorful history of Australia and Sydney itself.
For the best views of the
city and the Sydney Opera House you must venture onto the Sydney Harbour
Bridge. You can walk across
the entire span of the bridge at no cost. For $5 (AUD) you can climb to a bridge museum and look out
the first bridge tower. For
those more adventurous, the $120 (AUD) three-hour bridge climb takes you
to the very top arc of the bridge (http://www.bridgeclimb.com/).
It's an incredible view and a group photo is included in the fee.
Tours are available for
the Sydney Opera House and are your best bet to see the entire huge
complex complete with three stages and a massive concert hall. A must is taking in a play, opera or
concert. Tickets are available from their website
and can be purchased through it before you leave for your trip.
As you work your way
around the Quay past the Opera house you will find the Botanical Gardens,
a lush oasis on the edge of the city with spectacular views of the city
Catch a ferry to Taronga
to enjoy a day at a world premiere zoo or pack a daypack and head to the
beaches. Bondi Beach is the
best known beach and is recommended in the tour guides, but a nicer and
more accessible beach is Manly Beach. With a beautiful ferry ride out to Manly Harbour you can really see
Sydney the way it is meant to be seen – from the water. Once your ferry docks, you will walk along a long promenade of
shops and restaurants to meet the white sand beach and blue ocean.
Bondi Beach is a must see if time permits but does take a little
more effort. This mile-long beach capped with huge rock formations is
probably Sydney’s best known young “hip” beach.
To venture through
Darling Harbour, walk a few blocks from the Quay through the Sydney
Business District. You'll find some of the Olympic Games sites, a casino,
aquarium, museums, and huge shopping malls and restaurants. This is a
great place for nightlife without having to venture to Kings Cross. For the most memorable experience whether you are a novice or
sailor you will want to head to Sydney By Sail
at the Australian National Maritime Museum and rent a sailboat with a
skipper and enjoy a few hours out in the harbour. This experience is one you will never forget.
Along with the sites
mentioned above, Sydney is dotted with other points of interest like the
AMP Tower where you'll want to have a meal and take in the best view of
all of Sydney in its revolving tower. Patty’s Market on the edge of China Town and near Darling Harbour
is great for cheap souvenirs, but is only open on the weekends. Kings Cross is considered the red light district of Sydney and
hosts nightlife like non-other. The
downtown area is great for shopping in all of the brand name stores.
If you are looking to get
out of the city for a day the Blue Mountains (http://www.bluemts.com.au/)
are a must see. Here the
sightseer to the serious hiker can find something to do. The Blue Mountains are best described as the Grand Canyon with a
tropical rain forest. You can
ride the world's steepest incline to put you in the depths of the rain
forest or take the hike to the Three Sisters to climb the Great Stairs.
Also outside the city are
the main Olympic venues. To
get into the main stadium where most of the events were held you can take
the $30 (AUD) tour. With the Olympic torch only extinguished a short while
ago, the spirit still lives on.
Your airline choices are
Air New Zealand and Quantas Airlines. Plan to spend $1,500 for a ticket
from the east coast, and $900-1,000 from the west coast for Pacific Class
(coach) seats; $10,000 for 1st class. Most of your expense for
the trip will be spent on getting there. The coach seats are fairly
comfortable with footrests and adjustable headrests, and reclining seats.
1st class accommodations offer full reclining beds with your
own television and other amenities. Regardless of travel class, all drinks
(including alcoholic ones) and movies are free. Your Visa is included in
the plane ticket, too. Good travel deals can be found as Australia wants
to recoup their Olympic Games investment through the tourist trade. It's a
15-hour non-stop flight from Los Angeles and the flights leave at 8 or 9
Australia is 15-16 hours
ahead of US time depending upon whether it's Daylight Savings Time or not
in the US.
Australia's summer is
during our winter, so the best time to go is December, January or
February. The summer weather is typically sunny and dry without high
humidity. Temperatures are warm at 85-98 degrees in the summer. In
contrast, July and August temperatures are in the 50s.
The exchange rate is
typically $2 AUD for every $1 USD. An example of their currency is $1 and
$2 coins and $5 bills. Your best bet is to carry American Express
Travelers Checks and then exchange these for currency. You get your best
exchange rate through them and there are no service fees if you exchange
at American Express offices.
If you're traveling
during Aussie holiday season which is January when everyone
takes off the whole month, you need to book early, 4-5 months out, to get
the best deals. The most expensive properties are in the historic district
of the Rocks and the Business District of Sydney. The Park Hyatt is here
and overlooks the Sydney Opera House. The major hotel chains have
properties throughout Sydney and you can locate them through Sydney's
visitor bureau website,
The Rocks area will be the most convenient for you. Your rates will
average $100-150 AUD ($50-$75 USD) per night in the Sydney area and then
go up as you get closer to the Opera House. The less expensive area is in
China Town and surrounding area. Here you can find "traveler's
hotels" that cost $86-110 AUD ($43-55 USD).
Doyles Restaurant -
offers the best view of the Opera House. It features seafood and is
excellent. Plan on spending $20-30 AUD ($10-15) for a meal. A
"booking" or reservation is recommended.
Try out the restaurant at
the Opera House.
In The Rocks area, the
G'Day Cafe is a terrific sandwich shop. Average lunch will be $6-8 AUD
($3-4 USD). Also, the Orient Hotel is good and is a sit down restaurant.
Reference the tour guides
including Fodor's for other recommendations.
Walking is the best way
to get around and is very safe. Sydney doesn't typically pose travel
security problems. Circular Quay is where the ferries and train stations
are. Cabs and busses are also good alternatives to walking and are not
Sydney is unbelievable. Patty's Market (near China Town and Darling
Harbour) is a good bet for cheap souvenirs. Downtown Sydney is where
you'll find the brand name stores. You will find most things very
affordable considering the exchange rate. Opals are especially a good deal
Notice: This information is current as of
March 2001. It is recommended that you contact the numbers, and/or
visit the websites above to determine any changes to the