Sydney, Australia’s first and largest city, buzzes with multicultural excitement. Draped across a sparkling harbour, crossed with a world-famous bridge, showcased by a unique opera house, fringed with sun-soaked beaches and glorious national parks and sprinkled with fine restaurants and bars offering food and drinks from across the globe, Sydney is a lively outdoor city to enjoy and experience.
The City, Rocks and Circular Quay
While a single day leaves little opportunity to enjoy a number of galleries and museums, it offers a taste of Sydney and its fine outdoors.
From Hyde Park, stroll down Macquarie Street past a number of Australia’s earliest buildings – St Mary’s Cathedral, Hyde Park Barracks (originally convict quarters and a law court), the Mint (originally the Rum Hospital built by two merchants in exchange for a monopoly on trading rum in the colony), Parliament House (the other half of the Rum Hospital), Sydney Hospital, State Library and Conservatory of Music, Government House and into the verdant lushness of the Royal Botanic Gardens(established in 1816 and including the colony’s first farm).
There are a multitude of breakfast options. Enjoy a pre-bought breakfast under one of the shady trees overlooking the sparking harbour, stroll through the gardens past the Opera House and pick up breakfast at one of the numerous cafes overlooking Circular Quay (the original Sydney Cove and now the major ferry terminal for harbour transport) or wander into the nearby Rocks area (where the original Europeans settled in 1788) where a thriving and buzzing market takes place every weekend. While the market food can be good, the market is very touristy – there is even a chance to buy purses made from male kangaroo’s nether regions. Take a brief detour from Circular Quay to the elegant Georgian splendour of Customs House which has a superb model of Sydney underneath the floor at ground level.
Just west of Circular Quay is the excellent Museum of Contemporary Art and modest Cadmans Cottage, the oldest residence in Australia. Named after a pardoned convict (after serving 17 years) who received transportation for life for stealing a horse, the house originally sat on the harbour shore assigned to the government coxswains and crew.
For a nose-bleed view of the city, shoot up to the top of Sydney Tower, a narrow straw-shaped column for startling 360 degree panoramas of Sydney and surrounds, including the full extent of the harbour and the extensive coastline.
Bondi, Watson’s Bay and South Head
Pack your swimmers and head for Bondi Beach and enjoy a surf at Australia’s most iconic beach. Take a short taxi ride back to Watson’s Baylined with restored fisherman’s cottages and a large peaceful park. Head back to the jetty at Watson’s Bay for relaxed take-away fish and chips (or a fancier seafood meal at Doyle’s). If there’s time, take a stroll to South Head to help walk off lunch with its candy-coloured lighthouse and superb views of the harbour entrance to North Head and back over the city skyline. Continue to The Gap for dramatic cliff-top panoramas before returning to Watson’s Bay. Jump on the ferry to return to the city traversing some of Australia’s ritziest, most exclusive and expensive suburbs and passing near the Opera House and with superb views of the Harbour Bridge.
Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay
Wander over to Darling Harbour which revived an aging dock area in the 1980s as a celebration of Australia’s bicentennial. A number of attractions include the Chinese Friendship Gardens, Maritime Museum (including a full-sized replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavour – imagine sailing around the world in such a small boat), Powerhouse Museum and Aquarium (with superb oceanariums featuring dugongs, seals, sharks, rays and more). Dine at one of the twenty or more restaurants along Cockle Bay and enjoy the sun sinking into the sky. Wander back to your hotel via Circular Quay an enjoy an evening drink overlooking the harbour soaking in night views of the bridge and Opera House and reliving your perfect day in Sydney.