Guide to Australia

Your Tour, Travel & Vacation Guide to Adventures in Australia!


Sydney is the birthplace of modern Australia. Today the Sydney metropolitan area covers around 5000 square km. Sydney is big, sprawling, brash at times and sensitive at others. Sydney is complex, where the breathtaking beauty of the Opera House and the harbour on a warm summer's day lives side by side with the industrial bleakness of Silverwater. Yet it is Sydney's very diversity that makes it one of the world's great cities.


Sydney Harbour with the Sydney Opera House on the left, the central business district in the image centre and Sydney Harbour Bridge on the right


The most polyglot of all the Australian cities, Sydney is admirably racially tolerant. Though many immigrants band together in suburban enclaves - Vietnamese in Cabramatta, Chinese in Strathfield, and Japanese on the North Shore - Sydneysiders appreciate that their commonality of interests, language and customs initially needs the reinforcement of proximity. The Asian migration has broadened Sydney culturally and, of course, from a culinary perspective, just as the Italians and Greeks did 40 years ago. Someone driving through Campsie, for example, could think they had been teleported to South-East Asia, with shopfronts bearing unfamiliar characters to advertise their trade. Where Greeks and Italians introduced now-everyday items like garlic and chilli, the Asians have brought with them ingredients such as daikon (Japanese radish), lemongrass and bok choi so now chefs and suburban cooks alike can buy them fresh. As a natural corollary, Sydneysiders have a profusion of choices when eating out: every cuisine in the world is represented from Argentinian to Zulu.



The wonderful climate, more hot than cold, ensures Sydneysiders love outdoor recreation. Weekend barbecues

entertaining friends or summers at the beaches that stretch from Palm Beach in the north to Maroubra in the south, are the norm. Sailing, anything from boards to barquentines, in the Harbour, Pittwater or Port Hacking, as well as fishing and golf, are all popular pastimes on Sydney's waterways.


The Central Business District (CBD) is geographically and figuratively Sydney's core. Part of Sydney's appeal is its energy,

Sydney Opera House & Sydney Harbour Bridge at Australia Adventures

and much of that has to do with business drive. This city is one of the most important commercial and financial centres of the Pacific Rim. Yet while its more modern skyscrapers are jaggedly angular, preservation orders ensured that the architectural charm and comparative softness of the nineteenth century have remained a part of the cityscape. Dwarfed by glass, steel and concrete is the Victorian extravagance of the Town Hall and Queen Victoria Building, the neo-Gothic of St Andrew's and St Mary's cathedrals and the colonial genius of Francis Greenway's Macquarie Street buildings. They survive as a restful contrast to the new, encapsulating the ethos of the city itself. Only in the Rocks -that time capsule of Sydney's past, fronting Circular Quay and winding around to Campbell's Cove -is there any sense of architectural homogeneity. Warehouses have become restaurants, brothels are now art galleries, but it is still what Sydney looked like when it was much younger and more cocksure. But instead of larrikins, touts and shady characters, the Rocks is full of tourists, souvenir shops, good pubs and live music. (Other suburbs have retained the grace of the bygone: Glebe, Balmain and Paddington are perhaps the best examples.) Staff at Sydney backpackers can help you find your way around the city and suggest some local and cheap things to do.


Exploring Sydney from the CBD is like peeling the layers of an onion -from the inside. To the east are the traditional lairs of Sydney's 'elite': Rose Bay, Darling Point, Double Bay; also Bondi -a stronghold of New Zealanders' and Randwick, with its famous racecourse. Closer in is Oxford Street, the mecca of the gay community and scene of the biggest homosexual ritual in the world -the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. It is also famous for its cafe's and cheap, imaginative eateries. To the south is Kingsford Smith Airport, and the local suburbs of Mascot and Rockdale. The busiest aerodrome in Australia, it sits on Botany Bay. Further on is the Royal National Park, the first to be proclaimed in Australia and the second in the world, which, despite its proximity to the city, still retains rugged areas of natural bushland, natural swimming holes and delightful coastal bushwalks.


Across 'the Coathanger', as the Harbour Bridge is affectionately known, is North Sydney, a secondary business district filled with advertising agencies, funky eateries and smart young things. Directly under the bridge is Luna Park, a famous

Sydney Harbour Bridge at Australia Adventures

 amusement park, clinging to the harbour foreshores. The outer north and the peninsula hold Sydney's alternative 'prestige' suburbs: Palm Beach, Whale Beach, Turramurra, Pymble and Wahroonga are all sought-after areas. Many are now moving even further out to 'acreages'; large blocks of land on the periphery of the north-western metropolitan area -in suburbs like Dural, Annangrove and Glenorie. But the west is presently the most dynamic player in Sydney's development. As Sydney galloped across the Cumberland Plain, engulfing previously separate entities such as Parramatta, Campbelltown and Liverpool, the outskirts have become integrated. Sydney best epitomises the realisation of the great Australian dream of 'owning your own quarter-acre': home ownership is regarded almost as a birthright. The west also contains some of Sydney's most popular drawcards, such as Australia's Wonderland, great for children, and Eastern Creek Raceway, which hosts international motorsport events.


Sydney has many landmarks, both geographical and cultural: White City is the aspiration of every young tennis player; Taronga Park Zoo flanks the harbour; the Mitchell Library, the best reference source in the country and Bradley's Head, with gun emplacements that never fired a shot in anger. Then there's Bondi Beach, which every overseas visitor has to see, Kings Cross, seedy by day, steamy by night, and Homebush Bay, home of the spectacular Sydney 2000 Olympics. Though it perhaps lacks the international sporting sanctity of Lords in the United Kingdom, the Sydney Cricket Ground is hallowed ground for followers of both the willow and the pigskin, for not only have some of the greatest cricket test matches been played there, but all Rugby League Grand Finals. It is also impossible to omit from a list of Sydney's landmarks the Entertainment Centre, where performers ranging from the world's best rock bands to Julio Iglesias and Australia's own Dame Joan have thrilled audiences for some years now.


All in the one day, there is much on offer: Sydney has karaoke in a Camden club and Rimsky-Korsakov in the Opera Opera House in Sydney Australia at Australia AdventuresHouse, ice-skating in Ryde and eisteddfods in the Town Hall; there are rages in Rydalmere or romantic dinners in Darlinghurst, at the same time a street party is happening in Padstow while Heidelberg School paintings are viewed in posh Paddington galleries. In this great city, you can get, see or do just about anything your heart desires.


Like many other large cities, not all of the city's workforce lives locally. Thanks to improved road networks like the northern expressway, many people commute from as far away as the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains. Ferries are used by Sydneysiders as public transport. A ride across one of the finest natural harbours in the world will take you to Manly, filled with beachside footpath cafe's and restaurants. Though not as famous as Bondi Beach, Manly generally has better surfing, and nearby Fairy Bower is very popular with boardriders. On the way across on the ferry is Fort Denison, a martello (small, round) tower that was built after an unannounced visit by a fleet of American warships in 1839 prompted concerns that the harbour should have some defences. Despite this, it was not completed until 1857, after the Crimean War gave rise to a 'Russian scare'. Before the fort was built, the small island known to the Aborigines as 'Mat-te-wa-ye', a 'favourite rest place', was termed Pinchgut because really troublesome convicts in the First Fleet were put there with practically no food. Australia's brutal colonial past is told in the story of convict Francis Morgan, who was condemned to hang there in chains. Three years later, the skeleton still remained on view and the Aboriginals completely avoided the place.


Sydney, Australia


Something else you would see on the ferry ride would have been the Royal Botanic Gardens, 24 ha (60 acres) of parkland right in the middle of the city, on the foreshores of what used to be called Farm Cove. They contain a stone wall that marks the site of Australia's first vegetable garden, which was planted at the instigation of Governor Phillip. The Gardens boast huge, old Moreton Bay figs and its national herbarium displays plant specimens collected by botanist Joseph Banks on his voyage of discovery with Captain James Cook in 1770.


Alternatively, you could take a leisurely walk in Hyde Park in the centre of Sydney. One of its most outstanding features is the Archibald Fountain, which has three tableaux, one of which depicts Theseus slaying the Minotaur. Just across College Street is the Australian Museum, a vast, rambling natural history museum with some excellent hands-on exhibits, and north of Hyde Park is the Art Gallery of New South Wales, an imposing neo-Classical building.

Sydney has some excellent restaurants, and they represent all types of cuisine, many of which have set new standards Sydney Harbour at Australia Adventuresin food presentation. From intimate eateries to world-class hotel restaurants; from the cafe's to the innovative, trendsetting restaurant; from the informal to the formal, Sydney has it all in the line of eating establishments. Even on weekdays, Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay, to the west of the CBD, throng with crowds eager to shop, eat or simply walk around sightseeing. The aquarium here is one of the greatest in the world while over the other side of the National Trust-classified Pyrmont Bridge is the Powerhouse Museum, exhibiting planes, boats, cars and steam engines and is well worth a look. The Darling Harbour complex itself houses a number of exhibition halls. Abutting Darling Harbour is Chinatown, where visitors can choose from a bewildering array of restaurants or buy specialist ingredients for cooking or herbal medicines. There is also the opportunity to stroll through the Chinese Gardens, incorporating the Garden of Friendship, a gift to Sydney from the people of Quandong Province in China. If sushi is more enticing, just a little further west at Pyrmont are the Sydney Fish Markets, where you can not only buy superb fresh seafood but dine at one of the many seafood restaurants. Many people go there at weekends, order a bottle of wine and sit outside savouring lunch and the harbour views.


Heading west is the Blue Mountains, which, like Bowral and Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands, used to be the summer escape of Sydney's rich. These mountains have a wealth of scenic bushwalking trails, restaurants and gracious old guesthouses. The Paragon Cafe's in Katoomba for example, has been famous for its chocolates since the 1930s, and a little further up from Katoomba at Medlow Bath is the old Hydro Majestic Hotel, which used to be notorious for illicit weekends away. The Blue Mountains' most famous landmark is the Three Sisters, an eroded, sandstone rock formation right a the edge of Katoomba.


Sydney hosts a number of events and festivals. In January, Sydney Festival highlights include Symphony Under the Sydney Harbour Bridge at Australia AdventuresStars and Opera in the Park. Both events are held in the Domain for free and attract thousands of summer picnickers; at the same time there is the Sydney Fringe Festival based at Bondi. The Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is a highlight each March and is televised globally. At Easter it is time for the Royal Easter Show, held at Sydney Showground, Homebush Bay, and National Trust Heritage Week. June sees in the Sydney Film Festival and the Darling Harbour Jazz Festival, and July, the International Music Festival. August is the time for the annual City to Surf, a run from the centre of the city to Bondi, raising money for charity. Manly holds its jazz festival in October; in November it is time for the Australian Craft Show. December includes Carols in the Domain, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and of course the New Year's Eve celebrations, which include a spectacular fireworks display that is televised all around the world.