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Jumping on a flight to Sydney is like taking three holidays in one, to a city complete with all the attractions of a world-class cultural centre along with fantastic beaches and a mountain range nearby.
The man-made wonders of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House battle for attention with the natural treasures of Bondi Beach and the Blue Mountains in a city that really does have it all. Besides all that, a holiday in Sydney offers the chance to delve into a city with a vibrant art scene that is buzzing with life at all hours.
From unpromising beginnings Sydney has risen to become one of the largest cities in the southern hemisphere, as well as one of the most impressive. When the British first began to colonise the island continent, it was at Sydney Cove they first laid down roots and built the first penal colony.
It is safe to say that this was far from being the first settlement in the area. When the British arrived in 1788, an estimated 5,000 aborigines of the Cadigal group were living in the area and it is believed to have been inhabited for over 30,000 years. The visitors were not put off by this and the Colony of New South Wales was inaugurated on January 26, 1788.
Its early history was marked by violence, with frequent fighting with the aboriginal people and savage punishments dished out for law-breakers. Despite this, the colony continued to grow and after a way through the Blue Mountains was found in 1813, Sydney began to thrive. Paved roads and public buildings sprang up to lend order to the town and by the early 1880s, less than a century after its foundation, the number of residents had reached over 200,000.
Expansion continued apace in the 20th century with the Sydney Harbour Bridge taking shape, providing an ease of transportation that would herald further growth. With the decline in manufacturing in the city, the growth of the tourism industry has taken its place, with Sydney now one of the world's top tourist destinations. This was perfectly shown by the 2000 Olympic Games, widely recognised as the most successful in the Games' history and a huge coup for the entire nation.
One of the world's most singularly striking architectural feats, the Sydney Opera House has been an iconic presence on Sydney Harbour since its completion in 1973. Over 30 years later its value and uniqueness was recognised as it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The masterpiece of Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the opera house took 16 years to complete. The decision to choose the unknown Utzon has been vindicated time and again, and as well as providing a great sight from the outside, within you will find no fewer than six world-class venues offering opera, theatre and concerts.
Not content with one world famous construction, Sydney Harbour boasts another in the form of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The through arch bridge has been providing an imposing and elegant crossing between the North Shore and central Sydney since opening in 1932. Rising to a height of over 130 metres above the water level and stretching for over a kilometre, the huge structure transports trains, cars, cyclists and pedestrians on a daily basis. But that is not the only way to get onto the bridge: thanks to an innovative tourism company, you can even climb part of it. The upper arch and lower chord can both be climbed with the aid of all the relevant safety equipment. As well as offering engineering buffs a unique view of the bridge's structure it gives a fantastic vantage point from which to look out upon Sydney.
It is easy to forget you are just over an hour from the centre of Sydney when you find yourself in the Blue Mountains, an idyllic World Heritage Site to the west of Australia's biggest city. So named because of the blue haze through which they are viewed from a distance, the seven national parks in the area have been a centre for rest, relaxation and enjoyment for over a century. Walking trails, cycle paths, caves, waterfalls and even a cable car are just some of the attractions on offer in this vast area.
Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday
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This is one of the holy grails of surfing, and anyone who has ever thought about picking up a board has dreamed of a trip to this kilometre-long stretch of golden sand in the Sydney suburbs. But don't worry, it's not just for professionals: the difficulty and danger posed by the waves ranges along the bay. There is no shortage of enthusiastic surfing instructors along the beach ready to impart their wisdom and watch you tumble into the waves as you find your feet.
If surfing is not your scene, there is still plenty to do at the beach, including the two-mile walk from Bondi Beach to Bronte. At times clinging to the high headlands and at others swooping down so close to the ocean you can almost touch it, the Bondi to Bronte walk offers a breathtaking view of this coastline. Keep your eyes peeled as you go as sightings of the area's impressive marine wildlife are common; large numbers of whales and dolphins have been spotted in the area. If two miles is not enough for you, push on past Bronte as the path winds through Coogee Beach on its way to Maroubra Beach, the end of the line.
In this vibrant hub of fashion, Sydney's emerging designers first find their feet in the hubbub of Paddington Markets. A network of over 200 stalls in the eastern suburb of Paddington, the markets are the perfect place to spend a lazy Saturday, checking out the clothes and accessories on offer and taking a break to sample the huge range of cuisine served up. Everything from barbecue and Thai food to coffee and cup cakes is available.
The ‘Sydneysiders’ love their sport, and there's nowhere better to witness this passion than the atmospheric Sydney Cricket Ground. Over 45,000 people regularly crowd in to the stadium to witness the country's biggest sporting events, from cricket to Australian rules football.
Domestic and international flights leave from the three terminals of Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport, on Botany Bay. Beware that Terminal 1 is almost three miles from Terminals 2 and 3, so make sure to leave adequate time if you have to transfer.
There are a number of options when it comes to getting into the city from the airport: the commuter network CityRail extends out to the airport but can be busy at peak times; small mini-buses will pick up tourists and drop them straight to their hotels; the local bus is the cheapest option but luggage space is limited.
Available to be hailed down in the street or at the numerous ranks dotted across the city, Sydney cabs are a handy – if pricey – way to get around. Be warned, however, that during rush hour and weekend evenings, free cabs can be hard to come by. Also be aware that if you pass through tolls it is the passenger that pays the charge.
Sydney has a large rail network, which makes it easy to get to the surrounding suburbs from the centre. Various tickets, daily and weekly passes are available from stations.
Offering a peaceful alternative to the hustle and bustle of taxis, buses and trains, a range of ferries leave Circular Quay offering harbour tours as well as single journeys to some of the best-known tourist attractions.
With plenty of beaches, quirky suburbs and the Blue Mountains to explore, hiring a car is a great idea, so check out our options for car hire in Sydney.
No restaurant in Australia has been more celebrated than Tetsuya's (529 Kent Street) – from glowing reviews to a host of rewards it is the jewel in the country's culinary crown. In 2007 it was even named the fifth best restaurant in the world and its reputation for beautifully crafted dishes remains undimmed. As the brainchild of Tetsuya Wakuda, who fuses the best of the Japanese and French schools of cuisine, the tasting menu changes rapidly and will send an armada of perfectly prepared dishes to your table. For the full experience, put your wine choice in the hands of the experts, who will provide vintages by the glass to match your dishes.
It may not have the awards of Tetsuya's, but in terms of the view, few Australian restaurants can rival Icebergs (1 Notts Avenue). Perched on cliffs looking down on Bondi Beach, this restaurant and bar has a good claim for the best view in the city. From the comfort of the hammocks and sofas in the bar to the relaxed elegance of the dining room, the view of the Bondi coastline below subtly dominates the ambience. On the menu the sea is not far away either with favourites including seafood risottos and raw fish dishes.
The Australian restaurant scene would not be the same without the huge number of Thai restaurants, and in Sydney's Thai Town you can take your pick, one of the finest being Chat Thai (20 Campbell St). Grilled meats and seafood in spicy sauces await the patrons queuing outside for a tasty treat.
The elegantly understated Springfield Lodge Hotel is only a brisk walk away from the heart of Sydney. The design of the hotel fits perfectly in an area full of great bars and shops. Complete with a charming Parisian style cafe and the Pink Lounge for a relaxing cocktail, the Springfield Lounge is the ideal refuge at the end of a hard day exploring Sydney. If you have exhausted the attractions of the Potts Point neighbourhood, the Sydney Harbour and Bondi Beach are within easy reach by public transport.
Looking out upon Sydney Harbour from an enviable location on the eastern bank of Circular Quay is Quay Grand Suites Hotel. From the balconies of the suites the view takes in Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the unmissable Sydney Opera House. Within the suites you will find a combined lounge and dining room as well as a kitchen armed with all the necessary equipment, the choice of one or two bedrooms and a bathroom with spa bath.
The Sheraton on the Park Hotel can be located on the edge of Sydney's green refuge, Hyde Park. The 550+ rooms are stylishly furnished and the large windows have a great vantage point over the city skyline and the park.
The graceful Grace Building is one of Sydney's most imposing structures and these days houses the Grace Hotel. Set in the city centre, the 382-room hotel also numbers among its attractions a rooftop health and fitness centre and a range of dining options with a cafe, restaurant, and Irish pub on site.
Or for alternative lodgings, look for a hotel in Sydney here.
Malaria is not present in Australia.
A yellow fever vaccination is a must have for all travellers over a year old. Hepatitis B is recommended for those staying for a prolonged period or who will be returning frequently. It is advisable that children have the BCG and MMR vaccinations, and hepatitis B, again for those staying for a prolonged period or who will be returning frequently. For trips to the far north, a Japanese encephalitis injection is also advised.
There has been a rise in thefts in public places in Sydney, so bear the following advice in mind:
- Be on your guard taking money out at cash machines.
- Do not walk around with jewellery or other objects that may attract attention and do not take such belongings to the beach.
- Do not leave personal belongings in parked vehicles.
It is highly recommended that you make photocopies of all your travel documents and keep the copies on you in case the originals are stolen or lost. When you travel, take a mobile phone with you and if you are unlucky enough to be assaulted, keep calm and do not try to resist.
When swimming in the sea, remain within the area designated by the flags on the beach, as the waters can be dangerous, with the presence of sharks and poisonous jellyfish.