Seasoned travellers often complain that the world's great cities can 
seem a trifle disappointing. But not so Sydney. That first sighting of 
its majestic harbour from Circular Quay, with the grand Opera 
House on one side and the mighty Harbour Bridge on the other, is 
one that always exceeds expectations. 
Over the last decade vast sums have been spent on inner-city rejuvenation,
transportation and state-of-the-art venues to host high profile international sporting events like the 
2000 Olympics and 2003 Rugby World Cup, both of which were resounding successes and only 
added to the city’s global reputation. Yet even without such events, this is a city whose inhabitants 
know that their lifestyle is one of the best in the world and their metropolis one of the most 
impacting anywhere. It’s hardly surprising then that Sydney also has a whole lot to offer tourists, 
from its fascinating museums and galleries and world-class restaurants and beaches to its 
renowned 24-hour entertainment.


Even the fiercest critics of modern architecture cannot fail to be impressed by the 
magnificent Sydney Opera House. Built in 1973, it is the result of a revolutionary design by 
Danish architect, Jorn Utzon, and every day, since this bizarre edifice was created, people 
have flocked to admire it. 


Below the Bradfield Highway, which now carries a constant flow of traffic across the 
Harbour Bridge, is the historic Rocks village. It was the first site settled by European convicts 
and troops as early as 1788 and, despite being given a major facelift in recent decades (and 
losing its erstwhile reputation as the haunt of prostitutes, drunks and criminals), still retains 
much of its original architectural charm. Old and new is married in an eclectic array of shops, 
galleries, arcades, cafés and some mighty fine pubs and restaurants.


From near or far, above or below, day or night, the Harbour Bridge is impressive and 
imposing. The ‘Coat Hanger’, as it is often called, was opened in 1932, having taken nine 
years to build, and it remains one of the longest single-span bridges in the world. The deck 
supports eight lanes of traffic – accommodating around 150,000 vehicles a day – a railway 
line and a pedestrian walkway, and forms a crucial artery to the North Shore and beyond.


Sydney Harbour is scattered with a number 
of interesting islands, most of which hold 
some historical significance: Fort Denison, Clark Island, Shark Island and Goat Island.


Many visitors find the city centre a chaotic 
place. It is cooler, owing to the high-rise 
blocks, but much noisier, disturbed by the 
collective din of corporate Sydney. Despite 
this, it is worth taking the plunge and 
joining the purposeful flood of humanity 
through its gargantuan corridors to 
discover some hidden gems. Check out Macquarie Street, the Sydney Tower, Hyde Park and the Botanical Gardens.


Created to celebrate Sydney’s Bicentennial in 1988, revitalized Darling Harbour was 
delivered with much aplomb and has proved such a success that even the waves seem to 
show their appreciation. Day and night, ferries and catamarans bring hordes of visitors to  
marvel at its modern architecture and aquatic attractions or to revel in its casino and 
trendy waterside bars and restaurants. Framed against the backdrop of the CBD, it is 
intricately colourful, urban and angular. In contrast, the Chinese Garden of Friendship 
towards the southwestern fringe provides a little serenity before giving way to the old 
and chaotic enclave of Chinatown, the epicentre of Sydney’s Asian community and the 
city’s most notable living monument to its cosmopolitan populace.


Watson’s Bay, on the leeward side of South Head, guarding the mouth of Sydney 
Harbour, provides an ideal city escape and is best reached by ferry from Circular Quay. As 
well as being home to one of Sydney’s oldest and most famous seafood restaurants – 
Doyle’s – it offers some quiet coves, attractive swimming beaches and peninsula walks.


Bondi Beach is by far the most famous of Sydney’s many ocean beaches. Its hugely inviting 
stretch of sand is a prime venue for surfing, swimming and sunbathing. Behind the beach, 
Bondi’s bustling waterfront and village offers a tourist trap of cafés, restaurants, bars, surf 
and souvenir shops. For years Bondi has been a popular suburb for alternative lifestylers and 
visiting backpackers keen to avoid the central city. It is also the place to see or be seen by all 
self-respecting beautiful people.


Manly is by far the most visited suburb on the North Shore and is practically a 
self-contained holiday resort, offering an oceanside sanctuary away from the manic city 
centre. The heart of the community sits on the neck of the North Head peninsula, which 
guards the entrance of Sydney Harbour. Manly Beach is very much the main attraction. At 
its southern end, an attractive oceanside walkway connects Manly Beach with two 
smaller, quieter alternatives, Fairy Bower Beach and Shelly Beach. As you might expect, 
Manly comes with all the tourist trappings, including an attractive, tree-lined waterfront, 
fringed with cafés, restaurants and shops and a wealth of accommodation options.

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East Coast Australia Handbook

Take off and discover Australia's sunshine coast. From its vibrant cities to stunning beaches,...
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