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Welcome to Sydney

Here we are focused on highlighting what’s on where and when in Sydney  – the places of interest , beaches, gardens, parks, art galleries, museums, movies, live theatre, exhibitions, sports, pubs, markets and more…

We hope the information we have written here will can HELP YOU enjoy your stay in Sydney more.

GETTING TO KNOW SYDNEY – A quick snapshot…

Grab the perfect view.

If you are flying into Sydney, see if you can get window seat when you book your seat, and you will get a great view of Sydney Harbour and the beaches from the air. On a blue sky day, it looks fantastic!

Sydney is a large city of close to 4 million people. It is bounded on the East side by the Pacific Ocean and more than 100 stunning beaches, with the city growing around Sydney Harbour – stretching  to the North, South and West of the Harbour out to the Blue Mountains.

Sydney Airports – International (T1) and Domestic (T2, T3) are located just south of the main city centre. T1 is around 1 kilometre from the two domestic airport terminals (which are walking distance apart). Taxis, shuttle buses and train service connect T1 to T2/T3, and also some airlines have transit services operating too.

Sydney Overseas terminal – This is where most (but not all) Cruise ships usually dock when they come to Sydney and it is located in the Rocks – on the left side of Circular Quay (opposite side to the Opera House).

The City CBD is the centre of Sydney and is about 30 to 40 minutes from the airport by car, bus, taxi and train. Allow more time in Peak Hours for commuter traffic.  Most likely, if you are flying into Sydney, you will see the Sydney City CBD from the air – with its high rise office buildings; the Harbour Bridge; Opera House – all right there.  This is also where most of the International Hotel chains are located too. There are other hotels in the suburbs and close to beaches, but for Tourists and those looking to take in the sights of the city – a hotel in the City will be close to most of the City attractions.

There are some Hotel Buses that pick up from the airport, limousine and taxi services. Taxis work off meters, but there is a surcharge for picking up from the airport. Inside the terminal you will find Hire car companies, Visitor guidebooks, Hotel information and other information to help you.

Currency – The Australian Dollar comes in notes as $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. In Coins as 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, one dollar and two dollars. While you can certainly cash travellers cheques, or convert currency to Australian dollars at Moneychangers or at banks, there are ATM machines all around the city to use too. Credit cards are readily accepted, the main ones being Visa and Mastercard. Some places will charge extra to use American Express or Diners Cards.

Safety – Sydney is a relatively safe city, but like all big cities you need to be careful where you go particularly at night.

Swimming – Not all beaches are patrolled by lifesavers or life guards, so if you intend to swim in the ocean, go to a patrolled beach and always swim between the red and yellow flags. There are sharks in the waters off the coast, but lifeguards keep watch for them, and many of the beaches have nets to keep sharks away from the beach. If you are not a strong swimmer, be aware that there can be rips (undercurrents) that will push you further out in the water, so stay closer to the beach for your own safety. There are some beaches which have ‘surfing lessons’ for board riding too.

Weather –

Summer is December to February, Autumn (Fall) – March, April, May, Winter – June, July, August and Spring (Fall) is September, October, November.  Summer can get hot – usually around 25? to 30?C – but on heat wave days it can get up to 40?C. It doesn’t snow in Sydney – but winters can get down to around 4?C early morning but usually average 14? to 20?C in the day.

Sydney has a seasonal climate – but it never snows, but can get cold in winter and hot in summer. Rainy days can happen, but usually the rain lasts only a day or so.

Daylight saving time – From early October to 2nd April clocks spring forward 1 hour – to maximize the daylight in your day. On 2nd April at 3 am the clocks are moved back an hour. Winter is coming!

Sydney Av. Temp ( º Centigrade)
  Jan Feb Mar April May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max 30 º 30º  26º 23º  20º 17º 16º 17º 20º 22º 26º 29º
Min 21º 20º 18º  16º  12º  9º  8º    9º 11º 13º 16º 20º

Driving in Sydney – you need to have an International Licence in most cases. Cars drive like the UK on the left side, and if you are used to driving on the right side (like USA) it may take a little while to get used to it.

Sydney Harbour itself is a series of big and small bays and inlets, headlands and beaches and it is the central attraction of Sydney as a city. Everyone who has ever been to Sydney loves the Harbour.  The best way to see the Harbour is from the harbour itself – and there are ferries that travel to many of the suburbs around the Harbour, as well as cruises and tours that are available from a number of companies. It is also possible to see the Harbour from virtually anywhere from the shoreline, and some of the best views are listed here – on the what to see list. Most commuter ferries berth at  Circular Quay – which is a good place to walk around and catch a ferry from.

The city itself is divided into suburbs – and people refer to locations using the suburb’s name (and sometimes its location – such as Bondi Beach in the Eastern Suburbs; Manly on the Northern Beaches; Parramatta in the Western Suburbs; Hurstville in the Southern Suburbs.

In the City CBD there are RED hop on/hop off Tourist buses; taxis that can be hailed from the street or found on Taxi Ranks and buses that travel out to the suburbs. A ‘City Circle’ underground train service runs around the CBD – the busiest train stations on the City Circle being Central Station, and Circular Quay – which is also the location of Ferry Services and also some Harbour Cruises. It is also possible to walk to most city attractions, depending on where your hotel is located.

Ferries all come to Circular Quay and are used by commuters and Tourists to travel to various points of the Harbour.  They are a great way to get a feel for the city – be that early morning, during the day or at night – one of the best being the Manly Ferry – which takes you to the beachside suburb of Manly which has both a Harbour beach and a surf beach too – with the Corso being a closed street of shops that links Manly Wharf to Manly Beach, a short walk away. A very short trip is to go just across the Harbour to Milson’s Point (where Luna Park is located) next to the north side of the Harbour Bridge, or to McMahons Point – where you will get a great photographer view looking back towards Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney CBD has lots of shops, restaurants, bars, cafés, food courts, department stores and some of the best known shopping places (but not the only ones) are Westfield Centrepoint (also has tower  and restaurants on top), The Queen Victoria Building and Market City – which is close to Chinatown.  There are two main Department stores, both in the city – these being Myer and David Jones.

Restaurants and cafés are everywhere – and there are both high end expensive ones and also lots of cheaper options. Sydney is very much a mix of nationalities – so it is possible to find everything from Czech, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian, French, Spanish restaurants to steak houses, fish, pizza, kebab and Burger Fast Food restaurants in Sydney. There are literally 1000’s of restaurants and places to eat. Most of the established restaurants are licensed to sell wine, but some are also BYO (Bring your own wine) – in which case you will need to purchase wine or beer from a Bottle Shop (Off Licence) before going to the Restaurant.

Must see places to see in the City:

  • Near  Circular Quay – (left side)Harbour Bridge, The Rocks, Cadman’s Cottage, Argyle Street,  Museum of Contemporary Art, Bridgeclimb (and right side) Sydney Opera House, Botanic Gardens. These are all walking distance one to the others.
  • Bridgeclimb is one of Australia’s most popular adventure walks – walking to the top of the Harbour Bridge over the arch wearing a safety harness. It has to be the most spectacular view of the Harbour and city.
  • Ferry trips – there are History tours, lunch and dinners cruises, dance party cruises, private cruises, tall Ship cruises, sailing boats, jetboats and other craft that have regular cruises to different parts of the Harbour. Cruise boats pick up passengers from different wharves, so it is important to check where that wharf is located – so double check this when you buy your tickets.  Different weather conditions and time of day can also make a big difference to the enjoyment of your cruise too –all be that on an open deck, or closed inside. It can also get cold and windy on the water too – so keep this in mind when you dress ready to go.
  • Bridge Street – one of the first streets in Sydney – where you will find the Museum of Sydney (Cnr. College St) and some great Victorian architecture. This leads to Macquarie Street – where there is the entrance to the Conservatorium of Music, Botanic Gardens, then State Library, State Parliament, Sydney Hospital and further along Hyde Park Barracks, The Royal Mint Building, and then Hyde Park – one of the oldest parks in the city – home to the Archibald Fountain, and further down, the Australian War Memorial.  To your left of the Park you will find St Mary’s Cathedral and a little further along is the Australian Museum. Mrs Macquarie’s Chair (right on the Point) is a long walk (about 2 km) around the foreshore from the Opera House through the Botanic Gardens (but well worth it for the views). The NSW Art Gallery is located about half way along – to the right of the Botanic Gardens. The Gallery and  Mrs Macquarie’s Chair are also accessible by car and on the Tourist bus routes.
  • Darling Harbour is on the western side of the CBD, and located near Chinatown with its own harbour side location. It has a number of attractions including the Chinese Garden of Friendship, IMAX Theatre, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, Sydney Wildlife World ( Zoo), and lots of great restaurants (on King Street Wharf) and other side, more restaurants, shops and the Maritime Museum. The Exhibition Halls are located on the western side too. There are also a number of harbour cruises that start from Darling Harbour too.
  • Taronga Park Zoo – go by Ferry from Circular Quay to the Zoo on the other side of the Harbour to see Australia’s best native and exotic animals, birds and wildlife.
  • Casino – Sydney Casino is located a short distance west of Darling Harbour. Here you will find the casino, hotel and bars, accommodation and theatre.
  • Powerhouse Museum – an interesting museum is located on Harris Street – to the west of Darling Harbour.
  • Chinatown – is in the CBD – with a number of restaurants, and very close to Paddy’s Market – where you will find lots of local fruit, vegetables and clothing stores. If you like seafood, the Sydney Fish Markets is about 1 km from the CBD (a short taxi ride).
  • Where do Sydneysiders hang out? As a tourist you often feel that you get to see the tourist side of a city, more so than the real thing – so here are some suggestions that are a short distance from the CBD – Wolloomooloo Wharf (east of the CBD) – a re-developed wharf that has great restaurants, views and atmosphere. Kings Cross (Top of William St) a night spot with lots of bars and the crowd that goes with it. Glebe Point Road (west of CBD) – a long road, close to the University with some quirky shops, restaurants, a glass gallery (Great) and on weekends a market. Newtown (also near University) quirky shops and restaurants too. Balmain – a harbourside  inner west suburb, with lots of hotels, trendy shops and a great market on Saturdays. Paddington (East of CBD) small streets and quaint terrace houses, galleries in the back streets and quite a few hotels and restaurants too.  Crows Nest and Kirribilli  (north of the Harbour) more restaurants and bars, as well as the Governor General and Prime Minister’s Official Sydney Residences (can be viewed from the Harbour) . Other suburbs, but further out are Bondi, Coogee, Double Bay, Rose Bay, Watsons Bay- (all East); Neutral Bay, Mosman, Manly, Palm Beach (Northside); and Brighton Le Sands and Cronulla (South of the Airport).
  • Keeping fit – Your hotel will no doubt have a fitness centre and maybe a pool, but Sydney has some great walks too around the Harbour, along the coast and other places – so click on walking tracks to see where some of these are.

So, this is a snapshot of Sydney and what you can see.

We have also set out more information about Sydney, as well as trips out of Sydney on the other sections in this website.

WELCOME TO SYDNEY.

We hope you have a great stay, and will come back again.

Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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