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Introduction Region

Sydney, Australia ©Judith Duk

Sunny, seductive Sydney is a high contender for the title of the world's most ideal city. It is slick and smart, the streets are clean, the parks sublime, the water in the huge harbour bright blue, and the landmark buildings breath-taking. Sydney's population is approaching five million, but it is easy to leave the frenetic urban pace behind with just a simple ferry ride to the North Shore for a bush walk, or a stroll along the harbour beaches, or any one of a number of daytrips to explore the 'real' Australia on the city's doorstep.

Just like its characteristic white-sailed Opera House, Sydney seems to cruise effortlessly through nights and days filled with myriad entertainment opportunities, sophisticated shopping, memorable museums, and strings of beautiful beaches. Visitors find it exhausting to take it all in, even though the tourist precinct where most of the interesting attractions are to be found is concentrated in quite a small area around the downtown waterfront and harbour.

The fact that Sydney is a thriving seaport and industrial city has been cleverly concealed behind attractive pleasure and leisure grounds and residential suburbs, making full use of the scenic, watery geographical location. The harbour area is dominated by the span of one of the world's largest arched bridges, backed by towering skyscrapers. It is all a far cry from the remote penal colony established by the British back in 1788.

Another plus for visitors is that compared to most big cities Sydney offers excellent, reasonably priced food, accommodation and public transport. The city also has an excellent suburban rail network, with its hub at Circular Quay in the city centre, and full use is made of the waterways with ferries and passenger jet boats plying to and from various points.

To the north of Sydney is the Pacific Coastal route, which passes beautiful coastal scenery, laid back seaside communities like Byron Bay, and excellent surf, with nearly 249 miles (400km) of beaches to explore. Whale watching is popular in season and the region is also dotted with numerous national parks and nature reserves that offer activities from hiking to kayaking in the Myall Lakes. The Waterfall Way, which winds up to the New England Tablelands, is one of the most scenic drives in the world, taking in the vineyards of the famed Hunter Valley. To the south of Sydney is Australia's only alpine habitat in the Snowy Mountains, where winter skiing is the main attraction. In summer the mountains become a playground for whitewater rafters, fishermen, kayakers and hikers.

Climate Info

The summer season (December to February) is the most popular time to visit Sydney, with temperatures generally exceeding 77°F (25°C). November and March are favoured by visitors wanting sunshine without the searing heat. Winters (June to August) are mild, with temperatures averaging between 63°F (17°C) and 48°F (9°C). Winter nights are likely to be chilly. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year but it is slightly wetter between March and June.

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Getting Around

Sydney has a good network of buses, trains and ferries that make getting around the city and the surrounds easy. The bus network is the most extensive and cheapest mode of public transport, but can be slow due to traffic jams. There are also several hop-on hop-off Explorer buses for tourists that take in the major sights and surrounding beaches. The underground city centre train loop is the fastest way to get around, but many of the tourist areas, including Darling Harbour, Bondi Beach and Manly, can only be reached by further ferry or bus connections. The most pleasurable way to get around is by ferry - the main terminal is at Circular Quay. There is also a 10-minute monorail loop from the city centre to Darling Harbour and back, and a Metro Light Rail 'tram' system between Central Station and Wentworth Park in Pyrmont. In addition, metered taxis are plentiful and fairly economical. Hiring a car for short visits is not recommended due to heavy congestion (in peak hours) and limited parking in the city centre.

Kingsford Smith (Sydney) Airport (SYD)

LocationThe airport is situated about four miles (7km) south of Sydney.
Time DifferenceGMT +11 (GMT +10 from the first Sunday in April to the first Sunday in October).

Tel: +61 (0)2 9667 9111.

Transfer terminals

The Airport Rail Link connects the international (T1) and domestic terminals (T2 and T3), and the T-Bus provides a frequent service between T1 and T2. The Domestic terminals are walking distance apart.

Getting to city

The Airport Rail Link is the fastest and most convenient way to reach the city centre and the suburbs. Trains run every 10 minutes and the journey to the centre takes 13 minutes, from where connections can be made for all suburban services. There are two railway stations at the airport: one is located directly below Terminal 1, and the other between Terminal 2 and Terminal 3. Public bus 400 runs between the airport and Bondi Junction. Shuttle bus companies provide direct transport to and from the airport and must be pre-booked; hotel buses are also available.

Car Rental

All the main car hire companies are represented at the airport.

Airpor Taxis

There are supervised taxi ranks outside the terminal; regular taxis and maxi taxis (for groups) are available from here.

Airport Facilities

There are a wide variety of shops, bars and restaurants throughout the terminals, as well as shower facilities, internet kiosks, designated smoking areas, cell phone rental and duty-free shopping. Foreign exchange and ATMs are available throughout the airport. Medical facilities and baggage storage are also available in T1. Business services in Terminals 1 and 2 offer meeting rooms and internet.

Car Parking

Both the domestic and international terminals have easily accessible parking areas. Discounts are available for booking online in advance.

Byron Bay

Nestled on the north coast of New South Wales and serving as the main town on Cape Byron, the holiday hub of Byron Bay occupies Australia's most easterly point. It is a haven of unspoilt beaches, laid-back pursuits, some quirky locals and a spiritual atmosphere which is making it burgeon
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Byron Bay ©Judith Duk

Snowy Mountains

Australia's favourite winter playground is among the peaks of the Snowy Mountains, about 315 miles (500km) south of Sydney, where there are more than 145 miles (230km) of ski-trails, graded from beginner to championship level. Ski season lasts from June to October. The ski resorts are kn
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Mount Kosciusko ©Tamas

Harbour Bridge

One of Sydney's most famous landmarks, the Harbour Bridge (known locally as the 'Coat Hanger') was completed in 1932 after claiming 16 lives during its construction. The bridge spans the 1,600-foot (500m) gap from the north to the south shore, which was previously only accessible by ferr
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Sydney Harbour aerial ©Rodney Haywood

The Rocks

The best place to start exploring Australia's oldest city is at The Rocks, a restored 19th-century village at the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which was the site of Australia's first European settlement in 1788, and is therefore considered to be the birthplace of the nation
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Cadman's Cottage, The Rocks ©Michael Coghlan

Sydney Opera House

It may not be an ancient monument, but the architecturally distinctive Sydney Opera House epitomises the city as much as the Great Pyramid in Cairo or the Acropolis in Athens. Situated on Sydney's harbour at Bennelong Point, this intriguing, white-sailed landmark is no white elephant. It
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Sydney Opera House ©Paxtons Camera Video Digital

Royal Botanic Gardens

Sydney's 'green lung' is a 30-hectare botanical garden, established in 1816 and containing more than 7,500 species of plant. Australia's very first farm was on the site where the garden now flourishes, southeast of the Sydney Opera House. Paths criss-cross the gardens, leading strollers
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Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney ©Pascal Vuylsteker

Darling Harbour

The waterside tourist precinct of Darling Harbour, close to the central business district, is crossed by a monorail and offers plenty of entertaining diversions, museums, carnival rides, restaurants and shops. For example, there is the Imax Theatre, with Australia's largest cinema screen
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Darling Harbour, Sydney ©Arran Bee

Sydney Beaches

One thing that is not in short supply in Sydney is beautiful Pacific Ocean beaches. Anywhere in the city, except perhaps in the far west suburbs, you will never be more than half an hour away from one. Starting from popular Palm Beach to the north, you can take your pick along the coast:
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Manly Beach, Sydney ©Henry Burrows

Hunter Region

The Hunter Valley region is a 60-mile (100km) drive north of Sydney. It is a region already known to the world for its high quality wine, but is also fast becoming famous as an eco-tourism destination. Besides its vineyards and eateries, there are myriad places of interest, like Lake Mac
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Hunter Valley Vineyards ©F Delventhal

Blue Mountains

The entrance to the richly forested hills of the Blue Mountains is at Glenbrook/Lapstone, only about 50 minutes' drive from Sydney. Many coach companies offer day trips, usually from Circular Quay in Sydney. Alternatively, City Rail offers an efficient service to the Blue Mountains, or y
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Three Sisters, Blue Mountains ©Anne Dirkse

New England

Also known as 'Big Sky Country', the New England region of New South Wales is a place of spacious beauty where it is possible to enjoy the great outdoors in the cool summers as well as cosy hospitality in the crisp winters. The centre of New England is Australia's country-music capital,
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Armidale, New England ©denisbin

Broken Hill

The historic town of Broken Hill lies in western New South Wales, in the area known as the 'Living Outback'. Here red dust roads lead off to national parks, opal fields, remote settlements and the Darling River. In Broken Hill art and mining live side by side as uncomfortable companions.
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Broken Hill Trades Hall ©Ian Sutton

Sydney Tower

Sydney Tower, or the AMP Centrepoint Tower, is the tallest free-standing structure in the city, and one of the tallest in the country. Situated above the Centrepoint office building and shopping centre, the tower is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sydney for its 360-degree
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View from Sydney Tower ©Jennifer Morrow

Kings Cross

Once home to music halls and grand theatres, Kings Cross was transformed after World War II with the arrival of hundreds of troops visiting from the nearby naval base, and today still carries the reputation as the city's red-light district. Although the nightclubs, strip clubs, bars, res
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Coca Cola Billboard ©Bandwagonman

Featherdale Wildlife Park

Families who visit the Featherdale Wildlife Park will be able to interact with and observe unique Australian animals like koalas, wallabies and emus up close and personal. Kids can have their photograph taken with one of these fuzzy animals and petting the koalas is also allowed, a rare
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Featherdale Wildlife Park ©Kimberly Vardeman


Shopaholics will not be disappointed with Sydney, a cosmopolitan city that offers international as well as local name brands, world-class shopping centres, streets that reveal a host of fascinating speciality shops, and discounted market stalls that offer anything from clothes to arts and crafts and edibles.

Most of the large department stores are within the city centre and within a few blocks of each other. For exclusive shopping, the QVB, or Queen Victoria Building, is an architectural masterpiece housing a large variety of designer label and speciality shops, while in similar vein the nearby Strand Arcade houses some of Australia's top designer labels, as well as boutiques, jewellery shops and beauty salons. Downtown Duty Free in the basement is a great place to pick up some bargains. Other centres include the magnificent Grace Bros department store, boasting vast quantities of goods; Sydney's oldest department store, David Jones; the Harbourside development at Darling Harbour; MLC Centre; Picadilly; and Centrepoint. Explore the streets of The Rocks, which hide myriad speciality shops, while Skygarden centre is home to the biggest bookstore in town, Borders, which also stocks a wide selection of magazines, CDs and DVDs.

Sydney's biggest market is Paddy's, open from Thursday to Sunday, which offers discounted mainstream items, while the Glebe (Saturday) and Bondi (Sunday) markets are traditional alternative markets with a good selection of clothing, arts and crafts, and second-hand goods. The Rocks has weekend stalls trading mainly in good quality crafts, collectibles, and art. For something totally different the daily Sydney Fish Market is a fishy spectacle as well as a great place to feast on fresh seafood. A wider variety of food can be bought at Coles or Woolworths supermarkets.


Sydney's nightlife is all go, with everything from pubs and jazz bars to rock venues and nightclubs. For live music listings and free weekly entertainment guides look out for publications like Time Out, Metro and Drum Media.

The best party areas include Darling Harbour, Oxford Street and The Rocks. Oxford Street is the epicentre of the LGBT nightlife scene in the city, though there are many straight bars and clubs as well. Kings Cross is the reputed Red Light District of Sydney, an area which has seen some improvement over the last few years, attracting an increasingly diverse and arty array of visitors, but it remains a gritty nightlife centre, as one would expect for an area once dominated by sailors and brothels. The Rocks and Kings Street Wharf offer more upmarket entertainment options. Sydney is also renowned for its performing arts, the most notable venue being the iconic Sydney opera House.

The legal drinking age in Australia is 18. There are some lock-out and last drinks laws in effect in the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct, with no drinks served after 3am at hotels and registered nightclubs, but some smaller venues are exempt from these rules.


With breathtaking views of the Sydney city skyline and Woolloomooloo wharf, diners at the stylish Manta will feel as if they are dining at a Mediterranean seaside eatery. The exquisite seafood is fresh and tantalises the taste buds in the form of grilled Atlantic scallops served with watercress, shaved fennel, orange and Mt Buffalo hazelnuts or steamed Murray cod, broccolini, shitake and oyster mushrooms with a white truffle butter and chives. Desserts here are something else - try the quince tarte tatin, pistachios and pinot noir butter ice cream. Reservations essential. Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Food Type: Seafood     Style: Business     Price: 4

Address: 6 Cowper Wharf Rd, The Wharf, Woolloomooloo



Rockpool began as a fine dining restaurant serving top-class Australian produce with an Asian influence, and today chefs Perry and Danis create original dishes that combine excellence, especially when it comes to seafood, with Thai, Chinese, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours. The tea-smoked duck is highly recommended! The décor is glamorously modern with glass and chrome, and the busy kitchen hung with copper pots and pans is very much at the centre of the action. Dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Reservations essential.

Food Type: Seafood     Style:     Price: 5

Address: 107 George Street, The Rocks



Sydney's most famous chef is arguably the internationally acclaimed Tetsuya Wakuda - a master at blending Western techniques with Japanese flavours in a unique way. The dining room is serene and unobtrusively stylish with views onto a Japanese garden and waterfall, and the changing menu offers specialities such as scallop sashimi with duck foie gras, tartare of tuna with olive oil and wasabi jelly, and marinated roast breast of duck with coffee. Everybody who is anybody wants to eat here and reservations are essential up to four weeks in advance. Open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner, and Saturday for lunch. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Food Type: Japanese     Style: Trendy     Price: 5

Address: 529 Kent Street (CBD)


Buon Ricordo

Rated as the top Italian restaurant in Sydney, Buon Ricordo's reputation is due in part to its jovial owner, host and chef, Armando Percuoco who creates innovative dishes based on Neapolitan and Tuscan styles of cooking. The ambience is akin to a private Italian home complemented by a genuine warm welcome and professional service. The signature dish of truffled egg fettuccine is one of the city's best pasta dishes, and the warmed figs with Gorgonzola and prosciutto is heavenly. Reservations essential. Open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner, Friday and Saturday for lunch. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Food Type: Italian     Style:     Price: 4

Address: 108 Boundary Street, Paddington



This sunny corner café has earned Sydney icon status for its outstanding breakfasts, with signature dishes including ricotta hotcakes with bananas and honeycomb butter, sweet corn fritters with roast tomato, bacon and spinach, and the best scrambled eggs in the city. The friendly communal table, nouveau café-style décor, professional service and consistently good food make Bills immensely popular. Open for lunch and breakfast. Closed Sunday. Reservations are not accepted.

Food Type: Local     Style:     Price: 2

Address: 433 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst



This trendy restaurant with stylish décor and a fabulous menu to boot is situated above the Icebergs swimming pool on Bondi beach and provides some of the most breathtaking views over the Pacific Ocean. Dishes such as wonderful seafood risottos, Finders Island salt crusted suckling lamb and delicious char-grilled steaks make this restaurant a firm favourite with locals and tourists alike. Reservations recommended. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Closed Mondays.

Food Type: Seafood     Style: Trendy     Price: 5

Address: One Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach



Situated in the Northern Beach suburb of Manly, Ashiana is one of the best cheap Indian restaurants in Sydney and is extremely popular for its friendly service, award-winning traditional spicy cooking, and local ambience. Portions are large and filling and covered in sauce, which is best soaked up with quantities of tandoori breads. The menu offers tandoori specialities as well as chicken, lamb, beef, seafood, pork and vegetarian favourites, such as butter chicken, Malia Kofta, Roganjosh, beef korma, and fish curry. Banquets are also good value offering a choice of entrée and main course, which are accompanied by rice and tandoori bread and followed by tea or coffee. Reservations recommended. Dinner daily.

Food Type: Indian     Style:     Price: 2

Address: 2 Sydney Rd, Manly



This busy tapas bar offers a selection of soul-satisfying traditional Spanish and South American foods in portions designed for sharing. Bodega is open Thursday and Friday for lunch and Monday to Saturday for dinner. Arrive early to get a seat at the big communal table that dominates the interior, as they don't accept bookings and fill up quickly.

Food Type: Spanish     Style:     Price: 3

Address: 216 Commonwealth Street


Mardi Gras

What began in 1979 as a protest march has become a huge colourful annual event to display Sydney's tolerant spirit. The city's gay and lesbian community, joined by thousands of visitors from around the world, holds a three-week festival each February culminating in a massive parade of sumptuous floats, reputedly the biggest outdoor night time parade in the world. The traditional parade route runs from Hyde Park, through Liverpool Street, Oxford Street, across Anzac Parade and on to Moore Park where it ends in an all night party at Fox Studios. Other events in the weeks leading up to the parade include a film festival, concerts, picnics, art exhibitions and sports events. There is plenty of delicious food on offer for the parade, although the focus is much more on taking in the sights and soaking in the party atmosphere of the evening.

Date 2018-03-03 to 2018-03-03     Website
Mardi Gras, Sydney ©Eva Rinaldi

Sydney Festival

This huge extravaganza is one of the largest and most prestigious cultural events in Australia, presenting the finest international artists and most acclaimed local talent in the performing and visual arts. Every summer the city's concert venues, theatres, galleries, streets and various outdoor venues are taken over by the creative arts, featuring a wide range of music, dance and drama, exhibitions, circuses and free outdoor entertainment in a celebration of artistic innovation unmatched anywhere else in the country. A free outdoor programme, including the enormously popular symphony and jazz concerts in the Domain, complements the ticketed events, and takes place in venues such as the Rocks, Darling Harbour and in front of the Sydney Opera House.

Date 2018-01-07 to 2018-01-29     Website
Sydney Festival ©Enochlau

New Years Eve Fireworks Spectacular

The splendid setting of Sydney Harbour becomes the stage for one of the most fabulous and largest annual fireworks displays in the world, watched by millions of people around the globe. The 9pm display offers an opportunity for families with young children to enjoy the celebrations. The midnight spectacular covers a four-mile (7km) stretch of the harbour and the fireworks are fired from barges on either side of the Harbour Bridge and from the bridge itself. Other activities take place throughout the evening including the traditional Tall Ships Parade decorated with lighting effects, and various carnival attractions. There are often musical concerts and shows included in the evening's entertainment, as well as sound effects to accompany the fireworks display.

Date 2014-12-31 to 2014-12-31     Website
New Year's Eve fireworks ©Kvasir

Carols in the Domain

Woolworths' Carols in the Domain is Australia's largest and most loved Christmas celebration. Every year family and friends come together at this spectacular event to celebrate the magic and joy of Christmas. The Domain, in the heart of Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens becomes a hive of activity as people from all over Australia join in and sing along to their favourite Christmas Carols. As the sun sets the Domain is transformed into a sea of flickering candlelight as Australia's best talent takes to the stage in this Christmas spectacular. Woolworths' Carols in the Domain showcases the very best of the Australian entertainment industry, from theatre, opera, and recording artists, to our most loved television personalities.

Date 2017-12-17 to 2017-12-17     Website
Carols in the Domain ©Caz and Craig Makepeace

Australia Day Celebrations

Australia's National Day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet and is a celebration of all that is Australian. While many families celebrate the day at home with traditional barbies (barbecues), Sydney makes sure to celebrate the holiday in grand style all over the city. It is the biggest day celebration in the country and includes a wide variety of water and land based activities and shows. Favourite annual events include the Ferrython, Tall Ships Race, Australia Day Parade and the traditional Regatta. Various venues throughout the city stage formal ceremonies, food and wine fairs, Australian musical performances and street entertainment, and the day culminates at Darling Harbour with a dazzling fireworks display set to music. For visitors wanting to see and experience Sydney at its best, it's a good diea to plan a visit around the Austrialia Day celebrations.

Date 2018-01-26 to 2018-01-26     Website
Australia Day Fireworks ©magdalena_b

Sydney Film Festival

The Sydney Film Festival was first held in 1954, making it one of the longest-running events of its kind in the world. It is also one of the most prestigious, showcasing top-quality Australian and international, commercial and independent films - all of which premier at the festival. The Sydney Film Festival is regularly attended by celebrities, and is an absolute must for film buffs, who rave about the post-screening talks and discussion panels, designed to aid the audience in really getting to grips with the film they've just seen. Of special interest is the short films program, as these movies - in virtue of being screened at the festival - become eligible for Academy Award nominations. Australia boasts a fast-growing and prestigious movie industry and this is one of the most popular events of its kind in the world.

Date 2017-06-07 to 2017-06-18     Website
Australian Film Festival ©Eva Rinaldi

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