Gifted with temperate weather, glistening white beaches and stunning harbor views, Australia’s largest city could win over visitors for its climate and beauty alone. But many come to Sydney for commerce. The city is a hub for the Asia-Pacific region, largely due to its port and the size of its financial services and insurance sectors. Still, it’s not all business in this city of 4.6 million. Sydney’s many art and cultural offerings show just how far the city has come since it was a landing spot for British convicts shipped to Australia as punishment.
Getting to and from the airport
The Sydney Airport is the busiest in the country and a gateway to Australia for business and leisure travellers. It’s connected to the city via Airport Link. Trains run about every 10 minutes from the international and domestic terminals. The journey into central Sydney takes 13 minutes, and a one-way ticket costs AU$15.90 (US$15). You’ll also find clearly marked bus stops outside terminals 1 and 3. Fare and schedule information can be found at sydneybuses.info. All terminals have a dedicated taxi rank; expect to pay around AU$50 (US$47) for a ride into the city center.
Getting around Sydney
It’s surprisingly easy to move about in this city, despite an urban area that covers 700 square miles. Locals and visitors can experience Sydney on foot, taking advantage of plentiful pedestrian-only areas. But if you want a ride, the public transport system is a comprehensive network of trains, buses and ferries. Use the city’s practical Trip Planner to work out how best to get to your destination. If you’re planning a day of sightseeing, consider purchasing a MyMulti Day Pass. It permits a day of unlimited travel on all government-controlled transport and costs AU$22 (US$20.50).
You shouldn’t have a problem hailing a taxi curbside, but you’ll also find designated taxi stands throughout the city centre. You can book ahead through one of several private dispatch companies.
Where to stay
If you’re seeking luxury accommodation, try the Shangri-la Hotel Sydney, 176 Cumberland St., Ph: 61-2-92506000, and the Park Hyatt Sydney, 7 Hickson Road, Ph: 61-2-92561234. Upscale options include Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney, 27 O’Connell St., Ph: 61-2-82140000, and Swissotel Sydney, 68 Market St., Ph: 61-2-92388888.
For a midscale option, check out the Mercure Sydney, 818-820 George St., Ph: 61-2-92176797, and for an economy option, try Econo Lodge Sydney South, 40-44 Wentworth Ave., Ph: 61-2-82628844.
What to see and do
Many of the city’s main attractions are in and around the central business district. A good place to start is at the Sydney Tower Eye. From this observation deck on Sydney’s tallest building, you’ll be treated to views that can’t be beat. Next, take a scenic stroll across Pyrmont Bridge to the National Maritime Museum, where you’ll learn of Australia’s history on the seas. The nearby Art Gallery of New South Wales has an impressive permanent collection of Australian, Asian and European works, as well as frequent visiting exhibitions.
No trip to Sydney is complete without seeing the Sydney Opera House up close. Underneath the magnificent white-tiled sails, you’ll find a range of venues including a large concert hall and opera and drama theaters. See one of 40 shows put on each week, or take part in a backstage tour.
A ferry ride is the best way to see Sydney’s renowned harbor. You can take your pick from the routes offered by Sydney Ferries; Circular Quay to Manly is the most popular. Along the way, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to snap pictures of the Harbour Bridge, the city skyline and the sights of the bustling harbor itself. Ferry tickets are AU$7.20 (US$6.75) each way.
Sydney is a nature lover’s paradise. The Royal Botanic Garden is perfect for an afternoon stroll, especially in the spring (September to November) when plants and trees are in full bloom. Bondi Beach is only 8 kilometers (about 5 miles) from the city center and is a hub of fun-in-the-sun activity. Go swimming, snorkeling, surfing or simply laze the day away. West of the city, the Blue Mountains make for an excellent day trip. This United Nations World Heritage Site is known for breathtaking panoramic views and superb hiking trails.
Where to eat
For an authentic dining experience in this coastal city, take a trip to the Sydney Fish Market. More than 50 tons of seafood are sold here every day. Early risers can check out the morning auctions on a behind-the-scenes tour, and budding chefs can sign up for cooking classes. If you’d prefer to leave the food preparation to the professionals, one of the many inexpensive restaurants that line the wharf will serve up the catch of the day.
Sydney offers an abundance of Asian-influenced restaurants. A local favorite is The Malaya. Founded in 1963, it built a strong reputation on signature Southeast Asian dishes like king prawn laksa, pepper chicken stir fry and a wide range of delectable curries. Entrees average AU$30 (US$28).
Looking for lavish dining? The Quay will not disappoint. Perched above the harbor, its enchanting views extend from the Sydney Harbor Bridge to the Opera House. Meals feature fine local ingredients and flawless presentation. A four-course set menu is AU$175 (US$165) per person.
For a more relaxed atmosphere, go for casual pub fare. A popular place to unwind is The Glenmore. The rooftop terrace, complete with retractable roof, allows visitors to enjoy 360-degree harbor views, rain or shine. You’ll find more than just burgers—try the corn on the cob with chili lime butter or barbecue-style lamb and chorizo skewers.