Regarded as the gateway to Australia, Sydney is usually the first port of call for visitors to the country. As the plane descends into the New South wales capital, most will have to pinch themselves to make sure they are not dreaming. Rising up towards them are the Australian icons we have all seen in thousands of travel pictures- the instantly recognisable Opera House, the curved sides of the Harbour Bridge and the pristine white beaches that border the urban sprawl. Sydney is the city that has come to represent Australia on a global scale, and is regarded as one of the world's favourite cities and one of the best to live in. So any visit to this dynamic and cosmopolitan metropolis is going to be loaded with expectations, and somehow Sydney always manages to deliver! Few tourists leave disappointed, and most will be back again.
Such is the size of the city and the wealth of attractions and activities it is hard to figure out what to do first on a holiday to Sydney. The Harbour is the best place to start, as many of the cities attractions are easily accessible from here. Its regarded as probably the most beautiful natural harbour in the world, surrounded by parklands, reserves and lavish buildings. Circular Quay is a terminus where ferries regularly depart for different parts of the Harbour, and is a bustling and interesting place where a lot of your questions on travel throughout Sydney can be answered.
Of course while you are at the Harbour you cannot miss the two chief attractions of Sydney, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Both can be seen from many vantage points from the shore, but a guided tour will help you fully appreciate the architecture and the heritage of these Australian icons. Walking tours of the Harbour Bridge take you to its highest point with a guided commentary, and from up there there is not much of the city that you cannot see spread below you. Its an amazing view that is worth the effort of the climb! Tours of the Opera House are just as dramatic, using audio visual components to educate people on the vision behind this remarkable building which is one of the busiest performing arts centres in the world.
As you would expect of such a modern city, Sydney is renowned for its world class shopping. Easily accessible from the Harbour is the Rocks, the oldest suburb in the city and now home to a fashionable outdoor shopping precinct. The old, narrow streets contain hundreds of market stalls that stock and sell every kind of consumable good you can think of. The history of the Rocks and its picturesque nature make it a captivating spot to visit, and if its shopping your after then its the perfect place to hunt down a bargain or pick up your souvenir of Australia.
Sydney-siders enjoy a very active outdoors orientated lifestyle, which is encouraged by the moderate climate of warm summers and mild winters. You will find they are fiercely proud of their beaches, and with good reason too. Most parts of the city, bar the western suburbs, are no more than half an hour from the beach, and on the weekend there is an almost religious pilgrimage of people to the white sands and blue waters of the Sydney coastline. Its difficult not to be a part of this when you are in town, but knowing which beaches to go to is trickier. Bondi is probably the most recognisable beach in the world, and a great starting point for visitors. The beaches of Manly and Palm Beach are also very popular, but nothing beats having a chat with the locals and seeing where they prefer to spend their weekends!
In a city as large as Sydney finding a place to stay that suits your budget can often be a daunting task. But it doesn't have to be, thanks to the good folks ataccommodationinsydney.net.au who have compiled a comprehensive list of accommodation venues suburb by suburb. Just pick your suburb and you are provided with a list of venues with all the contact information and a short description. Its easy and efficient!
The amazing thing about Sydney is that the beauty of the city and its multitude of attractions is complemented by the alluring and fascinating surrounds. Romantic and exciting locations such as the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley lie within an easy drive, and attractive cities such as Wollongong and Newcastle are not far either. So don't limit yourself to the city confines, magnificent as they may be, but get in your hire car and see what the rest of New South Wales has to offer! You will not be disappointed!
Gavin Wyatt is a journalist with a passion for travel. originally from Zambia he has traveled around the world to end up on the sunny shores of Australia. For more of his articles visit Car Hire in New South Wales