Bondi Beach is the grand dame of Sydney's beaches, with a magnificent
sweep of sand and a never-ending series of majestic rollers. The foreshore
is an eclectic mix of ice-cream parlours, designer cafés, greasy
fish and chip joints, kosher shops and surf fashion stores. You can also
see Aboriginal rock engravings a short walk north.
Circular Quay is built around Sydney Cove and is considered by many to
be the focal point of the city. The first European settlement in Australia
grew around the Tank Stream, which now runs underground into the harbour
here. For many years this was the shipping centre of Sydney, but it's
now both a commuting hub and a recreational space, combining ferry quays,
a railway station and the Overseas Passenger Terminal with harbour walkways,
restaurants, buskers, parks, the Museum of Contemporary Art and, of course,
the Sydney Opera House.
Once a thriving industrial port, Darling Harbour is now a vast harbourside
leisure park. Its various venues include the excellent Sydney Aquarium
and Powerhouse Museum, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the touristy
Harbourside shopping mall and Segaworld amusement park.
It was once a thriving dockland area, but it declined to the level of
an urban eyesore before being reinvented as Darling Harbour in the 1980s
by a combination of vision, planning, politicking, forbearance and huge
amounts of cash. The emphasis is on casual fun and enjoyment of the kind
appreciated by families with small children and coach tourists.
The Domain is a large grassy area east of Macquarie St which was set aside
by Governor Phillip for public recreation. Today it is used by city workers
for lunchtime sports and as a place to escape the bustle of the city.
On Sunday afternoons, it's the gathering place for impassioned soapbox
speakers, who do their best to entertain or enrage their listeners. It
is also the venue for free events held during the Sydney Festival in January
and the popular Carols by Candlelight at Christmas. The Art Gallery of
New South Wales is in the northeast corner of The Domain. It has excellent
permanent exhibitions of Australian, European, Japanese and tribal art,
and has some inspired temporary exhibits.
Sydney's greatest concentration of early public buildings grace Macquarie
St, many of them commissioned by Governor Macquarie and designed by the
convict architect Francis Greenway. The most impressive are the elegant,
two-storey, verandaed Parliament House, Sydney Hospital, the Mint Building,
the exquisite Hyde Park Barracks, St James Church and the voluminous State
Library of NSW. The Barracks and the Mint are now museums, the library
hosts exhibitions and there are tours of both the hospital and Parliament
House. Macquarie St is the eastern boundary of the central business district
and borders The Domain and the Royal Botanic Gardens. It runs from Hyde
Park to Circular Quay.
The harbour is the defining characteristic of the city. Criss-crossed
by ferries and carpeted with yachts on weekends, it is both the city playground
and a major port. Its multiple sandstone headlands, dramatic cliffs, rocky
islands and stunning bays and beaches make it one of the most beautiful
stretches of water in the world, and the area offers a close-up of Aussie
beach culture at its best. Officially called Port Jackson, the harbour
stretches some 20km (12mi) inland to join the mouth of the Parramatta
River. The most scenic area is on the ocean side of the bridge. The Sydney
Harbour National Park protects the scattered pockets of bushland around
the harbour and offers good walking tracks. The best way to experience
the harbour is to go sailing, but if you're lacking nautical skills there
are plenty of ways to enjoy it. Try catching the Manly ferry, swimming
at Nielsen Park, walking from Manly to Spit Bridge, having a drink at
Watsons Bay, dining with a view at Milsons Point, Balmoral or Circular
Quay, or cruising to the heads on the Bounty.
Sydney Opera House
Australia's most recognisable icon, perched dramatically over the sea,
may look like sails in full flight but the architect's inspiration was
the segments of a mandarin. It's a truly memorable place to see a performance,
listen to a free outdoor concert or sit under a cafe umbrella and watch
harbour life go by.
The Opera House is so unique that it has been photographed a zillion
times, appears on an army of cheap T-shirts and every other Sydney postcard
and decorates the frames of Dame Edna's dramatic glasses.
It was built between 1959 and 1973, but was plagued with construction
delays and political difficulties which culminated in the resignation
of architect Jørn Utzon in 1966. The interior was designed by a
consortium of Australians after Utzon quit.
The Opera House hosts theatre, classical music, ballet and film, as well
as the seasonal opera performances. There is also a venue called The Studio,
which stages contemporary arts events. There is free music on the prow
of the Opera House on weekends and a craft market on the forecourt on
'Old Sydney town' in the heart of CBD-mania, the once much rockier Rocks
(an historic shantytown) is now a sanitised tourist precinct. Its narrow
cobbled streets and fine colonial buildings are still evocative and its
tea rooms make the perfect lunch stop before an afternoon of souvenir
If you ignore the kitsch, a stroll around The Rocks can be delightful.
Attractions include the weekend market, the Sydney Observatory, and numerous
craft shops and art galleries.
But it's the old buildings, alleyways and historic facades that attract
most visitors. Try exploring the less developed areas in the contiguous
suburb of Millers Point, which has not sacrificed its community life to
the tourist dollar. Check out the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel and The Hero
of Waterloo, two of Sydney's oldest pubs.
Off the Beaten Track
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park covers 150 sq km (60 sq mi) of sandstone
bushland at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River, 24km (15mi) north of Sydney.
The park has over 100km (62mi) of shoreline, plenty of forest and wildlife,
a number of walking tracks and some magnificent Aboriginal rock art. Elevated
parts of the park offer superb views across Pittwater towards the northernmost
suburbs of Sydney.
Royal National Park
The Royal National Park, 30km (19mi) south of city, is the oldest gazetted
national park in the world. The sea of low scrub, which covered the sandstone
plateau in the north of the park, was devastated by the 1994 bushfires,
but the forested river valleys and the beaches were unscathed. The park
is dissected by the Hacking River and there are riverside picnic and boat
hiring facilities at Audley. There's a spectacular 26km (16mi) coastal
track stretching the length of the park, which is accessible from Bundeena.
It passes the lovely lagoon beach at Wattamolla, and the popular surfing
spot at Garie Beach. The best views are from the southern boundary of
the park overlooking Bulli from the edge of the Illawarra escarpment.
Other Australia Attractions
Canberra is often described by Australians who haven't been there as a
boring town, full of politicians, bureaucrats - and not much else. But
those who go there find a picturesque spot with beautiful galleries and
museums, as well as excellent restaurants, bars and cafes.
As Australia's capital, Canberra pulls out the big guns when it comes
to sightseeing. Souped-up national versions of art galleries, war memorials
and libraries come extra-large and with lashings of grandiose gravitas.
The city's impressive sights are ringed around its focal lake.
When the early colonists arrived and began building Adelaide they used
stone. They wanted to build a solid, dignified city, a civilised and calm
place, with a manner no other state capital in the country could match.
Nowadays, much to the wowsers chagrin, pubs and nightclubs outnumber the
The 'city of churches' has a superb setting, with a centre ringed by
green parklands and a backdrop of hills. Bouncing between its musuems,
fine galleries, metropolitan beaches and historic houses will keep you
busy, and then there's daytrips into the Mt Lofty Ranges.
Brisbane has shucked its reputation as a backwater and emerged as one
of the country's most progressive centres. It has several interesting
districts, a good street cafe scene, a great riverside park, a busy cultural
calendar and a thriving nightlife.
Brisbane is known for its showiness - think artificial beaches and tourist
arcades - but it also has gracious architecture and tranquil parks. Its
galleries and musuems are legendary, and if you need a break from the
built environment it's refreshingly close to bushland and wildlife.
Cairns shines with the carnival atmosphere of travellers all year round
and the city is positively booming. In 2003 the foreshore was given a
Hollywood makeover, with lagoons and the spanking Pier Marketplace, equipping
Cairns to be a truly international tourist destination.
This juicy chunk of far north Queensland will bamboozle you with its
awesome natural beauty both on land and sea. With its lush rainforests
and stunning reefs, Cairns' attractions can suit the coddled tourist and
the intrepid outdoor types alike.
The 'capital' of northern Australia is closer to Jakarta than it is to
Sydney, and closer to Singapore than it is to Melbourne, so it should
come as no surprise that it looks outward to Asia as much as it looks
inland to the rest of Australia.
When Cyclone Tracy levelled Darwin in 1974, she took with her a lot of
its streetscapes, but there are still a few colonial buildings to give
a feel for what went before. The city's musuems focus on everything from
pearling to crocodiles to the night Tracy came to town.
Great Barrier Reef
One of Australia's greatest assets is the magnificent reef that runs along
virtually the entire coast of Queensland. Considered one of the world's
natural wonders, it is the most extensive reef system and the biggest
structure made by living organisms on earth.
Great Ocean Road
This route along the south-western coast of Victoria is one of the most
spectacular coastal drives in the world. It winds around ragged cliffs,
windswept beaches and tall bluffs, passing through lush rainforest and
Hobart is Australia's southernmost capital city. The fact that it is also
the smallest is the key to its particular charm. A riverside city with
a busy harbour, its mountain backdrop offers fine views over the beautiful
Georgian buildings, numerous parks and compact suburbs below.
Many say that Hobart's history as a demonically harsh penal colony and
the site of some of Australia's worst massacres of indigenous people lingers
in the form of melancholy ghosts, lending an eerie chill to the idyllically
peaceful honey-stoned colonial buildings and Irish-looking landscapes.
Melbourne is dubbed marvellous for a reason. Healthy hedonism masquerades
as high art: Melburnians are equally passionate about football and ballet,
nuts for fashion, munchy for restaurants, ravenous for music and hot for
theatre. It's a smorgasbord of a city that invites you to take a bite.
Melbourne's easy-going pace is perfect for enjoying its gracious Victorian
architecture, its green wealth of parks and gardens, and its many cultural
highlights. Most of the city's main sights are just a short walk or tram-hop
apart, with plenty of latte pick-me-up opportunities on the way.
Perth is a vibrant and modern city sitting between the cerulean Indian
Ocean and the ancient Darling Ranges. It claims to be the sunniest state
capital in Australia, though more striking is its isolation from the rest
of the country - Perth is over 4400kms (2750mi) from Sydney by road.
Desert the cluttered rectangle of the city centre and go looking for
the beauty that makes visitors fall for Perth: Indian Ocean beaches, hillside
hideaways, romantic Fremantle, cosmopolitan Subiaco and the select, comfortable
suburbs which fringe the Swan River.
Uluru is a site of deep cultural significance to the Anangu Aboriginals
and the most famous icon of the Australian outback. The 3.6km (2.2mi)
long rock rises a towering 348m (1141ft) from the pancake-flat surrounding
scrub. It is especially impressive at dawn and sunset when the red rock
spectacularly changes hue.
'The Alice' is a pleasant modern town, smack in the middle of Australia
and built on the banks of the usually-dry Todd River. At first appearance
it's so civilised that it can be a real disappointment to those expecting
saloons on every corner and colourful bush characters, but stick around
and explore the area and you'll begin to appreciate the flavour of this
desert community. The town was founded as a staging point for the overland
telegraph line in 1870, although its growth has occurred only in the last
30 years. The road south to Adelaide was only fully sealed in 1987.
The Barossa Valley is arguably the best-known wine-producing region in
Australia. It's a beautiful, well-tended area with over 50 wineries, most
of which encourage casual visits for tasting and cellar sales. To fully
appreciate the area, get off the main road and take the narrow backroads
The gently sloping valley was settled in 1842 by German settlers fleeing
religious persecution in Prussia and Silesia, and its distinct Germanic
The central town is Tanunda. Adelaide is just over an hour's drive to
the south-west. Note that the least scenic time to visit is between July
and October, because the vines are heavily pruned during the winter months.
The busiest months are from March to May when the grapes are harvested.
There are several other wine-growing regions in the state, notably the
south-eastern corner around Penola, Coonawarra and Padthaway; in the Clare
Valley, north of the Barossa; and around McLaren Vale on the Fleurieu
This old pearling town's languorous pace, cosmopolitan atmosphere and
easy-going tropical charm have made it a popular travellers' centre and
a favoured spot for alternative lifestylers and urban burnouts. Broome
has a distinctly Asian feel, partly because of its history as a pearling
centre and partly because Perth, the state capital, is twice as far away
as Indonesia. Nearby Cable Beach is now one of the most famous beaches
in Australia, and the upmarket tourism promoted here has saved the town
from the crasser Australiana flotsam that swamps most WA tourist towns.
The major attractions in Broome are the small Chinatown, the 80-year-old
open-air Sun Pictures Cinema, the Japanese cemetery, and the dinosaur
footprints at Gantheaume Point. Broome is also popular with bird-watchers,
with the Broome Bird Observatory on Roebuck Bay rating as one of Australia's
top non-breeding grounds for migrant Arctic waders. Swimmers should beware
of stinging jellyfish in the water between November and March.
Rising from the northern end of Spencer Gulf, in the east of South Australia,
and running north for 800km (500mi), the Flinders Ranges are, to many
seasoned travellers, the epitome of outback Australia. It's a superb area
for bushwalks, wildlife and taking in the ever-changing colours of the
outback. In the far north, the mountains are hemmed in by sand ridges
and barren salt lakes. The best-known feature of the range is the huge
natural basin known as Wilpena Pound, which is ringed by 1000m (3280ft)
high cliffs. Other attractions include Alligator Gorge in Mt Remarkable
National Park, Brachina Gorge, and the ironstone capped ridge known as
the Great Wall of China. Winter is probably the most pleasant time to
visit, but the ranges are greenest and carpeted in wildflowers in spring.
The most convenient towns are Quorn and Hawker.
On Tasmania's beautiful east coast, the peninsula is part of the Freycinet
National Park and features secluded beaches and coves, rare plant, bird
and animal life and excellent bushwalks. A particularly popular walk is
the return trek to Wineglass Bay. The park has several camp sites and
Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park is one of the natural marvels of Australia. It encompasses
a variety of superb landscapes, swarms with wildlife and has some of Australia's
best Aboriginal rock art. This vast reserve is on the World Heritage list
both for its natural and cultural importance.
The Snowy Mountains are the highest section of Australia's Great Dividing
Range. Kosciusko National Park covers most of the mountains and includes
all of the state's ski resorts, rugged alpine scenery, caves, glacial
lakes and forests. Although renowned as a winter playground, the park
is also popular with bushwalkers in summer.
The ski resorts include Thredbo, Perisher Valley, Smiggins Hole and Mt
Blue Cow. Mt Kosciusko is the highest peak at 2228m (7308ft). The main
town in the region is Jindabyne, situated just outside the park boundary
on the edge of a beautiful lake.
The rugged Kimberley is one of Australia's last frontiers. A little-travelled
and very remote area of great rivers, oases and magnificent scenery. It's
the quintessential Australian landscape of red earth, rock, gumtrees,
crocodiles, wallabies and blue skies. Attractions include the spectacular
gorges on the Fitzroy River and Bungle Bungle (Purnululu) National Park.
Halls Creek is the largest town in the Kimberley. Derby, 220km (136mi)
away at the mouth of the Fitzroy River, is a useful base for excursions
into the area. The most popular time to visit is between April and September.
Although the Wet (the rainy season in the north) offers ethereal thunderstorms
and a magic carpet of wildflowers, rains make many roads impassable.