While it isn’t the capital, Sydney is by far the largest and most extravagant of all of Australia’s cities. It has a population of four million people, busy streets, and imposing skyscrapers. It also has one of the most spectacular harbours in the world where you will find two of Australia’s most instantly recognizable landmarks. Just to make things even sweeter, within 20 minutes from the city centre you can sunbathe on one of the world’s most famous beaches. And while it has all the characteristics of a brash American city such as busy streets and imposing skyscrapers, there is something very homely about Australia’s largest city.
Sydney, Australia’s oldest and largest city was founded in 1788 when Captain Phillip arrived in 1788 at Farm Cove, today just east of the Opera House, making it quite a young city. In 1901 Australia was federalized and Sydney became the capital of New South Wales, the state in which Sydney is situated. The city continued to develop throughout the 20th Century, enduring both World Wars and becoming an Allied military base during World War II.
During the 1970’s Sydney underwent extensive urban redevelopment while today it has all the traits of a world class city: the population is approaching five million people, it has a CBD (Central Business District) with a skyline rivalling many of America’s biggest cities and it played host to one of the greatest Olympic Games of modern times.
It is based on one of the world’s most spectacular harbours and a ferry ride at night time is one of the highlights of the city. Not many cities in the world have two of its most instantly recognisable landmarks right beside each other. You can’t beat the experience of sipping a coffee outside Sydney Opera House while admiring the Harbour Bridge at the same time.
Once the city becomes too much for you, and you feel like retreating to a more relaxed location, take your pick from some of the best beaches in Australia located in the eastern and northern suburbs.
Sydney is one of the best cities in the world for dining out – it’s cheap, the food is of the highest quality and you can bring your own (BYO) drink. These factors result in a great night out at a very affordable price.
Oxford Street in the city centre is where you can find some Sydney’s best restaurants. Vietnamese, Lebanese, Italian, Indian plus more restaurants serving meals from the world over are dotted along this street from top to bottom. Other areas of the city which are worth checking out when eating out include Bondi, Manly and suburbs on the harbour like Balmain and Rose Bay.
Before leaving Australia’s largest city do your very best to try out two things when eating out: be sure to eat in some of the city’s Thai restaurants. Food served in these dishes rivals food served in some of Thailand’s very own restaurants.
It is advisable to try some of Australia’s native cuisine, widely known as Bush Tucker. Kangaroo, akudjura (bush tomatoes), pepperberry (fruit, seeds and leaves of the Tasmanian tree) and quandong (fruit of the Sandalwood tree). Some of the Australia’s dishes might not sound the most appealing but take a chance when ordering your meal and you will be nicely surprised.
By air: Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith Airport, more often referred to as ‘Mascot’, lies just 8km south of the city. The Airport Link Underground Railway connects the airport to Central Station. The journey takes approximately 10 minutes, costs about $10 and trains depart every 7-10 minutes. Airport Express buses operate between the International and Domestic Terminals to the City Centre, Kings Cross and Potts Point. Buses run from 6.30am to 7.50pm. The #300 bus goes to the airport via Circular Quay the #350 bus goes via Kings Cross.
By train: All interlink trains travelling from Australia’s other cities arrive in Central Station in the city centre via Australia’s Countrylink rail network. Nearly all train Sydney’s train lines pass through Central Station making it easy to get to other suburbs from.
By bus: If you are travelling to Sydney from somewhere else Australia by bus the bus terminal is also at Central Station.
On foot: Sydney city centre is very compact with all major attractions within walking distance of each other but other suburbs you may be visiting, particularly in the western suburbs of the city, can be a good bit out. Sixteen train lines, an extensive bus service and ferries operating from six wharfs make travelling around Australia’s biggest city very easy.
By train: Sixteen lines operate throughout Sydney, serving the majority of the city. Most trains pass through the city centre stations Central, Town Hall, Martin Place, Wynyard and Circular Quay. Other lines service northern and western suburbs. The train is the quickest way of getting around Sydney. Short journeys begin at $1.60 and get more expensive as your journey gets longer.
By bus: For all areas not covered by the train, Sydney Buses serve them. Obviously, the bus can take longer than the train due to traffic but is the only mode of transport to some parts of the city. It is also cheaper than the train with fares starting at $1.30, getting more expensive the further you are travelling.
By ferry: Ferries serve most of the bays dotted around Sydney Harbour along with other suburbs on the harbour. Don’t leave without getting the ferry back from Manly at night time which is one of the highlights of the city.
By monorail: The monorail circles Darling Harbour and also goes by Pitt Street in the city centre. It is a good way to get to Darling Harbour, but only for novelty reasons.
By light rail: This city centre service is mainly for tourists as it operates from Haymarket in the city centre (down from the cinemas in Georges Street) through Chinatown and up to Pyrmont where the casino is. Just like a tram except quicker and runs 24 hours.
Sydney’s biggest attraction is its harbour and surrounding area. Port Jackson, where the harbour is situated, is one unrivalled by many for its beauty. This harbour divides the city into two, the north and south shores, with more of the best known attractions lying on the south end of the harbour.
Down at Circular Quay, where all the ferries depart, is the Sydney Opera House and it’s the best place in the city to view the amazing Harbour Bridge. The building of the Opera House was finished in 1973 after 14 years of construction. Today it is Australia’s best known landmark along with Uluru (Ayer’s Rock).
While down at Circular Quay admiring the authenticity of the Opera House, you can’t help but notice the monstrous bridge connecting both shores. The Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest steel bridge and celebrated its seventieth year in 2002.
The most common place to socialise in Sydney is in the pubs and bars. The majority of these are actually part of hotels, but they may as well be bars because they all look the same. With very liberal opening hours (most of the pubs stay open until 4am) you won’t need nightclubs to go to.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a good choice of nightclubs, of course. Over the last number of years, the club culture has become increasingly popular with Sydneysiders and there are more clubs in the city centre than ever before.
These clubs don’t simply cater for dance music audiences. Hip-hop, r n b, disco and alternative rock nights are always taking place. Some clubs are bigger than others, particularly Home nightlclub in Darling Harbour.
Best news for those travelling to Sydney with their rucksack is that there are thousands of backpacker nights in the centre and surrounding suburbs. Travellers are well catered for and there are always theme nights with drink promotions making nights out very cheap and very cheerful.
Entertainments in Sydney
Dendy Bar & Bistro
Dendy Cinema, 19 Martin Place, Sydney, Australia
This basement bar has a 24-hour license and will close only when everybody goes home.
Particularly popular with students and twenty-somethings, there is regular live music and on Sunday night short films are shown on a big screen
43 Goulburn Street, Sydney, Australia
City centre Irish bar that’s always packed – you are definitely guaranteed a laugh here! Scruffy’s has a 24 licence and the Guinness lover will find their beloved black stuff served on tap.
Royal Sovereign Hotel, 306 Liverpool Street, Sydney, Australia
Popular meeting place with really comfy seats and sofas. Drinks here are relatively cheap with a mixed and unassuming crowd. Tends to close around midnight during the week and at 10 pm on Sundays.
Courthouse Hotel, 189 Oxford Street, Sydney, Australia
Overlooking Taylor Square, this place is open late most weekdays and at weekends. Don’t go here until around 1am, however, when the place begins to start kicking. Popular mix of music played nightly.
171 Victoria Street, Potts Point, Sydney, Australia
Two bars in one in this trendy Kings Cross watering hole with the Soho bar downstairs and the lounge bar upstairs. The Soho Bar is very popular with backpackers, and if you are in the mood to chill out and play a game of pool you can pop upstairs. Open until 2am during the week and around 5am at weekends.
96 Cumberland Street, The Rocks, Sydney, Australia
Lively pub with a great rooftop beer garden and wonderful views. Located just opposite the entrance to the Habour Bridge so it is convenient for a drink after visiting the sites.
Mon–Sat 11am–11pm/midnight, Sun noon–10pm.
77 William Street, Woolloomooloo, Sydney, Australia
Popular student haunt with a great mix of music. Expect to pay between $5-10 depending on the night.
Open 11pm-5am Thur, Fri; 9pm-4am Sat; 9pm-2am Sun
89 Georges Street, The Rocks, Sydney, Australia
This pub, one of the Rocks’ biggest, is very big and has live bands playing sometimes. Nice beer garden also for relaxing in during the summer months.
24 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross, Sydney, Australia
Extremely popular twenty-four hour American style bar and restaurant. Open every day, featuring a live band that plays from early evening to the early hours of the morning daily and serving a varied and reasonable selection of food including steaks, tex mex, seafood and salads.
81 Lower Fort Street, Millers Point, Sydney, Australia
Despite being extremely popular among visitors to the city, this pub has maintained its historical aura throughout the decades. One of the oldest pubs in the city, the iron shackles remain on the cellar walls as does the secret tunnel leading to the harbour which was once used by drunken soldiers to find their way back to sea.
20 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross, Sydney, Australia
Located right in the heart of the red light district, this bar and club packs them in every night of the week. Open until 6.00am daily, dress code is casual but neat (ditch those trainers for this one) and entrance fee is $5 from Sunday to Thursday and $10 at weekends. Also features the city’s longest running club night, French Dressing, which takes place every Tuesday.
34 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia
Located upstairs in the Exchange Hotel, this was once one of the top gay venues in the city but now caters for a relatively mixed crowd. A popular cocktail dispensing establishment, the Lizard Lounge has a happy hour every day between 6.00pm and 8.00pm and on Tuesday it is two for one drinks all night.
Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia
Sydney’s largest nightclub is always packed with clubbers dancing away into the early hours of the night. Plays hosts to some of the world’s top dj’s regularly.
YHA Basement, 4 Rawson Place, Sydney, Australia
This bar primarily geared towards backpackers is located just under the YHA hostel beside Central Station. Always holding theme nights which are good fun.
Campbell Parade, Bondi, Sydney, Australia
Popular bar with backpackers and locals alike. Best nights are Wednesdays, but is very busy in the weekends also. Open until 4am nightly; 12am on Sundays.
All visitors to Australia need a passport and a visa. Those travelling from New Zealand are issued a visa on arrival; all other visitors must obtain one in advance. There are several types of visa depending on the reason for visiting, but most holiday visitors will need a standard tourist visa. To apply for a visa you’ll need an application form, available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas and many travel agents. There’s a US$33 fee for a three-month stay and you’ll have to provide your passport and a passport photo with your application. Holiday visas entitle tourists to stay in Australia for three months.
Visitors between the ages of 18 and 30 from Britain, Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands, Malta, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Malta, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Germany may be eligible for a working holiday visa. You can work either full-time or part-time for as much of the year that you want, but you can’t work for the same employer for more than 3 months. Working visas are valid for a year from the date of issue and are valid for a year from the date of entry.
Australia’s currency is the Australian dollar ($). This is divided into 100 cents (c).
English is the first language spoken in Sydney.
Sydney enjoys a warm climate with temperatures ranging above 20 degrees celcius for over half of the year. The hottest months are December-February with the winter going from June-August. The average rainfall per annum is 1210mm.
Residents of Britain, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Malta and Italy are entitled to free or subsidised health care under Medicare due to reciprocal agreements. Residents of the Republic of Ireland aren’t entitled to a Medicare card but can present their passport at public hospitals and get free ‘necessary’ treatment.
Sydney is 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and 15 ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).
General opening hours in Sydney are from 9am-6pm, with late night shopping on Thursdays. Office hours range from 8am-6pm with an hour lunch break sometime between 12am-2pm.
There are numerous information centres located throughout Sydney. In addition you can phone the City Information Line (02 9265 9007) which is open from 9am-5pm Mon-Fri. Other information centres can be found at the following locations:
Bondi Visitors Information Centre Bondi Beachside Inn, corner of Campbell Parade and Roscoe Street, Bondi Beach (9130 5311) Open 24 hours.
Darling Harbour Visitor Centre Palm Grove, between Cockle Bay and Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour (9286 0111) Open 10am-6pm daily.
Manly Visitors Information Bureau
South Steyne, Manly (9977 1088) Open 10am-4pm daily.
NSW Travel Centre
Arrivals Hall, Gate D, International Terminal, Sydney International Airport (9667 6050)
Open 5.30am-11.30pm daily.
Sydney Harbour Information Centre
Cadman’s Cottage, 110 George Street, The Rocks (9247 8861). Open 9am-5pm daily.
Since July 1, 2000 a new tax called the GST (Goods and Services Tax) with a rate of 10% has been placed on most goods consumed, or ‘enjoyed’ in Australia.
It is no problem to change foreign currency and travellers cheques as banks are plentiful. Normal banking hours are Monday to Thursday from 9.30am to 4pm and Friday from 9.30am to 5pm. You’ll also find foreign-exchange booths at Sydney airport and in the city centre. These have more convenient opening hours than banks but generally their rates aren’t as good. Most hotels will change currency or travellers cheques but the rates are usually quite poor. The one down side with changing currency in banks is that they charge $5 to $7 per transaction.
Voltage in Australia is 220-240V.
The country code for Australia is 61 and the area code for Sydney is 02. Dial this number first if calling from outside New South Wales and drop the 0 if calling from overseas. Local calls from public phones cost 40c for unlimited time. You can make local calls from Telstra payphone booths and also from the gold and blue phones found in many shops and hotels.
Long-distance calls can be made from almost any public phone. Buy pre-paid phone cards which make overseas calls very cheap. Many public phones accept Telstra Phonecards which come in $5, $10, $20 and $50 denominations and are available from retail outlets which display the Phonecard logo. Otherwise you can use coins of 10 cents and upwards. Long-distance calls are charged according to distance and rates vary depending on what time you call. The lowest rates are currently at weekends and after 8pm during the week.
The postal service in Australia is relatively efficient. Generally, post offices are open Monday to Friday from 9am-5pm. All post offices will hold mail, keeping it for one month before returning it to the sender. For a small fee you can arrange to have mail forwarded to you. If you wish to purchase stamps you can buy them from most newsagents if the post office is closed.
In Australia tipping isn’t a must as it is in America and some parts of Europe. It is considered as a ‘thank you’ for good service rather than an obligation. If you decide to tip, the amount should be in accordance with how good you felt the service was. Ten percent of the bill would be considered reasonable.
January 1st, January 27th (Australia Day), Good Friday, Easter Monday, April 25th (Anzac Day), June 9th (Queen’s Birthday) , December 25th and December 26th. It is a good idea to check the particular area you are heading to as certain towns and cities have their own public holidays. It is worth noting what the public holidays are before travelling to Sydney as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day.