Sydney Harbour Bridge Australia
Sydney Australia is an amazing city. Beautiful and picture postcard stunning. It is just as pretty as the photos, and does not disappoint at all. Here are some general observations and then my top 10 tips for things to do:
Don’t forget you need a visa!: I once dropped someone off at London Heathrow for a flight to Sydney, and on check in they asked for the visa. Panic. Luckily you could buy one at the airport. So as this suggests, it is not really a visa more of a tax it seems. There is an Australian government site, which has a very complicated and long URL, instead of having something simple like, “AustraliaVisa.com” and to get a Visa you apply for it online, all very simple, pay the fees and you are done. There are different sites based on your passport and so the best is to search for the right site.
Strict customs and screening: When you arrive in Sydney airport, you will find that they are very strict on customs screening especially for agricultural products. When you arrive you will see various buckets to dump anything you may have like apples, or fruits, or whatever. My advice is that is you are in any doubt then throw it away, and there are quite strict penalties. The overall screening of bags and checking of your declaration is overall one of the toughest of any country I have been to, and is manned by a lot of people.
Sydney cabs: Maybe I have just had a bad experience, but there are a lot of cabs all round the city – but they didn’t seem that knowledgeable. This for me was quite a surprise, as Sydney is not a particularly big city. But on the plus side, there are a lot of cabs around and you can always get one. An alternative is the Monorail. Through part of the city is a fairly new monorail which covers what I would call the “right hand side of town”. It goes from Darling Harbor through the main shopping area, and right up to the up to Central Station. It is a good trip as it is fairly new it is above the streets and so you get a feel for a large part of the city, and it’s very inexpensive to go on.
Hotels: Where ever you stay, if you can afford to, try and stay for at least a night or two in one of the high rise hotels right on the harbour and relish and enjoy the stunning view. If you cannot, then some of the hotels have bars up on the top floors and that should be your alternative plan! Make sure if you do book to stay in one of these hotels, check what sort of view you will get so you don’t find yourself splashing out to look over the highway toll booths on the other side of the hotels!
So, what on earth is there to do in Sydney?
There’s a lot to do in Sydney! It is quite hard to chose just 10 things to do, and so here are the top tips for a first visit to the city to see a good spread of activities and places.
1: Hop-on Hop-off City Bus Tour: I generally recommend this for any city you go to for the first time as they give a great overview and feeling for a city. In Sydney there are some very good options. I think the “Red Bus” is probably the best one. It has 26 stops. The whole tour would be about two and a bit hours, and runs every 20 minutes. The main starting point is at Circular Quay and starts at 8:40 am and the last one leaves at 5:20 pm and gets back at 7:30 PM. It has a great route and covers all the main attractions including things like the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Darling Harbour, and King’s Cross. It’s air conditioned, so that’s pretty good if it’s 30 or 40 degrees in summer. There’s a commentary about the history and what you seeing that is pretty good.
2: Circular Quay Harbour Area: This is the famous harbour area you always see. It is called the Circular Quay area. This is also where the famous and iconic looking harbour bridge is. Again, it does not disappoint. Originally built in 1932, around 2002 they started tours where you can actually climb right up to the top of the bridge. It takes about three and a half hours and must be amazing if you are brave with a head for heights! It is billed as “The Climb of Your Life”, and you can find out more at http://www.bridgeclimb.com.After a screening to check you have not been drinking, you dress up in special jump suit and climb 134 metres above sea level.
3: Sydney Opera House:Of course, you need to visit the Sydney Opera House. It was also just as impressive as the pictures, and have a couple of tour options that are well worth doing to explore the inside rather than just look at the outside!
The Sydney Opera House was designed by a Danish architect called Jorn Utzon. It was completed in 1973, and it cost 102 million dollars. I think the original budget was probably a fifth of that, and was a bit of a nightmare of a project while being built. But the final products is just stunning. Inside is an opera theatre, a concert hall, and a studio theatre. As regards tours, the main ones worth looking at are: (1) an early morning one, that starts at 7:00 am, that is a backstage tour, and includes the scenery dock, dressing rooms and so on. It takes two hours, includes a bit of breakfast. Really interesting. (2) The main and most popular one is the tour of the house. This explains the architecture, the history, and so on. It happens every half an hour between 9:00 and 5:00. All can be booked on http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com.
4: Harbour Trip: While in the Circular Quay area you do need to get out onto the harbour and see the city this way. The cheapest and I think the best option is actually to just use the commuter ferry. There are though also commercial services with specific tours and the best known and biggest seemed to be Captain Cook Cruises. Everywhere you go it felt like their brochures were there! They offer many different tours of different lengths, different costs and from one hour to many hours.
As I mentioned, and in talking to people who live in Sydney, the recommendation is to use the ferry. A great trip is to take the ferry to Manly, which is about half an hour to get there and about half an hour back. You could get off there and enjoy the beaches and explore.
5: Darling Harbour: Once you have explored the famous harbour area, it is worth heading across to another harbour area close by. This is where all the cruise ships dock, and called Darling Harbour. It is a little more touristy, and feels a bit more constructed, and has a number attractions: The Powerhouse (a big sort innovative Australian museum), the Maritime Museum (costs nothing to get in, and it has a submarine and an old warship and more), a very big IMAX theatre and then what is billed as the number one attraction which is the Aquarium. This area is usually busy and buzzy, and you can spend quite a bit of time eating, shopping and exploring the area.
6: Aquarium: I’ve actually pulled the Aquarium out as a separate thing to do, as it is impressive and well worth visiting. It’s open from 9:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night, and it is billed as Australia’s number one attraction. They have crocodiles, platypuses, sea dragons, stuff from the Barrier Reef, seal sanctuaries, and so much more. They claim to have over 11,000 aquatic animals, as well as the world’s greatest collection of sharks, and the seal sanctuary. You can find out more at the website: http://www.sydneyaquarium.com.au
7: Botanical Gardens: If you’re into gardens and even if not, there are two amazing garden to visit and spend time enjoying, first there is the Botanical Gardens. This is a very beautiful garden, and popular with locals relaxing, running and enjoying being outdoors. Then there is also the remarkable Chinese Garden. which is supposed to be the largest garden of its type outside China. It is reached very easily from Darling Harbour on the monorail, the stop is the Garden Plaza monorail.
8: Sydney Olympic Park: if you’ve come all the way to Sydney, you need to go and see the Olympic PaThis includes a behind the scenes tour at Telstra stadium, which is where the opening and closing ceremonies were. The site to find out more is at http://www.sydneyolympicpark.com.au
9: Sydney Tower and Skywalk: This is well worth a visit. Central in Sydney is the huge Sydney Tower, the Skywalk. A huge big tower in the centre of town above the Centrepoint shopping centre, at the corner of Pitt and Market street, is the very tall tower, with amazing views including 360 degree views of the harbour. It’s 250 metres above the city streets, and there is also the Oztrek, which is a simulated ride where you sit in a moving chair using IMAX movie, you are whisked around the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Bondi Beach, White Water Rafting, Aussie Rules Football, Buffalo, and so on.
Then there is, because clearly they think people like heights in Australia, the Sky Walk. You head out of the Tower and onto the roof in special suits and harness, and for about 60 minutes you are out of the building and also walking on a glass walkway walking above the streets ages below..
: While down in this part of town, you are in the main shopping area in Sydney. And,
shopping in Sydney is pretty good. The places worth exploring include: (1) Pitt and Market, and Castlereagh street which is just off Pitt, which is Sydney’s answer to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, (2) Close by is the Queen Victoria Building, a very pretty building over one hundred years old. It is full of more boutiquey kind of stuff, with Cafes and restaurants and then (3) One Martin Place, which again has a long history, having been opened in 1874. It used to be the Post Office, and has more bars, restaurants, fashion.
MY PHOTOS OF SYDNEY: click here
Sydney Monorail from Darling Harbour Australia
Sydney Harbour Bridge & Hyatt Hotel
The historic Rocks area of Sydney Australia
Maritime Museum Darling Harbour Sydney
View of Sydney from the Opera House
Sydney Opera House
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