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I recently arrived to Sydney from Canada and was overwhelmed with the experience of being in Australia. There was no shortage of impressive things to see and do here that amaze my humble Canadian roots. Sydney especially has lots of things to offer both the budget backpacker and the wealthy vacationer. I’ve outlined ten of the best sites that will excite any traveller and provide a good intro to one of the country’s most talked about cities.
As a self-respecting tourist/backpacker and newcomer to Sydney I am unashamed to admit that the very first sight I laid my jet-lagged eyes on was the iconic Sydney Opera House. Was there honestly any choice in the matter? As it rose up from its place on the harbour front, opera singers started wailing in my mind. It was exactly how Finding Nemo showed it would be. You can walk around the buildings as well as take guided tours inside to gain insight and history of the building if you don’t want to splurge on an opera ticket. The Opera House is iconic for a reason and definitely worth the trip.
9. The Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens
Sydney is one of those great cities that have lots of beautiful green spaces right downtown and the Royal Botanic Gardens is one of them. You can wander along a set of paths that trail through the park from the harbour front into the heart of downtown that yield some beautiful views. Stop to admire the blooming flowers, towering trees and the various runners/boot-campers/fitness enthusiasts that make you re-evaluate your life choices and that chocolate brownie you ate earlier at one of Sydney’s amazing cafes. It’s also free so as a recent university graduate backpacking through Australia it provided a nice break for my wallet. Also located in the park is the excellent Art Gallery of New South Wales which is filled with a collection of art ranging from Classical European to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
Catch a game downtown at the Allianz Stadium, home to rugby league team the Sydney Roosters, the rugby union team NSW Waratahs, and the Sydney FC A-league football team. Games can be a lot of fun with the stands filled with passionate supporters and tourists looking to fit in (myself included). The Sydney Roosters rugby league team are especially fun to watch with very lively fans and a great atmosphere. Tickets are affordable and you are sure to be in for a great time.
As the oldest area in Sydney, The Rocks is arguably Sydney’s most vibrant and beautiful districts. Brush up on local history and explore the area; there are lots of nice restaurants and cafes to choose from, old houses and buildings to check out, and on the weekends a market crops up with an abundance of local products that make for perfect gifts.
Bondi Beach is pretty overrated so other than to creep on the surfers, take the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk instead. Stop at the arguably nicer beaches along the way such as Tamarama and Bronte. The walk carves along the coast and, as many sights in Sydney tend to, has beautiful views of the ocean and coastline where you can watch the whales migrating. Just watch out for the disgustingly fit runners barrelling down the trail making everyone else look bad.
I am terrified of heights. When Sydney locals asked me about climbing the Harbour Bridge, I looked at them as though they were crazy – I’ll take the normal way across the bridge thanks very much. That being said, everyone who has done the Bridge Walk swears by it. You get amazing views of the harbour and the city with a guided tour and the unparalleled experience of climbing this iconic Sydney landmark. For those less inclined to have their legs turn to jelly on top of a bridge, you can take the foot path and walk across like a normal human being. Although the views of the harbour may not be quite as nice as the ones from the top, they are still pretty spectacular.
Take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly for the day and enjoy the laidback atmosphere. Therre is lots going on in Manly to see and do: check out the sharks and rays at the Sea Life Sanctuary or take surfing lessons at their great beach. If the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk wasn’t enough for you, take on the slightly longer and more peaceful trek from the Spit Bridge into Manly. Manly is easily one of my favourite areas in Sydney.
Even though I am paralysed by heights, Sydney Tower Eye was one site I could not miss out on. As the tallest building in Sydney, you get 360 degree views of the city you won’t get anywhere else from within the safety of a large room and not the top of a bridge. Even battling vertigo, I could appreciate the beauty of the city stretching out beneath me. It was well worth the discomfort of being up high…and the admission price.
Although a little further afield and roughly an hour north of the main downtown area, Palm Beach is home to the best of the Northern Beaches and the popular Aussie show Home and Away, and a definite must do. The beaches are soft, golden sand in a setting of lush, green bush and cobalt blue waters. Gorge yourself on fresh seafood beside the ocean and relax. There are also lots of high end luxury homes here that overlook the beaches which I spent just as much time gawking at as I did the ocean.
Australia is home to some of the world’s most dangerous and strangest looking animals and although I haven’t personally made the journey to the zoo yet, it’s number one on my list because it comes so highly recommended… and because I can’t get enough of how strange Aussie animals are. The zoo is host to thousands of animals from hundreds of different species, many of which are endangered. This is your chance to see some amazing animals up close and personal.