Top Sydney Sights
Ringed with world-class beaches and some of the most spectacular nature on the continent, Sydney is the continent's cosmopolitan hub, and home to two renowned architectural icons—the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
No one ever tires of Sydney's magnificent nature and its two landmark structures. The Sydney Opera House is both awe inspiring and utterly welcoming. Its stunning "sail" design was the brainchild of Danish architect Joern Utzon, who won an international design competition from 233 submissions. Sydney Harbour Bridge is equally loved, especially when the city comes out to see the fireworks explode over it for New Year's Eve celebrations. Opened in 1932, it can be experienced by car or train, but we recommend taking it slower and walking across it. Adventure seekers can even climb up and over the arch to the top. Sydney Harbour's shoreline is dotted with large swaths of national park perfect for hiking and picnics. On the north side of the harbor is Taronga Zoo, the ultimate zoo with a view.
Need a Break
The historic Harbour View Hotel is the place to sit with a drink and watch the folks in their special jumpsuits begin their climb up the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The pub is so close to the bridge that you feel you could reach out and touch it! The bar menu includes snacks of salt-and-pepper calamari and chicken schnitzel ($); the more upscale restaurant menu features sizzling steaks, slow-cooked lamb shanks, and decadent desserts ($). It's near the south pylon of the bridge, at 18 Lower Fort Street and Cumberland Street (02/9254–4111 www.harbourview.com.au).
Fodor's Choice Sights
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Despite its nickname "the coat hanger," the bridge has a fond place in all Sydneysiders' hearts. Its opening on March 19, 1932 (during the height of the Great Depression), lifted the spirits of citizens and provided some very unexpected theater. As NSW Premier Jack Lang waited to cut the ribbon, Captain Francis de Groot, a member of the paramilitary New Guard, galloped up on his horse, drew his sword, and slashed the ribbon first.
Sydney Harbour National Park
This national park is a collection of separate areas of native bush land flanking both sides of the harbor and dotted with walking tracks. Miles of paths wind through the bush and up and down rocky outcrops and headlands. One of the best walks is the 9½-km (6-mile) Manly Scenic Walkway, which travels from Manly Beach to the Spit Bridge via pockets of rain forest, several little beaches, ancient Aboriginal sites, and the historic Grotto Point Lighthouse.
Sydney Opera House
Sydney's most famous landmark, listed as a World Heritage site in 2007, had such a long and troubled construction phase that it's almost a miracle it was ever completed. Architect Joern Utzon's concepts were dazzling, and so far ahead of their time that the soaring "sails" that formed the walls and roof could not be built by existing technology.
Sydney's major wildlife sanctuary occupies one of the most prized positions on the north shore of Sydney Harbour. Daily shows, such as the seal and the birds of prey show, are included in the admission price of A$44. A Zoo Pass, using Sydney Ferries, is an excellent deal at A$52.
Sydney Harbour and its many sites are best visited in spring (September–November) and autumn (March–May). Summers can be hot and sticky and crowded with kids on school break. Winters (June–August) can be mild, and you may even find some lunch bargains at nice restaurants. Midweek visits are always recommended.
The Opera House and Bridge
A guided Opera House tour takes one hour, while the backstage tour, complete with a full breakfast, takes two hours. If you're exploring sans guided tour, allot about 30 minutes to walk around the outside of the building and into some of the interior areas. The two sites are about 1 km (½ mile) apart, which is a leisurely 30- to 45-minute stroll. It takes three hours to do the Bridge Climb tour and around 30 to 45 minutes if you do your own walk across the Harbour Bridge from the south to the north side.