Sydney Sights & Attractions

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Places Of Interest

The Domain: The area behind Parliament House and Hyde Park Barracks is a park called The Domain. A largely recreational area, and a favourite with lunch-time joggers, it contains the Art Gallery of NSW, and includes Mrs Macquarie's Point with fine views of the city, Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House across the Royal Botanic Gardens. It's also the venue for large, free open-air concerts and events like Opera in the Park and Carols by Candlelight.

Sydney Opera House: The Sydney Opera House is possibly Sydney's best-known landmarks and international symbols. Click the attraction for more information.

Sydney Harbour Bridge: Sydney's greatest icon - The Sydney Harbour Bridge - took eight years to build and opened in March 1932. Linking the city with North Sydney, it carries eight lanes of road traffic and two railway tracks which form part of the city's rail suburban network.

Town Hall Precinct: The Town Hall Precinct contains Sydney Town Hall (1884), St Andrews Cathedral (Anglican), and the Queen Victoria Building. Completed in 1819, St Andrews is the oldest cathedral in Australia.

Circular Quay: Circular Quay is both a gateway to the city and the harbour. It was where the first European settlement began. Along the quay you'll find buskers and street masseurs and the comings and goings of tourists and locals.

Macquarie Street: Macquarie Street houses several of the most interesting - The State Library of New South Wales, Parliament House, Sydney Hospital, the Old Mint (now a museum) and Hyde Park Barracks and the Land Titles Office.

Bondi Beach: Bondi Beach has featured on more postcards and in more television travel shows and films than any other beach in Australia. It is patrolled in daylight hours by volunteer lifesavers and professional lifeguards. It also has an enclosed swimming baths at its southern end if you do not feel like tackling the waves.

Coogee: Coogee nowhere near as big as Bondi, Coogee is a good beach for visitors. It has a paved esplanade around the beach with several restaurants and cafes and two popular hotels with accommodation, bars and entertainment - the Coogee Bay Hotel and the Holiday Inn Coogee Beach. Coogee is a good swimming beach and has swimming baths at both ends.

Double Bay: Double Bay, which has many of Sydney's exclusive fashion boutiques for men and women and real antique and art shops - no bric a brac or cheap copies here. The streetside bistro at the Cosmopolitan Hotel is a favourite place to be seen in, as are several chic restaurants.

Manly: Manly is at the northern end of Sydney Harbour and has a harbour beach and one of Sydney's longest and most beautiful ocean beaches. The surfing beach at Manly is about three kilometres long and has three names. It is an ideal 'city escape' for visitors who enjoy swimming, surfboarding or windsurfing. Manly has numerous restaurants, cafes and pubs - some with discos.

The Rocks: The Rocks has the biggest concentration of historic buildings in Sydney. Most have been 'recycled' with house shops, restaurants, art galleries, and the like. The area is dotted with pubs, including the Lord Nelson which has traded since 1842 and the hero of Waterloo since 1845. The 'Hero' was notorious as a source of unwilling crewmen for ships which were short-handed. Men were made drunk and dragged off by 'press gangs' through a tunnel which ran under the hotel to a house across the street from where they were taken to the nearby wharves.

Hyde Park: The biggest patch of green in the city, Hyde Park starts at Queens Square (Hyde Park Barracks) and extends two city blocks to Liverpool Street. It is a pretty walk in daylight and its main attractions are the Archibald fountain at the Queens Square end and the Anzac Memorial at the Liverpool Street end.

Chinatown: Sydney has a large Chinese community, originally made up of Cantonese speakers from southern China who arrived in the 1850s Gold Rush era and stayed. Sydney's Chinatown is a bustling enclave of restaurants, shops and supermarkets on the southern fringe of the city area between George Street and Darling Harbour.

Darling Harbour: Darling Harbour houses Sydney's convention and exhibition centres as well as several major tourist attractions, shops, restaurants and cafes. Built around Cockle Bay on the western fringe of the city centre, it starts at the bottom end of Market Street and stretches to Chinatown, where it then does a U-turn and then continues around to the other side of the bay.

AMP Tower: The AMP Tower is the tallest structure in Sydney. Sitting above the Centrepoint centre (Market and Castlereagh Streets), it is a steel tower topped with a circular, gold anodised structure housing an observation deck and a revolving restaurant. It offers sweeping views of the entire city and Sydney Harbour. The observation deck is fully enclosed with floor-to-ceiling glass and is equipped with high-power binoculars.

St Mary's Cathedral: In College Street, running along the north-eastern side of the park, is one of the world's largest cathedrals. On the other side of the park is the Great Synagogue. Both have free tours.

Parliament House: Nearby Parliament House is the world's oldest continually operating parliament building. The lovely sandstone exterior hides the modern inside which has modern restaurant and swimming facilities to help the politicians with their daily grind. There are free guided tours and the public gallery is open when parliament sits.

Museums

Australian Museum: Located near the Domain is the Australian Museum. Apart from interesting displays for adults, there's plenty of hands-on stuff for the kids. The Australian Museum claims to be one of the best six natural history museums in the world and has the largest and oldest collections of its type in Australia.

Powerhouse Museum: Just outside the complex, near the exhibition centre, is the Powerhouse Museum. Australia's largest museum, it is devoted to science, aviation and the decorative arts. It has a lot of 'hands on' exhibits which make it a favourite with children, and is open daily.

Garrison Historical and Military Museum: The Garrison Church, near the Argyle Cut which convicts had been forced to try to cut through rock by hand to make a road, was consecrated in 1844 and is still in use. The Garrison Historical and Military Museum next to the church traces the history of the English soldiers sent to control the convicts, frequently with great brutality. Sent to serve in the farthest corner of the British Empire as little more than prison guards with little reward and no glory, many of the soldiers were worse than the convicts under their control.

Australian National Maritime Museum: The Australian National Maritime Museum covers Australian maritime history from the time of sail and includes several floating exhibits moored in the bay, including the naval frigate Vampire.

Sydney Mint Museum: The Sydney Mint Museum is another delightful building with interesting exhibits.

Entertainment

The IMAX Theatre: The Imax Theatre claims to have the world's biggest movie screen eight storeys high and shows spectacular nature films specially made for the format, one every hour from 10am to 10pm. There are usually three movies about 45 minutes long, screened in rotation.

Oceanworld: Oceanworld in Manly is open daily from 10am to 5.30 pm and has daily shark feeding sessions and a seal show, which is very well done and a treat for children. Though much smaller and less spectacular than the Sydney Aquarium at Darling Harbour, it is well worth visiting.

Customs House: Customs House sits behind the Quay. It's a fine old building with an arts and cultural centre and al fresco dining.

Sydney Entertainment Centre: Nearby, the Sydney Entertainment Centre is a major venue for concerts from Rock to Russian dances, as is the recently restored Capitol Theatre which is worth a visit if only to see its amazing interior decor.

Star City: Opened in December 1997, Star City is the only legal casino in Sydney and is open 24 hours a day, every day. It offers gamblers 1500 slot machines and 160 gaming tables, has a Lyric Theatre seating 2000 and the Showroom Cabaret seating 900, seven restaurants and five bars.

Art Gallery of NSW: Across from the domain is the excellent Art Gallery of NSW. The permanent display is varied, rewarding and free and there are regular inspired temporary exhibitions where there is a charge.

State Library: The State Library is more than just a library with fine exhibitions and collections of early Australiana including Captain Bligh's log from the Bounty.

Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras: Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras early March each year. It is a major event with floats, bands, dancing troupes and spectacular costumes. People from all over the world line Oxford Street 15 deep to watch it, many making it the focal point of a holiday in Sydney.

Nature & Wildlife

Taronga Park Zoo: Taronga Park Zoo has a vast array of exotic and local animals, reptiles and birds in a spectacular setting.

Sydney Aquarium: The Sydney Aquarium is regarded as one of the world's best. More than 150 metres of clear 'tunnels' pass through the underwater exhibits so you see fish and sharks swimming around and above you. It has more than 5000 residents of 350 species, including the uniquely Australian platypus which lives in river banks and is very difficult to find in the wild.

Royal Botanic Gardens: Royal Botanic Gardens. These Gardens open from sunrise to sunset. Admission is free and there are free guided walks. A wonderful collection of plants and a great place for a stroll or picnic. There's also a nice restaurant.

Observatory Hill: One of the best views of Sydney is from Observatory Hill on which stands the original Sydney Observatory built in 1858. It still has its optical astronomical telescope which was once a key to the scientific study of astronomy in the Southern Hemisphere. The Observatory is now a museum by day, but still conducts occasional explorations of the sky by night - bookings essential. Though it almost next to the southern roadway of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, access is from Argyle Street in The Rocks.

Chinese Gardens: The Chinese Garden is a tranquil escape from the bustle of the city at the edge of Chinatown. It is a large, walled enclave with Chinese pavilions, large ponds full of ornamental carp, trees and stone statues.

Shopping

Queen Victoria Building:Centrepiece of the Precinct is the ornate sandstone Queen Victoria Building topped with three large copper-clad domes, which was built as a produce market, reflecting the wealth of the city at the time. In a project costing $80 million, and completed in 1986, the QVB was completely renovated in the style of a 19th Century arcade, preserving its ornate exterior and beautiful stained glass windows. The QVB's 190 shops, boutiques and galleries are open daily and sell a wide range of products including Australian designer label clothes and quality jewellery.

Sydney Fish Markets: The Sydney Fish Markets is a really great spot to enjoy some quality local seafood at very reasonable prices - providing you do not mind the company of raucous seagulls. The markets are the centre for Sydney's commercial seafood trade with major wholesalers maintaining retail outlets. Market staff are used to visitors and are friendly and helpful.

Activities

Writer's Walk: Set into the path along the Quay at regular intervals are round plaques. This is the Writers' Walk which celebrates famous writers and has snippets of their impressions of Australia. Worth a read on your way to the Opera House.

Monorail Loop: A monorail loop connects the Sydney CBD with the western side of Darling Harbour and the Entertainment Centre at Chinatown at five-minute intervals (generally from 7am).