Soak up Sydney’s gorgeous harbour, seductive outdoor lifestyle and great natural beauty. Kayak under the Sydney Harbour Bridge or wave at the Opera House as you ride a ferry across the harbour to Manly. Learn to surf at Bondi Beach or swim in the calm waters of Coogee. Lose yourself in the cobblestone cul-de-sacs of The Rocks or in the markets, boutiques, cafes and pubs of Paddington. As well as a world-famous harbour and more than 70 sparkling beaches, Sydney offers fabulous food, festivals and 24-7 fun.
Five Sydney Experiences Not to Miss:
1. Explore the historic Rocks
Discover Sydney’s colorful convict history in the harbourside quarter where it all began. Just five minutes from Circular Quay, you can hear stories of hangings and hauntings on a ghost tour, wander the weekend markets or climb the span of the Harbour Bridge. In amongst the maze of sandstone lanes and courtyards, you’ll find historic workman’s cottages and elegant terraces, art galleries, hotels with harbour views and Sydney’s oldest pubs. See people spill out of them onto a party on the cobblestone streets when The Rocks celebrates Australia Day on January 26th, Anzac Day on April 25th and New Years Eve.
2. Hit the world-famous harbour
Sail past the Opera House on a chartered yacht or paddle from Rose Bay in a kayak. Take a scenic cruise from Circular Quay or Darling Harbour, past waterfront mansions, national parks and Shark, Clark, Rodd and Goat islands. Tour historic Fort Denison or learn about the life of Sydney’s first inhabitants, the Gadigal people, on an Aboriginal cultural cruise. Watch the harbour glitter from the green parklands of the Royal Botanic Gardens, which curves around its edge. Or take in the view from a waterfront restaurant in Mosman, on the northern side of the bridge, or Watsons Bay at South Head. Walk from Rose Bay to Vaucluse or Cremorne Point to Mosman Bay, on just some of the 16 spectacular routes hugging the harbour foreshore.
3. Visit Manly on the ferry
Travel across Sydney Harbour on a ferry to Manly, which sits between beaches of ocean surf and tranquil inner harbour. Wander through native bushland on the scenic Manly to Spit Bridge walk, learn to scuba-dive at Cabbage Tree Bay or ride a bike to Fairy Bower. Picnic at Shelly Beach on the ocean and sail or kayak from Manly Wharf round the harbour. Hire a scooter and do a round trip of northern beaches such as Narrabeen and Palm Beach. Explore the shops, bars and cafes along the bustling pine tree-lined Corso and dine at world-class restaurants with water views.
4. Enjoy café culture and top shopping in Paddington
Meander through the Saturday markets, browse fashion boutiques on bustling Oxford Street or discover the antique shops and art galleries in upmarket Woollahra. Visit the 1840s Victoria Barracks Army base, open to the public once a week, and see restored Victorian terraces on wide, leafy streets. Ride or roller-blade in huge Centennial Park, then stop for coffee and lunch on Oxford St or in the mini-village of Five Ways. Catch a movie at an art-house cinema or leaf through a novel at midnight in one of the huge bookstores. Crawl between the lively, historic pubs. They hum even more after a game at the nearby stadium or a race day, when girls and guys arrive in their crumpled trackside finery.
5. Walk from Bondi to Coogee
Take in breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean as you walk the winding, sea-sculpted sandstone cliffs between Bondi and Coogee. Swim in the famous Bondi Icebergs rock pool or just watch the swimmers with a sunset cocktail from the restaurant above. See wild waves in Tamarama, nicknamed Glamarama for the beautiful people who lie on its golden sand. From mid-October to November, the stretch from here to Bondi is transformed into an outdoor gallery for the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition. You can surf, picnic on the grass or stop for a coffee at family-friendly Bronte. Or swim, snorkel or scuba dive in Clovelly and tranquil Gordon’s Bay. See the graves of poets Henry Lawson, Dorothea Mackellar and aviator Lawrence Hargrave in Waverley Cemetery, on the edge of the cliffs. Finish your tour in the scenic, backpacker haven of Coogee.
Cairns is the sunny garden city where the Great Barrier Reef meets the Wet Tropics Rainforest, mountains and the gulf savannah not too far away. The city's water front boasts a world class marina and wharf used by visiting cruise liners, yachts and tour vessels. Cairns is situated in the Northern end of Tropical Queensland Australia. It's a modern city with a good location to explore some of Australia's vast array of flora and fauna. With a magnificent Casino, Cairns is alive with more activities than a visitor will ever have time for. The principal attraction is the over 60 national parks from the wet tropical rain forests and lush tablelands to the truly wild Cape York Peninsula and the Great Barrier Reef.
The world's largest monolith, located 280 mi/450 km southwest of Alice Springs, is a truly stunning sight, especially at sunset when its burnt-orange glow seems to set the desert on fire. Called Uluru by the Aborigines, the sandstone rock is huge (1,140 ft/350 m high, 9 mi/13 km around) and reddish brown most of the time, taking its color from iron oxide, or rust. Its presence is made more powerful by the mostly barren plain that surrounds it and disappears into the horizon. In 1985, ownership of the rock was returned to its traditional owners. It is rarely referred to as Ayers Rock anymore.
Considered sacred by the Aborigines for thousands of years, the rock is now part of the expansive Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, one of the country's biggest tourist attractions. The park includes the Olgas/Kata Tjuta, a cluster of 36 giant domelike rock formations about 20 mi/35 km west. If you want to visit both, plan to spend at least one night. You'll want to see Uluru at both sunset and sunrise. The Olgas are equally magnificent at both times of day. (But be prepared to jockey for position at either place; tour buses disgorge hundreds of visitors laden with binoculars, cameras and video equipment.)
Start your visit to the park with a stop at the cultural center. Run by the Anangu (a local Aboriginal clan), the center is a wonderful introduction to the unusual rock formations and to the people who lived in their harsh shadows for centuries. Aboriginal artwork and artifacts are on display. You can also see re-enactments of life in the bush and watch informative videos. Most visitors explore the rock as part of a tour led by park rangers, Anangu guides or private tour companies. But you can also pick up a printed walking guide at the cultural center and set off on your own.
Only one trail leads to the top of the rock, and it's fairly steep—those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, asthma, fear of heights or the like should remain earthbound. The Anangu prefer you walk around—not on—the rock because of its spiritual importance. If you do decide to climb it, allow two to three hours and take along a snack and plenty of water. The view from the top is spectacular, but hiking around the base is more educational and less strenuous. We suggest taking one or more of the shorter walks that pass water holes and rock paintings, allowing you to observe the rock's many faces at a leisurely pace. (Walking around the entire base of the rock takes about three hours.)
Allow at least an afternoon to visit the Olgas/Kata Tjuta. A frequent debate among visitors is whether the Olgas outshine the rock. It's a close call—the Olgas are taller, reaching 1,790 ft/545 m at the highest point. Made of conglomerate (pebbles and boulders cemented together by mud and sand), they are off-limits to climbers, but you can explore some of the valleys and chasms between the rocks.
Most visitors fly to Uluru or drive from Alice Springs. About the only place to stay in the area is the Ayers Rock Resort, or Yulara, whose five hotels and a campground can accommodate visitors in all price ranges. Longitude 131 is a magnificent safari camp with 15 luxury tents. Dozens of tours leave from Ayers Rock Resort, including sunrise camel rides around the rock, sunset champagne dinners in the desert, Aboriginal culture tours and stargazing. You can also rent a car there and explore on your own.
Because of the excessive heat in summer, the best time to visit is April-November (winter in Australia). Always take along plenty of drinking water. If you are flying to the Outback, we suggest going overland one way from Alice Springs (four to five hours) but flying the other way—the desert drive is scenic, but it can be tedious the second time around. http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/uluru.
Price are per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability and change without notice. Prices reflect land only accommodations, airfare is additional. Blackout dates/seasonal supplements may apply.
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