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Holidays To Sydney - An Insider's Guide

Feb 13, 2008
Australians say that people tend to fall into one of either two camps, Melbourne or Sydney. The rivalry between the two cities is legendary, so much so that when it came to choosing a capital of Australia in 1908, the non-descript Canberra was chosen, slap bang in the middle, rather than pitting these two lovely places against one another. Melbournites think Sydney-siders are shallow and vain. Sydney-siders think Melbournites are a bit snobby and constantly dressing in black. But if you go on holiday to Sydney and take some time to suck in that glorious atmosphere, you'll realize that its people are having way too much of a good time to bother themselves with petty rivalries and back-biting, but then this is coming from someone who's passionate about Sydney and everything it has to offer. Here is my pick of the very best bits!


Restaurants in Sydney operate on a whole new level. Fresh, enterprising and uplifting, the food is a real cultural mix, some say the best in the world due to the large number of gastronomically talented immigrants the city has welcomed over the years. People often talk of 'fusion' food in Sydney restaurants - a mix of Western and Asian cooking - an exciting way to eat. Lots of restaurants in Sydney serve delicious fresh seafood, and you can buy cheap sushi all over Sydney. If you are into fish then check out the Sydney Fish Markets, near Darling Harbour - you can pick out great seafood and they will cook it for you on the spot. If you're feeling nostalgic, then head to Doyles for the tastiest imaginable fish and chips.


Lots of the bookshops in Sydney have cafes - they were doing this long before we caught on to it in the UK. The lattes are unrivaled and everyone has a leisurely breakfast out on Sunday mornings. A popular snack is toasted banana bread drizzled in butter along with a coffee or a fresh fruit smoothie. All over Sydney there are many places serving tea and scones. Surprisingly this is called a 'Devonshire Tea' and they tend to stop serving them at 4pm. For some great Italian cafes and culture try the suburb of Balmain, home to many famous drinking establishments.


One of the bonuses of the location of this city - surrounding the beautiful Sydney Harbour - is that you can experience the most awe-inspiring views from many different standpoints, and the best way to do this is on foot. The views you will grow to love the most will probably include the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and, perhaps unexpectedly, the brightly lit skyscrapers which rise brazenly in a central cluster from Sydney city centre to form a dramatic backdrop to Sydney's natural and man-made wonders. There is a great choice of sea walks including the Manly to Spit walk and Bronte to Bondi beach.


If you're up for a real adventure try the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb - a guided climb to 134 metres above Sydney Harbour at your chosen time of day. For a jungle experience take the 30-minute trip to the Australian bush at Kuringai National Park. A day trip to the spectacular Blue Mountains is also a favourite, with the Three Sisters - a famous sandstone rock formation - and some of the most beautiful scenery in Australia. Or for those with a penchant for good wine should visit the Hunter Valley, 2 hours north of Sydney for vineyard tours, wine tasting and cellar door sales.


Although going inside to enjoy yourself on your Sydney holiday may seem unthinkable, heavy rain occurs occasionally and on these days the marvelous museums and art galleries of Sydney come into their own. Visit the dinosaurs at the Sydney Museum, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay, where, due to sponsorship, all the exhibitions are now free. Both galleries have great cafes and top quality restaurants. The National Maritime Museum and the Powerhouse Museum, near Darling Harbour will also provide a fascinating respite.


Try Mosman in North Sydney for posh shopping, or alternatively the Queen Victoria Building in the city centre, which is full of little boutiques and cafes with an English style cafe at the very top. Oxford Street has the best strip of shops for alternative culture and evening cafes and is on the route for Sydney's fabulous Mardi Gras parade, which takes place in March.


If you're anything like most Sydney holiday makers you'll be spending a lot of time on its heavenly beaches. Most of these have beach cafes known as 'kiosks'. Make sure you try a few as they're all very different. Bondi Beach is great for Aussie beach culture, and where the Brits tend to congregate. If you're looking for a beach with personality then take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, a super-trendy beach reminiscent of Venice Beach in Los Angeles. Both Manly and Bondi Beach are great for surfing, whilst Balmoral is a non-surf beach for the North Shore residents and expats, with safe, calm water for kids to paddle and an area for swimming surrounded by a board walk and shark net. Hire a surfboard and wet suit at Manly or Bondi Beach and you can even book a few surf lessons. The beautiful Northern Beaches are a set of beaches encompassing the stretch between Manly and Palm Beach. One of my favourites is the onomatopoeic Curl Curl Beach with its excellent surf.


Two superb venues for childish fun are Luna Park, a theme park with an iconic giant clown face at the entrance, and the enormous Taronga Zoo, home to 2,600 animals. Taronga must be the zoo with the best view in the world, with vistas overlooking the whole of Sydney Harbour. You can get there by bus or ferry as it has its very own ferry stop. For another great kid's day out take the monorail, bus, ferry or car to Darling Harbour - the area may seem a bit kitsch, but has one of the best aquariums in the world, a lovely spot for 'Finding Nemo'! Children will also love Darling Harbour's Imax Theatre for 3D films on the big screen. At the art gallery of New South Wales there are often kids classes, free tours and magic shows, especially on Sunday mornings.


A little electric train will take you on a mini-adventure through the exotic Sydney Botanic Gardens, and you can take in some high culture with opera and other concerts in the park. Next door the Sydney Opera House hosts classical music as well as some of pop's big names. Lots of great buskers hang out around Circular Quay - good fun if you are waiting for a ferry. To try a real 1920's style cinema, check out the Cremorne Orpheum (after Orpheus), an old-style picture house on Military Road.


Surfing and other water sports feel as natural as breathing in Sydney - many Sydney-siders even go for a sneaky surf in their lunch hour from work. Swimmers should visit the Olympic Park and take a dip at the North Sydney Olympic pool, or visit one of the Sydney Harbour baths or beaches, such as Red Leaf or Nielsen Park.Outside the water you can catch a game of rugby or Australian rules football at Telstra Stadium, and if you're into road running why not try the City to Surf marathon, a 14k race which takes place in mid-August.


And finally, if you are visiting Sydney on holiday, there is no shortage of accommodation. From beach-side B&Bs and chic inner city guest houses to the finest 5-star hotels overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge, there is a place for all tastes.

So there you are. If Sydney was any closer I expect we all would have fallen in love with the place and emigrated long ago. Once you do go on holiday to Sydney, either on its own, or as part of a longer holiday in Australia, you'll be furious that nobody persuaded you to go there before. Well, there's no excuse now - time to go ahead and book those flights!
About the Author
Ricky Coates is a Senior Reservations Consultant and Aussie Specialist for key2holidays, an online tour operator specializing in tailor-made holidays to Sydney and other areas of Australia, Cuba, the Caribbean, Europe, the Far East, the Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles, Dubai, Egypt and Southern Africa. Key2holidays has a dedicated team of experienced travel consultants to share their knowledge and help yo
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