G’ Day mate! Welcome to the cosmopolitan outpost of the land down under. Sydney has emerged from the outback to become one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Originally a British penal colony, Sydney has been infused with a blend of Asian and Indian culture in recent years. Thai massage parlors and Lebanese Kebab grills are now just as prevalent as traditional English pubs. Prior to hosting the 2000 Summer Olympics, the city completely renovated its infrastructure.
The public transportation system is one of the world’s most efficient. The city is linked by an undergroud tube as well as an overhead monorail that connects Darling Harbour to Circular Quay. Buses depart every 10 minutes throughout the city and an efficient train station connects Sydney to Melbourne, Gold Coast & Uluru.
The Great Barrier reef is only four hours north of the harbour and provides a dizzying array of exotic aquatics. It also supplies fresh prawns (shrimp), cockles (mussels) and Sashimi. In addition to the amazing seafood, other local dishes to sample include Kangaroo steak and Lamb Brains . Contrary to popular belief, the drink of choice is not Fosters. Most bars do not even stock it on the shelves. I bartended in Manley Beach for four months and sold only two Foster’s ( to a pair of Canadians). VB (Victoria’s Bitter), Hahn’s, Tooey’s and Cascade are the true Australian Brews.
Circular Quay is Sydney’s top tourist destination. The Quay is home to the Sydney Opera House, The Harbour Bridge and the Taronga Zoo. The Opera House is one of the most recognizable structures on Earth. It is an acoustic masterpiece that is the southern hemisphere’s answer to broadway. We caught the comedy “Orpheus in the Underworld” and enjoyed an amazing show. The Opera House sits directly across from the docks of the Quay. Cruise Ships from around the world arrive daily to take in the sights. The Taronga Zoo (the only Zoo that is on an island) and the Botanical Gardens at Hyde Park are popular attractions. What links them all is the Harbour Bridge. The Harbour Bridge straddles North and South Sydney. A fun activity is to climb the bridge. Guests are equipped with a special suit and carabeener that attaches to the railing of the bridge. The entire climb takes about an hour. There is a wall dedicated to celebrity photos of past climbers. Will Smith, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Anna Kournakova had all made the trek that year. If you have a fear of heights, the bridge climb is a proven cure! The end of the climb leads right into the Rocks district of the city. “The Rocks” is a fashionable pub district on the southside that offers local ales and wines on tap. There are street performers and lively music from dusk till dawn.
Sydney’s beaches are spectacular! The locals grow up surfing and playing volleyball. The most visited beaches are Bondi (a very wild scene) and Manly (more family oriented). Shark nets ring the perimeters to keep out sharks and jellyfish. The biggest danger to swimmers are man-o-war jelly fish that wash over the nets. Another natural wonder lies two hours west of the ocean – the Blue Mountains. Named the Blue Mountains because of a blue shroud of mist that rises from the Eucalyptus trees, the range is home to a bevy of koala bears and kangaroos. The Three Sisters Rock formation is the highlight of the hike. For the passive adventurist there are cable cars that service the length of the mountain.
Getting to Sydney usually requires a sixhour flight to the west coast and a fourteen-hour trek from California. The time is 14 hours ahead of Ocean City. The currency is the Australian Dollar which trades at about 10 percent less than the U.S. dollar (a built-in 10 percent discount on shopping!). The climate is about the same as San Diego. January is the middle of summer. July is the dead of winter with temperatures in the high 50s. Everyone speaks English. The economy is vibrant and crime is relatively low. Sydney combines breathtaking natural beauty and engineering brilliance to rate as one of the world’s top destinations. Cheers!
– Sean Rox