Sydney is a city of constant competition between what is man-made and what Mother Nature has provided. Glass and steel skyscrapers dot the skyline, vying for attention with blue waters alive with sailboats and working ferries shuttling travelers from one craggy shoreline to another. At night the competition heats up. The skyscrapers turn on their lights and the harbour, not to be outdone, reflects those lights, increasing the beauty twice over. Some of the most popular attractions in Sydney are part of that eye-popping harbour setting and for Australian travelers, cheap domestic flights make this an easy-to-see destination.
Sydney Opera House
Listed as a World Heritage Site, the Sydney Opera House sits in winged splendor on the shores of Sydney Harbour. The main Concert Hall seats 2,690 and there are four additional performance spaces. If you are lucky enough to be in town on a Sunday afternoon, you may catch the free performance given harbour-side next to the Opera House. Hour long tours of the Sydney Opera House are available daily, save for Christmas Day and Good Friday. Combination performance, dinner and tour tickets are also offered.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney’s impressive skyline and its busy harbour are best appreciated from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Walking the 1,650 foot span takes about 30 minutes from shore to shore. The more adventurous might consider taking in the Pylon Lookout. At the south-eastern end of the bridge, off of Cumberland Street, steps lead underneath the bridge. It is four flights up to what is called the Western Footway. This path leads to the first pylon, or bridge support, and a panoramic view of the harbour from 292 feet up.
Sydney Tower Skywalk
The Sydney Tower Skywalk is definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you want a commanding, impressive view of the Sydney skyline this is where to find it. Creators of this attraction built a glass-floored platform some 853 feet above the ground. Visitors put on special outfits, are tethered to a safety rail and then start their walk around the outside of the building. Your guide will point out the city landmarks and give you a bit of encouragement if the view from beneath your feet becomes a bit daunting. The glass floor makes it seem that there is nothing between you and the city streets below.
The people of Sydney have created an aquarium where you are the captive species and the marine life swims around and above you. The Sydney Aquarium routes an underwater tunnel through its shark and giant ray tank, and another under its seal exhibit. As you walk through the tunnels you are surrounded by water and the creatures that swim in it. At some point you may begin to wonder if you are doing the watching, or if that big-eyed shark swimming next to you is finding you interesting. Another exhibit is the Great Barrier Reef, complete with piped in classical music to enjoy while you watch the colorful reef fish flit about. Kids especially get a kick out of petting a baby shark in the touch pool exhibit.
Ferries have transported people around Sydney Harbour since 1789. They were the quickest way of getting around until the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. Eventually the private ferries were taken over by the NSW Government. Today the ferry system is still going strong, taking its fair share of commuters and visitors for a mini-cruise as they make their way to work or play. Destinations reachable by ferry include Manly Beach, Darling Harbour, Cockatoo Island and the Taronga Zoo.
Photo by: Eustaquio Santimano