SYDNEY 

Sydney is Australia’s answer to New York: a cosmopolitan hive of activity, which never sleeps, but also boasts gorgeous beaches, fantastic weather and mild winters. Sydney has over 4 million residents, making it Australia’s largest city, and is also the most touristed destination in the country, attracting over 32 million visitors per year.

The city is very multicultural, so the food on offer is delicious, and it is also a fantastic shopping destination. The various suburbs have very different atmospheres, so you will find something for everyone in this tourist paradise.

1. Taronga Zoo

Located in Sydney’s Mosman neighborhood on the harbor’s hillsides, the world class Taronga Zoo gives visitors a close-up view of Australia’s indigenous creatures as well as animals from all over the world. Highlights include the zoo’s Roar and Snore experience, which lets visitors stay overnight to observe nocturnal fauna, and the Nura Diya tour, which features guides who share stories about Aboriginal life. Although the zoo can be reached by car or bus, most visitors opt for a short ferry ride to the nearest wharf. From there, the entrance to the zoo is accessed by short gondola ride. Zoo tickets are available that cover ferry and gondola fares.

Getting there by ferry:

Taronga Zoo Sydney is 12 minutes from Circular Quay by ferry. Sydney Ferries services depart Circular Quay every 30 minutes. Save time and purchase your Zoo tickets at Wharf 4 ticket booth before you board.

Captain Cook Cruises operate the Zoo Express and all day hop on, hop off services departing daily from Darling Harbour and Circular Quay.

The Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper operate hop on, hop off services departing from Manly wharf and Circular Quay.

Fantasea Cruising Sydney operate a twice daily service from either Darling Harbour or Circular Quay

2. Australian National Maritime Museum

The premier attraction in Sydney’s recently redeveloped Darling Harbour, the Australian National Maritime Museum is best known for its historic seafaring vessels, which include the 19th century tall ship James Craig and a full scale replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavor. The museum’s seven main galleries cover the nation’s maritime history, from the discovery of the Land Down Under to the country’s naval defense in World War II and beyond. Tickets are available that include entrance to the museum as well as tours of several of the vessels moored outside.

3. The Rocks

Situated between the Harbour Bridge and the northern edge of Sydney’s Central Business District, The Rocks is the city’s oldest neighborhood. Named after its rocky shore, The Rocks was Australia’s first permanent European settlement and the place where the country’s convict history began. By the late 1800s, the area had degenerated into a slum filled with taverns and brothels where crime ran rampant through the narrow streets. In the 1970s, the city began a huge restoration project to save the district’s historic homes and warehouses. Today, the redeveloped neighborhood is a popular tourist destination packed with art galleries, chic boutiques, trendy restaurants and souvenir shops.

4. Darling Harbour

Once home to Sydney’s industrial docks and wharves, Darling Harbour was redeveloped during the 1980s with culture and tourism in mind. Situated immediately adjacent to the Central Business District, the neighborhood is now home to some of the most popular tourist attractions in Sydney, including the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Sydney Aquarium, the Aboriginal Centre and an IMAX theater with the world’s largest screen. The kid friendly Harbourside Shopping Centre boasts a bowling alley, laser tag facility and a jet flight simulator. The east side of the waterfront features upscale shops, bars and restaurants.

5. Sydney Harbour Bridge

The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge is both the main method of crossing the harbour and a travel destination for adventurous visitors. Completed in 1932, the bridge features an arch that stands 134 meters (440 feet) above sea level and spans 503 meters (1,654 feet). In 1998, the city opened a Bridge Climb attraction that allows hardy visitors to ascend to the top of the arch. Participants are equipped with protective clothing and secured to a wire lifeline during the three and a half hour climb and descent. Climbs are available at dawn, by day, twilight or night. Don’t miss this unforgettable, and uniquely “Sydney". For those who want a less adventurous view from the bridge, the Pylon Lookout Museum is a popular attraction. The museum is accessed from the footpath that runs along the eastern side of the bridge.

6. Sydney Tower

Soaring 327 meters (1,073 feet) above sea level, the Sydney Tower is the city’s tallest structure, offering 360 degree views of the compact metropolis, harbor and surrounding countryside. Designed by architect Donald Crone, the building opened to the public in 1981. Standing 260 meters (850 feet) above ground level, the building’s Sydney Tower Eye features an enclosed viewing platform that fully encircles the structure. The tower has three dining facilities, including the revolving restaurant 360 Bar and Dining. The latest addition to the Tower is a “4D” cinema, which enhances the theatrical experience with special effects like wind and bubbles.

7. Queen Victoria Building

More commonly referred to as the QVB, the Queen Victoria Building is a five story shopping center that fills an entire city block and houses nearly 200 retailers. Built by architect George McRae in 1898, the building was designed as a marketplace and concert hall. Later tenants used the building for office space, and the structure began to fall into decay during the Great Depression. QVB has now been restored to its original glory and purpose. A beautiful example of the Romanesque Revival style popularized during Queen Victoria’s reign, the QVB features a large glass dome sheathed in copper, ornamental cast iron railings and numerous stained glass windows.

8. Bondi Beach

Located just minutes away from Sydney’s Central Business District. Bondi Beach is a mile long sweep of golden sand lined with red tile roofed homes, apartments and green spaces. A promenade adjacent to the sand runs the length of the crescent shaped beach. Popular Bondi Beach attracts swimmers, surfers, sunbathers and body builders. Because the roughest waves and strongest rip tides are at the south end of the beach, that area is generally reserved for surfers. Swimmers and sunbathers tend to favour the north end next to a stretch of grass with coin operated “barbies" (BBQs). The well patrolled beach is equipped with changing rooms, and the nearby neighbourhoods are packed with cafés, bars and shops.

9. Sydney Opera House

One of Australia’s most recognised landmarks, the Sydney Opera House is one of the world’s most prestigious performing arts centers. Perched on the waterfront of Bennelong Point, it is located in Sydney’s Central Business District and surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Sydney Harbour and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Visited by several million people annually, this stunning structure houses multiple venues that together host more than 1,500 performances each year. What’s more, Sydney Opera House is home to four prominent companies including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company and The Australian Ballet.

Regarded as a 20th century architectural masterpiece, the Sydney Opera House was designed and built by architect, Jørn Utzon, to reflect the image of a huge sailing ship. The structure is 600 feet long and 394 feet wide (183 by 120 meters) at its widest point, featuring distinctive roof shells that resemble billowing sails. Of the many venues housed within the structure, some of the most significant are the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Drama Theatre, the multi-purpose Utzon Room and the Concert Hall, which houses the largest mechanical tracker action organ in the world. Also part of the Sydney Opera House is the Forecourt, an open-air venue presenting many outdoor performances. In addition to the performance venues, there is also a recording studio, bars, cafes, restaurants and retail shops. Attending a performance is not required to experience the full splendor of the Sydney Opera House. Daily tours are available in several languages where visitors can explore the halls, venues, backstage, dressing rooms and more.

10. Circular Quay

Circular Quay is known for its excellent gourmet dining options, and the views of the crystal blue Sydney Harbour waters are truly stunning. Some particularly delicious options include ARIA, the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar, Yayoi Garden and Tapavino; there is also budget options such as Banh You Vietnamese Street Food, burgers at City Extra or the weekly meal deals at the Ship Inn.

11. Royal Botanic Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens were established in 1816, making them the oldest botanic gardens in Australia, as well as the oldest scientific institution. They recently celebrated their 200th birthday with a series of popular commemorative events throughout the year. Various guided and self-guided tours are available, and the Choo Choo express offers a quick, scenic way to get around the gardens. You will learn many interesting facts about Australian botanical history, as well as being able to enjoy plenty of gorgeous plant life! The Royal Botanic Gardens are only a few minutes’ walk from the Sydney CBD and the Opera House, and are one of Sydney’s most touristed attractions with over 5 million visitors per year.

12. Seaside town of Manly

Manly is a relaxed beachside suburb, a short, scenic ferry ride away from Sydney’s city centre. It is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike, a whopping 8 million visitors per year. It is ideal for beach activities such as beach volleyball, running, kayaking, scuba and surfing. Manly also boasts excellent al fresco dining options, a lovely museum, a sea life sanctuary, and even a shark diving experience! Various guided walking tours by knowledgeable locals are also available.

Located approximately 80 KM (50 miles) west of Sydney in the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, the Blue Mountains National Park is an Australian highlight alright. Spread across a massive 267,954 hectares, this protected national park is striking in both its natural beauty and scale. A part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, the national park is famous for its botanical and cultural abundance and for protecting sites of Aboriginal cultural importance. A visit to the Blue Mountains National Park is full of potential adventures. There are more than 140 km of walking tracks and trails available throughout the park along with picturesque places to go camping. With slate-coloured hazy blue mountain ranges, brilliant green forests and stunning waterfalls aplenty, you will never be tired of your surroundings at this national park.

By Train

You can take the NSW TrainLink Intercity trains to travel to and from the Blue Mountains. The train leaves from Sydney every hour and takes around two hours to get to the top of the mountains. The train departs from Central Station and stops at Parramatta, Westmead, Penrith, and Springwood.

By Bus

You can opt to take a bus to the Blue Mountains from Sydney. There are many tour companies offering day trip to the mountains. If you're traveling with a large group, you can also rent out an entire bus and be in control of your itinerary. There is also a hop-on hop-off explorer bus service available starting from AUD$50.

By Car

You can drive to the Blue Mountains if driving through scenic natural beauty is your idea of fun. There is free, all day parking available at Katoomba. You can rent a car for the 90 minute drive and take the M4 and Great Western Highway.

If you are planning to spend a whole day at the Blue Mountains National Park, here is what your itinerary should look like. Don't try and squeeze them all in, but you can definitely manage 3 to 5 of them.

1. Scenic World

Enjoy breathtaking views of the Blue Mountains at Scenic World, the world's steepest scenic railway. Perfect for the entire family, Scenic World is one of the best ways to witness the Blue Mountains in all their glory. There are other activities you can try here, including the scenic walkway, skyway and cableway, all of which offer a starkly different experience!

2. Three Sisters

One of the most popular attractions at the Blue Mountains, the Three Sisters is a trio of rock formation surrounded by blue hues of rocky mountains and a seemingly endless expanse of green valley. Three Sisters is named so after a legend wherein three sisters were turned to stone by a sorcerer to protect them from three young men. Before he could undo the spell, the sorcerer died, leaving the sisters trapped in stone!

3. Pulpit Rock Lookout

Located near Blackheath in Blue Mountains National Park, Pulpit Rock is a multi-tiered lookout which juts precariously on a blade of rock perched atop the glorious Grose Valley. At Pulpit Rock, you can enjoy mountain biking, scenic views of Blue Gum Forest and Govetts Leap, and even a quaint picnic with your loved

4. Breenhold Gardens

Spread across 45 hectares of opulent gardens, parkland and native bushland, Breenhold Gardens is a must visit when in Blue Mountains. Home to hundreds of evergreen Northern Hemisphere and local trees and shrubs, the gardens offer spectacular colors of Autumn. You can also enjoy a peaceful picnic here but barbeques are not allowed.

5. Wentworth Falls

The starting point of several treks into the Valley of the Waters, the Wentworth Falls is amongst the most popular tourist attractions in the mountains. The beautiful town is named after the waterfall which has an over 300m drop. There is a rewarding trek from the town which offers magnificent views of the valley before reaching the top of the waterfalls.

6. Japanese Bathhouse

Set amidst the beautiful Blue Mountains National Park, the Japanese Garden and Bathhouse is quite literally heaven on earth. The bathhouse has been converted from a Tudor house facing a lake and offers selene views of the Blue Mountains valley. You can opt for an herbal steam bath to rejuvenate your body after a tiring day of travel.

7. Jenolan Caves

Exquisite limestone caves located within the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve, west of the Blue Mountains, Jenolan Caves are perfect for tourists looking for something different. A collection of 9 glorious caves await you at Jenolan, an award-winning tourist attraction. There is a bar, restaurant and even a range of accommodation to make the experience memorable for you.

8. Glow Worm Tunnels

The Glow Worm Tunnel is a popular destination for tourists and locals looking to see glow worms in their natural environment. This disused railway tunnel is 400 metres long and is now home to glow worms, which are the larvae of the fungus gnat. There is a walking track available as well which is the fastest and easiest way to explore the famed tunnel. The only drawback is that it is a guided tour only experience and you will need to shell AU$65 to enter the tunnels.

9. Sunset at Blackheath Lookout

Journey along Shipley Plateau, through pretty orchards and farms, to reach Blackheath Lookout. This stunning place offers wild views to the north and west of the Great Dividing Range over the Kanimbla Valley. Best experienced when the sun is setting, Blackheath Lookout is the best place to wind down after a day of trekking and walking. 10. Kings Tableland A plateau located in the Blue Mountains, Kings Tableland is the remains of an eroded sandstone layer that covers an area of almost 1,000 meters, just south of Wentworth Falls. The plateau was named after King George III and offers stunning views of the Blue Mountains National Park.