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The controversial but decidedly beautiful sail-like roofs of Sydney's most recognizable icon glisten against the backdrop of Sydney Harbour. The Sydney Opera House was constructed over a fourteen-year period and caused an opera’s worth of drama that involved differences between the architect Jørn Utzon and the Australian government. The now world-renowned architectural wonder stands as an unmissable icon of Sydney's cultural landscape. It houses among other small venues, the Joan Sutherland Theatre, the Utzon Room and a grand Concert Hall. It also has an impressive yearly program of contemporary and classical performances, and is a striking cultural sanctuary to take in theater, opera and ballet. Riveting guided tours take visitors behind the scenes and into the establishment’s many interesting rooms.
Stretching over the sparkling waters of Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is certainly a wonder to behold. The steel through arch bridge was designed and constructed by Dorman Long and Co Ltd back in 1932 and has since become one of Sydney's most iconic tourist attractions. Thanks to its arched shape, many Sydney residents call the bridge "The Coat Hanger", and while this might sound a bit mean-spirited, the bridge is well loved. Standing at 134 meters (440 feet), the Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the tallest steel arch bridges in the world. Its incredible height inspired many daredevils to climb across the bridge illegally, which in turn inspired BridgeClimb, a tour that takes visitors up and across the bridge. For visitors who prefer the safety of the ground, the bridge can also be viewed from the south-east pylon, and walkers can traverse it on the bridge's footpath.
Far above the maddening crowds, Sydney Tower or AMP Tower provides 360-degree views of Sydney’s gorgeous skyline. It takes just 40 seconds for the double-decker lifts to reach the 309-meter (1,014 feet) summit, where visitors can take advantage of guided tours. At 260 meters (853 feet), the glass Skywalk is a must-see for those who love panoramic views. A revolving vantage point that was opened in 2005 goes all the way around the tower, offering both a luxurious and memorable experience, as well as jaw-dropping bird’s eye views of Sydney. The revolving portion of the tower also houses a restaurant, making it a perfect romantic spot for couples to have a quiet meal with an amazing view.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, a veritable oasis of greenery, boast breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour and the city's skyline. The gardens were the first area of land cultivated by Europeans on the Australian continent, though the gardens themselves were not opened to the public until 1816. Visitors can explore the Herb Garden, the Fernery, the Rose Garden, a walled Succulent Garden and the HSBC Oriental Garden. The main pond in the lower garden offers a splendid view of the harbor. Keep an eye out for ibis or cockatoos that call this place home.
Opened in 1884, the Taronga Zoo was one of the first public zoos in New South Wales. Over the years, the zoo has undergone extensive renovation and redevelopment. It now features updated exhibits and even a Rainforest Trail, providing a unique insight into the majesty and wonder of the jungle homes of an amazing array of rare wildlife including Asian elephants, silvery gibbons, Francois langurs, Asian turtles, and fishing cats. Visitors must also check out their other fascinating precincts such as Reptile World, African Savannah and the Rainforest Aviary. The Taronga Zoo is continually building and updating its cultural and educational displays and precincts in order to provide the ultimate in family fun as well as wildlife education.
One of the most visited attractions in Australia today, this iconic Sydney beach was established between 1855 and 1877 and officially declared a public beach in 1882. Some investigations into the name Bondi Beach posit that it originated from an Aboriginal word meaning "water breaking over rocks." However, according to the Australian Museum, it more closely translates to "a place where a flight of nullas took place." Either way, this cityside beach is known for its natural blessings, which its moniker no doubt reflects. A stroll between the lush headlands of this roughly one-kilometer (0.6-mile) beach or a walk along the bustling promenade is an adored activity here. Between the surrounding eateries, accommodations and shops, there is so much to do at Bondi Beach, even after getting a good share of sun, sand and surf.
Aside from the beautifully kept gardens, Hyde Park provides a tranquil haven to the thousands of daily urban commuters amidst the hustle and bustle of Sydney's city life. It is not only a sanctuary but also a fitting home to the famous 1934 Art Deco Anzac Memorial, and the Archibald Fountain; a magnificent bronze and granite fountain commemorating the French and Australian alliance in World War I. The park looks particularly attractive at night when thousands of tiny fairy lights twinkle amidst the boughs of the ancient trees which line the walkways.
Darling Harbour is one big showcase of fun and entertainment. Once a thriving dockland, it was redeveloped in 1988 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia. The redevelopment began with the construction of a large exhibition and conference center, later complemented with the addition of shops, restaurants and other attractions. The huge waterfront tourist and leisure park emphasizes family entertainment. Highlights include Sydney Aquarium, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Chinese Garden, Star Casino, the enormous IMAX Cinema and the Powerhouse Museum. Darling Harbour is a year-round beehive of activity with events for the entire family during winter, spring, summer, and fall. Over the Christmas holiday season, the harbour hosts a magical festival featuring live music, entertainment, Christmas tree lighting, and Christmas carols. So, if your travels find you in Sydney during the holiday season, Darling Harbour is the place to be.
Located near the Circular Quay, The Rocks is a beautiful neighborhood in Sydney. This area dates back to the 18th Century and houses some historic structures and the Museum of Contemporary Art. You can enjoy historic walking tours or just stroll through the charming market on weekends. The weekend market offers some locally-produced vegetables, accessories, garments and more and is thronged by tourists and locals alike. Besides, this place offers quaint views of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, affording several photo opportunities. All in all, this is a must-visit spot if you want to experience the local lifestyle of Sydney.
Along a coastline blessed with wonderful stretches of wave-pounded beaches, Shelly Beach is a unique treasure. This small curve of sand and shells at the inner tip of Cabbage Tree Bay is sheltered by the headland, serving as a haven along a calm sea. It is very popular among families, snorkelers, and divers, who can often be seen staggering up the beach after exploring the surrounding marine reserve. The walk from Manly along Fairy Bower takes in beautiful ocean vistas, and the small bush area around the headland is crisscrossed with walking paths. In close proximity to the beach is a lovely café, perfect for a coffee or banana smoothie. The beach also has free gas BBQs, picnic tables, and limited parking.