About Sydney

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Why Visit Sydney?
For most overseas visitors, Sydney is the place through which they enter and leave Australia, and there is a reason for that. Sydney is geared towards tourism, and more so than any other capital city except perhaps Darwin. Sydney is a well oiled machine in terms of orientating visitors with not only what Sydney has to offer as a tourist destination, but Australia as a whole - our way of life, what we eat, where we go to have fun and relax, our beach culture - Sydney has developed a unique ability to educate its visitors in the finer details of Aussie culture. This puts visitors immediately at ease, which is a major reason why it is such a good place to visit, irrespective of where you come from.

Its Setting

Sydney's geographical setting is perfect for a tourist destination. The city is built on one of the most beautiful harbours in the world; throughout its suburbs and outlying areas are pockets of virgin bushland which not only means Sydney doesn't have the 'concrete jungle' feel of most big cities, you don't have to drive great distances to see its natural attractions because they are right there outside your hotel/motel window; it has top class beaches right on its doorstep; it is home to important national historic sites (both European and Aboriginal); it has no extremes in climate, and it is strategically located midway between Australia's second and third biggest cities (Melbourne and Brisbane - Sydney is the largest) and is just a few hours drive from the national capital.

Best time To Go
Sydney enjoys a temperate climate with warm summers and mild winters, and has more than 340 sunny days a year. Sydney's weather is moderated by its proximity to the ocean, and more extreme temperatures are recorded in the inland western suburbs. The summer season is from December through to February. January and February are the hottest months when the average daily maximum temperature is around 26 degrees Celsius.

Winter is mildly cool, with temperatures rarely dropping below 5 degrees C in coastal areas. The coldest month is July, with an average range of 8-16.2 degrees C.

Rainfall is spread throughout the year. The average annual rainfall, with moderate to low variability, is 1,217 mm, falling on an average 138 days a year. The city is not affected by cyclones but is prone to flash flooding, and bushfires on its outskirts during the hotter summer months. In terms of the weather, there are no specific times when visiting the city should be avoided. Summer days can get hot and humid, just as some Winter days can be chilled by cool winds. The weather in Spring (September to November) can be changeable; the Autumn months (March to May) would be my choice for best time to visit. Temperatures are cooler than summer, they are the quietest months in terms of overseas visitors and there are still plenty of things happening (eg. Easter Show).

Facts and Figures
Sydney is the capital city of the Australian state of New South Wales and Australia's largest and oldest city (founded in 1788). It is the largest city in the southern hemisphere, in terms of area. With a metropolitan area population of 4.7 million and a population of approximately 170,000 people in the city proper (known as the "City of Sydney"), the Sydney metropolis is the larger of the two main financial, transport, trade and cultural centres of Australia (the other being Melbourne, Sydney's long term rival to the title of pre-eminent Australian city).

Sydney is a significant global and domestic tourist destination and is regularly declared to be one of the most beautiful and livable cities in the world, admired for its harbour, beautiful coastline, warm and pleasant climate and cosmopolitan culture. Sydney significantly raised its global profile in recent years as the host city of the 2000 Summer Olympics. The city's name is pronounced "SID-nee". A resident of Sydney is popularly known as a "Sydneysider".

With a metropolitan population of 4.7 million and a total population of approximately 170,000 people in the inner city, Sydney is the larger of the two main financial, transport, trade and cultural centres of Australia (the other being Melbourne, Sydney's long term rival to the title of pre-eminent Australian city).

Sydney is located on the east coast of Australia in a coastal basin between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Blue Mountains to the west. Sydney features the largest natural harbour in the world, Port Jackson, and also enjoys more than 70 beaches, including the famous Bondi Beach. Sydney's urban area (1,687 sq km) is similar in size to Greater London, but has half its population. Much of Sydney's metropolitan area is national park and other wilderness, which contributes greatly to its livability.

Regions of Sydney
Sydney can be divided into two geographical regions: the Cumberland Plain, a relatively flat or rolling region lying south and west of the harbour, and the Hornsby Plateau, an elevated (up to 200 m) plateau north of the harbour that is dissected by steep, forested valleys. The Cumberland Plain developed first, and the oldest parts of the city are located in the flat areas.

The Hornsby Plateau, known as the North Shore, was slower to develop because of its rough topography, and was mostly a quiet backwater until the Sydney Harbour Bridge was built, linking it to the city south of the harbour in the 1930s. Thereafter the North Shore has become widely upper-middle class suburban in character, although it has developed its own high-rise business districts at Chatswood and North Sydney.

Central Business District

The Sydney central business district (CBD) extends southwards for about 2 km from the point of first European settlement, Sydney Cove. The CBD is an area of very densely concentrated skyscrapers and other buildings, interspersed by several parks such as Wynyard Park and Hyde Park. The CBD is bounded on the east side by a chain of parkland that extends from Hyde Park through The Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens to Farm Cove on Sydney Harbour. The west side is bounded by Darling Harbour, a popular tourist precinct. Central Station marks the southern end of the CBD. George St is the Sydney CBD's main north-south thoroughfare. The streets run on a slightly warped grid pattern in the southern CBD, but in the older northern CBD the streets are less logical, reflecting their random placement in the early days of the city.

Although the CBD dominated the city's business and cultural life in the early days, significant other business/cultural districts have developed since World War II, in a radial pattern. As a result of business development in other districts, the proportion of white-collar jobs located in the CBD declined from more than 60% at the end of World War II to less than 30% in 2004. The five most significant other business districts are Parramatta in the central-west, Blacktown in the west, Liverpool to the southwest, Chatswood to the north and Hurstville to the south.

Greater Sydney Suburban Area

Metropolitan Sydney cover about 2000 square kilometers, has 4.5 million inhabitants and about 600 suburbs. There are about 38 local government areas in the Sydney region, each containing several suburbs. The City of Sydney covers a fairly small area comprising downtown Sydney and neighbouring inner-city neighbourhoods.

The extensive area covered by metropolitan Sydney is formally divided into more than 600 suburbs (for addressing and postal purposes), and formally administered by about 38 separate local government areas (in addition to the extensive responsibilities of the New South Wales State government and its agencies). In addition, there are a number of regional descriptions which are used informally to conveniently describe large sections of the metropolitan area.

The city's most famous landmarks are the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, both of which are located on Sydney Harbour. Sydney's principal river is the Parramatta River, which enters Sydney Harbour from the west. While the Harbour is famous for its racing yachts, the Boxing Day start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and 18ft skiffs, the river is used for dinghy sailing and rowing as well as recreational boating, racing small yachts and recreational fishing. Another famous landmark is the Sydney Tower which is the second tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. Darling Harbour is also a popular tourist attraction.

Sydney also has an interesting underground railway system, one of only two in the country (Melbourne has the other). The Sydney Cricket Ground, which retains several beautiful 1920s-era grandstands, hosts several international cricket matches each year and the Sydney Swans football team. Sydney Olympic Park, after holding a large proportion of the major events in the 2000 Olympic Games, now regularly hosts sporting and cultural events, especially at ANZ Stadium.

Sydney is home to the Australian Stock Exchange and the Reserve Bank of Australia. It also has 6 universities: the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, the University of Technology, Sydney, the University of Western Sydney, and two of the campuses of the Australian Catholic University.


Sydney boasts a full roster of musical, theatrical and artistic activity throughout the year, from the formal - including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Dance Company and the Archibald Prize - to festivals, including the Sydney Festival, a celebration of free performances throughout January. Many internationally known Australian rock bands have had their conception in Sydney, from Midnight Oil to AC/DC. Sydney is also known for the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Sydney also has been home to many visual artists, from the lush pastoralism of Lloyd Rees' depictions of Sydney Harbour to Jeffrey Smart's portraits of bleak urban alienation.

Sydney has four large and many smaller museums. The biggest are the Australian Museum (natural history and anthropology), Powerhouse Museum (science, technology and design), Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Sydney is home to several large ethnic communities throughout the greater metropolitan area.


Sydney is served by extensive train, bus and ferry networks. Sydney trains are run by CityRail, a corporation of the NSW State Government. Trains run as suburban commuter rail services in the outer suburbs, then converge in a frequent service in tunnels under the central business district. Buses serve the whole metropolitan area. In the city and inner suburbs the state-owned Sydney Buses has a monopoly. Services are frequent, even outside peak hours. In the outer suburbs, service is divided up between many private bus companies. These bus services are often criticised for their relative scarcity of service and sometimes complete lack of off-peak service. Sydney Ferries, another state government-owned organisation, runs extensive commuter and tourist ferry services on Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River.
Sydney has one light rail line, the Metro Light Rail, running from Central Station to Lilyfield, and a monorail which runs in a loop around the main shopping district and Darling Harbour. Sydney is serviced by an extensive network of freeways and tollways (known as motorways) and roads. The most important trunk routes in the metropolitan area form the Metroad system. Kingsford Smith International Airport, located in the suburb of Mascot, is Sydney's main airport. The smaller Bankstown Airport mainly serves private and general aviation. There are light aviation airfields at Hoxton Park and Camden. RAAF Base Richmond lies to the north-west of the city.

History of Sydney
The area surrounding Sydney Harbour (called Warrane by the aborigines) has been inhabited by Aboriginal tribes, notably the Eora and Cadigal, for at least 40,000 years. Although urbanisation has destroyed most evidence of these settlements (such as shell middens), there are still rock carvings in several locations.

European interest arose with the sighting of Botany Bay in 1770 by Lieutenant James Cook. Under instruction from the British government, a convict settlement was founded by Arthur Phillip in 1788. Most convicts came from Ireland and England. A great number were in fact not real criminals but were simply sent to the new colony as a harsh punishment by the ruling aristocracy. Phillip first landed at Botany Bay, but found it unsatisfactorily shallow for a permanent settlement. After a brief sail north, Phillip founded the colony at Sydney Cove on Port Jackson (the correct name for Sydney Harbour).

Phillip originally named the colony "New Albion" (New England), but for some uncertain reason the colony acquired the name "Sydney", after the (then) British Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney (Viscount Sydney from 1789). This is possibly due to the fact that Lord Sydney issued the charter authorising Phillip to establish a colony. Prisoners were quickly set to work to build the settlement and by 1822 the town had banks, markets, well-established thoroughfares and an organised constabulary.

The first of several gold rushes in New South Wales was in 1851, since which time the port of Sydney has seen many waves of people from around the world. With industrialisation Sydney expanded rapidly, and by the early 20th century it had a population well in excess of one million. Throughout the 20th century Sydney continued to expand with various new waves of European and Asian immigration, resulting in its highly cosmopolitan atmosphere of the present day.

Uniquely Sydney

Sydney Harbour manly ferry

Sydney Harbour - you can sail it, walk around it, dine on it, photograph it, swim in it.

Waterfalls sydney waterfalls

Name another city with a 8 metre high waterfall just 5 km from the city centre.

Icons sydney icons

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Taronga Zoo, Sydney Tower and more

See and Do

sydney wildlife whale watching

Wildlife sanctuaries and zoos; in the wild.

sydney history and heritage
History & Heritage

Historic Homes, Heritage Sites and Museums.

sydney beaches

Family and surf beaches; ocean pools; beachside suburbs.

parks, gardens, reserves
Parks & Gardens

Great spots to relax and enjoy.

sydney national parks
National Parks

Home to some of Sydney's finest natural attractions.

sydney bushwalks

Guided tours and activities in and around Sydney.

Not To Miss

bondi beach coastal walk

Bondi to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk

A cliff top coastal walk, the Bondi to Coogee walk extends for six km in Sydney s eastern suburbs. The walk features stunning views, beaches, parks, cliffs, bays and rock pools.

The beaches and parks offer a place to rest, swim or a chance to eat at one of the cafes, hotels, restaurants or takeaways. The walk is not difficult, there are medium gradient paths and several staircases with occasional seating.

sydney ferries

Sydney Ferries

Sydney Ferries are the easiest and cheapest way to view Sydney and its harbour. A trip on a Sydney Ferry is one of the best value ferry rides in Australia, if not the world. It traverses one of the most picturesque harbours you are ever linkly to see, and passes close to such icons as the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

Destinations include Manly, Taronga Zoo, Parramatta, Double Bay, Cockatoo Island and Watsons Bay.

watsons bay

Watsons Bay

Located close to Sydney Heads, Watsons Bay has just about everything that a visitor could wish to see - fine restaurants and cafes, magnificent harbour and coastal cliff top views, harbour beaches, historic sites as well as suburban and bushland walks.

Watsons Bay is serviced by buses from the city centre via the Eastern Suburbs, as well as harbour ferries.

bondi beach

Bondi Beach

Australia's most famous beach, Bondi has a broad crescent shaped strip of golden sand backed by an equally famous pavilion and boardwalk. All are a stone's throw away from a dazzling array of trendy restaurants, cafes and hotels.

All in all, great food, great surf, great atmosphere, and one of Australia's most iconic localities.

sydney harbour national park

Sydndey Harbour National Park

Five harbour islands, rugged sandstone cliffs, historic fortifications, bushland and beaches, make up Sydney Harbour National Park.

Here you can swim, fish or walk along the foreshore, view ancient Aboriginal rock art and take in the finest views of one of the world's most picturesque harbours.

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