- Australia + Pacific,
I visited Sydney half my lifetime ago. What I remember most: the long flight(s) from the East Coast of the US, the sleep I needed when I first arrived, how a city could seem so familiar and completely foreign at the same time.
See + Do
Sydney is one of the world's great walking cities: Its famous coastal tracks are the perfect way to catch the waterfront sights. If you're not a power walker, you can try the mile-long (one-way) Hermitage Foreshore Walk; it starts at Nielsen Park in the harbor suburb of Vaucluse and includes a rock platform with superb views of Sydney Harbour and nearby Shark Island. Slightly longer (about two miles each way), the Bondi to Bronte Coast Walk hugs the foreshore, winding south from Bondi Beach past rocky outcroppings, intricately eroded sandstone, Aboriginal art, and native plants. This is the city's most popular walk, particularly in October and November, when it plays host to Sculpture by the Sea, an exhibition of 3-D art by both national and international artists; the work ranges from the out-there to the sublime (www.sculpturebythesea.com).
A newish route is the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach Walk, which winds through native bushland and past historic military sites and affords dazzling harbor views. If you're up for a more strenuous trek, the 6.2-mile Manly Scenic Walkway takes between two and four hours one-way. You'll see the lovely Reef Beach and Forty Baskets Beach, the striking Grotto Point Lighthouse, a red gum grove, and bays where hundreds of yachts are moored.
See + Do
Sydney Tower, Australia
Tel: 61 2 9333 9222
It's been dominating the skyline for a quarter of a century, as both the highest point in the city and the highest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere. And it only takes a 40-second elevator ride to bring you to the top for views that can stretch for more than 50 miles on a clear day. For those that really want to test their fear of heights, there's the SkyWalk, a newly built platform that lets you walk around the tower's golden turret 880 feet above the city. (Just don't say we didn't warn you—it's dizzying.)
Open Sundays to Fridays 9 am to 10:30 pm, Saturdays 9 am to 11:30 pm.
See + Do
Sydney Opera House, Australia
Tel: 61 2 9250 7250
Are those soaring roof peaks more like giant shells or sails? You can decide for yourself when you take a behind-the-scenes tour and get up close to one of the most recognizable buildings on the planet. You'll learn about its controversial design (architect Jørn Utzon has famously never returned to see his creation after a falling-out with government officials) and the outrageous expenses that were run up during the years of its construction. A cutting-edge array of musical and dance performances are on view at the six indoor theaters. Most shows tend to sell out, so be sure to purchase tickets in advance (61-2-9250-7777). Or if you time it right, you might catch one of the occasional free rock or pop concerts at the outdoor performance venue set against the stunning backdrop of the harbor.
Tours daily, every 30 minutes between 9 am and 5 pm; backstage tour daily at 7 am.
See + Do
Sydney Aquarium, Australia
Tel: 61 2 8251 7800
Giant stingrays, sharks, huge turtles, and thousands of fish swim right over your head as you walk through this aquarium's feature attraction, an underwater glass tunnel. You could easily spend a whole day here checking out the building's resident fur seals, penguins, saltwater crocodiles, and sharks. If your trip to Oz isn't going to allow you a trip to the actual Great Barrier Reef, there's a wonderful replica here with tons of Technicolor fish.
Open daily 9 am to 10 pm.
See + Do
The Rocks, Australia
Just a few streets west from Circular Quay is a neighborhood that seems frozen in time, with a 19th-century pub on nearly every corner. The oldest preserved convict precinct in Australia, The Rocks gained its name from the natural sandstone rock ledges lining Sydney Harbour. A rough area in the late 18th and 19th centuries, today the foreshore is home to a cluster of upscale boutiques, restaurants, and hotels housed in restored wharves and warehouses. Be sure to have a drink in the Lord Nelson or the Hero of Waterloo.
See + Do
Harbour Bridge Climb, Australia
Tel: 61 2 8274 7777
The three-and-a-half-hour climb up and over the bridge, snaking along the girders, is thrilling, but not for the unfitand best avoided on very windy or wet days. If you're not the superadventurous type, it's also possible to walk across the bridge at roadway level, free of charge, and still take in the views.
See + Do
Circular Quay and Ferry Rides
It may be the name of Sydney Harbour's busy ferry hub, but Circular Quay also encompasses the wide sweep of foreshore jammed with boutiques, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and a convenient (though ugly) train station. The ferry terminal, with six wharves, is right in the middle and is the place to board ferries to Manly, Darling Harbour, and Taronga Zoo as well as catch the RiverCat to Parramatta.
The state government–owned ferries are the cheapest way to get around Sydney Harbour. In addition to regular commuter services from Circular Quay, there are three daily harbor cruises with sightseeing commentary. The one-hour morning and one-and-a-half-hour evening cruises make a circuit of the harbor, while the two-and-a-half-hour afternoon cruise winds around the bays of the exclusive Eastern Suburbs, explores Middle Harbour, and goes through the Spit Bridge (yes, through it, because it opens up to let water traffic pass) and into little-known bays. Private companies, including Captain Cook Cruises and Sydney Showboats, have a variety of lunch, dinner, and "entertainment" cruises, with offerings ranging from skimpily clad showgirls to opera singers. For a more sophisticated day out on the water, an outfitter such as Flagship Charters offers stylish yachts—there's even a classic Italian wooden speedboat to create a vintage James Bond moment.