Sydney and its Surroundings

by : Jenny Brewer

Sydney is on the international map as being one of the most attractive cities in Australia , and with landmarks such as the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the beautiful Darling Harbour , it is a great base to see the city and the surrounding countryside.

New South Wales has amazing contrasting landscapes and attractions, and many of these are accessible from the capital city. It seems that every landmark is a starting point for exploring another, and there are a lot of landmarks! Sydney is also a stopover for those driving to the ski slopes south from Canberra , or the Blue Mountains close to an hour inland.

The climate has been likened to Mediterranean temperatures, with no major extremes in weather. Mid summer can sizzle to over 30 degrees, but winter chills are bearable as long as you stay covered up.

The city centre is a metropolis of blended cultures, foods and sights. The sightseeing options are endless, but most travellers begin on the harbour at the Sydney Opera House. Known as one of the wonders of the world, it is a photographers dream, and at every angle is dazzling.

There is a huge choice of accommodation available in the city and its surrounds. Darling Harbour is also famous for its restaurants and four-star hotels that line the stretch of the harbour, and with parks, shops and the IMAX theatre, it is the perfect base for a Sydney visit.

Under the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge is the Rocks shopping district, which is likened to an outdoor museum as it is one of the oldest features of the city. You will need at least a half day to wander through the alleys and side streets to take in everything the shops have to offer.

On the other side of the harbour is another must-visit, the Taronga Park Zoo. With an amazing collection of native animals, including lions and giraffes, it is rare to find a zoo with a view of Darling Harbour and the city skyline. The ferry ride is almost as enjoyable as the zoo, with fantastic sights on all sides. On your return you can't miss the Sydney Aquarium, also teeming with life under the water, and filled with aquatic displays that will take your breath away.

The Royal Botanic Gardens are within walking distance of the Opera House, and are a perfect place for a picnic lunch, with majestic trees and brilliant flower displays open to the public all year. After lunch take a walk to Sydney Tower , the highest point above the city with 360 degree unforgettable views from the mountains to the sea.

Further out, Manly is one of Sydney 's beach suburbs, and surrounds the Sydney Harbour National Park . There are lookouts along the coast route, and further along North Head Lookout rewards you with panoramic views of the city.

Driving inland from the city, a popular day trip is to the famous Blue Mountains National Park , known for its amazing rock formation, The Three Sisters. It takes about 90 minutes to get there, and also has camping facilities, swimming holes, fishing and bushwalking trails. Do remember to keep hydrated.

Alternatively, the Royal National Park is just over 30km south of Sydney , and holds the impressive honour of being the world's second oldest park. Although not large, it has diverse attractions, with walking, cycling tracks, beaches, forests and rich vegetation, making this an unforgettable experience.

The beauty of driving instead of touring is you choose where you want to go, and how you do it. Travelling around the Sydney district is just as enjoyable on foot or from the comforts of your vehicle, and it cannot be done in just a few days. You will need to either stay for a while to take in all the sights, or plan to come back again as the choices are endless, and the memories will last a lifetime.