It’s not often that I get awed by man-made wonders. I tend to fawn over nature more than I do steel and concrete. Yet when I gazed upon the Sydney Harbour Bridge, my heart skipped a beat. My jaw dropped. I “OOOOH”ed and “AHHH”ed. I said to my friend: “Wow!” Because it was as amazing as people said it was. And that describes my time in Sydney — it was everything that people said it would be.
Sydney is one of the most famous cities in the world. Its name recognition is up there with New York, Tokyo, Paris, and London. It was built as a convict settlement in 1788 and by 1822, the town had banks, markets, well-established thoroughfares and was a respectable city. The urban development of the 1830s and 1840s (including the development of the first suburbs) occurred as the town grew rapidly when ships began arriving with immigrants looking to start a new life. With industrialization, Sydney expanded rapidly and by the early 20th century it had a population in excess of one million.
Sydney is filled with amazing things to do and a plethora of famous attractions. From the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge to Bondi Beach to King’s Cross, Sydney has a lot of sites for travelers. There are also trips to the wine area of the Hunter Valley and to the amazing Blue Mountains, both of which require a few days.
However, I hardly saw any of them. Sydney was the last stop on an 18-month tour and by then I was pretty burnt out. So burnt out that I skipped most of Queensland to fly home (though after two weeks back in Boston, I was ready to fly back to Australia). I skipped Bondi Beach. I didn’t go to the Hunter Valley or the Blue Mountains. I avoided the clubs. I didn’t see the bars.
But even with missing over half the stuff in the city, I still loved Sydney! I did see the bridge, the opera house, the park, the botanical gardens, and the wharf area. I explored King’s Cross, which is an interesting mix of backpackers, clubs, crackheads, and prostitutes. The main strip of the area, Darlinghurst Road, is filled with bars, backpackers, and bums. Here they all mix in together to form a cheap and seedy area that gets wild at night. Yet, once off that street the whole area changes and becomes quite the posh residential area. The streets are clean, the people are friendly, and the area is filled with little green spaces. And all of it is within easy walking distance to the park that over looks the harbor. I was pretty impressed with the area despite its seedy reputation.
I was most impressed with the gardens and opera house area. The Sydney Domain/Royal Gardens are massive and quite lovely to wander around in. It’s easy to spend hours in the area. I walked around for about an hour and saw maybe less than half of the trails and I’m not a slow walker! It’s definably a good respite from the insanity of the city. I spent a lovely few hours exploring the gardens, reading about the natural habitat of Sydney and then eating a nice lunch on a grassy knoll.
The Opera House and Harbour Bridge were next and just as amazing as people said they were. A lot of hype surrounds both structures but seeing them as I came upon the harbor was breathtaking. It’s as though I walked into a piece of history. It’s a hard feeling to describe but if I had to choose a word it would be simply “wow.” See look…
Wow right? All of Sydney was wow. It reminded me of a Europeanized American city — a cross between San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, London, and Amsterdam.
Everyone who visits Australia sets foot in Sydney so I don’t have to push you to head there. Instead, I will simply push you to Australia by telling you the currency is weaker than it used to be so now is a good time to visit Australia and see Sydney.