Australia on Top -- Sydney

Great joy in the morning! Australia is a fantastic place to visit! Of all the cities I have visited in the world, Sydney is now on top of my list as Queen of Cities. Australia is a warm, welcoming and wonderful country. Best of everything for sure! My business class flights on Qantas rank #1 for me also!

Australia on Top -- Sydney

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by samepenny on June 21, 2003

So you arrive in Sydney, usually at about 6am in the morning, jetlagged and worn out (although traveling business class on Qantas left me in better than usual shape for such a long flight.) A relatively short ride from the airport and their you are in the Central Business District (CBD) of what has to be one of the finest and most beautiful cities in the world.

Shall we talk about the Harbour views? The two famous icons of Sydney -- the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House -- cause you to snap into the reality that you are finally and truly in the country I now consider to be on top of my list of desirable tourist destinations -- Australia! Fatigue vanishes as you realize that a major lifetime dream has come true. You are in Sydney. Drop your bags at your hotel and trot over to the Circular Quay for a morning coffee at the City Extra Cafe. Sit outside in the fresh air and watch Sydney's seafaring rush hour and workers come off the ferries by the thousands. You may be dizzy from jetlag, but now you know that it is all worth it. Enjoy every minute. In the back of your mind, you know that you will have to go home eventually, but for now you are in the true Emerald City.${QuickSuggestions} Sydney is a city of incredible views and hospitable people. Although over four million people now consider themselves to be 'Sydneysiders', the kindness of folks makes you feel at home very quickly. Not the big city rush and crush at all. My favorate activity soon become the boat and people watching at the Circular Quay. Gardens and museums, the ferry terminals and buildings framing a view for the famous Sydney Opera House. How many times can you photograph that Opera House and the 'coat hanger' equally famous Harbour Bridge? The water is so much improved that in season sightings of whales are not unusual. Plenty of restaurants with outside dining (heaters for chilly weather) so you can soak up the view to last your lifetime.

Remember the travel moves on the left. They drive on the left, climb stairs and escalators on the left, and walk on sidewalks on the left. To prevent injury, be safe and cross streets only with the green man on the walk signals until you get your brain reorganized. Left over from the Olympics are a few 'look right' signs painted on the streets. Force yourself to think about how you are walking. ${BestWay} My favorite way to get around Sydney is on the water. The ferry system is fantastic (and inexpensive with visitor 3-day and 7-day tickets). My second favorite method for getting around is walking. This is not a city where I want to be in a rush. Much safer than most of the large cities in the world . . . and much cleaner . . . Sydney is a great place to go for a walk. Buy a Sydney Explorer Bus or Bondi Explorer Bus one day ticket for on and off all day rides.

Four Seasons Hotel

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by samepenny on June 22, 2003

I am a fantatic for fine hotels. This hotel has marched itself to the top of my 'best' list . . . in some darn tough company! Why? Although it is a large, big city hotel, the service is personal, friendly, and excellent. When you arrive, you are greeted on the driveway and your luggage vanishes to reappear in your room. The check in is fast and easy (check out also). I checked in and out of this hotel three times as I toured and went on a cruise while in Australia. Each time I had a different catagory of room from standard to delux to a suite. The basics in every room were the same. A fantastically comfortable bed with the best bed linens and pillows I've ever experienced, full tea and coffee service with high quality tea and coffee. The bath soaps, shampoos and etc. also extremely fine. The towels are smooth as silk. Every room had two terry robes for our use while there.

The views! Sydney Harbour view gives you the Opera House and often the Bridge. The city views are long strings of office buildings and street (also less expensive). The Darling Harbour views are excellent from the upper floors. This is the hotel I will recommend to my best friend! The lobby is beautiful, the location perfect and the atmosphere quiet and restful. The best cure for jetlag. You can tell these are my own photos as I usually leave some of my own things on view.

Location: 5 minute walk to the Circular Quay transportation hub (trains, ferries and buses), 10 minutes to the heart of the Rocks district for history, shopping and restaurants, 20 minutes uphill to the Queen Victoria Building and other major shopping on George Street and well located for Darling Harbour. The view from the hotel's heated pool is outstanding both the Bridge and the Harbour. For location in Sydney, you can't really do better than this hotel.

Four Seasons Hotel
199 George Street
Sydney, Australia, NSW 2000
+61 (2) 9238-0000

City Extra Restaurant

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by samepenny on June 25, 2003

It didn't take me long to find this wonderful Australian-owned cafe that perches on the quay next to the ferries. You can eat inside or out. 24 hour service of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A wonderful place to adjust after jetlag. Known for great coffee and breakfasts, we also had dinner there prior to going to a performance of 'Underland' at the Sydney Opera House which is about a 15 minute walk away. Internet terminals also.

Wonderful pumpkin and Minestrone soups served with a large bread roll. Fish and chips are great, as is the pumpkin frittata. The top dessert is likely the Pavalova, but my husband also enjoyed the chocolate mousse. Wine and beer available.

The views of Sydney Harbour are great. I especially enjoyed all the activity of the ferries. Buskers, that is street performers, just outside the restaurant in fair weather. This is an active restaurant. The ferries and trains run 24 hours. This restaurant is very popular with Sydneysiders. The waitresses are cheerful and check back often to see if you need anything. Service is quick, but you won't be hurried if you want to linger. This is a classic cafe! Just great! Prices are OK to feed the family (children's menu).

Cash, Bankcards, Diners Club, VISA, and Mastercard accepted.

City Extra Circular Quay
Shop E4, East Podium
Sydney, Australia, 2000
+61 (0)2 9241 1422

Doyle's Seafood Restaurant

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by samepenny on June 25, 2003

Doyle's is the icon of seafood dining in Sydney. No question! The best choice!My husband was nearly frantic to have giant prawns as soon as we got to Sydney. He was more than satisfied with Doyle's Green Prawns grilled in green chilis (Aus$25.50) followed by a dessert of Passion Fruit Brulee Tart (Aus$11). Another wonderful dish is the Half lobster and King Prawn salad (Aus$58.60). As I am allergic to seafood, the waiter sorted out a vegetarian pasta dish for me (Aus$15.50) that was very nice.

The food is awlays fantastic at any Doyle's (also at Watson's Bay and in the seafood market), but the views are incredible. (There I go again, running out of adjectives to describe the experience of looking at Sydney Harbour!) Doyle's on the Quay has the queen of views with the Bridge to one side and the Sydney Opera House across the water. This restaurant is also not far from the Hyatt Hotel. By day and by night a supurb situation. Inside and outside tables. They use overhead heaters to keep you comfortable on chilly days. Even though our night was breezy and a touch cold in late May, we sat at an outside table. I couldn't bear to give up the view. We began our dinner just as the sun set and watched in awe as the Opera House first began to disappear in the increasing darkness and then reappear as its own lights came on. This has to be the very best view in the world.

A word about tipping. Tipping is not traditional in Australia, however we did tip in situations where the food and service were really good. As there is a place for a tip on credit card slips, I would say that tipping is, at the very least, encouraged. In general, prices compared to what you would pay in a city, say Dallas, for food. However, wine was usually less expensive than Dallas and always good to great as my husband tasted his way through the Australian wine lists.

Hours for this Doyles are: lunch noon to 3:30pm, dinner 6 to 9:30pm. Let them know when you make your reservation if you have a ticket at the Opera House. You can leave Doyle's by water taxi for a zippy trip across the Harbour to the Man of War steps at the Opera House or you can make the walk around the Quay in about 20 minutes.

Doyle's Seafood Restaurant
Harbour Bridge End-Int'l Shipping Terminal
Sydney, Australia
(02) 9252-3400

The Rocks Cafe

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by samepenny on September 5, 2003

Foot weary and hungry, we twice dined at this family owned restaurant. It's outdoor location is on the Harbour view side of George St. A little breezy in late May, but still worth it for the views of city life. Very nice variety of basic food at reasonable prices. Husband munched his way through prawns and fish. I showed how clever I was by ordering sausage. Wine and beer served. A hot spot on nice evenings when the young and successful crawl the Rocks looking for fun. I would rate the food as above average. The desserts were very nice and rich. Outdoor heaters under the umbrellas and plastic up on the railings to try to cut the wind. About a 5 minute walk up from Circular Quay. Toilets are across the street in another restaurant. Open 7 days 0800 to midnight. Blackboard specials change nightly.
Rocks Cafe
99 George Street
Sydney, Australia
+61 29247 3089

Taronga Zoo

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by samepenny on June 21, 2003

Taronga Zoo is built up the side of a very big hill. When you arrive by ferry on the Zoo Pass your ticket includes a ride to the top on a Sky Safari gondola system. Incredible views for sure. When I bought our tickets, the lady at the ticket window told me to follow the crocodiles to the zoo ferry. I didn't know that she was calling the lines of school children crocodiles! In any case, I soon caught on and did follow the children to the correct ferry. What a way to go to the zoo! Your fun starts immediately. We went over on a fast 'cat' ferry and returned on a regular type. A few minutes across the great Sydney Harbour, past the Opera House. More photography!

You zip up to the top of the zoo and begin walking gradually down. Accessible for people using wheel chairs. Heavily shaded by tall trees, you might feel the heat of summer, but you won't get sunburned. At this time, the zoo is making a major expansion. It will be world class when completed. Not that I missed anything although my first glimpse of a kangaroo was difficult as it was sleeping in tall grass. Great bird collection including penguins. Many native birds have also made their homes in the zoo. Walk-ins shall we say? Zoo food was pretty good. Plenty of serious walking!

You have got to see the giraffes. They have a million dollar view of the Opera House! I tried to get the famous photo of the giraffe lined up perfectly with the view, but they weren't having it my way. Koalas yes, but the condors were a surprise, a wonderful surprise. For adults, plan about four hours for the ferry, look around, and lunch. If you have children along, add one more hour as there are special places for them to tour including 'Backyard to Bush'. Look for a 2004 completion of the improvements.

Taronga Zoo
Bradley's Head Road
Sydney, Australia, 2088
+61 (2) 9969 2777

Queen Victoria Building

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by samepenny on June 22, 2003

Opened in 1898 as a public market, this beautiful 'Romanesque' building fell into sad disuse and was nearly destroyed. A large campaign to save it and years of historic reconstruction have resulted in what has to be an incredible landmark for Sydney. Repaired and modernized to the extent that it is air conditioned, has escalators and appropriate lighting, it is a wonder to see. See it is what I did. The shops are expensive, but there are several moderately priced restaurants.

Look carefully for the original parts of the building such as the fabulous circular stairs that go up into the dome and the original tiles in the ladies restroom (I don't know about the gents!). This is a world class restoration of a wonderful building. At its financial peak at the time of the Olympics (what wasn't?), some of the shops have less expensive merchandise on offer. Too bad I only have four slots for photos!

Queen Victoria Building
455 George Street
Sydney, Australia, 2000
+61 (0)2 9265 6869

Bondi Explorer - Blue Bus

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by samepenny on June 22, 2003

This is a sister service to the Sydney Explorer Red Bus. In fact, you can buy a two-day 'twin ticket' and save a few dollars. The buses are comfortable and clean. The commentary is both pre-recorded and live from the driver. On this route, there are a couple five-minute photo op stops. The first bus leaves the Circular Quay (Alfred Street) at 8:45am and the last one at 4:15pm. If you ride the whole circuit without getting off the bus, it takes about two hours. The buses run about every 30 minutes. In a couple areas, you can easily walk from one stop to another just to enjoy the coastline. You can also use your ticket until midnight on any regular Sydney bus that runs within the route.

Some of the stops are: Kings Cross, Double Bay, the Gap Park (very fine stop), Watsons Bay, Bondi Beach, Coogee Beach and Oxford Street. You can reboard the bus at any of the places where you see the blue Bondi Explorer signs. Traffic, weather and other conditions may change the route and times. Listen to your driver as he advises you along the route.

No tipping. Wheelchair accessible. This is not as interesting a route for families with small children as the Sydney Explorer Red Bus route.

Bondi Explorer
Level 28, 100 Miller Street
Sydney, Australia, 2060
+61 (0)2 9245 5644

Sydney Opera House

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by samepenny on June 24, 2003

There are two tours on offer. One is the standard tour of the Opera House offered most days (fair warning, 200 steps), the other is the backstage tour only on Sundays when no performances are going on, (300 steps). Both tours are a serious hike. The Opera House was designed in the 1950's and is not generally accessible for the handicapped. This is a tour for the able and willing!

Designed by Joern Utzon, this incredible building is a world icon of civilization. When you see it, your feelings are those of wonder and gratitude for being in Sydney, Australia. How fantastic! The white shell roofs rise above the Harbour often looking like the sails of old ships. The four major performance halls have beautiful wood floors and walls. The sound quality of performances is amazing. During the tour, you will be taken up to some of the best seats in both the symphony hall and theatre (comfortable and plenty of room for your legs). The theatre has no centre aisle so sometimes you have a long trek through the seats to your own place.

I attended a performance of "Underland" by the Sydney Dance Company in the theatre. Absolutely wonderful. Pre-performance not only wine and other beverages were sold in the lobby, but a selection of snacks and sandwiches so that people can attend a performance at the Opera House coming straight from work . . . and they do.

The tour varies with the goings on at the Opera House. No photos are allowed of any of the interiors. The tour finishes with a descent of the exterior steps. Think of a Mayan Temple. Although Sydneysiders are practically reared on these steps and trot up and down them with abandon, I found the descent difficult. The sun was shining and reflecting off the white surface. I felt as if I was stepping off the edge of the world.

In the next few years modifications will be made to the Opera House to make access easier for those who have problems with stairs. For performances only it is possible to enter at the stage door and use an elevator up to the lobby level. Access to the seating areas is another matter. The ushers do help people along the way, but if you use a wheelchair, the available seating is extremely limited. Make your needs very clear when booking a ticket. This is not a criticism, but data for those who wish to visit this building that was designed 50 years ago.

There are restaurants at the Opera House. It is often possible to purchase a combination deal of dinner and a ticket to a performance. The shops at the Opera House have wonderful merchandise. The profits help to keep this building in good repair.

Don't miss this tour!

Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point
Sydney, Australia, 2000
+61 (2) 9250 7111

Sydney Explorer Bus -- Red Bus

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by samepenny on June 21, 2003

A twin ticket with the Blue Sydney Bondi bus can be purchased for a savings. About two hours tour if you stay on the bus. A Red Bus passes each stop about every 20 minutes. You can repeat parts or the entire circuit on the same day if you please. A nice, easy way to get a look at Sydney. The buses are clean, comfortable and the drivers are helpful. The stop descriptions are pre-recorded, but now and then the drivers add information. A few stops are for a five-minute photo opportunity.

It is usual for the first bus to depart at 8:40am and the last one at 5:20pm, but heavy traffic, weather, and/or road conditions may cause variations. Once you have your ticket you can reboard the bus at any stop where you see the Red Sydney Explorer Bus sign. For those of us use to driving on the right, remember that the buses will approach the stop from your right when you are standing facing the street. If you are jetlagged, this may take a bit of getting used to.

Examples of stops are: Sydney Opera House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Hard Rock Cafe, Queen Victoria Building, Star City Casino, Darling Harbour, the Sydney Aquarium, and the Rocks district. Your Explorer ticket can get you some discounts along the way.

During peak tourism periods, the buses may be crowded leaving Circular Quay so plan an early arrival. An unexpected thrill was a drive through the tunnel under Sydney Harbour and a fast return over the Harbour Bridge. The drivers can suggest general areas to find lunch, but don't try to sell you on specific restaurants.

The drivers do not accept tips. One told me that he was properly paid with his salary. The drivers can also point out the best places to take photos. No food or drinks allowed on the bus. No onboard toilets. Wheelchair accessible.

Sydney Explorer
Any of its 25 stops
Sydney, Australia

Featherdale Wildlife Park

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by samepenny on September 5, 2003

Fair warning, this place is not in a good part of town. It is in the Blacktown area which can be rough at night. We happened on it on our way back down from the Blue Mountains. The traffic was terrible; so we thought we would wait it out with a late in the afternoon visit to Featherdale Wildlife Park. Plenty of free parking. You can do a very good job of seeing all the animals in less than one hour. You can buy handfulls of food to feed the kangaroos. Some very nice fairy penguins, but they were hard to photograph in the late afternoon dim of late May. Also some very well protected Koalas.

This place is a good alternative for people with small children to the big trek and expense required if you visit the Sydney Zoo. The claim is that this is like being out in the bush. Well, only to the extent that you can really see the animals. I don't call cement walkways and chain link fencing bush!

There is an extensive collection of birds. Either visit in the summer or at least on a brighter day if you want to take good photos.

Featherdale Wildlife Park
217 Kildare Road Doonside (near Blacktown)
Sydney, Australia, 2767
+61 (0)2 9622 1644

Watson's Bay via the ferry

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by samepenny on July 9, 2003

The ferry goes out from Circular Quay, past the Sydney Opera House and then in the opposite direction from the Harbour Bridge. You can also get there on the Explorer and other harbour sightseeing boats, but the ferries are cheaper and every bit as nice.

On sweet summer days, you can take along your swimwear and swim off the public beach.

There are many restaurants to choose from, including two Doyle's and many bars and pubs.

Lovely hikes up to the Gap and the Heads for those who want to see what's on the other side of the hills.

Mostly family entertainment at reasonable prices.

The beautiful park down at the bay is an incredible shade of green with huge fig trees and lovely flowering plants. A pure bit of pleasure for very little cost.

Watsons Bay
South Head Peninsula
Sydney, New South Wales

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