Lay of the Land
“If Paris is a city of lights, Sydney is the city of fireworks.”~Baz Luhrmann
Sydney draws on elements from some of the world’s great cities: the energy of downtown Los Angeles, the culinary scene of New York, the Georgian façades of London, the undulating suburbs of Beverly Hills and the laidback charm of San Francisco, all centered around the city’s great harbor. Life revolves around the waterfront, Port Jackson (better known as Sydney Harbour), which buzzes with waterway ferry traffic, sail boats and seaplanes. The harbor divides north Sydney from south Sydney and the two are connected by the city’s iconic Harbour Bridge.
South of Harbor Bridge
At the southern end of the bridge, the grand sweep of Circular Quay encompasses the historic Rocks district (the site of Australia’s first European settlement), the renowned Opera House and the CBD (the Central Business District or simply, downtown). The center of Circular Quay houses the Overseas Passenger Terminal (so called because cruise ships dock there) and around it are a host of boutiques, restaurants and bars that line the waterfront promenade. Just behind Circular Quay lies the epicenter of Sydney’s downtown life, the CBD, filled with high-rises, hotels, government buildings and some of the city’s best restaurants.
Southeast of CBD are the trendy neighborhoods of Paddington, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills, which are filled with high-end Australian designer shops and art galleries. Farther southeast from here are the famous sunbathing and surfer-haven beaches of Bondi, Bronte and Coogee.
Directly east and adjacent to CBD is Wolloomooloo, home to Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden (a lush 74-acre oasis with striking views over the harbor and Opera House) and the celebrated Art Gallery of New South Wales. Further afield are the tony waterfront suburbs of Vaucluse, Rose Bay and Double Bay, enclaves full of private homes perched atop hills with sweeping vistas over the harbor, fashionable boutiques and quaint local cafés. At the furthest northeastern point sits Watsons Bay, a laid back, beach-chic cove with fish and chip shacks and a local scene.
Southwest of the Harbor Bridge are the up-and-coming suburbs of Leichardt, Newtown and Glebe, known for their bohemian flair.
North of Harbor Bridge
Across the Harbor Bridge from Circulay Quay is the north side of Sydney. Just below the bridge sits the revamped 1930’s amusement playground, Luna Park, featuring old-fashioned carnival attractions and vintage rides. Further east in north Sydney, in the neighborhood of Mosman, is the city’s famous Taronga Zoo, a fun and quick way to see some of Australia’s famous wildlife.
Sydney’s northern suburbs lend their way to gorgeous beaches, where many Sydneysiders (what locals call themselves) have weekend homes. Wide stretches of shore like that at Manly Beach and great local restaurants set in small coves (and accessible by boat) make for memorable days.