Sydney is one of the most impressive cities that I have ever visited. It has a unique blend of a Los Angeles type "big city" atmosphere (and climate) mixed with European refinement and culture. This would be a great place to live. There are around 4 million people in Sydney and it has an impressive modern infrastructure.
Below are two of our best shots with the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge behind us.
Tuesday April 10th
We arrived at Sydney's airport at 6:30 am after our 14 hour flight from Los Angeles. We bought a SydneyPass at the airport that allowed us unlimited use of the land and water transportation systems in the city for three days. Using the SydneyPass we hopped on an Airport Express Bus (Line 350) that took us directly to our hotel, the Sydney Marriott, located in the center of town next to Hyde Park. The hotel allowed us to check in early so we cleaned up and headed out to see the sights. We took the CityRail train 2 stops to Circular Quay (pronounced "key") and walked to the Sydney Opera House.
The Opera House is very impressive up close. I was first struck by the fact that the "sails" are made up of small beige (not white) colored tiles. There is much more glass on the outside than I had noticed in pictures. I was also surprised to discover it is actually three separate buildings next to each other. We bought tickets for the Opera House tour and ended up on a tour with the local Channel 9 news team filming our whole group for a weekend TV show. We didn't get to see ourselves on TV because we had left for New Zealand by the time it aired. After the tour, we walked over by the Sydney Harbour Bridge and had a late lunch at Doyles at the Quay, which is a famous restaurant. We both had the John Dory, which was excellent. The last picture above is the view from our table toward the Harbour Bridge. In the other direction we had a view of the Opera House. After lunch we walked back to Circular Quay and caught a Ferry to Darling Harbour. We walked around a bit and then walked back to the hotel, grabbed a snack and retired for the day.
Wednesday April 11th
Our first full day began with a tour of the historic Rocks area around the Harbour Bridge. We had breakfast at Pancakes Licensed Cafe, a famous 24 hour breakfast spot. We then took the CityRail out to Blacktown (about an hour trip) where we caught a 725 bus to Featherdale Wildlife Park. This park was hyped in the tour books as the best place to get close to koalas and kangaroos, and it more than lived up to its hype. The animals are very well cared for and the kangaroos, sheep and ostriches are free to roam around so you can feed them or pet them. The koalas are brought out to the common areas so you can pet them and take pictures with them while they munch on their Eucalyptus. Crocodiles, Dingoes, Tasmanian Devils, various endangered species and aggressive ostriches are kept in fenced enclosures, but are close enough to view. In the last picture below I am petting a Wombat, who reacted much like a dog would. This park gets high marks from me and was the highlight of the trip for Ben.
We got back to Circular Quay in the late afternoon and caught the JetCat Ferry to Manly Beach. We toured OceanWorld (first picture below) and then walked down Corso through town to the main beach. Manly has a young crowd and has a very "California in the sixties" beach-y atmosphere. We grabbed fish and chips take-out at Manly Ocean Foods and headed back to the ferry terminal for the JetCat back. We were among the few brave souls to ride the open top deck of the JetCat back after dark. Entering Sydney Harbour, the Opera House is striking at night, but our pictures from the JetCat turned out somewhat blurred.
Thursday April 12th
On Thursday morning we walked to Darling Harbour to catch a Sydney IMAX show in the morning. We took the Monorail to the AMP Centrepoint Tower, one of three buildings we visited that claimed to be the tallest in the southern hemisphere (the one in Auckland is the tallest). We started out with Skytour, which was lame, and then took the elevator to the top of the tower. The pictures below are of Darling Harbour, the Tower viewed from our hotel room and three views from the top of the tower - the last one of Hyde Park and our Hotel.
We grabbed a late lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (a weakness when I travel abroad) and then caught the Bondi and Bay Explorer Bus to Bondi Beach. Along the way we saw some impressive suburbs with great views of Sydney Harbour. It was a cold afternoon and threatening rain when we arrived at Bondi Beach, so there were no sunbathers around to gawk at. We took some pictures of the beach and the waves and then grabbed a quick snack at the Gelato Bar Restaurant across the street from the beach. Our snack was unexpectedly interrupted when a huge cockroach strolled down the floor by our table. We left in a hurry. Avoid this place - it is a dive. We hopped back on the bus and returned to our hotel.
Because of the grounding of Ansett's fleet that day, we decided it was wise to leave early for our Qantas flight Friday morning to Melbourne. We took the Airport Express Friday morning after breakfast to the airport. I intend to return to Sydney in the near future and spend at least a week. We barely scratched the surface in three days. A great city.