This is not a paid post.
No matter how many times you see Sydney’s fabled Opera House and the Harbour Bridge majestically towering over the glistening blue water, it is still one of those moments when you want to pinch yourself to prove that you are actually there.
|Sydney Opera House|
Pictures can never beat the real thing. I can spend hours being entranced by the beauty of the capital of New South Wales. This surely has to be one of the most gorgeous harbour views on the planet.
Sydney, Australia’s cultural heart, is not only a stunning natural beauty, it also has a buzzing art scene, a myriad of concert halls and an exciting array of restaurants. What makes laid-back Sydney stand out from the crowd its enthralling melange of natural assets combined with the allure of city sophistication.
In no time at all you can be at one of its lovely beaches. While the renowned Bondi Beach, about a 30-minute drive from the centre of Sydney, does not quite live up to expectations, a ride on the Manly Ferry to Manly Beach is special.
The ferry, which began life in 1856, has become a must for any visitor to Sydney. A ride is therapeutic and the vistas, en route, exquisite.
Governor Arthur Phillip who discovered Manly in 1788, is said to have given it the name after being impressed by the manly behaviour of the indigenous people who lived there.
A lazy Sunday afternoon mooching around Manly was one of the highlights of my trip to Sydney. Young and old flock to the golden sands to chill while others jog along or power walk along the ocean front.
This beach is one of the best for surfing. Watching the people ride the huge foamy waves made my heart skip a beat but they seem to revel in the excitement taking it all in their stride. If you want to go whale-watching, this is a good place to take a tour.
Manly Arts and Crafts Markets (Saturday and Sunday) is the place to go to discover an array of unusual handmade Australian arts and craft. There are also plenty of food stalls should you start to feel a bit peckish.
Back on the ferry to Sydney’s Circular Quay I half expected to feel it tilt as a rush of people got their cameras at the ready to take more shots of the Opera House from the water.
For thrill-seekers a walk to the summit of Sydney Harbour Bridge will be a priority on their itinerary. If, like me, you would prefer to see Sydney with your feet on the ground, you can get wonderful pictures of the city skyline and, of course, the harbour from just being on the bridge.
While the Central Business District (CBD) looks like a construction site, shoppers will want to visit Westfield Sydney, where you will find all the international names interspersed with Australian brands.
Also check-out the Queen Victoria Building (known to the locals as the QVB). Named after the monarch, it dates back to 1898. The elaborate Romanesque-styled building is home to some interesting shops and boutiques.
Milling around the jumbled cobblestone streets of The Rocks, a cool area just a few minutes’ walk from Circular Quay, you wonder what Sydney’s convicts who, along with soldiers and sailors in the early days frequented the area, would make of its transformation. Stylish boutiques and edgy art galleries sit beside old pubs, storehouses and workman's cottages. If only walls could talk I am sure that they would have a tale or two to tell about the early European settlers who came here over 200 years ago and founded this convict-built settlement.
At night take the ferry and sail under Sydney Harbour Bridge, known to the locals as the “Coathanger”, over to Darling Harbour. Once an industrial sea port, it has now become a magnet for tourists and locals alike who go to this pedestrian district for its myriad of top-notch restaurants and lively entertainment. There are also some museums here if you are in need of a culture injection. Or, you can try your luck at the casino.
Taking a peaceful stroll through the delightful 200-year-old Royal Botanic Gardens, just near the Opera House, it was not hard to see why Sydneysiders have a “no worries” approach to life. If only I could have bottled that up and brought it back to London!
By Daralyn Danns
I travelled with British Airways and stayed at the Four Seasons Sydney, booked through Trailfinders (trailfinders.com)