I used to call Sydney hope in the early 2000s, and this city has arguably helped shaped my viewpoints and outlook to life. A city on a stunning harbour, eager to move forward yet knows when to do so at a chilled pace. A city that knows the importance of beauty, especially when she has so many opportunities to showcase it to the world. A city that is both banker-thinking yet beach-bumming at the same time. Did I mention how much I love Sydney?
The Harbour City
The founders and city administrators of Sydney know what they have on hand, and they knew it early. Port Jackson and Sydney Harbour have always been an entry point for the city, and even with rail or air links, this is still reflected on approach. Air paths follow entry along Port Jackson, and taking the airport express to the city will showcase the beauty of Sydney Cove as the train exits the tunnels and goes above ground at Circular Quay.
This is a city built around her water, and it would be completely wrong to not at least spend some time walking around Miller’s Point, Circular Quay and the Royal Botanic Garden fringing Sydney Cove.
Most of Sydney’s icons are located on or close to the harbour, and for good reason: they look stunning on the water. From the skyscrapers of the CBD to the Sydney Opera House, from the Harbour Bridge to Darling Harbour, this is a city whose iconic image is hard to beat. As artsy and intellectual as Melbourne is, I’m sorry, I still have a thing for Sydney: she made me work out to look good for Icebergs.
City to Surf
The urban sights of Sydney are pretty generic for a major outpost of Empire: the standard Victorian architecture of the Queen Victoria Building, the mock-Gothic manor house of Government House, the monumental architecture along Martin Place and Customs House are unique yet familiar. The pedestrian mall of Pitt Street, skyscraper canyon of George Street and urban leisure of the Barangaroo-King St Wharf-Darling Harbour corridor feel very, well, typical of a wealthy urban centre, but there are pockets where Sydney shines in her own right.
Take a morning run along Circular Quay and Sydney Cove and the psyche of the city comes to perspective. Sure, city residents look as if they enjoy lounging around, but they need to maintain their fit look. Sure, the city looks like a major global city, but the city residents talk and think and discuss of major topics as they run in the park or row to make sure they maintain their edge. This is a city that knows she has an image to maintain and knows the maintenance that comes with it.
Yet for a truly iconic image of Sydney, then head to the eastern suburbs and the coast where the beaches and stunning cliffs are. There is a reason why the City to Surf is a concept, a thing, a driving force in the city.
Surf and Turf
Getting from the city to the surf is a fairly easy affair. There are direct buses from the city, and there is the train + bus option. I personally prefer the train + bus option, mostly because I like trains and there are more buses from Bondi Junction. From the CBD, take the T4 Eastern Suburbs line to Bondi Junction, a major bus hub that has bus links to all the major eastern suburb beaches.
Maroubra beach is personally one of my favourites, a nice long stretch of beach, suitable for kite surfing and a spot of open sea swimming, despite the waves. However, for a fun exploration of the coast, the Bondi to Coogee Walk is a very fun option. Taking bus 313 or 314 from Stand K of Bondi Junction to Coogee Beach, walk left from Coogee Beach, along the cliffs and coasts to such sights as the surfer destination of Bronte Beach, the deep inlet of Clovelly beach, and end at the iconic Bondi Beach.
Coogee Beach is a nice little beachside suburb with very good cafes and brunch options, so a late brunch before an afternoon walk towards Bondi to burn the calories is a very viable option. On arrival at Bondi, reward yourself with a drink at the Icebergs club before dipping in for a few laps in the salt water pool. Stand by the railings and get ready to feel the force of the Pacific as it blasts straight towards you, before experiencing the work hard, play hard culture at Bondi Beach.
Iconic Monuments, Iconic City
While the eastern suburb beaches are the more popular and easily accessible, Manly Beach would provide a good alternative. Taking the Manly Ferry from Circular Quay to Manly, the harbour views on this trip is on par with any Sydney Harbour cruise.
Manly, and Manly Beach, is a fun little spot to enjoy brunch by the sea. With a nice selection of cafes and restaurant, my personal favourite being the Manly Pantry, the laid back, leisurely pace will undoubtedly make you slow down a tad as well.
The view as you head back in to the city from Manly along the harbour is truly an iconic view: promontories and beaches jut out to the harbour, as yachts cruise along, with the unmistakable sights of the CBD towers, Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge providing for that picture postcard view.
If there was a case study for how iconic architecture can place a city on a map, there would be a chapter on Sydney. The trials and tribulation of the Sydney Opera House could easily be a production in itself, and the marvel of the building has not only put Sydney on the iconic destinations map, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Catch a production in the city, be it an opera or concert performance, to truly experience this performing arts destination. Sure, there are backstage tours, but it is nothing like listening to Violetta sing of joy de vive at a production of La Traviata or enjoying a glass of sparkling fronting the harbour during intermission.
This joy de vive that permeates through Sydney is what makes the city unique. From a stunning skyline to surfable seas, beckoning beaches to harbour views, Sydney would leave an indelible mark to any visitor.
Opal Card: taking public transport regularly? Get an Opal Card. Readily available at the Airport Express train station and easy to top-up, this provides great value if you will be using the airport station more than twice in a week, reducing your airport station access fee. On Sundays, there is a cap on travel fare, meaning after taking the ferry to Manly for Sunday brunch, travel on the ferry, bus and train network is free all day!
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk: thirsty? Don’t worry. There are a lot of water fountains along the way, even if there are not many convenience stores along the walk.
Jason is a world traveller and avid seeker of high perches, on a mission to capture the unique experiences that makes destinations iconic.