Sydney Pictures Guide, Australia

australia, sydney pictures, opera house.

The most famous of all Sydney pictures, the Opera House. Photo by Diliff.

Why visit Sydney

Sydney, New South Wales, is one of the world’s great cities, a spectacularly attractive and lively harbour city with sophisticated dining and drinking options, world famous sights, golden beaches and a constant supply of free events.

Sydney is well-organised and well-developed but still very relaxed with fine green spaces – most notably the cockatoo-frenzied Royal Botanic Gardens.

Australia’s main cities are all designed in the same vein: spacious, attractive waterfronts, plenty of greenery and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks but Sydney hit the biggest seam with the world’s largest natural harbour, and absolutely gorgeous it is too.

However, Botany Bay, Captain Cook’s first landing point, is now an industrial zone about 10kms south of Sydney.

sydney pictures, harbour aerial photo, australia

Sydney Harbour, also known as Port Jackson, seen from the air. Photo by Rodney Haywood.

The right side of the photo of Port Jackson is North Sydney, while the left is, of course, South Sydney, the prime tourist target. Darling Harbour is behind the Business District on the left while Luna Park is on the coast just beyond the right end of the Harbour Bridge. The popular must-visit beach suburb of Manly – get there by ferry – is out of shot to the right while the other best beach near Sydney is iconic Bondi, also a must-see, down the coast on the south side.

Behind the Opera House is the beautiful Botanic Gardens and to the right is Circular Quay, the harbour’s main ferry terminal, and the business district.

Sydney, a capital city?

Some deluded folk think Sydney is Australia’s capital, or possibly Melbourne. Not at all, it’s a city in Australia’s south-east that few tourists visit (Bugcrew included), Canberra, purpose built because politicians could not afford to give the title to either of the two serious contenders – Sydney vs. Melbourne – for fear of dreadful sanctions from the great and good of the losing city.

Still, Sydney – aka ‘Sin City’ by locals though we can’t imagine why, the sin side must be well hidden – is unquestionably the city that all tourists have to see, along with Uluru and Cairns for a minimum Australia experience. Melbourne, it’s true, is very pleasant and could be a terrific place to live but it lacks the harbour (tho’ the Yarra River is a pretty fiar substitute) and being further south the climate is cooler – some even liken it to Britain’s dire weather.

Things to Do in Sydney

Sydney pictures, Australia, harbor bridge

The iconic Harbour Bridge with grey-suited climbers visible mid-left and low right.

There are quite a few who have climbed the Harbour Bridge who claim that the cost is extortionate and out of proportion to the experience, but others would disagree, especially if they managed top peak out on a good day around sunset time. Whatever, this picture was taken from the top of one of the bridge’s support towers and provided quite enough height thank you. . .

Darling Harbor, Sydney, Australia

A small part of the Darling Harbour complex, enjoyed by ibis as much as tourists.

• Sydney Opera House is a must (free music recitals on Sunday afternoons). Try an opera if you can get a ticket, or just walk around it and savour the views.

• Walk or climb the Harbour Bridge. The climb of 1. 5kms (1mile) along the arched span – 134 metres above the water – uses safety lines and will scare the bejesus out of most but costs silly money; only over 12s. Some visitors think the climb is a 2. 5 hour waste of time.

• The Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens are for plant and bird lovers (is the cockatoo the noisiest bird on the planet? ) or just people escaping from crowds, concrete and action overload.

• Catch a ferry to Manly for great views of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Sydney’s regular water environment and on to funky beach life and great surfing on the big beach.

• Visit the cool bars and live bands in Paddington and the funky markets in the ‘alternative’ areas such as Newtown and Glebe for a taste of Sidney’s subculture.

• Stroll Darling Harbour for post modern family oriented shopping and entertainment – touristy but well done, especially the Aquarium.

• The Rocks, at the south end of the Harbour Bridge is not only an over-restored historic area but also arguably Sydney’s best market, great for souvenirs.

• Oxford Street is Sydney’s top entertainment area and perhaps prime target for a wild night out, whatever your preferences might be.

• If you can make it in February, well, it’s the wackiest time of all, the Gay Mardi Gras.

• Macquarie St is good for lovers of historical buildings and stories.

• Woolahra’s Queen Street has some stunning terraced houses, art galleries and antiques shops.

Sydney pictures, Australia, the Rocks market

The Rocks weekend market.

Old Victorian buildings visible in many places around Australia face off the Rocks market tents, a tourist souvenir hotspot, while the Harbour Bridge crosses in the background.

Bondi beach, Sydney, Australia

Sydney’s world famous Bondi Beach. Photo by Adam

Bondi  is a must-visit, not far by bus or train, offering surfing, stylish off-beach services and a wonderful coastal walk, especially 1-14 November during Sculpture by the Sea, or September during the kite festival. Everything necessary is rentable.

Botanic Gardens

Botanical Gardens, Sydney, Australia

Australia’s favourite urban attraction is undoubtedly the city of Sydney. Sydney enjoys one of the most pleasant year round climates and sights to impress even the most jaded traveller, such as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, especially when viewed from the lovely, squawking Botanical Gardens.

The city is vibrant and dynamic yet still laid back with shops and restaurants galore, old men in tight shorts and a booming nightlife.

To the north are some pretty vacant coastal sunspots up as far as Palm Beach as well as trendy beaches such as Bondi and Manly with their surfers, swimmers and busy promenades to complete the Australian ideal.

• it is not cheap; expect to pay as much as in some European cities.
• Sydney beach waters are not warm, even in mid summer.
• the suburbs are a bungalow and barbie burntopia stretching forever. . . well, until the Blue Mountains get in the way.
• truly cultural offerings, like opera and theatre, are good but not in big supply.

 cockatoos in Botanic Gardens, Sydney, Australia

Cheeky Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos in the Botanic Gardens.

Sydney’s beautiful and peaceful Botanic Gardens, unless you choose to become a cockatoo perch. The Botanic Gardens are just a step away from the Opera House and next to the Business District’s uninspiring modern architecture. The Botanic Gardens offer varied events in the summer time including outdoor theatrical shows for kids and live music.

Although Australian wildlife is not generally as easy to find as one might imagine, bird life flourishes everywhere, not least in Sydney, with ibis as common as pigeons and parrots, fruit bats and cockatoos screeching around the Botanic Gardens, especially towards dusk.


Sydney pictures, Australia, Luna Park

Luna Park, Sydney. Photo by Adam JWC.

And if you’ve had enough sun, sea and sand, you could head for Sydney’s main amusement centre, Luna Park, located at Milsons Point, near the north end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s had a life of ups and downs, undergoing various rebuilds after various issues but is now open year round and easy to reach to by train, ferry, bus or car.

Also on the other side of the harbour, a short and breezy ferry-ride away lies Manly, also relaxed, in fact even more relaxed as it encompasses a superb surf beach, a great view of Sydney’s iconic sights and very little in the way of grey-suited businessmen. . . .

Sydney Suburbs

Sydney, Australia, Paddington suburb

A typical inner suburb of Sydney, Paddington is 3 kms east of the Business District. Photo by Iantomferry.

Sydney’s inner suburbs away from the sea have minimal interest for tourists, in fact the bungalow sprawl extends about 70 kms (43 miles) out from the harbour. Some inner suburbs are delightful, such as Manly, Mossman, Woollahra and Lane Cove, but most are either dull or not particularly safe.

Arts and Culture

Classical Music: at the Opera House
Dance/Opera: Sydney Opera Company and Ballet at the Opera House.
Live Music & Clubs: All over the place but especially Manly for Jazz Festivals, Oxford St and Paddington for the popular clubs and pubs and gays.
Check The Metro section of Sydney Morning Herald and free weeklies for info on live music.
The Maritime Museum and Powerhouse Museum in Darling Harbour are worth a visit.


January 8-30, Sydney Festival, a solid arts event though lacking the mad, bad Fringe that makes Edinburgh so bizarre. Very little street action, regular theatres mainly.

Jan 26, Australia Day, nationwide but especially lively in Darling Harbour, with free outdoor shows, regattas and a lively night spectacle.

1st Friday of February-early March, Sydney Mardi Gras. A huge and deservedly famous celebration of gaiety in all artistic spheres. Fun for straights too!

June, 1st Saturday/Sunday, Manly Food & Wine Festival.

October, 1st Saturday, Sleaze Ball. An unbelievably queer event.

November 1-14, Sculpture by the Sea, Sydney. An extensive display on Bondi’s gorgeous coastal path.

Dec 26, Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, a great harbour spectacle.

Dec 31, New Year’s Eve Fireworks. Also Sydney Pride, New Year’s Eve Party.

Sydney best seasons

Best time to be there: January-February for heat, swimming and excellent partying/festivals, or March, April, October, November for less crowded sight-seeing, though clouds and rain are not unusual any time. Expect November-January temperatures to head into the 40s occasionally.
Worst: June-July. Even in winter (June, July) nights are rarely below 10C but it may be damp, cool and non-beachy, plus crowded with holidaymakers who don’t know better.
Skiing July-September, maybe in the mountains.

Don’t expect too much from Sydney in the way of brilliant, warm, sunny weather all year round. Rain is not uncommon in any season, nor cool, sweater-inducing temperatures, though in all probability your shorts (short pants) will see considerable usage.

Just don’t wear tiny tight shorts like too many of Sydney’s older, pot-bellied underclass males – unless you’re a fit young female of course. And if you yearn for guaranteed sunshine then the central east coast is your best bet, where 300 days of sunburn is apparently the norm.

Probably the best time to visit Sydney is March-April and October-November, the classic shoulder months when temperatures are moderate and crowds are reduced by school terms, though if you are a show freak and organised enough to book ahead then January’s Sydney Arts Festival month might suit you.

Sadly, without a mad ‘Fringe’ Festival that Scotland’s Edinburgh does so well, Sydney’s event is rather staid, lacking in fire and not worth making a special effort to attend.


This is a fairly Asia-oriented city with an extensive area in the centre where Anglo-Saxon features are rare and sushi is menu du jour though in other areas rat coffins (meat pies) are an Australian quick-eat tradition.

Generally seafood is big and white wine with oysters scoffed beside Circular Quay are a must, though Darling Harbour, a rebuilt-for-tourists dock area is where many travellers end up spending their dollars.

The city resident’s eating habits have altered recently, going for less posh, more value and more often – but still quality grub.
Asian restaurants have been particularly good at supplying these ‘ModOz’ needs.

The good news is that tasty, healthy Pacific Rim cuisine – especially seafood dishes – is diverse, reasonable value and easily accessible; the bad is that stylish creativity can be in short supply. Bondi and Manly are great for breakfast on the beach.

Short Trips Out

The most convenient way to get around Sydney’s outlying attractions is to rent a car as public transport is limited and roads are usually empty so it’s easy and pleasant to scoot around, take time when you feel like it or disappear in a cloud of dust if the sight is a dud.

– The Blue Mountains and its weird rock formations, caves and waterfalls are an hour or two away by train/car, though don’t expect many kangaroos to come bouncing up to you. Possible activities include hiking, climbing, white-water rafting, and canyoning.

Mountainous Katoomba is one of the Mountains’ best tourist targets, offering views and activities galore. 2 hours from Sydney. A paddle boat runs through the Nepean Gorge of the Blue Mountains from Penrith.

– About thirty excellent beaches are within the metropolitan area, including Manly, a lovely ferry-ride across Sydney Harbour.

– Beach lovers who wonder if there is life after Bondi should walk a while south on the delightful coastal path to Tamarama, Clovelly, Bronte and Coogee where they’ll find the answer is ‘yes’.

– The Royal National Park (30kms/19mls) is a massive old park offering varied activities from bird-watching to surfing.

– Botany Bay National Park (50 mins drive) is much smaller than the Royal (above) but provides excellent walks, beaches and sea views.

– Gosford, 65km (40mls) north has an ‘Old Sydney Town’ with actors and street theatre, 200 year old Aboriginal engravings at Bulgandry and some superb surf and schools a mere 15kms away.

Skiing in the Snowy Mountains and Mount Kosciuszko National Park from July-Sept and hiking, fishing, golfing in the summer. Roughly equidistant between Melbourne and Sydney, about 5 hours drive.

Australia wine buffs will enjoy visiting Hunter Valley’s 50 wineries and their free tastings, about 2 hours north of Sydney. Don’t drive back!

Coffs Harbour is good for markets, beaches and rainforest; close by Oz standards but at 640kms (400mls) is not exactly a morning’s drive away.

Driving Distances

From Sydney to Melbourne on a direct route is 963 kms (600 miles), taking about 9 hours. Alternatively choose the beautiful coast road, with endless views of beaches, lakes, national parks, wildlife and some cute little resort towns en route. This is 1160kms (719 miles) long and takes about 14 hours.

On the way some of the best sights are Croajingolong National Park; the southernmost point of Australia at Wilson’s Promontory – with attendant wildlife and panoramic scenery; the Phillip Island Penguin Parade at dusk when thousands of the little chaps head for their burrows. It’s a hoot.

Sydney to Brisbane is 1010 kms (672 miles), taking about 11 hours.
to Canberra is 288 kms (178 miles), taking about 3 hours.
to Cairns is 2730 kms (1, 695 miles), taking about 32 hours.
to Alice Springs is 2850 kms (1, 770 miles), taking about 32 hours.
to Darwin is 3991 kms (2, 478 miles), taking about 43 hours.
to Perth is 4110 kms (2, 552 miles), taking about 44 hours.