Having been in Australia for six weeks we wrapped up our trip in its largest city: Sydney. A lovely place, it reminded us of our own San Francisco: Huge bridge, bay, hills, good weather (better in Sydney I think, summers are warm here!), and both have very expensive housing markets. There are differences too: Sydney feels a lot more livable and relaxed than San Fran. It's cleaner too. I'd say San Fran is a tad prettier though. Oh, and for anyone who's braved the frigid waters of northern California... The ocean here is a lot warmer!
There's tons to do in Sydney, more than we could ever hope to fit into six days. We were also a little lower on energy than at the start of our trip so we took things easy. We celebrated my wife Katrine's birthday with a seafood lunch cruise (with Thomas Cook Cruises, not bad) and a circus performance at the Opera House (Le Grand Cirque Adrenaline: excellent). We also spent a couple days with friends in Manly and near Bondi beach (which we didn't visit).
We mostly stayed close to our apartment which was well located just north of Chinatown, and enjoyed visiting Darling Harbour, the downtown area, and its parks. The Sydney Tower is worth it for the panoramic view and the Aquarium and Wildlife World are sure to please young and old alike, esp. with the cool Lego displays. If you like shopping check out the open market at The Rocks (neighborhood at the base of the Harbour Bridge). It's on every Saturday and Sunday, and there are lots of stalls to tempt you (we were won over by a didgeridoo).
- Visit the Opera House from the inside as well as the outside, check out the shows for any you might like (there's more than just opera!)
- We enjoyed our cruise but you can get some very nice pics just by taking the ferry to Manly (bonus: they have free wifi on the upper deck!)
- Manly is worth a stop: it's a lovely little seaside neighborhood with a very relaxed feel and a great beach
- Contrary to San Fran in the summer you will likely get some rain but, even when heavy, it doesn't seem to last very long
- Buy a combined ticket for these four attractions (Aquarium, Wildlife World, Tower, and Manly Aquarium), you'll save a lot and these are worth visiting. Well, the first three definitely are, we didn't have time to visit the fourth having spent all our time at Manly beach!
- We didn't visit Taronga Zoo. We've heard many good things about it, both the animals and views, but we felt like we'd covered all the Aussie fauna already and didn't want to see boring old elephants, giraffes, and lions :-)
- We stayed in a serviced apartment, the Sydney Waldorf Apartment Hotel. We'd stay there again: the location was excellent, the amenities fair, and $250/night for a two bedroom flat at peak tourist season is a great deal
- Make sure you find out what's on in Sydney when you visit. As with any large city, there are always events, exhibitions, concerts, etc. to enjoy. In January for example Sydney puts on a month long festival of the arts