Sydney may not be Australia's capital but it is our country's oldest and largest city, famous for its beautiful natural harbour, world-class surf beaches, and wide variety of bars and restaurants celebrating both international and Australian fare.
Your hotel at Pier One Sydney Harbour is located on the edge of our historic Rocks precinct, which was once a rocky spur of land that became the birthplace of modern Australia when white settlers first stepped ashore here in 1788. The area’s early days weren’t pretty; it was a convict slum frequented by sailors and prostitutes. By the early 20th century the district was in serious decay and the government set about demolishing and rebuilding.
Today The Rocks is a thriving entertainment hub. Wander through the cobbled laneways and you’ll find Australia’s oldest pubs tucked in alongside shops, galleries and museums, including The Rocks Discovery Museum, which has interactive exhibits hailing from pre-European settlement to modern times. The weekend is the best time to amble, when The Rocks Markets bring the streets alive with 200 stalls featuring the work of local artisans.
The Rocks Walking Tours are a great way to delve deeper into Sydney’s heritage and depart at 10.30am and 1.30pm daily (www.rockswalkingtours.com.au). The Rocks Dreaming Aboriginal Heritage Tour offers an insight into the area’s indigenous history (www.dreamtimesouthernx.com.au).
MUST SEE ATTRACTIONS
1. Sydney Harbour
For a bird's-eye view of our sparkling harbour, climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or take a walk along vibrant Circular Quay to our famous Opera House and into the Royal Botanic Garden, a peaceful oasis framing the water that is full to the brim with native flora and fauna.
Getting onto the water offers a whole new perspective. Hop on the ferry to Manly, the jewel of Sydney's north shore, from No. 3 wharf at Circular Quay. Or take a sightseeing cruise. Captain Cook Cruises, Fantasea Cruising and Tribal Warrior are all reputable providers, with the latter hosted by Aboriginals who will share indigenous tales of Sydney Harbour, traditional fishing techniques and a cultural performance.
Sydney's beaches are world famous and while Manly on the north shore and Bondi in the city's east attract most of the crowds (for good reason), there are many quieter ocean and harbour beaches waiting to be discovered. Local secrets close to the city include Nielsen Park and Parsley Bay in Vaucluse. For the former, take bus No. 325 from Stand J at Town Hall Station; for the latter you're best taking a taxi but it's worth it.
If you're after a quintessential Bondi experience, grab a train to Bondi Junction, a bus to the beach and jump on a board with Let's Go Surf School, or catch some surfing action with a schooner of beer in hand at Bondi Icebergs, an iconic Sydney swimming club that offers one of the best views in town. To discover some of Bondi's lesser known neighbours, stroll the stunning Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, which takes in the pretty beaches of Tamarama and Bronte.
3. Darling Harbour
Once a dockland area, Darling Harbour is now a waterfront leisure hub boasting some of Sydney's best attractions. These include SEA Sydney Aquarium, Wild Life Sydney Zoo, the picturesque Chinese Garden, 3D Imax Cinema (which houses the world’s biggest screen), Madame Tussauds and the National Maritime Museum, which tells the story of Australia's relationship with the sea, from Aboriginal canoes to the First Fleet and modern day beach and surf culture.
4. Taronga Zoo
Sydney's beloved Taronga Zoo enjoys a superb harbourside setting and homes thousands of critters including many native Australian ones. This is the place to come if you want to stroke a koala, get close to hopping kangaroos or swoon over sleepy wombats. It's also an excuse to jump on another ferry, which you'll find at No.2 wharf at Circular Quay.
5. The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains are a remote and stunning expanse of wilderness on the city's fringe. Hovering over the Great Dividing Range, it took decades before white settlers found a successful route through them in 1813. Today the Blue Mountains offer a popular day trip from Sydney, with stunning bush walks and lookouts offering jaw-dropping views of gorges and valleys. The most famous view can be found at Echo Point, where you can gaze at the iconic Three Sisters over a glass of wine at Bar NSW. Or head to nearby Scenic World, where you can delve into the valley on the world's steepest passenger railway, walk the 2.4km scenic walkway or glide in the largest aerial cable car in the Southern Hemisphere.
The most convenient way to explore the mountains is to take the train from Sydney to Katoomba then the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus. For more freedom, you may prefer to hire a car.
Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel
19 Kent St, The Rocks
In the heart of the historic Rocks precinct is Australia's oldest pub brewery, dating back to 1841. The Lord retains its colonial glory and is famous for its award-winning, 100 percent natural ales, which are all brewed on site.
115 Harrington St, The Rocks
Maybe Sammy was the only Australian bar listed in the World’s 50 Best Bar Awards. There's a rotating menu of $10 classic cocktails served in mini-form and the show-stopping New Frontier is made with Calle 23 Blanco Tequila, Derrumbes mescal, fino sherry and apple.
Hotel Palisade, 35 Bettington St, Millers Point
Enjoy some of the best views in Sydney overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge from this buzzing rooftop bar.
The Dolphin Hotel, Level 2/412 Crown St, Surry Hills
Scout is located on the top floor of the The Dolphin Hotel in Sydney's stylish enclave of Surry Hills. Inside, one of the world’s most celebrated mixologists Matt Whiley constantly evolves the drinks list for the antipodean version of his award-winning Scout bar in London.
17-19 Central Ave, Manly
An underground speakeasy with a twist, The Cumberland is concealed behind a fridge door in a small bodega-style deli. It serves a selection of over 250 whiskies, natural wines, craft beers and cocktails a stone's throw from Manly Beach.
Botanic House in the Royal Botanic Garden
Enjoy modern Asian cuisine designed by Ambassador Chef Luke Nguyen nestled in the heart of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden with glimpses of Sydney Harbour.
The Exchange, Mezzanine Level, Shop 31/1 Little Pier St, Haymarket
XOPP is a contemporary spin on Golden Century, which has been serving some of Sydney's most authentic Cantonese-style cuisine and seafood for 30 years.
23-33 Mary St, Surry Hills
Chef Lennox Hastie has just been named the 2020 Sydney Morning Herald Chef of the Year with his restaurant Firedoor receiving three hats. Lennox specialises in cooking over flame, creating memorable dishes featuring fresh seafood, fish, meat and vegetables.
83 Percival Rd, Stanmore
Just awarded three hats in the coveted Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide for 2020, this tiny restaurant in the inner west suburb of Stanmore features the best of NSW produce with refined techniques and flavours.
Sydney Tower Buffet at Sydney Tower, Pitt St
Sydney Tower is Sydney's tallest structure and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere. Sydney Tower Buffet offers Australian and international dishes in a revolving restaurant 305m above the ground with views all the way to the Blue Mountains.