Sydney....Australia's Shining Star | Craig Travel

Sydney....Australia's Shining Star

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Our New Zealand and Australia adventure was coming to a close…last stop, Sydney. Nestled around its magnificent harbour, Sydney is a lively, multifaceted city, the pride of its citizens and the gateway to Australia. As Australia’s largest city, it was mind-boggling to take in all of the information our guide provided as she introduced us to each of the many different areas; driving through the city centre, there are many contrasts – from the traditional Victorian architecture of the Town Hall and the stunning Queen Victoria Building to the modern skyscrapers of the business area; famous names like “The Rocks,” with its shops and outdoor cafes, the beautiful white sand beaches of Bondi and Manley, trendy Darling Harbour with its many restaurants, cafes and shops and Paddington, whose iron-railed town houses were signs of times gone by. Each area was unique, full of charm and exuding a sense that life is meant to be savoured.

Nature was kind when it formed the sparkling gem that is Sydney’s harbour, a spectacular sight with its many small coves and inlets, all dotted with hundreds of sailboats, glamorous yachts, ferries and tour boats. The harbour is the focal point of the city; from here, one can visit the iconic and beautiful Sydney Opera House with its billowing white sails, where over 2500 performances are staged each year. Construction on the opera house began in 1959 with an estimated cost of seven million Australian dollars. When the project was completed in 1973 the final cost totalled one hundred and two million dollars! Incredibly, the entire cost was paid off in seventeen years completely through lottery sales. On our visit, we took a behind-the-scenes tour visiting one of the five theatres (the other four were in use), the backstage equipment/prop storage area and a rehearsal room with a $250,000 Steinway piano which we were invited to try. We discovered we had a few very talented players in our group!

Close by the Opera House is the dramatic steel presence of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Cruise ships sail under it, cars drive across it and people walk over it. There is even a “bridge-climb” for those who wish to climb to the top of the semi-circular part of the bridge. We were told it took 80,000 litres of paint to paint the bridge its deep grey colour…why grey? No other colour was available in such large quantities!

A highlight of our city visit was a luncheon cruise on Sydney harbour. While the ship was lovely and the seafood buffet scrumptious, the stars of this particular show were the spectacular views of the city from the water. Sitting on the deck, basking in the sunshine and warm sea air made the snow and cold of Canada was a distant memory!

Our tour took us through the pretty Botanic Garden where we walked to Lady Macquarie’s Chair. Story has it that Lady Macquarie fell in love with a sailor who promised her that one day he would return for her. Each day, she sat on a sandstone rock cut into the shape of a bench, facing the sea, waiting for her sailor. Of course, he never came, and so she eventually married the Governor of New South Wales. However, her longing for her sailor never ended and each day found her walking to the bench and gazing out to sea…waiting…while enjoying the panoramic views of the sea.

Worthy of mention is the wonderful Taronga Zoo, where we enjoyed a walkabout tour through the many displays and viewing areas. Creatures small and large including kangaroos, koalas, wombats, dingoes, Australian birds, giraffes, elephants and various other species wander, play, sleep and eat, for the most part oblivious to the visitors around them. A cable car provided fantastic overhead views of the zoo, the stunning harbor and Sydney’s impressive skyline.

Our final evening was at the Waterfront Restaurant; one of the many joys of Sydney being the ability to eat outdoors amidst lovely surroundings. With the harbour’s water lapping gently as the sun set and our dinner was served, it was the perfect ending to our South Pacific adventure. On the way back to our hotel, our driver asked if we would like one more view of Sydney by night. At a spectacular seaside location, we disembarked the coach for one final look at the shimmering water, twinkling lights, bobbing boats and that marvelous Opera House. We all agreed Sydney was the perfect place to end this perfect journey.

See Craig Travel's upcoming journeys to the South Pacific here