Sydney: The Most Beautiful City In The World!
Updated: Jul 26, 2022
That’s a very strong claim that will lead to many disputes from the tourist offices of many other places, but we are making this claim as unbiased individuals with no ulterior purpose and no benefit to be gained. A recent trip there to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, or returning to the scene of the crime as my wife puts it as ‒ we honeymooned there, prompted this article.
But what gives us the right to make this assertion? Well, let me begin by revealing that in the interests of honesty and full disclosure I spent the first 20 years of my life in Sydney. Since then, I’ve lived another 50 years in several other cities in other countries. Even more significant though is that I’ve been to about 160 countries and therefore hundreds of cities, some of which are truly beautiful. That includes such beauties as Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Singapore, to name but a few.
So what makes Sydney so special?
Well, starting with its pièce de resistance, like so many other contenders it sits on a fabulous harbour, arguably the nicest in the world. In fact, from its original penal colony roots, the whole city grew up around this harbour. Officially named Port Jackson, Sydney Harbour is both a playground and thoroughfare for Sydneysiders, with more than 240 kilometres of shoreline, punctuated by unspoiled beaches, picturesque gardens, vertiginous cliffs, and lush natural bush. It is also home to some of Australia’s best-known attractions, including the iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The undisputed centre of the harbour is Circular Quay, the best place to begin your explorations and also an ideal place to stay. While there are many fabulous hotels in Sydney, we think the best choice is the Four Seasons, situated right at Circular Quay. Our corner suite on one of the upper floors had absolutely breathtaking views of the harbour, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the bustling ferry decks, and the Royal Botanical Gardens right below. The location is inarguably the best in town, smack dab in the middle of downtown and just steps from many of the major sights including the historic Rocks area with its restaurants, pubs, and galleries. By the way, stop into the hotel’s bustling ground floor bar for a nightcap and you’ll soon be in a very entertaining conversation with the locals.
Ferries depart from Circular Quay throughout the day to different parts of the harbour, connecting the city with Sydney’s waterside suburbs. Circular Quay is also the major transport hub for water taxis, harbour cruises, buses, trains, and taxis. Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art and historic Custom’s House are located here too.
Our recommendation for the top thing to do is to take the Captain Cook Harbour Story Cruise just a five-minute walk from the hotel. For over two hours, you’ll cruise around the magnificent harbor with perfect views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, but also the multi-million homes lining the waterfront. But don’t let this be your only harbour trip. At least take the Manly Ferry, about a 30-minute trip from downtown. Manly straddles a narrow peninsula with the harbour on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other just a 10-minute pleasant stroll away. Manly Beach is one of Sydney’s most, popular rivalling the fabled Bondi.
Next on the must-do list is the climb to the summit of Sydney Harbour Bridge for unforgettable panoramic views. You’ll be guided high into the bridge’s arches, ascending 134 metres (440 feet) above sea level. You don’t need to be a fitness freak, but you do need to be in reasonably good condition. However if you’d prefer to keep your feet on the ground, it’s free for visitors to cross the bridge along the pedestrian walkway.
Ferries criss-cross the harbor taking people to work and home or just tripping. It’s even the best way to get to Taronga Zoo, sitting on a promontory jutting right into the harbour. With over 4,000 animals, it’s the best place to see Australia’s unique kangaroos, koalas, platypuses, and other endemic species.
Sydney’s idyllic harbour beaches are some of the most beautiful in the city. Harbour beaches are generally calmer than the ocean beaches. Take a dip in the turquoise waters of Camp Cove, reachable by ferry from Circular Quay, and then walk around to Watsons Bay where you can tuck into fish and chips on the grass. If surfing is your thing, then don’t miss Bondi Beach ‒ just a 20-minutes Uber ride away. In addition to the beach, there are some of Sydney’s most famous restaurants here such as Icebergs at one end and Sean’s Panorama at the other.
Speaking of dining, Sydney is world famous for its multi-ethnic dining scene from world class, fancy, and pricey to laid back and reasonable. Every suburb of Sydney, and there are 658 of them, has at least a few choices. At the upper end, you can even dine at Bennelong’s right in the Sydney Opera House. Or, for a truly unique but iconic Sydney experience, grab a meat pie at Harry’s Café de Wheels, a food truck that’s been in operation for over 80 years in the harborside suburb of Woolloomooloo. My wife, an oyster addict who has sampled a huge variety including Malpeques from Canada’s east coast to France’s famous Cancale, thinks Sydney Rock Oysters are the best she’s ever tasted.
If you are game to try driving on the opposite side of the road, then rent a car and drive across the Harbour Bridge (don’t take the tunnel) up to Palm Beach. It’s about 45 kilometres and takes about an hour following the coastline punctuated by sandy beaches and high, rocky cliffs. It’s a great way to see a microcosm of Sydney lifestyle. Once at Palm Beach there are several places for lunch and a beer.
Sydneysiders, as residents are called, have this wonderful devil-may-care attitude. They unpretentiously sit in the front seat of taxis and Uber cars, and are exceptionally friendly. And they have some wonderful expressions, some of which you can see at Talking Aussie.When planning your trip, don’t forget that Australia’s seasons are the reverse to ours in the northern hemisphere so summer runs from December to February.PW
Peter Volny and Linda Goddard are inveterate travelers with some 160 countries visited and all seven continents. They frequently contribute to Private Wealth Canada about their travels.