Nice Things Around Sydney

Quick Tours

This is an alternative to my list of very best Sydney attractions.

If you are coming to Australia from overseas, you are probably committed to 48 hours of travel, just to get to Australia and home again, unless you come from New Zealand or Asia. If you then try to see ten venues in fifteern days, you will hardly ever be away from transport, so try to think of a minimum of three to five days in any given centre, and think in terms of a maximum of four or five centres. That means committing several weeks to Australian travel and touring, and you will still only scratch the surface.

Try to remember that Australia is BIG - up there with the USA and Brazil in land area, so that you can drive all day and still not cross a state border (and no rude jokes about the state of the roads, either, thanks!). Think about flying, unless great train rides are what you like most, and accept that you cannot see everything in one visit.

With the best of intentions, there are times when we cannot spend as long as we would like in a new place, so if you are between conferences, or running out of time, or have to be some place else, here are some ideas to help you select the best of the best of what Australia has to offer.

The Two-day Sydney Tourist
The Four-day Sydney Tourist
The Seven-day Sydney Tourist
The Seven-day Australian Tourist
The Fourteen-day Australian Tourist

The Two-day Sydney Tourist

This is the hardest one. Perhaps you are from overseas and just passing through Sydney, on your way to somewhere else, or maybe you are from inside Australia and having a Sydney weekend. I assume further that you have not been to Sydney before, and want to get a feel for what Sydney is like. There are lots of coach tours where you get herded onto a coach, taken to a place, you get herded off, told where to point your cameras, herded back on, herded off at a shop, and told what to buy. I am writing this for people who want to be independent.

Maybe if you start on foot near the Sydney Harbour Bridge, walk around Circular Quay to the Sydney Opera House, and keep going around the foreshore and up through the Royal Botanic Gardens, or maybe back to Circular Quay to ride on one of the ferries, or to take in one of the cruises, this would show you a bit more of the harbour.

A ferry ride to Taronga Zoo will give you different views of Sydney, and a look at some Australian wildlife, as well as a lot of imported wildlife. Or you may wish to travel across the harbour on a Manly ferry, perhaps in time to catch a meal in Manly before riding back to town for a night-time view of the Bridge and the Opera House. If you are using much public transport, think about getting a $15 all-day pass: you can buy them on buses and at ticket offices: they cover train, bus and most ferries.

What to do on Day Two? Well, if you are staying around Sydney, think seriously about getting a little bit further out of the city, and taking in one of Sydney's National Parks, or take one of the many bushwalks, most of which go through parts of the National Parks. Be aware of the "ecological tours" that prey on customers from expensive hotels and haul them around in hulking off-road buses that never seem to leave the tar. As a Sydneysider, I would rate these as poor value, but if you don't know where to go, they will save you a lot of hassles.

If you have access to a car, think about visiting either the Royal National Park to the south or Kuring-gai Chase National Park in the north to enjoy the views. It is about an hour and a half to the Blue Mountains National Park, most of it easy driving mid-week (but nastier on the weekends - think about catching the train and taking a tour when you get there!). The Central Coast can also be a pleasant place to spend a day, or you could try Wollongong and Kiama, coming back along the coastal route which takes you once again into the Royal National Park.

In their seasons, the branches of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Mount Annan and Mount Tomah are exquisite. The restaurant at Mount Tomah is excellent, and Mount Annan offers barbecues, though most of these are rather exposed to the sun.

If the weather is poor, there are always museums to visit. The top of the hit list for cultural institutions would have to be the Australian Museum, Art Gallery of NSW, State Library of NSW, Museum of Contemporary Art, the Powerhouse Museum and the Australian National Maritime Museum, with the Sydney Observatory and the Museum of Sydney close behind, but that is just scratching the surface. I have yet to cover the Australian National Maritime Museum, located near Darling Harbour, but it is excellent if your mind goes towards marine things.

The Four-day Sydney Tourist

Even though you only have four days, think about getting yourself a seven-day TravelPass from State Transit, either an orange one which covers most of the buses and ferries, or one of the higher grades: if you are travelling around every day, you will find that you will get cheaper travel this way. This is not the fancy pass they sell to tourists which includes the tourist bus - it is an ordinary commuter's ticket, and you can buy them at ferry wharves, train stations, and some newsagents. There is also a single-day $15 day-tripper ticket that can be good value.

As well as the attractions listed for the Two-day Sydney Tourist, I suggest that you consider a ride in a RiverCat, or one of the other Inner harbour Ferries, a ride on the Manly ferry, a swim at either Manly or Bondi, a couple of days on the Central Coast (or Port Stephens), taking in the Australian Reptile Park along the way, or in the Kiama or Jervis Bay area, with maybe some time in Wollongong. Another pleasant overnight trip is to the Hunter Valley.

You may also wish to explore the concept of "bed and breakfast" - if you are coming all that way for such a short time, you will probably be willing to try a bit of luxury, and "BnB" in Australia often implies just that, outside of the city. The old British sense does not really apply in Australia.

The Seven-day Sydney Tourist

First up, think very seriously about getting yourself a seven-day TravelPass from State Transit, either an orange one which covers most of the buses and ferries, or one of the higher grades: unless you plan to drive everywhere, you will find that you will get cheaper travel this way.

This is not the fancy pass they sell to tourists which includes the tourist bus - it is an ordinary commuter's ticket, and you can buy them at ferry wharves, train stations, and some newsagents.

With seven days, you will have time to see Sydney Harbour, going on one or more cruises, try one of the walks, go on one or more urban bush walks, see Taronga Zoo, and either Manly or Bondi, and throw in a visit to one or more National Parks.

I would definitely explore either Jervis Bay or the Hunter Valley or the Blue Mountains in a seven-day package, as well as pursuing as many as possible of the offerings listed under the Two-day Sydney Tourist.

The Seven-day Australian Tourist

It won't be long enough. Don't do it!

I suggest you follow either the Two-day Sydney Tourist or the Four-day Sydney Tourist ideas for starters, followed by a visit to no more than one of the places somewhere else in Australia. Remember that Australia is very large - who wants to spend all their time travelling?

Let me emphasise this: Australia is BIG. One of my family was told recently by a Texan that Texas was bigger than Australia. Nope: the rather small state of New South Wales is 20% larger than Texas! The larger states have football fields pretty much the same size as Texas, if you count the parking area. OK, slight exaggeration, but Australia is comparable in size with the lower 48 in the USA, or the whole of Europe.

The main attractions outside of Sydney to consider: for a quiet unwind, not too far from Sydney, Jervis Bay, Kiama, the Central Coast, or somewhere near Port Stephens. If you are willing to go further afield, and spend a good part of two days in planes, think about going for wildlife in plenty on Kangaroo Island, or seeking the central Australia and desert experience: Uluru and the Olgas, or for water sports, visiting the The Great Barrier Reef. If you are going for one of those, forget about driving, book a plane ticket, and try to allow at least as much time there as you allow in Sydney. I have now started to deal with some of the other attractions on a separate page.

The Fourteen-day Australian Tourist

I suggest no more than three places during this time, and would strongly recommend a stay on Lord Howe Island, a visit to one or more of the Great Barrier Reef, Broome, Kangaroo Island, or Uluru and/or Kakadu.

Please do not even think about driving from one to another - unless you want to see the countryside more than anything else. The drive from Kangaroo Island to Sydney is two gruelling days, but a drive from Sydney to Geelong in one long day, followed by a relaxed drive along the Great Ocean Road to Mount Gambier and beyond could be an excellent way to see a lot of Australia.


I will get back to this later and provide a bit more detail about those more distant destinations. For now, Google them!
This file is http://members.ozemail.com.au/~macinnis/syd/quicksyd.htm, first created on April 3, 2006. Last recorded revision (well I get lazy and forget sometimes!) was on October 11, 2006.

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