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Australia: Great Ocean Road, Sydney
Sydney, Australia: World Famous
by Anuj Bang, India
Sydney is a world famous city, thanks to its world famous bridge, world famous opera, world famous beach and world famous harbour. For many people across the globe, Sydney means Australia. As soon as we think of Australia, images of Harbour Bridge and Opera House flash in our minds before anything else. Many people also wrongly believe Sydney to be the capital city of Australia, which is actually Canberra.
I was in Australia to finish some business in Melbourne – a city I would rate the best in Australia if not the world. Instead of flying back home directly from Melbourne on Friday, I decided to spend the weekend in Sydney and do the tourist stuff. There are number of flights between the two cities, almost one every 30 minutes. I opted to fly on a JetStar flight at 9.00 am on Saturday morning. In about 1 hour 30 minutes, I was at Sydney airport.
I had booked myself at the Ibis King Street Wharf Hotel – just a 2 minute walk from the Darling Harbour. The hotel was decent with good staff but very small rooms - a typical Ibis I would say. Airport is about 9 kms. from downtown Sydney. To reach the hotel, I chose the services of Airport Connect, a leading shuttle bus company operating in Sydney. They charged me AU$14 for one way transfer and gave me AU$5 discount coupon if I used them for return on a future date. Other option is Airport Link train, which at time of my visit charged AU$15.80 for one way and AU$25 for return on same day. It made more sense to book a shuttle instead of train, as it offered door to door service for a cheaper fare.
After freshening up a bit and having a quick meal at the hotel, the first thing to do was sit with a map and chalk out all the things to do in limited time available. The worst news to hit the ears was the weather forecast – storm for the next 2 days! With the plan in mind and map in pocket, I set out to explore Sydney. Sydney offers variety of transport options - from trains to buses to taxis to ferries to monorails, you have it all here. It is recommended to buy a MyMulti pass, which gives seamless unlimited access to trains, buses and ferries. A MyMulti day pass costs AU$20 and a weekly pass costs AU$ 41. So even if staying for just 3 days, it is best to buy a 7-day week pass. MyMulti passes are available at all major transport stations.
My plan for the day was to visit Sydney zoo and Manly Beach. I needed to take a ferry to access the two places. Circular Quay is the main ferry terminal from where ferries across greater Sydney depart. Wynyard station was 10 minutes uphill walk from my hotel and 1 stop away was Circular Quay. I was amazed to see double decker underground metro trains. All metro trains in Sydney are 2 levelled! I guess it’s the only city in the world to have such metro rail.
From pier 4 of Circular Quay, I boarded the ferry to Taronga zoo, which takes about 15 minutes to reach. It had already started to get cloudy and by the time I reached the zoo pier it was dark as in evening had set. Taronga zoo in considered to be the best zoo in Australia, set on a sloping hill side. The entrance to the zoo costs AU$ 42 per person – it is expensive but worth the amount. You can enter the zoo from the base side, located opposite the pier or you can take 5 minute bus and enter the zoo from the upper side. The zoo also provides a ropeway from the base to upper side but only after you purchase the ticket to the zoo. It is recommended to take the bus and enter from the upper side and then walk down the slopes as opposed to doing it the other way round and wasting the energy in climbing – it’s quite steep. The view from top of the zoo is very good – one can see the Sydney skyline and it also makes for a very good backdrop to film the animals. As soon as I started to tour the park, it started pouring heavily. With no protection whatsoever, I had no option but to get drenched while visiting our four footed friends in their enclosure.
It is a huge park (kind of oval in shape) and climbing down from one side you miss the other. To cover fully one has to climb up again from the other side. In this case, the smart thing to do is, complete one side and then take ropeway back to top and cover the other. From ropeway you can get a top-bottom view of bathing elephants, mountain goats, hanging chimps etc. The zoo is divided in different sections viz. African Waterholes, Big Cats, Reptile World, Rainforest Trail (downpour made it look so natural), Great Oceans and of course Wild Australia. Different activities also do go on at fixed timings like Giraffe feeding, bird show etc.
After spending 3 quality hours at the zoo, I was all set to visit Manly Beach. From zoo, took the ferry back to Circular Quay and from pier 2 took the ferry to Manly. Manly Beach is a part of Manly area – one of the upmarket neighbourhoods of Sydney. It takes about 45 minutes to reach Manly from Circular Quay. On the day of my visit, there was Jazz festival in Manly, and a number of people were clapping to the tunes played by various bands present there despite the showers. Manly is also home to the Sydney Ocean World – their main attraction being the shark cage diving! I would have definitely tried it out if had more time in hand. A stroll on the famous beach with a quick bite at Subway and it was 8 in the evening – time to head back to hotel for rest.
A peek through the hotel window next morning and it was still raining heavily. With my only full day in Sydney, I had very little time to waste. My first stop would be Bondi Beach. From Wynyard station I took a train to Bondi Junction and from there, bus no. 316 took me straight to Bondi Beach in 15 minutes. Bondi Beach ranks amongst the top 10 beaches of the world and has featured in many international movies. Being Sunday, I had imagined the beach being full to the brim and expected to see crowds battling for space as we see in movies. Well, thanks to the rains, there was not a soul on the beach! It took the whole charm out of that massive beach. Now that I was there, as a formality took a walk alongside the slushy beach and made my way to the Bondi Pavilion which had ankle height water clogged within! No point in waiting there, I took the bus back to Bondi Junction and train to Town Hall Station.
Five minute walk on Druitt street and I was at Cockle Bay Wharf – famously known as Darling Harbour. Rain or shine, Darling Harbour is always buzzing with life. Artists and entertainers from all walks of life are seen exhibiting some skill or other. Darling Harbour offers best entertainment in town with IMAX theatre, Harbourside Mall, Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife World, National Maritime Museum, Starcity Casino, Chinese Garden, Sydney Exhibition Centre and scores of restaurants all around. One can easily spend a day exploring this area. If you do not wish to walk, mini road trains ply on the wharf for a charge. I walked the area for couple of hours and had my burger at Hungry Jack’s – a better option than McDonalds at least for a veggie burger.
A trip to Sydney would not be complete without a ride on the monorail. Monorail route takes a circle around the Sydney city centre, stopping at all major tourist attractions. A ride on the monorail is not included in the MyMulti as it is run by a different company and you need to purchase a ticket costing AU$4.90. I boarded the monorail at Harbour Park and took a full circle crossing the famous Pyrmont Bridge and alighted at City Centre station. Right across the station is Sydney Tower – tallest structure in Sydney standing at 309 mtrs. The entry to the observation deck costs AU$25 per person and you can upgrade it to a Skywalk adventure for AU$40 more. By the time I reached the deck, the sky had miraculously opened up and got a good visibility from up there. Tough good, I would rate the Melbourne Eureka Sky deck and Auckland Sky tower better at least in the southern hemisphere.
I had scheduled my next stop at the Opera House. With weather being a bit kind, I decided to walk all the way to Opera House instead of taking public transport. I started by crossing the Hyde Park and joining Macquarie Street on the other side. Walking on Macquarie Street, I passed through Mint Museum (currency printing press in older times), Parliament House (for state of New South Wales), and State Library (a massive colonial building). Rather than continuing on the same street, I decided to walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens – again I would rate the Melbourne and Christchurch Botanic gardens to be better. The other end of the gardens opened up directly into the Opera House premises.
I need not say much about the Opera House – this shell structured building is well known to all. Designed by a Danish architect, there is no doubt that the Sydney Opera House is an architectural masterpiece. It is one of the great iconic buildings not only for a city, but a whole country and continent. Contrary to its name, the building houses multiple performance venues. It is one of the busiest performing arts centres in the world, hosting over 1,500 performances each year attended by some 1.2 million people.
I wanted to picture the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge in one frame – a famous Australian picture postcard. This is only possible from Macquarie’s Point which can be reached by walking for about 2 kms. from Opera House alongside the Farm Cove skirting the Botanic Gardens. As I was about to click the photo, clouds burst again and within minutes I was walking back in 6 inch deep water and battling waves crashing in from one side.
Thankfully, the pour ended in about 20 minutes. From the Opera House I decided to walk across the other side of harbour using the Harbour Bridge. The Harbour Bridge is one of the few bridges in the world that carries cars, trains, bicycles and pedestrians. It is nicknamed ‘The Coat Hanger’ because of its design and is the world’s widest long span bridge. Specially conducted tours enable thrill seekers to climb the arch of the bridge which is 134 mtrs. high from water level.
To reach the bridge, I had to walk through the ‘Rocks’ area. The Rocks is where Sydney began, making it the oldest neighbourhood in Sydney and arguably in Australia too. It features a variety of dated buildings, souvenir and craft shops, and many themed and historic pubs. On weekends a very famous flee market is also set up in this area.
Walking over the Harbour Bridge would certainly get my recommendation – you get some good views of the Opera House and Sydney skyline. Due to its position on the harbour you would always have strong winds blowing across the bridge, sometimes even making it difficult to stay on the feet. On the other end of the bridge is Milson’s Point. Rather than walking all the way back, it is advisable to take the ferry to Circular Quay from there. One stop from Circular Quay and I was at Wynyard station. Evening had set in and Darling Harbour was all lit up. That night a massive open to all DJ party was organised at the harbour and to top it all a floating dancing platform was set up in the middle. As soon as the blast of music rocked the harbour, it felt as if whole of Sydney was dancing.
Still grooving to the music, I rushed back to the hotel before it was too late as I had an early morning flight to catch.
Sydney Image Gallery Photo viewer
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