Sydney, Australia

Location: Southeast Coast of Australia, about 10 hours south of Brisbane and about 9 hours northeast of Melbourne. 

Language: English, but over 250 languages are spoken in Sydney. Around 38% of people there speak a non-English language at home, with Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Greek being the most widely spoken.    

Climate: Being south of the equator, their summers are December-February and their winters are June-August. Summers can have some hot days, but their average is around 26C (79F) degrees, and winters are around 10C (50F). There’s more rain during February-June, with around 110mm (4in) for each of those months.  

Population: just over 5 million. 

Money: the Australian dollar (AUD).

Transportation: Trams, light-rails, buses, and ferries. 

Religion: around 28% of Sydney residents claim to be Catholic, with 17% not having any religion and 16% being Anglican. Minority religions are Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish.   

Birthday: January 26 (1788)

Safety: Sydney is ranked as the 5th safest city in the world, with crime being very low. They even have a lockout law, which means that no one can enter a bar in the inner-city after 1:30am, and last drinks are served at 3am. This is to help prevent alcohol-related violence.  

Fun Facts: Sydney is ranked as the 3rd most livable city in the world (Vienna is 1st and Melbourne is 2nd), despite being one of the most expensive cities in the world. They hosted the Summer Olympics in 2000. To buy an average property in Sydney, it costs 14 times more than what people make in 1 year. The Royal National Park is the second oldest national park in the world.   

History: Indigenous people have lived in Sydney for approximately 30,000 years, but in 1770 explorer James Cook and his crew were the first Europeans to find the area. Eighteen years later, the first convicts started arriving from Britain, making Sydney the first European settlement in Australia. Convicts continued being transported there until 1842, when Sydney became an official city. In 1851, a gold rush occurred in the area, transforming it from a colony to a major global economic center. After World War II, Sydney experienced mass migration, making it one of the most multicultural cities in the world.         

Arriving In Sydney

From the airport to the city center: Arriving in Sydney International Airport, you’re able to get to the city center (or what they call the CBD – Central Business District) from 05:00 (5am) – 24:00 (12am), either by train or by taxi. If you choose the train option, look for the T8 Airport South Line, which leaves every 10 minutes. A 1-time ticket costs $19.40AUD (this is a $14.90 airport fee + $4.50 train fee that are both already included in the price). This will take about 20 minutes to the city center. A taxi will cost around $45AUD and take about 20 minutes to get to the city center.   

Getting Around: If you’re staying in the city center, then you’ll be able to walk to a lot of sights, museums, etc. But if you’re staying a little outside of the city center, or would like to get around quicker, it’s recommended that you get an Opal Card, a reusable tap-on/tap-off card. There isn’t a cost to buying the card, but a minimum of $10AUD needs to be added to it, for the first time. And with this card, you’ll get a small discount on each of your trips. There are many places to get a card, so here you can find a location closest to you (the Opal Travel App is also an available option). The great thing about the Opal Card is that you can even use it to pay for trips outside of Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Hunter, Illawarra and Southern Highlands regions. Just make sure that you have enough money on the card before starting your day, and also make sure to tap the card/app to the meter before and after each trip. 

Things To Do In Sydney

A Must-See For Any Sydney Visit: Most people who know of Sydney, know about the Opera House, regardless of their musical taste. It’s unique architecture, sitting on Sydney’s Harbour, has become the iconic face of Sydney, and even Australia. Was it always an opera house though? Actually, what used to be there was an old fort from the 1820’s, called Fort Macquarie. That was demolished in 1901 to make room for a tram depot, adding to the name Fort Macquarie Tram Depot. It was used as that for 50 years, but in 1955, it was closed, then later demolished. As Sydney’s population continued to grow, there wasn’t a specific place just for theatrical productions. In 1957, a Danish man by the name of Jørn Utzon, won an international design competition, but it would take another 16 years before it finally opened. Now it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Australia, with around 8 million visitors annually. Even if opera and theater aren’t your cup of tea, watch for other ways the Opera House is used, as Pope John Paul II gave a speech there, Nelson Mandela addressed a crowd of 40,000 people, and it was even used as part of the Torch Ceremony during the Summer Olympics of 2000.     

Sydney Opera House

A Step-Back-In-Time Amusement Park: Just across the Sydney Harbour is an amusement park called Luna Park. It’s an amusement park from the 1930’s, styled in the then-popular fantasy architecture. It was modeled after the success from the original Luna Park in Coney Island, New York. While it was very successful in the early years, and even during the World War II era, by the late 1970’s-early 2000’s the park closed a handful of times, due to different policies, different ideas for operating the park, etc. But it is now under good management and provides a good mixture of old rides, a big ferris wheel, as well as modern roller coasters. They even offer an old historical tour, which gives you a behind-the-scenes look at its origins, as well as daily operations. It’s $15AUD, and for those tea lovers out there, you can pay $22.50AUD for the tour, tea + cake, a book, and a ride on the ferris wheel.  

Luna Park Entrance

Musical Aborigines: If you’re curious to hear a native playing a didgeridoo, go down to the Circular Quay area, which is where the ferries arrive and depart from. Often there is 1 or 2 Aborigines playing didgeridoos and clapsticks for money. They don’t mind posing for pictures or sometimes even letting the tourists play the clapsticks. And if you’d like to learn more about the Aborigines and their rich history, there are a few tours in and around Sydney that you should look into. Some are more focused on the land, some on carvings, one is inside of the zoo, and one goes into the Blue Mountains to give you a broader picture of the Aborigines and their history. Regardless, it’s always worth supporting and learning about native people in any country, as they always have a completely different history from the settlers, that only came within the last few hundred years. 

Aborigine at Circular Quay

Bondi Beach: For many Aussies (locals), Bondi Beach is well-known, regardless of what part of the country you live in. Bondi is the Aboriginial word for waves crashing/surf. Depending on what part of the beach you’re on, the waves can be tamer, like on the northern end, and in other parts, like the southern end, they can be quite strong. But it is marked, where it is safe to swim, and what is reserved only for surfing. Throughout the year you can find different events to take part in. In January, there’s an international short film festival, in June is World Environment Day, in July is the Winter Magic Festival, in August is a 14km (9 mi) Fun Run, and a sculpture exhibition in November. In addition, there is a food market each Saturday (09:00-13:00/9am-1pm), and as well as the Bondi Beach Market on Sundays (10:00-16:00/10am-4pm), which offers clothes, art, vinyl records and more. There is a great walk, Bondi-to-Bronte, that takes about 45 minutes, and offers some great views alongside the ocean, as well as a few other less-crowded beaches.      

Bondi Beach

Fireworks Every Week: I don’t know about you, but I can never get enough of fireworks. So if you like them too, or would like to just sit around the water and relax with a great view, go down to Cockle Bay, in Darling Harbour. Every Saturday night they put on a little show for locals and tourists alike. It starts soon after dark, so depending on the time of year, it might be a little earlier or later, but generally it starts at 20:30 (8:30pm). It’s free to watch, so just find a good place to watch them and enjoy.   

Fireworks at Cockle Bay

Outside Of Sydney

Featherdale Wildlife Park: If you’re wanting to get a little outside of Sydney and hang out with some local animals, there’s a great wildlife park just over an hour away, reachable by both public transportation and car. A ticket costs $34AUD and that allows you to personally feed wallabies and kangaroos, or watch free presentations of pelicans, dingos and echidnas and you can even have encounters with koalas, crocodiles, or owls.    

Feeding Wallabies at Featherdale

The Blue Mountains: About 2 hours west of Sydney is a really pretty mountain range called the Blue Mountains. It’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s around 3,861 square miles (10,000 sq. km), and with it being that big, it makes sense that it’s only reachable by car. Big coach buses aren’t allowed in certain parts of the park, so it can actually be a bit quieter than other touristic places. A great view is from King’s Tableland, that allows you to see for miles and miles. About 30 minutes north from there is Wentworth Falls, a view of Three Sisters, and the world’s steepest railway, at Scenic World.  

Blue Mountains

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