Right next to the new, shiny financial district, the Rocks is the historical district of Sydney. Most of the buildings are built of local sandstone, which is where the area gets it name from. Today, it is a tourist precinct and its tiny streets are filled to the brim with shops, restaurants, and museums in old buildings. The Sydney Observatory is in this area and on one side the Harbour Bridge connects into this area.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
We actually drove into Sydney across the Harbour Bridge, which was a nice, close-up-and-personal introduction to it. The wide panoramas from Circular Quay include the impressive sight of the bridge and the many boats traveling beneath it. The Harbour Bridge is multi-functional and has cars, trains, and pedestrians on it all at the same time. Later on it our trip, we walked across it, which was fun and afforded simply spectacular views of the harbour, Opera House, and CBD.
This is the main tourist destination in Sydney; it is the harbour front area directly in front of the CBD and where the many ferries and cruise ships dock. It is the most quintessentially Sydney area with views of the harbour, bridge, and Opera House. All along the path around the harbour were shops, restaurants, and small metal plaques that marked the historical shoreline at various points in time, starting at 1788 with the first landing in Sydney.
Sydney Opera House
Out at the end of Circular Quay is the icon of Sydney: the Sydney Opera House. The iconic pictures are usually taken from the side, probably with the Harbour Bridge in the background, so it was kind of weird to see it from all different sides. However, it is just as beautiful no matter where you see it from and the views around it are breathtaking no matter which way you look. And no matter what time of day. At night, it is all lit up and is stunning to look at.
It is actually made up of three separate buildings: two opera venues and a restaurant. The most shocking difference in real life is the texture. It photographs smooth and pure white, but it is actually tiled in various shades of cream and tan. Who knew?
Royal Botanic Gardens
Sydney’s Botanic Gardens are very similar to the Melbourne equivalent, except they are situated right on the harbour with amazing waterfront, and Opera House, views. The gardens themselves are beautiful and a nice reprieve from the gray metal and concrete of the nearby financial district.
Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
Right out at the very tip of the Botanic Gardens, on the peninsula Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, is the carved sandstone bench looking out over the harbour. Mrs. Macquarie was the governor’s wife in 1810-1821. She loved to sit out at this location and watch the ships sailing in and out of the harbour, her husband had this rock hand carved by convict labour for her. The point and chair do have awesome panoramic views of the harbour, Opera House, and bridge.
The New South Wales Government House is open more often than any other Australian governor’s residence, which they pride themselves on. We toured the state wing of the house, including the governor’s office, entry way, dining room, and ballroom. The house is situated in an amazing location: on top of a hill in the Botanic Gardens overlooking the harbour and Opera House–great views.
State Library New South Wales
The library was an imposing building on a wide, palm-lined boulevard. The main exhibit at this library was about gardens. There were many books showcasing and discussing gardens as well as a public art wall where you could make and add your own flower to the wall. Making the flower was harder than it looked, but it was fun to add our own and read all of the other messages written on others’ flowers. Also, NSW’s big reading room has nothing on the Victorian one… just for the record.
The Central Park of Sydney was very busy during lunch hour on a weekday. People were lounging, strolling, and trying to find a patch of shade and some relief from the broiling temperatures and sun. It’s a nice cut-through to walk south through the city, but surrounding by trees, sculptures, and fountains. At the bottom of the park is Sydney’s ANZAC Memorial for WWI.
If there is a restaurant that serves a platter with 9 scoops of gelato, it’s a rule that you have to go there… right? Offering 24 flavours everyday, i-creamy allows you to choose 9; they come on a platter that is also served with a mountain of whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and strawberries. All of the gelato was amazing but my favorite flavours were Milo, Coconut, and White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake.
Flavours: (top to bottom, left to right) Coconut, Espresso, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Black Sesame, Milo, Thai Tea, Cookies and Cream, White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake, Cream Soda
Queen Victoria Building
Taking up an entire city block, this building built in the 1890’s is one of today’s most popular shopping centres in the CBD. The piece de resistance is the dome in the centre of the building that is full of color and made up of wonderful patterns. The walls are painted in various vibrant colours that catch the eye. Shopping in such a magnificent building makes the experience that much better.