sydney - detailed itinerary

Sydney the Rocks Sydney Zoo Sydney Bridge Sydney Palm Beach
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Day 1 - Sydney
Consistently voted the top destination in the world, Sydney is just about everyone?s favorite city. After all, with spectacular scenery, friendly people, great restaurants, and world-class attractions, what?s not to like?

Start your visit at Sydney?s heart -- the Rocks. The first British convicts arrived here in 1788 and it was they who undertook the hard labor of developing the area.

Today, it?s the most historic section of the city, and one of the most colorful. There?s a 140-stall market here on weekends with top-quality crafts. And it?s a pleasure strolling the narrow, cobbled lanes any time of the day or night.

Like Seattle, Sydney is best seen from the deck of a ferry. And there are ferries going everywhere. So make one of your first stops the Rocks Visitors? Centre in the Penrhyn House. On the corner of Argyle and Playfair, the Visitors? Centre sells travel passes that provide unlimited transportation on Sydney?s ferries and buses.

Being able to bypass the ticket lines and just hop on is a great convenience. If you purchase a pass, be sure to get a map so you?ll know which bus to take where.

Near the Visitors? Centre, Cadman?s Cottage is the oldest surviving building in Sydney. Built in 1816 as a barracks for coxswains, the structure now houses the Sydney Harbor National Park Information Centre.

Walk up Argyle Street to Playfair Street and you?ll come to the Argyle Department Store. The building still contains the original beams, floorboards, and sandstone from its opening in 1828. Today, it?s one of Australia?s leading retailers.

Further up Argyle Street is the Sydney Observatory. For a closer look at the Southern sky, attend a night viewing here. You?ll need to make reservations in advance.

Walk down Playfair Street, bear right on George around the triangle, then walk down to the waterfront. From here, you?ll probably get your first good look at the Opera House, and if you?ve got a pulse, we guarantee it will quicken at the sight.

Also on the waterfront, Campbell Storehouses, which originally dates from 1839, have been remodeled and now house several appealing restaurants, most with wonderful views of the Opera House. Check out the menus to see where you?d like to have dinner one night.

Continue along Hickson Road to Dawes Point Park, the city?s original defensive outpost established in 1788. From here, you?ll have great views of the Harbour Bridge and the giant clown face of Luna Park, an amusement park built in the 1930s.

The Harbour Bridge, also known as the "coathanger" provided jobs for 1,400 workers during the Depression. Completed in 1932, it spans 1,650 feet. Walking across the bridge takes about an hour and provides unbeatable views of the city.

The truly adventurous can climb to the top of the bridge, wearing a specially designed harness. Day and night excursions are available. But advance booking is essential.

If you don?t want to walk or climb the bridge, visit the Pylon Lookout. It?s reached by the Harbour Bridge pedestrian walkway off Cumberland Street.

After you?ve toured the bridge, walk back down Hickson Street to Circular Quay ("key") West. The Overseas Passenger Terminal, where cruise ships berth, will be on your left. Keep an eye out for the QE II and other luxury liners who call at Sydney throughout the year.

Past the passenger terminal on your right is the Museum of Contemporary Art. If you?re an art lover and time permits, tour the museum before lunch. In addition to a permanent collection containing works by Warhol, Hockney, Lichtenstein, and other modern masters, the museum host temporary exhibits. The shop on the ground floor is a great place to find unusual gifts.

When it?s time for lunch, the MCA Fish Café in the museum is one of the best restaurants in town. Line-caught fish is a specialty. Or there are dozens of restaurants along Circular Quay.

After lunch, stroll the Writers? Walk to the Opera House. Plaques along the route include quotations from authors about Australia. There?s a lively market here on Sundays.

Seeing the Opera House for the first time is like seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Only more so. Simultaneously familiar and foreign, it?s exactly what you expect it to be. And not at all what you expect it to be.

In any case, it?s marvelous, and you?ll come away feeling that no single structure has ever defined a city more.

Built on what has to be the most spectacular piece of real estate in the universe, the Opera House took 14 years to build, in a process that became so political that the architect -- Denmark?s Jorn Utzon -- has not set foot in the finished structure.

The Opera House is much more than just that. The building is a performing arts complex housing a 2,700-seat concert hall, and two smaller theaters in addition to the opera theater. To see the inside -- which you should -- you?ll need to take a tour. These last about an hour and are very interesting.

If you?re interested in attending a performance, book well in advance. Or check at the box office while you?re here to see if anything?s available during your stay.

Once you?ve toured the Opera House, the Royal Botanic Gardens are behind it at the base of Bennelong Point. Strolling through the 75-acre park is a delight and you?ll see many exotics found only in Australia. Walk out to Mrs. Macquarie?s Chair for take-your-breath-away views across the harbour.

When it?s time to get off your feet, head back to Circular Quay, find a place that strikes your fancy, and have something cold to drink.

Tonight, pace yourself and have dinner in the Rocks. Sailor?s Thai has delicious Thai food and is a great bargain. It has a small balcony with four or five tables overlooking the Quay. Boulder?s at the Rocks in the Russell Hotel is a charming spot with nouvelle Australian cuisine. We enjoyed grilled chicken with prosciutto, spinach, and balsamic vinegar, Thai green curry chicken, and Tasmanian salmon.

After dinner, there?s plenty of nightlife in the Rocks, if you?re game. Several of Sydney?s oldest pubs, including the Australian on Cumberland Street, the Hero of Waterloo on Lower Fort Street, and the Lord Nelson Brewery on Kent Street.

The Lord Nelson is especially convenient for a drink after an evening visit to the Sydney Observatory.

There?s live music of all kind in the Rocks at night. Just follow your ears to whatever appeals.

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Day 2 - Sydney
If the weather?s fine this morning, and chances are it will be, get out on a Sydney ferry and head for the Taronga Zoo. Take your bathing suit along if there?s a swim in your future.

The ferry leaves from Circular Quay Wharf 2 and takes about 15 minutes. It?s indescribably scenic and the fresh sea air is really invigorating. The main entrance to the zoo is a way from the ferry dock, but connecting buses will take up you the steep hill.

There?s no zoo in the world whose views can compete with this one. Panoramas that include the Opera House and Harbour Bridge are around every corner, so take lots of film.

The zoo has more than 400 species, many indigenous to Australia. Highlights include the $3.8 million Gorilla Forest; Koala Encounter, where you can have your picture taken with the shy marsupials several times a day; Australian Walkabout, where you?ll see kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, and a host of other local critters; and the Orangutan Rainforest.

When you?re through at the zoo, take the local bus to Balmoral Beach. One of Sydney?s most affluent suburbs, Balmoral has a well-manicured park, a pleasant esplanade, and a lovely beach. There are several wonderful places for lunch here.

If you?re in the mood for a splurge, have lunch at the Bather?s Pavilion. Its casual, but elegant dining room opens right onto the beach. The food is fabulous and there?s not a better location in Sydney. The attached café is less expensive.

On the same strip, Watermark also offers great views and seafood. For something more casual, try the Balmoral Boatshed Kiosk.

After lunch, you can swim at the public beach or stroll along the Esplanade. Though Manly and Bondi are better known and more popular, Balmoral is one of Sydney?s best. The trees here are filled with cockatoos, and the Victorian homes are worth rubbernecking to see.

Take the bus back to the ferry dock and return to Sydney whenever you?re ready.

From Circular Quay, a brief walk up Phillip Street will take you to the Museum of Sydney. The first Government House was built here in 1788 and archaeologists discovered its remains in 1983. The museum opened in 1995 and tells the history of the city with objects and documents from the Aboriginal culture to the present day.

High-tech, interactive exhibits make this museum more interesting than many of its ilk. The museum store is very good. And when you?re ready to quit for the day, the terrace at the MOS café is a pleasant spot for a drink.

Head back to your hotel and freshen up before dinner.

If you?re up for another trip on the water, take the 40-minute ferry to Manly Beach. It?s an unforgettable ride at sunset. Manly?s main drag ?? the Corso ?? is lined with cafes, surf shops, and tacky souvenir stands between the ferry dock and the beach.

There are plenty of places to eat here -- Brazil is a good choice. And strolling the beachfront promenade with its Norfolk pines is a great way to observe Aussie beach culture first hand. You can return to Sydney by JetCat in 15 minutes.

Those who prefer to stay closer to town will enjoy the Wharf Restaurant on Pier 4, bel mondo in the Argyle Deprtament Store, or Rockpool across from the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Sydney has lots of options for theater goers. The best sources of information are the Friday "Metro" section of the Morning Herald and the Wednesday "7 Days" section of the Daily Telegraph. The Belvoir Street Theatre is arguably the best theater in the country. And the Wharf Theater at the end of Pier 4 is as much an attraction as its productions.

Jazz fans should head for the Basement on Reisby Street.

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Day 3 - Sydney
This morning, hop on a ferry for Darling Harbor. This will take you under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and show you another part of Sydney. Get off at the Sydney Aquarium on Cockle Bay.

If you got up and out early, cross the Pyrmont pedestrian bridge and walk down Pyrmont Bridge Road to the Sydney Fish Market. The second largest fish market in the world -- only Tokyo?s is bigger -- it?s a hive of early morning activity as buyers, sellers, fleets, and boats all converge in a frenzy of trading.

Those who prefer to sleep in can visit the market later in the day for picnic supplies. Prepared seafood here is the freshest and cheapest in town and there are a couple of nearby parks on Blackwattle Bay.

Back on Cockle Bay, the National Maritime Museum is a good stop for seafarers of all sorts. Inside the museum, there are lots of exhibits detailing Australia?s maritime history, including displays of luxury liners, hydroplanes, and Aboriginal boats.

Outside, there are 12 historic vessels on display -- everything from a cutter dating from 1888 to an Oberon class submarine. Boaters will likely enjoy this museum a lot.

On the other side of the Pyrmont pedestrian bridge, the Sydney Aquarium is a must for everyone. More than 600 species are displayed here in three floating oceanariums. There are interactive displays like the "touch pond," seal feedings a couple of times a day, and a wonderful Great Barrier Reef exhibit.

The indisputable highlight is the underwater tunnel that allows you to walk under and beside sharks, giant rays, and schools of fish. It?s just like walking on the ocean floor.

Ampersand -- one of Sydney?s best restaurants -- is next door. But you?ll have a hard time getting in without reservations. There are dozens of restaurants in the Harbourside Festival Marketplace, the shopping complex opened to complement the convention center next door.

After lunch, walk along Darling Drive to the Powerhouse Museum. Located in what was once the power station for Sydney?s tram line, this museum is a must for anyone with an interest in science and technology. There are more than 100 interactive exhibits and displays of steam engines, helicopter precursors, a life-size NASA habitation module, and the world?s only joint Soviet, Chinese, Australian, and American space exhibit.

By now, you?re probably pooped. If you fancy a pint after your tour, pop into the Pumphouse Brewery Tavern on Little Pier Street. When you?re ready, you can take a high-speed ferry from the Aquarium back to Circular Quay or hop on the Sydney Explorer Bus from the Powerhouse Museum.

For dinner, find a restaurant in Campbell?s Storehouse then stroll along the waterfront admiring the lights. Or take a harbor cruise.

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Day 4 - Sydney
The day is yours to do whatever you enjoy and haven?t done yet. Sydney has some of Australia?s best museums, so if you?re interested in art, visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales in the Domain, once the private park of Sydney?s governor. Those interested in natural history should explore the Australian Museum across from Hyde Park where there are exhibits devoted to Australia?s unique prehistory, botany, biology, and culture.

Architecture buffs will enjoy a stroll down Macquarie Street. Start at the neo Tudor-Gothic Land Titles Office which dates from 1908. Next, you?ll past the Georgian sandstone Hyde Park Barracks, built in 1817. The Mint has a two-story double colonnade, as does the Parliament House. Sydney Hospital has arched, sandstone bridges attaching the wards. The State Library of New South Wales features a classical portico.

Shoppers have several areas to choose from. Downtown, the Queen Victoria Building was refurbished nearly 100 years after opening at a cost of $75 million. This is one of the most beautiful places you?ll ever shop and with 200 stores, you?ll likely find whatever you?re looking for.

Just up George Street, the Strand Arcade is another beautiful complex dating from the turn of the century.

David Jones, and Myers are the leading department stores.

Antique lovers should head for Paddington, particularly on Saturdays when more than 250 stall cram the church yard on busy Oxford Street. When you?re through, you?ll enjoy a stroll past the gingerbread houses of this gentrified suburb.

Sun worshippers can take the Bondi & Bay Explorer bus to Bondi Beach for the day. Once you?re there, if you?d like to do more than just bask, there?s a good cliff-top walking track to Coogee Beach. The views -- and the people watching -- are great and it?s about a 2-hour walk each way.

Golfers will find dozens of courses in the area that welcome visitors. Or for something uniquely Australian, attend a cricket match. The season runs from October through March.

However you spend your day, be sure to enjoy Sydney?s magnificent natural beautiful and good-natured charm.

For your last night here, splurge and dine at Guillaume at Bennelong in the Sydney Opera House. The food, the service, and the setting are unsurpassed.

Images of The Spit, Palm Beach, and the Sydney Harbour courtesy of Virtual Australia