Australia is a country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area. Neighboring countries include Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the north; the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. For at least 40,000 years before European settlement in the late 18th century, Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians, who belonged to one or more of roughly 250 language groups. After discovery by Dutch explorers in 1606, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788. The population grew steadily in subsequent decades; the continent was explored and an additional five self-governingCrown Colonies were established.
A highly developed country, Australia is the world's 13th-largest economy and has the world's sixth-highest per capita income. Australia's military expenditure is the world's 13th-largest. With the second-highest human development index globally, Australia ranks highly in many international comparisons of national performance, such as quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, and the protection of civil liberties and political rights. Australia is a member of the G20, OECD, WTO, APEC, UN, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, and the Pacific Islands Forum.
Sitting on a Sydney ferry waiting to set off.
It amazes me how places can be clear across the world from each other yet retain so many similarities. At the same time just when you think you have it all figured out you see or hear something that throws you and you realize nothing is quite the same; people just like to categorize things in their minds. Admittedly, I won’t be able to make any experienced based judgements about Australia as a whole. It’s an entire continent and I only saw a fraction of it, mostly Sydney but I do have some useful takeaways specific to the city and surrounding area.
The first one is that its expensive. Your probably thinking, “yeah yeah everywhere is expensive". I saw a fifth of liqueur on the shelf for 73.99 AUD people. The AUD and USD are dead even so that’s really almost 75 bucks for a fifth of Jameson or Jack Daniels. At least in America when you get money stolen from you there’s an experience like getting jumped or a gun in your face. In Sydney, they just charge ridiculous prices for things. Water was 5 USD. I was disheartened by this to put it lightly. Do yourself and your wallet a big favor and utilize the duty free at the airport before you get into the country. You will save at least 50% on your alcohol. Definitely go out and have some local brews, but getting drunk on the town alone will cost you dearly (average pint is 7 USD). Also take a metal water bottle with you in your day pack to avoid paying 5 USD for water constantly. Luckily we had that. Beware that free internet is scarce and rates are obscene. The Sydney airport offers free wifi though.
The city is broken up pretty nicely. The most optimal lodging location is anywhere in between The Rocks, Darling Harbour, and the Queen Victoria Mall. If you are close to these you can easily walk through the city to any one of the three. Walking through the city is a joy in itself. It is definitely a bustling city which can get a bit claustrophobic but the hills and small parks scattered throughout broke things up. While I the title for friendliest people goes to Ireland, Sydney has to have some of the best dressed people I've seen yet. They we're definitely on par with Italy, however they wore some pretty alternative stuff compared to Italy's more traditional fashions. Most of the business women looked like they were walking down a runway instead of a sidewalk. The Rocks are the City’s cultural and historical district. There are a ton of street shops and local vendors where you can grab some good authentic souvenirs. Darling Harbor has the Maritime Museum and the Sydney Aquarium. It is also a main docking point for the Sydney Ferry System. This was in my eyes, truly the most unique cultural feature of the city.
You must use the ferry at least once while in the city for a number of reasons. It cruises directly under the Sydney Bridge and goes within 150m of the Sydney Opera House every day. There’s no better way to get some great pictures. The ferry is perfect to see all of the peculiar islands which are scattered in Sydney Harbor to include Cockatoo Island. The Ferry can be bought in day passes (42 AUD for 2x). Finally the Manly Ferry can take you to the neighboring town of Manly which is much less commercial and touristy than the rest of the city locations. There were some excellent local delis and sandwich shops there. It’s a perfect way to get some authentic Australian street cuisine (they love their meat pies). In the end, the Opera House, Sydney Bridge, and Luna Park where all great but seemed ancillary to some of the city’s less commercial attractions like the ferries, Cockatoo Island, Manly, and Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. When you get to the Zoo from the ferry you can either pay to take the lift to the top and work your way downhill or walk along the road to the bottom entrance. We walked along the road all the way to the top of the zoo and then entered (bottom entrance was closed). There was no shoulder on the road but we had a great time. It's about a 1.5km walk and its interesting to see the strong harbor breeze rip through the tropical foliage around you as you walk along the road.
Bottom entrance to Taronga Zoo, Sydney
Overall the city is a vibrant place and can easily keep you busy for a good 5-7 days. We had 5 days and really worked to squeeze everything in. I would suggest a minimum of 7 days to see it all comfortably. Some of my musts are as follows: Sydney Ferries, Taronga Zoo, The Rocks, QVM, and Manly. If you go on the ferry you will get wonderful views of the Sydney Bridge, Luna Park, and the Opera House. Other oddities and ends for you to explore are the Botanical Gardens, Chinatown, the Star Casino, and the Tower Building. I will leave those ones up to you to discover. My only gripe is the absurd tourist prices. Otherwise Sydney was a great place and has something to offer for everyone.
Sydney Opera House as seen from the a Sydney Ferry