New South Wales capital city, Sydney, was Australia's first permanent European settlement. Sydney is admired for its large harbour, beautiful coastline and foreshores, bay side parks and gardens, warm and pleasant climate and cosmopolitan culture. Sydneys city centre is packed with harbour activities, cafes, restaurants, museums, cathedrals, hotels, pubs, clubs, shopping arcades, malls, gardens, markets and colonial history.
Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, The Rocks, Elizabeth Bay and Kings Cross surround Sydneys centre, which are only a cheap taxi ride away or a quick ride on the train, monorail or light rail. Lying to the north and south of the entrance to the harbour are more than twenty excellent beaches all of which are ideal for swimming, surfing and sun baking in the summer months.
As Captain Cook sailed up the Australian coast to Botany Bay, he noted the entrance to what is now Sydney Harbour and named the headland Port Jackson.
Captian Aurther Phillip, who was to become the colonys first governor, deemed Botany Bay unsuitable. He looked further a field and dropped anchor at Sydney Cove, which is now known as Circular Cove, hoisted the flag and proclaimed the colony of New South Wales in 1788.
The history of Sydney from 1825 until the 1860s is that of a prison slowly evolving into a society where free settlers and emancipated convicts worked together.
The city continued to expand throughout the 1870s and 1880s. The post-World War II development of the city has seen the construction of the Opera House, the creation of efficient urban transport and the enormous growth of suburban Sydney.
Around Sydneys central business district are some of the best shopping arcades and malls around. The beautifully restored Strand Arcade and Queen Victoria Building have over 180 shops.
Wander down Pitt Street mall and find the refurbished Grace Bros store and Sydney Central Plaza.
International designer shops include Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Versace and Armani are found in Castlereagh and Elizabeth Streets.
Chifley Plaza houses exclusive boutiques and a wide variety of cafes and restaurants.
David Jones is renowned for its fashions and gourmet foods.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are an oasis in the heart of the Sydney city. The gardens were established as early as 1816 and Australias first farm is evident in the middle garden. It is a delight to explore the collection of Australian and international plants, fountains, statues and monuments.
Also located in the Gardens is the National Herbarium of New South Wales, which houses plant specimens collected by Sir Joseph Banks on Captain Cooks east coast voyage in 1770.
No visit to Sydney can be considered complete without a leisurely walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Bridge is Australia's most famous and distinctive construction. It took nine years to build, weighs 60 000 tonnes and, at its highest point, is 134 metres above the harbour, and forms a vital link between Sydney's northern and southern suburbs.
It is now possible to walk over the top of the bridge. The adventure is not cheap, and not for the faint-hearted but it does offer the best views of Sydney.
The actual construction took 14 years and cost over $100 million. The project was funded by the state lottery.
People often think of the Sydney Opera House as just a single opera theatre. In fact it has a five theatres - a concert hall, an opera theatre, a drama theatre, a cinema and a recording hall - as well two restaurants, a number of bars, six lounges, a library, five rehearsal studios and 65 dressing rooms.
The AMP Centrepoint Tower, Australias tallest structure, found in the heart of the city, offers spectacular 360-degree views of Sydney and surrounds.
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