Everything in Australia revolves around Sydney. It draws the brightest and the best to its glittering harbour heart, offering you a glamorous, oceanfront setting and the best possible blend of outdoor and indoor attractions.
Stretching 20km inland to the mouth of the Parramatta River, Sydney Harbour (or Port Jackson) is Sydney's best feature. Lined with beaches, waterside parks, and islands, it provides a comforting respite from bustle of urban life. Your choice of beaches includes the pretty southern beach at Camp Cove and the northern strands of Reef Beach, Manly Cove, Balmoral Beach, Clontarf Beach, and Chinaman's Beach.
Sydney Opera House
You really can't miss it. Danish architect J'rn Utzon's competition-winning Sydney Opera House is Australia's most famous landmark and a wonder of the modern world. Utzon's inspiration is said to have come from orange segments, Mayan temples, and palm fronds, but whatever its origin, the finished article is a stunning creation that offers superb acoustics in its six auditoriums. Most of its 2,400 annual events sell out quickly, but partial-view tickets can become available at short notice. One-hour guided tours depart half-hourly, and they are cheaper if booked online.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge is a source of immense pride to natives of the Harbour City, and it's easy to see why. Nicknamed "the old coathanger," it is a scarily big bridge, at 134m high, 502m long, and 49m wide. Access is possible via train or car (a toll applies when driving south), but the best views are available to walkers. There are stairs on both shores and a footpath extends along its eastern side, but don't try this if you are afraid of heights! A charge will apply.
Bondi, right next to Sydney, is one of the world's best beaches. The Pacific slams in great foaming swells against the shore, so it delivers great waves and an average water temperature of 21°C. Salt-water sea baths at both ends of the beach are perfect for kids. Swim between the sets of red and yellow flags, where the Bondi and North Bondi surf clubs patrol.
For full-circle views of Sydney from 250m up, visit the 309m-tall Sydney Tower. When the sky is clear, you can look south to Botany Bay, west to the Blue Mountains, east over the harbour to the Pacific, and down on the city itself. If you have a head for heights, you'll enjoy Skywalk: Put on a "skysuit", attach yourself to a safety rail, and walk out to two glass-floored viewing platforms outside the observation deck. Discounted combined tickets are available for the tower with either Sydney Aquarium or Sydney Wildlife World.
Escape to the Blue Mountains
Hire a car and drive about 90 minutes to the tourist destination of Leura and Katoomba, site of the famous Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains. Enjoy spectacular views over the Jamieson Valley, count the echoes at Echo Point, and explore the towering rock mountain. Aboriginal legend claims that three sisters were turned to stone by an elder witch doctor who was trying to protect them. Several viewing points offer ideal positions to see the unusual formations, called Meehni (922 m), Wimlah (918 m), and Gunnedoo (906 m).