With an average of 850 flights arriving and departing each day and over 100,000 passengers shuffling through Australia’s largest airport, Sydney is a hub for international travel.
Although by far the busiest, Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport was ranked last out of the four major airports in Australia. If that’s not enough incentive to get out and explore one of the world’s top destinations during your layover, then let this week’s 24 Hours in Town persuade you.
Transportation from the airport to the city is quick – and not cheap. For a minimum of AUD17, the train will take travellers to the city center in 15 minutes. From there, the extensive bus service can take you north, south, east or west.
Sydney is Australia’s largest city and is spread out accordingly.
Heavy traffic can draw out transit times, so to make the most of a layover, skip the crowds and condense the sightseeing. Sydney’s iconic sites, like the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House at Darling Harbour (pictured above) are best seen from the water. Hop on the Manly ferry, take your obligatory touristy photos and then grab a schooner of Kosciuszko or Coopers at Manly Wharf Hotel, often referred to as wharf bar, before heading back.
If you’re prone to seasickness, head up the Sydney Tower Eye for commanding 360-degree views of the city. Standing over 260 meters high, the building is the second tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere. By getting the main tourist spots out of the way, it’ll give you more time to experience why most people come to Australia: sand, sun and surf.
Whether it’s to see a scene out of Bondi Beach Rescue or to ogle the extremely fit sunbathers, checking out the massive expanse of humanity spread out along Australia’s most famous beach is a must.
Sydney has much nicer beaches in less expensive areas, but for visitors, Bondi Beach has become synonymous with the Australian way of life. Everyone is bronzed, blond and in extremely good shape. Grab an overpriced sushi role and relax on the promenade to people watch.
Alternatively, walk just over a kilometer to the smaller and more impressive Bronte Beach. The cliff walk goes all the way to Coogee, about six kilometers away.
Trekkers will pass along rugged and beautiful coastline, but by far the most commanding part of the walk is the graveyard with a million-dollar view.
Opened in 1887, Waverley Cemetery holds the remains of some of Australia’s most significant inhabitants. It’s residents include famous poet Henry Lawson and benefactor Jules Archibald as well as past Olympians and politicians. It’s the graveyard of the rich and the famous and is located on some of the most expensive and coveted property in the city.
Beware, bus services back from Bondi are packed during peak hours and you may have to wait for two or three busses before catching a ride.
Haymarket is where Sydney’s Chinatown is located. It’s good for cheap souvenirs of both the Asian and Australian variety and has a large selection of affordable meals.
However, it’s King Street in Newtown that grabs the culinary spotlight. Cafes, restaurants and bars line both sides and with the large multicultural fabric of the area, there are options catering to every taste.
Drinking and Nightlife
Newtown’s food scene is seconded by its selection of drinking establishments. Pubs and bars of all sizes and clientele can be found. But Newtown is more famous for embracing the small bar revolution. Intimate and unpretentious, a lot of these venues are student-orientated and range from classy drinking dens, to dank basement bars. Walk down the street and take your pick, there is no shortage of options.
The true nightlife though, is found in one area: Kings Cross. Dirty, seedy, and a little dangerous, this is the place where Sydney comes to party.
The strip itself is small, only a few hundred meters long, but densely packed with bars and nightclubs that range from the elite to the sleazy. From DJ sets to promotional events to garage band music sets, there’s always something going on in Kings Cross.
Beware of pickpockets and check your transit routes before heading out as trams stop before the clubs close and busses are limited past a certain time.
Looking around today, it’s hard to imagine Sydney as a town overrun by unruly convicts. It is a thriving, throbbing metropolitan center and Australia’s most populated city.
Yet even amidst all the business suits, briefcases and general hustle and bustle of its inhabitants, the city still retains a laid-back, beach vibe. Many of those businessmen have a pair of boardies tuck into their bag and spend their weekends playing beach volleyball.
It’s not uncommon to see people on their lunch break duck into the ocean to catch a wave or two.
Sydney has mastered the balance of work and play and it is an excellent place to have a stopover. No matter how many times you visit, there will always be some place new to discover. Just don’t expect it to be cheap.
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Originally published in That’s PRD