Not only is it home to Sydney, but also mountains, wine country, a beautiful coastline and even the outback.

A popular place to settle for a bit and fi nd work, you could easily while away your time in Australia here without ever crossing a state border (though that’d be a shame) and never get bored.

Sydney

It’s pretty likely that Sydney already features on your Australian itinerary – and for good reason. Sydney is a city boasting fantastic weather, beautiful beaches and a bustling entertainment scene.

Anyone who has fl own into Sydney on a bright, sunny day will tell you it’s a sight quite unrivalled – the sheer cliffs of the Heads, the sparkling harbour, plus the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

It’s a living postcard and, aside from a snog from Kylie or Hugh on the airport tarmac, it’s the best welcome to the land Down Under.

Arriving in Sydney

Visitors fl ying into Sydney’s International Airport will find themselves not too far from the heart of the city, with numerous ways to get there. It only takes 15 minutes via the Airport Link train into the city, which connects with Sydney’s CityRail train network.

The train isn’t too cheap, however, and if there’s a few of you it might be cheaper to get a cab.

The airport information desk, on the ground fl oor of the International Terminal, is a good place to get advice and book accommodation.

Getting around Sydney

Public transport in Sydney is pretty good, and travelling by train and bus gets you wherever you want to go.

Locals commute to the CBD from the north by harbour ferry – possibly the prettiest way to get to work. Visit 131500.com.au for all bus, ferry and rail info.

There are a number of public transport ticket deals to help you save money so ask at the local CityRail station. CountryLink (countrylink.info) gets you around NSW on its rail and coach network.

Sydney accommodation

There are loads of hostels in Sydney, so whether you want to stay in the centre of town, by the beach in Bondi, Manly or Coogee, beside the boozer in Kings Cross, close to the cafés in Glebe, Surry Hills or Newtown, or in Central – close to all the action and where there are most backpacker beds – you’re sure to find a hostel that suits your needs.

Dorm rooms usually range from about $25-$40 per person, per night, depending on season.

If you’re planning to stick around, you’ll probably prefer share or rental accommodation.

You can find classified ads for long-term stays in the local papers, while websites like sydney.gumtree.com.au also have plenty of options.

The Sydney Morning Herald has a real estate section with rental and shareaccommodation listings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and at domain.com.au.

The Daily Telegraph runsclassifieds every day (realestate.com.au).

 

Around town

Darling Harbour: One of Sydney’s top tourist attractions, offering shopping and eating facilities, parkland, and a boat-fi lled bay.

Site of superclub Home, the world’s biggest IMAX cinema screen and restaurant-bar-crammed Cockle Bay Wharf, it’s the golden child of Sydney’s after-dark scene.

Easy access by ferry, monorail, bus or foot. Check out darlingharbour.com

Royal Botanic Gardens: Situated between the Opera House and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. Walking through the gardens is a good introduction to Australia’s natural beauty and gives a great view of the harbour. Details at http://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

Sydney Harbour Bridge: This world-famous Sydney landmark (sometimes known as “The Coathanger”) gives a spectacular view of the city. Head to the top of the southern pylon or walk across to Milson’s Point.

You can also do the BridgeClimb, complete with full-body boilersuit, for top views of the city.

Sydney Opera House: It’s as impressive in the flesh as on any postcard. Home not only to opera, theatre and dance, but numerous cafés and bars.

Free and paid-for concerts are also regularly held on the forecourt throughout summer. For more information check out sydneyoperahouse.com


Sydney Tower: One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of Sydney is from the observation deck of one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere (304m).

Sydney Aquarium: Fantastic aquarium with over 11,000 aquatic animals in its care. Check out the crocs, seals and sharks in the oceanariums.

Sydney Wildlife World: Home to more varieties of native Australian plants and animals than anywhere else.

Taronga Zoo
: Arguably has the best views of any zoo in the world and it’s home to 2,000 different types of animals.

The Rocks:
This is the oldest bit of Sydney and it has been beautifully restored to incorporate many shops, markets, restaurants and great pubs. Check for more info at therocks.com

Watsons Bay
: Hang out with Sydney’s posh people and taste some scrumptious seafood at the famous restaurant, Doyles. Or just have fi sh and chips on the beach.

 

Sydney beaches

There are more than 30 ocean beaches to choose from in the Sydney metropolitan area, with the two most famous being Bondi, in the eastern suburbs, and Manly in the north.

Many tourists head for the relative glamour of Bondi. The wide range of restaurants along Bondi’s Esplanade will also deal with any hungry punters.

Many travellers also make their Sydney home at Coogee, a more laidback, smaller beach. The beach boasts ocean pools at both ends for those not game to face the surf.

Other eastern beaches include Bronte, Tamarama, Clovelly and Maroubra and they can all be taken in on the coastline walk from Bondi.

For one of the best views of the harbour, hop on a ferry to Manly, where you’ll fi nd more sand, sun and surf.

The beautiful peninsula is surrounded on three sides by the sparkling ocean and Sydney Harbour.

Manly has 18 beaches – some for surfing, some for swimming and snorkelling – dive sites, enticing hidden coves and inlets, pretty national parks, Aboriginal sites and even penguins.

Manly is also home to an oceanarium where, if you’re feeling brave, you can don your scuba gear and jump in the tank with the nurse sharks.

The northern suburbs are where Sydney’s affl uent people hang out, with more than 20 beaches dotted along the coast up to Palm Beach, where famous Aussie soap opera Home and Away is filmed.

Sydney CBD

George Street runs through the heart of the CBD (central business district).

The Central Station end has had a facelift and effectively become the travellers’ quarter, with swanky hostels, cool cafés, big boozy pubs and an internet café on every corner. Pitt Street, running parallel to George, is also home to many a budget hostel.

Chinatown on Dixon Street has cheap eats galore.

The Spanish Quarter on Liverpool Street is around the corner from the George Street cinemas (cheap tix on Tuesdays).

There’s a small but superb selection of Spanish restaurants here.

Shopping in town isn’t cheap, but if you must, head for the stately Queen Victoria Building on George Street, the pedestrianised Pitt Street Mall with its sparkling Westfield shopping centre, the absolutely massive Westfield at Bondi Junction, the shop-lined Oxford Street or Paddy’s Markets near Chinatown for all the usual flea market stalls.

 

Inner West suburbs

Glebe and Newtown, two of Sydney’s most interesting suburbs, are the hub of the inner West. Newtown is where the alternative meets the urban.

It used to be Greek, now it’s everything. It has many pubs that have scarily liberal opening hours.

Glebe is very cool with something of a ‘crusty’ edge – think organic cafés and feminist bookshops.

It’s also a backpacker centre, with lots of cheap eats and plenty of cafés and pubs. It also boasts the grungier, more alternative of the markets in town (Saturdays in the schoolyard on Glebe Point Road).

City suburbs

It’s said some things happen to you when you’re ready for them.

Well, get ready, ‘cos in Oxford Street and Kings Cross things happen pretty fast.

Twentyfour hours a day, seven days a week, these areas are an eternal Saturday night. Oxford Street is the gay nexus of Sydney.

“The Cross” is Sydney’s most famous red-light zone, but has much more to offer travellers with a variety of eateries pubs and clubs.

The city centre and northern Sydney also offer a range of pubs and clubs.

Sydney scene

Sydney has a live theatre scene and a bustling nightlife wherever you may go.

For shows and events, pick-up a free copy of TNT Magazine, Drum Media (for live bands), The Brag and 3D World (for clubbing and dance) from pubs, hostels, cafés etc. The daily papers, The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph are also a good source of information.

Lesbians on the Loose and the Sydney Star Observer offer news, info and entertainment for Sydney’s large gay and lesbian community.

 

Country Capital

One of the oldest established areas in the country, the Country Capital region combines the vitality and energy of its cities with the tranquillity of an established rural landscape.

Close to Sydney and wrapped around Canberra, it is set in one of Australia’s most handsome landscapes – a fascinating mix of heritage towns and villages, stunning country gardens and beautiful waterways.

 

Illawarra

At the heart of the Illawarra regions lies Wollongong, the state’s third-largest city, which has reinvented itself in recent years as a great weekend escape.

The Illawarra as a whole is made for outdoor adventures.

The small coastal villages around Wollongong boast excellent surfi ng beaches, and Lake Illawarra offers a choice of sailing, waterskiing, canoeing and fishing.

New England

Also referred to as ‘Big Sky Country’ because the stars seem to touch the earth, the New England north-west region is Australia’s big outdoors.

Off the beaten track for most tourists, it’s a chance to take the road less travelled and enjoy great country hospitality.

With cool summers in the tablelands, the glorious colours of autumn, romantic fireside dinners in winter or the clear, fresh air in spring, you won’t be disappointed.

There are national parks and wide stretches of farmland to explore, along with excellent fishing opportunities throughout the region.

 

Northern Rivers & Byron Bay

As far as tourism icons go in this country, Byron Bay wouldn’t rate too far behind the big three – the Sydney Opera House, the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru.

The eastern-most point of mainland Australia, Byron has long been the source of fascination for locals and tourists alike. Beautiful beaches, great climate and a fertile hinterland make this the ideal travelling destination.

Make sure you also head inland to discover subtropical beauty, glorious natural features and lovely little towns like Bangalow, Federal, Murrumbidgee and, of course, the hippie capital of Nimbin.

 

 

 

Outback & Broken Hill

Harsh but surprisingly fragile, the rugged natural beauty of outback NSW has been appreciated by the region’s Aboriginal inhabitants for millennia.

Broken Hill was founded in 1883 and was nicknamed Silvertown as it had the largest lead, silver and zinc deposits in the world at the time.

Of course, a lot of the mining has moved on after clearing the land for all it’s worth, but the captivating post-apocalyptic
feel of the landscape explains why the area was used for much of the fi lming of Mad Max 2 and why the crew are expected to return for the long-awaited fourth installment.

Aboriginal artworks, some 30,000 years old, can be found at sites in Mutawintji National Park.

At Mungo National Park, the remains of Mungo Man and Mungo Woman date back 40,000 years, making it the world’s oldest known ceremonial burial.

 

Blue Mountains

Situated about a 90-minute drive west from Sydney, the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains are a favourite escape for Sydneysiders, with the main gateway town being Katoomba.

Once you’ve experienced the spectacular bluehazed beauty, dramatic cliffs and deep canyons of the Blue Mountains, you’ll come away refreshed and invigorated.

While bushwalking in this wilderness area is a favourite pastime, the region is also famous for its full range of accommodation, fine food and wines, arts and crafts, and, of course, welcoming
pubs.

A string of townships form a vibrant cultural community where artists, musicians and writers flourish.

It’s also become the place to go for a Northern Hemisphere-style festive season, by celebrating a mid-winter Christmas in July.

 

Central Coast

Fancy getting away from it all for a relaxing mix of rural and beachside lifestyle?

The Central Coast could be the answer. The gateway to The Hunter region and its beautiful wineries, and located
just over an hour north of Sydney, the Central Coast is popular on the tourist front, both domestic and international.

The area’s main hub is Newcastle, a one-time industrial powerhouse that has transformed into a laidback and sophisticated surf hotspot that boasts more artists per capita than anywhere else in Oz.

To the surprise of many, not least the unassuming locals themselves, Lonely Planet even named Newcastle as one of the world’s top 10 cities to visit last year, in their Best in Travel book.

 

Central NSW

An agriculturally rich region, Central New South Wales boasts many attractive and interesting towns well worth exploring.

From Sydney, Bathurst is the gateway to the region, and from there you can turn north-west through Orange and Dubbo (with the brilliant Dubbo Zoo) or south-west through Cowra and West Wyalong.

The region’s history can be read in its architecture, from humble slab huts to the lavish hotels and mansions built during gold and farming booms.

Strung along every highway and road, exploring these townships makes for a perfect driving holiday.

The region has several national parks featuring pristine wilderness, spectacular geological formations, river systems, wetlands, caves, ancient rock art and wildlife of all descriptions.

Murray Region

The mighty Murray River, lined with 600-yearold river gums, ‘drowned’ trees, paddle-steamers and houseboats, forms the border between NSW and Victoria.

From the citrus fruitbowl of Mildura, nestled amongst the borders of not only Victoria and NSW, but also South Australia in the top western corner of Victoria, all the way down to the twin cities of Albury-Wodonga, which actually straddle the Murray, this region is largely agricultural and a wonderful view of the “real Australia”.

 

North Coast

The North Coast of NSW includes some of the state’s most picturesque seaside towns, including Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Port Macquarie and Forster.

From mountain ranges to expansive beaches, the region offers the perfect 365-day outdoor holiday location. If you fancy something more energetic, try bushwalking, mountain biking, horse riding or golf.

At the coast’s southern tip, making it a popular Sydney getaway, is Port Stephens, actually a string of coastal towns along a large natural harbour.

It’s a good place to get out on the water and go whale watching or swimming with dolphins, otherwise you can head inland to quad bike over dramatic sand dunes.

 

Riverina

From some of the nation’s best food and wine, to the widest, most breathtaking horizons fi lled with wonderment, the Riverina is just waiting for you to discover it.

With national parks, picnic grounds, unique wildlife, heritage buildings, festivals, art galleries, historic trains and planes, walking trails, country music, haunted houses, botanical gardens, agricultural shows, museums, farmer’s markets, rivers and ancient Aboriginal culture, tourists are spoiled for choice.

Snowy Mountains

If it’s adventure activities you’re after, from winter sports to cycling, caving, rafting, kayaking, horse riding and bracing mountain walks, the Snowy Mountains will suit you down to the ground.

Australia’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko, looks down on sub-alpine snowgum woodlands and tall forests of alpine ash and mountain gum.

In winter you can go night skiing, downhill or cross-country skiing, snowboarding or tobogganing.

In summer the ‘Snowies’ are perfect for a touring holiday.

Take in historic country towns, mountain flowers, grazing wallabies and grand scenery.

South Coast

The Illawarra region, just a short drive south of Wollongong, features some of the most unspoilt natural beauty of the southern coastline of New South Wales.

Marine mammals, including pods of dolphins and migratory whales, take pride of place as they cruise past secluded white-sand beaches, and Australian fur seals thrive on Montague Island.

There are two marine parks here – at Jervis Bay and Batemans Bay.

The former is something of a treasure, which attracts Syndeysiders on long weekends. People come to camp amongst surprisingly friendly kangaroos, walk barefoot on the squeaky-white sands and watch whales glide by.

Pebbly Beach is another spot, further down the coast, worth calling in at, if only for those classic “roo on the beach” photos.

Hunter Valley

First and foremost the Hunter Valley is a wine region with more than 120 wineries and cellar doors from the areas of Pokolbin and Rothbury, to the heights of sunny Mountview and the beautiful Wollombi Valley.

The region is well-known for its Semillon, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Verdelho wines, so pretty much any taste buds are likely to leave satisfied.

Drive yourself or take one of the many guided tours on offer with transport ranging from mini bus, to chauffeured Pontiacs and limousines, horse drawn carriages and mountain bikes.

 

Photos: Getty, TNT