It's hard to beat Sydney's majestic setting on one of the world's most beautiful natural harbours. Dotted with yachts and ferries plying from one side of Sydney to the other, the harbour makes a stunning backdrop for the city's iconic sail-shaped Opera House, while spectacular fireworks dance off the Harbour Bridge every New Year's Eve.

Australia's oldest, biggest and most recognisable city makes a great first impression on travellers arriving from flights to Sydney, from its parks and gardens and striking bays and inlets to its stately historic buildings and the lively buzz of Darling Harbour's tourist and nightlife precinct.

There are many eclectic neighbourhoods to explore, from Paddington's boutiques, pubs and famous Saturday market, multicultural Newtown, gay Darlinghurst or the antique shops and trendy eateries of Surry Hills. 

Sydney basks in its international caché, and its role as the country's dynamic media and financial capital and favourite tourist playground. But for all of Sydney's verve, glitz, brashness and frenetic pace, it is an undeniably liveable city - friendly, relaxed and outgoing, with a perfect climate for an outdoors lifestyle. Sydney is also synonymous with beach culture and its famous surf beaches, which is only natural given there are more than 30 beaches within 30 minutes of the city.

Beyond the city attractions, Sydney is within easy reach of the Hunter Valley wine region, the stunning Blue Mountains, the NSW coastal resorts and the ski slopes and natural drawcards of the Snowy Mountains.

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Sydney climate

Sydney has a temperate and sunny climate, with warm summers and mild winters. Summers are humid, with balmy evenings, occasional downpours and temperatures in the high 20s, though it does reach the high 30s. Autumn and spring are delightful with clear, warm days and mild nights. Winters temperatures rarely fall below seven degrees Celsius.

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When to fly to Sydney

Peak Season:

Many tourists book flights to Sydney for New Year's Eve, which is a huge crowd-puller, followed by the popular Sydney Festival, which runs for three weeks in January. Over summer, weekend surf carnivals and water sports competitions are held on various beaches and yacht races are held around Sydney Harbour. The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race starts on Boxing Day. The Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in February-March is one of Sydney's biggest international events.

Off Season:

Sydney is busy and fun any time of year, but is particularly enjoyable in autumn and spring. There is a greater chance of rain in spring, but it usually clears quickly.

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Getting into town Sydney

Flights to Sydney arrive at Kingsford Smith Airport, 9km south of the city. The Airport Rail Link is a fast and convenient way to central Sydney. Trains run every ten minutes and take 13 minutes to the centre, from where connections can be made for all suburban services. Rail stations are located in the international and domestic terminals.  There's a $2 airport surcharge for taking a taxi from any of the airport taxi ranks. Public bus 400 runs between the airport and Bondi Junction. Private shuttle buses run to and from the airport and must be pre-booked; hotel buses are also available.

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Getting around Sydney

Some of the best sightseeing is from Sydney's buses and ferries. Red Sydney Explorer buses stop at more than 25 of the city's top attractions, while blue Bondi Explorer buses loop around harbour bays and beaches. 

Harbour taxis are quick and convenient for getting to waterfront restaurants and harbour attractions. They can also be chartered.

State Transit operates the city's bus and ferry networks, CityRail runs the urban and suburban trains and Sydney Ferries runs the public passenger ferries. A monorail connects the city centre to Darling Harbour, while a light-rail (tram) line provides access to Darling Harbour, Chinatown, Paddy's Markets and the Star City casino.

Driving around Sydney can be stressful due to confusing one-way streets, heavy traffic and scarce parking. You can take an enjoyable walk across the Harbour Bridge and catch the CityRail train back into town.

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Sydney insider information

  • There are plenty of vantage points from which to enjoy Sydney's stunning vistas. For the adventurous, a Harbour Bridge Climb tour takes you across catwalks and ladders to the top of the main arch for 360-degree views. At the northeast end of the Royal Botanic Gardens, there are panoramic views from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, a ledge carved out of sandstone for the former governor's wife to enjoy the views. Or you can take the 40-second ride up the high-speed double-decker lifts to the observation deck of the Centrepoint Tower, 260 metres above ground level.
  • Taronga Zoo, opened in 1916, is located in a spectacular elevated waterfront setting overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Cove and the Opera House. The zoo, which boasts Australia's finest collection of native animals as well as exotic species, is a 12-minute ferry ride from the CBD. The Sky Safari cable car can whisk you from the zoo wharf up to the zoo entrance.
  • The Rocks, Sydney's oldest preserved colonial area, is where the first English settlers landed in 1788. Its modern makeover has transformed the area into a thriving shopping and entertainment precinct, with many galleries, museums, lively pubs, as well as the popular weekend arts and crafts market.
  •  Another sight on the settlement trail is Fort Denison, where early convicts were confined and punished. A fort was built on the site to protect Sydney Harbour in the 19th century. Now part of Sydney Harbour National Park, you can take a guided tour and have lunch in the café. 
  • Sydney's impressive Aquarium has the largest collection of Australian marine life. You can also see the sharks being fed on the Shark Explorer glass-bottomed boat.
  • From Circular Quay, take the 30-minute ferry ride to Manly, a popular seaside resort since 1880. Apart from the beaches, Manly is a great place for heritage walks, galleries and museums and weekend markets. Manly hosts many eclectic festivals, and has buzzing pubs and restaurants.
  • Bondi beach is an Australian institution, but other popular Sydney beaches include Coogee, Manly, Balmoral and the glamorous Tamarama and Palm Beach.
  • Catch a moonlight flick with the Sydney skyline, Opera House and Harbour Bridge as a backdrop at the St George Open Air Cinema, adjacent to the botanic gardens (near Mrs Macquarie's Chair). Screenings start at dusk and there are superb views from the café and bar.

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Sydney airports

All flights to Sydney arrive in the international airport: Kingsford Smith.

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Kara Segedin
Writer, traveller, Tweeter, blogger and part-time adventurer. A kiwi living in London off to explore the world! I can never travel enough!
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