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Sydney is beautiful. Surrounded by spectacular scenery from steep cliffs and white beaches to wild, native bushland and lush national parks. A harbour city, the key to getting around starts with the harbour and radiates outwards in a kaleidoscope of cultures and lifestyles.

Central Business District – CBD

The CBD is a pastiche of boroughs and districts, each with their own unique character.

Circular Quay

The gateway to the harbour Circular Quay, with its important transport links is adorned by architectural icons – the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House pulling the biggest crowds.

The Rocks

West of Circular Quay The Rocks – the original site of convict settlement in Australia – boasts some of Sydney’s best restaurants and the popular weekend Rocks Market.

Above The Rocks is Observatory Hill, a stretch of parkland with an 1858-built Observatory that still works.

Financial Corridor

The South-Eastern side of Circular Quay is where multinational conglomerates have their Asia-Pacific headquarters. Along Macquarie are stately buildings such as the State Library of NSW and Parliament House.

City Centre

The ‘City Centre’ refers to Pitt Street Mall, Market Street (home to department stores likeDavid Jones), and a maze of arcades which include Centrepoint Shopping Centre at the base of the AMP Tower (Centrepoint). Town Hall Arcade, adjoining Town Hall Station, the city’s rail hub, connects underground to the opulent Queen Victoria Building.

Chinatown, Haymarket

In the South-West corner of the city, Chinatown is a feast for the senses. Spilling over with unusual shops, it is home to Market City and Paddy’s Markets, where you’ll find some tempting bargains and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay

Built to commemorate Australia’s bicentenary, Harbourside is Darling Harbour’s signature shopping and entertainment complex. The forecourt hosts numerous festivals including theDarling Harbour Fiesta. Nearby are the Chinese Gardens, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the Sydney Aquarium, the IMAX cinema and the Powerhouse Museum. And just up the road is the showy Star City Casino.

Cockle Bay Wharf is a sophisticated boardwalk of nightclubs, harbourside restaurants and live music venues.

The Domain

On the Eastern side of Hyde Park is The Domain, an expanse of parkland that plays host to outdoor concerts including Carols in The Domain. This area is full of attractions including Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, the Art Gallery of NSW and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The Eastern Suburbs

Oxford Street is the main artery of the Eastern Suburbs. Starting at the edge of the CBD in Darlinghurst and working its way through Paddington, past the sprawling Centennial Park to Bondi Junction. Along this strip are arthouse cinemas, cafes, bookshops and designer labels galore.

At the lower end of Darlinghurst, under the big neon Coke sign, is Kings Cross, Sydney’s 24 hour red light district. Though sleazy and corrupt, there is an energy that keeps luring people here. Amongst the trashy strip joints and tattoo parlours are intimate jazz clubs, hip cafes and great record shops.

The East’s harbourside suburbs of Elizabeth Bay, Double Bay and Rose Bay culminate at Watson’s Bay, which offers stunning views across to the city that can be savoured from the world famous Doyles seafood restaurant. On the other side of this peninsula is South Head, the Southern gate between Sydney Harbour and the open sea.

Along the coast are Sydney’s best-known and best-loved beaches: Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte and Coogee.

The South

Botany Bay was the original landing place for the First Fleet. The suburbs between here and South Cronulla Beach take in the huge local government area known as the Sutherland Shire. The South is beautified by waterways and gardens all the way down to the vast Royal National Park, Sydney’s southern boundary.

The Inner West

Glebe and Newtown are the main action stations here, seething with restaurants offering cuisines from around the globe, new and second-hand bookshops, backpacker hostels, health food shops and traditional Aussie pubs.

Further West is Leichhardt aka Little Italy. Grab a cone of homemade gelato and wander past Norton Street’s bookshops, arthouse cinemas and stores selling imported goods like espresso machines and ceramic tiles. And don’t miss the Norton Street Festival – the biggest event on Little Italy’s calendar.

The Greater West

With the centre for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games being Homebush Bay, the geographic centre of Sydney is moving steadily West. Homebush is the site of Stadium Australiaand a host of gleaming new sporting facilities.

Parramatta is the major transport and commercial hub of the West. Between Parramatta and the Blue Mountains (Sydney’s Western boundary) are ‘the burbs’ one of which is Cabramatta – Sydney’s Little Vietnam. Even the street signs here are in Vietnamese, and it’s worth the trip for the great shopping and culinary experience.

The Upper North Shore

Sydney’s North-West corner intersects at an area known as The Hills District – a semi-rural region that is fast being sub-divided and developed. The “leafy Upper North Shore” is one of Sydney’s wealthiest areas. Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, smack-bang in the centre is a beautiful spot for bushwalks or picnics.

The Lower North Shore

Everything below Chatswood is the Lower North Shore. Some of the prettier spots are Balmoral Beach and Blues Point Reserve at the end of Blues Point Road. An essential stop is Taronga Zoo, a terraced, scenic sanctuary that is home to animals from far-flung corners of the world.

The Northern Beaches

From beautiful Palm Beach, down through Whale Beach, Avalon Beach, Bilgola Beach, Newport Beach and Mona Vale Beach – the Northern Beaches not only offer great surfing, but great sailing, lush parks and gardens and million-dollar holiday homes.

At the base – and forming the Northern gate to Sydney Harbour – is Manly. Popular with tourists, this is a playground of leisure and recreational pursuits. A highlights on Manly’s calendar is the Manly International Jazz Festival.

History of Sydney

Aboriginal Sydney

Sydney has always been characterised by waves of migration starting with the first Aborigines who reached the area approximately 20,000 years ago. It is estimated that their population had risen to 3000 when Captain James Cook, briefly visited Botany Bay in April 1770. The ‘Eora’ display at the Museum of Sydney provides a sensitive, contemporary interpretation of their complex and sophisticated culture.

‘The Coming of the Strangers’

In 1787, The First Fleet sailed from England commanded by Captain, later Governor, Arthur Phillip. On 26 January 1788, the British flag was raised at Sydney Cove – now known as Circular Quay. This date has since been celebrated as Australia Day.

When Phillip returned to England in 1792, officers seized control and were permitted to pay convict labourers and other accounts with rum rather than hard currency. Battles for social standing and economic power emerged between such groups as land grant holders like John Macarthur who established Elizabeth Farm near Parramatta and those newly-emancipated convicts who had served out their term. The settlement soon outstripped its original site and extended west towards The Rocks and Observatory Hill and as far south as Brickfield Hill (near present-day Central Station).

Matters came to a head politically with the Rum Rebellion of 1808 and when governor, William Bligh, was recalled to England. His successor, Lachlan Macquarie, gave the city its grand, early nineteenth-century vision that can still be glimpsed among the high-rise developments of the late twentieth century. He worked with convict architect, Francis Greenway, to erect such edifices as Hyde Park Barracks and St James Church. But Macquarie’s extravagant expenditure angered the British government and in February 1822 he reluctantly returned home.

Urban Consolidation

During the early 1830s a number of officials made the decision to take up land grants on prestigious Woolloomooloo Hill, establishing villas like Elizabeth Bay House. Between 1837 and 1845, a Tudor-style Government House arose near the site of the present-day Opera House. Large-scale, assisted immigration was characteristic of this period and when transportation to New South Wales ceased in 1840, inhabitants finally began to shake off their convict ‘stain’; significantly, this was followed two years later by an act which declared Sydney’s status as a city.

The Gold Rushes

In 1851, gold was found near the central western town of Bathurst. Thousands of prospective diggers arrived by ship, many of whom later settled permanently. However, when more substantial holdings were discovered in Victoria, the excitement dissipated and Sydney embarked upon a new period of civic, cultural and social development. Elegant sandstone buildings like The Australian Museum and the University of Sydney were constructed and in 1855 the first train line opened between Sydney and Parramatta.

Late Nineteenth Century

The 1879 International Exhibition placed Sydney squarely on the map. Major public buildings erected during this period include the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the General Post Office, Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building. The suburbs continued their inevitable sprawl, fuelled by the expanding rail network and the Australian ‘dream’ of owning a quarter-acre block.

Early Twentieth Century

On 1 January 1901, the six Australian colonies united to form a Commonwealth and Sydney became the state capital of New South Wales. The opening of Central Station stimulated commercial development in the south, electrification replaced gaslight, women received the vote and mixed bathing became acceptable during daylight hours. Agitation also began for an alternative crossing of the Harbour, which was still serviced exclusively by ferries. However, further expansion was put on hold with the outbreak of the First World War when thousands of Australians departed to assist the British cause.

Between the Wars

After the troops came home, expansion and development continued until the onset of the Great Depression in the late 1920s. Many found themselves unemployed, political unrest swept Sydney and the popular Labour premier, Jack Lang, was removed from office. Nevertheless, the wonderful engineering feat known as the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932.

World War II

At the outbreak of World War II, Australian troops again left to support the British in Europe. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, Australia’s own national security became paramount. Four Japanese midget submarines were destroyed when they entered Sydney Harbour in May 1942. Shortly afterwards, the ‘mother’ submarine bombed the waterfront suburbs of Bondi and Rose Bay. Fear of invasion heightened rapidly. Rationing and blackouts were introduced, and many residents fled for safety to the Blue Mountains.

Post-war Development

This period was characterised by wide-scale immigration especially from Italy, Greece and Eastern Europe. Major modernist buildings such as Rose Seidler House challenged the norm and a distinctive local school of architecture gradually evolved.

During the 1960s, American influence saw Australia being drawn into the Vietnam War. The introduction of conscription provoked widespread civil unrest. At the same time, the city embarked upon a period of unabashed, rampant development and older buildings were demolished or overshadowed by new skyscrapers. The Sydney Opera House opened in 1973 and previously-maligned suburbs such as Paddington, with its distinctive terrace house architecture, suddenly became fashionable. Ethnic groups began to colonise Leichhardt (Italians), Lakemba (Lebanese), Redfern (Greeks) and Marrickville (Portuguese). The end of the Vietnam War also saw large-scale immigration from South-East Asia.

Rampant Development

The last two decades have seen even greater change – thousands of apartment buildings now punctuate the skyline and fierce battles continue to rage over ‘The Toaster’ at Circular Quay, the Monorail, Fox Studios and the future of the Walsh Bay Wharves. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find traces of the past within the city apart from Macquarie Street and the touristy Rocks area. The advantages associated with hosting the 2000 Olympic Games are being balanced against the cost the taxpayers will have to bear. The Harbour has been cleaned up, the Homebush Bay Olympic Site provides international-class facilities and Sydney is poised to offer a breathtaking welcome to the thousands of tourists who will visit the city during September 2000.