When you think of the Australian outback, images of dusty plains and heat-scorched tundra are probably your general expectation. However, the vibrant continent can provide travelers with more than just contrived expectations of crocodile wrestling and kangaroo chasing. Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, Australia, is the perfect stop on a tour of the Southern Hemisphere. Sandra Bradshaw, summertime explorer and adventure seeker, claims that Sydney, Australia, is one of those places where you can get the best of both worlds. “It’s more of an off-the-radar vacation, because people tend to go to Europe,” she says. “You get the city life and the outback here. It’s a two-for-one special.”
Sydney can offer both urban glamour and native allure—what you do simply depends on your mood. Powerful business people in expensive suits bustle about in the heart of the city, creating a rich ambiance for visitors seeking a thoroughly metropolitan experience. The iconic Sydney Opera House glistens just beyond the building tops, forming a gorgeous backdrop for the city both day and night.
However, just a few subway stops west toward Darling Harbour is the chance to experience a teaser of the land-down-under vibes that Australia is known for: the Wild Life Sydney Zoo. The zoo, along with the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium that sits adjacent to the zoo, breaks away from the prominent city feel; the air is suddenly filled with birdcalls instead of car horns. Hosting species uncommon in other parts of the world, the Sydney Zoo enchants viewers with close-up sights of kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas. As you explore the detailed habitats, you almost forget that this Australian safari lies within the confines of a bustling harbor.
From Bungalows to Beaches
Sydney isn’t all skyscrapers and subway stops; when you get to the bay just outside the city infrastructure, the city image seems to melt away in the gleam of the Pacific Ocean. In this dreamy locale, aboriginal performers line the cobblestone streets playing traditional music of their culture. The air swells with growling bellows of didgeridoos and the mesmeric rhythms of clapping sticks (traditional instruments of the indigenous people) to the delight of listeners.
This scene ebbs into The Rocks, a charming precinct filled with markets, vendors, and cafés. According to Bradshaw, a trip to Sydney is hardly complete without breakfast (“or lunch, dinner, dessert, whatever,” she jokes) at Pancakes on the Rocks, where the restaurant’s alluring scents and decadent flavors are legendary.
But if you are craving a more organic experience outside the city, Sydney has even more to offer. Bradshaw declares that the ocean walk connecting Bondi Beach around to Coogee Beach is a breath of fresh air. “The colors are incredible. There’s a new beach around every corner; you feel like you’ve discovered a hidden pirate-treasure cove each time,” says Bradshaw. In fact, the beaches along the ocean are so devoid of people that it is rare to see anyone other than local surfers.
For more shopping-friendly beaches, be sure to check out Manly Beach to the north of Sydney; it is filled with vendors eager to help you spend your extra change.
Sydney highlights the glitz of high-style urban living alongside the scenic charisma of the Australian outback. It maintains Australia’s earthy culture in the midst of its modernized atmosphere and contemporary flair. You can feel the essence of life here.
As the city breathes in the ocean breezes and flourishes under the sheen of the city lights, you suddenly feel like you’ve experienced some of the best the world has to offer.
Photography by Katie Macdonald