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SYDNEY AUSTRALIA STOPOVER

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If you're stopping in Sydney, at the end of a tour or cruise, consider spending a couple days sampling the diverse attractions that helped this southeastern Australian city.

Portrait artist. The Rocks.
Portrait artist. The Rocks.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Start your visit at The Rocks, where Australia's first white settlement began, over 200 years ago, with a shipload of convicts from England. Taverns, brothels, gaming houses, sailors and thugs occupied the area until the plague and fires destroyed most of it in the early 1900s.

Restoration began in 1970 and, today, The Rocks is a fascinating melange of colonial buildings, art galleries, craft shops and restaurants.

Boomerangs

Take a one-hour walking tour past homes with wrought iron balconies, Cadman's Cottage, Sydney's oldest dwelling (built in 1816) and the Argyle Center. This convict-built warehouse, with massive wooden doors and a cobblestone courtyard, houses artists and craftsmen and a great selection of souvenirs.

Koala, Taronga Zoo.
Koala, Taronga Zoo.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

You could easily spend hours here, shopping for opals, sheepskin rugs, Aboriginal bark paintings, boomerangs, bush hats and even perfume made from Australian wild flowers!

Koalas

A trip to Sydney without a harbor tour is like a visit to Venice without a gondola ride. You can also take a ferry to the Taronga Zoo. Be sure to see the koalas and kangaroos as well as the duckbilled platypus swimming in its glass-enclosed pool.

From the water, the Opera House looks like a giant bird about to take off. The Opera House is to Sydney what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. Stroll around its sail-like roofs, tour the theaters, listen to a free concert and in the open-air restaurant as the ships and seagulls glide by.

No visit to Sydney is complete without a stop at the Royal Botanic Gardens. This is the site where the first colonists grew a few vegetables. Today, it encompasses tranquil parkland, Australian rainforest trees and a pyramid-shaped glass house filled with palms, ferns and orchids.

Museums

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

A wealth of natural history can be viewed at the Australian Museum. Its galleries display minerals, skeletons, Australian birds and animals as well as Aboriginal baskets, boomerangs and dugout canoes. The Gift Shop sells geodes, Aboriginal art and jewelry made from semiprecious stones.

Admission is free at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Although the museum has good displays of European and Asian art, its tribal art collection of Aboriginal bark paintings and wooden figures, costumes and masks from New Guinea and Melanesia should not be missed.

The Powerhouse Museum contains interactive science exhibits.

If time permits, visit the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Sydney Aquarium or, if you're adventurous, take a guided climb to the top of The Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sydney Tower
Sydney Tower
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Shopping

If you're in Sydney on a weekend, visit Paddy's Markets at Flemington and Haymarket. More than 1,000 stalls cater to bargain hunters with everything from art to zippers. Otherwise, you may also want to spend some time shopping in the Strand Arcade.

Centerpoint, a complex of designer boutiques, department stores and cafés, rests at the base of the Sydney Tower. Take the elevator to the 825-foot-high observation deck for a spectacular 360° overview of Sydney.

If you can extend your trip even longer, there's much more to see. At Parliament House, you can watch the action from free seats in the gallery, when it's in session. Chinatown offers Buddhist temples and colorful shops displaying lichees and barbecued ducklings.

You can travel from one attraction to another by cab, local buses and the subway. The easiest and least expensive way to see most of the sights is on the Explorer Bus. For one fee, you can ride these red Mercedes buses, getting on and off at any of the stops. Buy your pass on the bus at any stop.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Tourism Australia: www.australia.com

More things to do in Australia:

Tjapukai Cultural Park

What to do in South Australia

Outback Cuisine

Australia Food and Wine Tours