Go down under in Sydney, Australia

By Farazila Abu & Justin Ayars, JD

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Sydney, Australia is famous for its magnificent beaches, top-notch tourist attractions, thriving gay community and two world-class landmark structures, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sydney is built around its huge harbor, where most of the main attractions and the city center are located at the southern shore. It’s a beautiful city where you’ll find no shortage of exciting activities, friendly locals and plenty of eye candy!

The Harbour Bridge
The Harbour Bridge, which was built during the Great Depression, is the widest single span bridge in the world. Today, the Harbour Bridge is the major link between Sydney’s southern and northern suburbs. At the Pylon Lookout Museum, located at the bridge’s southeastern pylon, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the harbour and city from its viewing platform. Alternatively, you can book a 3.5-hour climb to the bridge summit and enjoy priceless views from the top of the bridge.

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Sydney Aquarium
Located at Darling Harbour, Sydney Aquarium presents a fascinating view of the underwater world which includes over 12,000 aquatic animals from 650 species, saltwater crocodiles and giant sea turtles. Sydney Aquarium showcases the world’s largest Great Barrier Reef exhibit and amazing underwater viewing tunnels with sharks and stingrays swimming above your head! If you have kids, they’ll love the touch pool and the marine mammal sanctuary. If you’re trying to find Nemo, this is the place to be!

Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House, which opened in 1973, is the city’s most famous (and most photographed) landmark. In 2007, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, placing it alongside the Taj Mahal, the ancient Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China as one of the most outstanding places on Earth. Designed by Danish architect, JØrn Utzon, the construction of the opera house was so arduous and troubling that the building’s completion was considered nothing short of miraculous. Visitors can enjoy guided one-hour tours every day between 9am and 5pm. For a special treat, book a two-hour backstage tour, which begins daily at 7am and includes breakfast/

The Rocks
The Rocks is Sydney’s most historic district, the birthplace of modern Australia and is one of the city’s most popular destinations. Years ago, The Rocks served as Sydney’s main port with warehouses lining the waterfront, backed by hotels, banks, offices, merchant shops and brothels. Today, The Rocks has transformed into a hot spot of quaint boutiques, restaurants and cafés. This district gets really crowded on Saturday nights.

Sydney Tower
The best way to enjoy breathtaking views of Sydney is to visit the top of Sydney Tower. This 1,000-foot golden turret-topped spike is Sydney’s tallest building and the view from its indoor observation deck covers the entire city. On clear days, you can see the Blue Mountains, which are more than 30 miles northwest of the city. There are two restaurants in the Sydney Tower’s turret, which boast delicious food and artisan cocktails.

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Sydney’s Beaches
There are more than 30 ocean beaches within Sydney, all with rolling surf and golden sand. If you prefer calmer waters, there are several more around the harbor. Of all the Sydney beaches, Bondi Beach is the most famous (and the most crowded) with surfers, sunbathers and bronzed muscle gods playing volleyball— actually, it’s more of a speedo modeling competition (not that I’m complaining). Coogee Beach is more relaxed with calmer waters, a grassy headland overlooking the beach and an excellent children’s playground. However, for a truly special beach experience that’s more popular with the locals, take a 30-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly Beach on the northern side of the harbour. Once there, stroll along The Corso (a pedestrian-only street lined with bars, cafés and shops filled with indigenous art), enjoy killer surfing and take in unique sights along The Cabbage Tree Bay Eco-Sculpture Walk all the way to Shelly Beach (which offers incredible snorkeling).

Gay Sydney
Sydney is a thriving gay metropolis. Its huge Asian and Latino immigrant populations make it one of the most multicultural cities in the world. In this city of 4 million people, gay life is centered around Oxford Street in the Darlinghurst neighborhood on the eastern side of town. This area is lined with pulsating clubs (like Arq), restaurants and pubs. Oxford Street is also the main drag for the annual, world-famous Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in late February-early March. You won’t want to miss this the pageantry of this Pride celebration! Aussies are naturally friendly and know how to party, so be prepared for a good time (and bring plenty of aspirin). Don’t forget that because Sydney is below the equator, their seasons are reversed. That means February is the middle of summer, so pack appropriately! Also, given Sydney’s great distance from Virginia (14 time zones!), be ready to experience some serious jetlag. Fancy a fabulous, far-flung frolic? Take a walkabout to the land down under!