A brief guide to Sydney

Information for overseas nurses wishing to work in Australia.


Sexy, sultry Sydney is a gold-medal city that glitters with sun-drenched attitude and seduces with beaches and bodies beautiful. Her Olympic-sized heart charmed the socks off the world during the 2000 Games and continues to beat with passion and pride. She is Australia’s premier city, the oldest settlement in Australia, the economic powerhouse of the nation and the country’s capital in everything but name. Built on the shores of stunning Port Jackson, you would have to die and go to heaven before you see a more spectacular setting for a city. It’s a vital, self-regarding metropolis, exuding both a devil-may-care urbanity and a slavish obsession with global fads.

Despite its brutal European beginnings as a British penal colony, the city’s mixture of pragmatic egalitarianism and plain indifference has transformed it into a thriving multicultural society with an out-and-proud gay community. The Sydney area was originally the ancestral home of the Eora tribe, and evidence of its original Aboriginal inhabitants survives in some 2000 rock engravings and suburb names.Population: 4.2 millionCountry: AustraliaTime Zone: GMT/UTC +10Telephone Contry Code: +61Telephone Area Code: 02


Sydney wasn’t a planned city and its layout is further complicated by its hills and the numerous inlets of the harbour, the focal point of the city. The centre of Sydney is on the south shore of the harbour, about 7km (4mi) inland from the harbour heads. Skyscrapers in the Central Business District (CBD) vie for dominance and harbour views, but the city’s relentlessness is softened by shady Hyde Park and The Domain parkland to the east, Darling Harbour to the west and the main harbour to the north. The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the harbour tunnel link the city centre with the satellite CBD of North Sydney and the suburbs of the North Shore. The city’s airport, Kingsford Smith (otherwise known as Mascot), is about 9km (6mi) south of the city centre. Central station, Sydney’s main train station, is in the south of the city centre, and the main bus terminal is just outside it.

Kings Cross is the city’s budget accommodation centre and has a well-developed travellers grapevine. The less stressful alternatives are Glebe, Bondi Beach and Manly. The international hotels are concentrated in the city and the Rocks. There are heaps of good restaurants in Darlinghurst, Kings Cross, Paddington and Glebe, and a few around Circular Quay. For cafes, try Oxford and Victoria Sts in Darlinghurst, Stanley St in East Sydney, King St in Newtown or Norton St in Leichhardt. Sydney’s theatres are scattered around the edge of the CBD, the Opera House is on the edge of Circular Quay, the mainstream cinema complexes are on the ugly neon strip of George St. The best nightlife is centred on Oxford St and in Kings Cross. The Rocks are a touristy area, and Oxford St is the heart of Sydney’s gay and lesbian community.

[source : Lonely Planet © lonely planet 2003]

Getting There & Away

Most visitors to Sydney arrive at Kingsford Smith airport, about 9km (6mi) south of the city centre. Airfares to Australia are expensive – it’s a long way from anywhere and flights are often heavily booked – and include a departure tax of US$22 and a noise tax of US$2. On the upside, you can get to Australia from just about anywhere. Australia’s domestic airlines offer discount flight passes which can be used once you’re in the country – if you’ve only got a short time here, it’s worth flying, because Australia’s a mighty big place. Airport Link trains run from city train stations to domestic and international terminals. Airport Express buses run to Central Station, Circular Quay and Kings Cross; the Kingsford Smith Transport/Airporter runs between the airport and central city hotels and the Manly Airport Bus goes to Manly. A taxi to Central station costs US$12-15; to Circular Quay US$15-18.All the major bus lines run services into and out of Sydney. Most lines offer discounts for students, and Greyhound Pioneer/McCafferty’s has a good bus pass deal. There are also a number of specialised bus tours running out of Sydney. Interstate and regional trains run from Central station, and will take you to most other capitals, as well as cities and towns throughout NSW. Major roads from Sydney go north to Newcastle, west to the Blue Mountains, south to Melbourne and Canberra and down the south coast to Wollongong.

[source : Lonely Planet © 2003]

Getting Around

Trains, buses and ferries are generally convenient, reliable and good value, and there are a number of good travel pass deals. Sydney’s underground city centre train loop is the fastest way of getting around, but not exactly the most scenic. There are some gaps in the train network, notably the coast on the south shore and all of the north shore east of the Harbour Bridge. The bus network is extensive, but can be slow. There are plenty of fare deals and several hop-on, hop-off buses specifically designed for visitors who hate walking or for those who have no sense of direction.The most pleasant way to get around is by ferry; a trip on the Manly ferry is the best way to experience the harbour if you can’t charm someone into taking you sailing. The monorail is an elevated toy train that shuttles uselessly between the city and Darling Harbour. Sydneysiders either love its sub-Bladerunner futurism or think it’s a godawful eyesore, depending on their aesthetic bent. Confusing one-way streets and hellish parking make driving a nightmare in central Sydney – take a taxi instead; they’re plentiful and easily flagged down.

[source : Lonely Planet © 2003]

Seasons & weather

The best times to visit are the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn, especially around March-April or October-November. These seasons are a delight, with clear, warm days and mild nights. Sydney is blessed with a temperate climate and averages summer temperatures of around 25°C (77°F). It can get up to 40°C (104°F) on a hot day and high humidity can make it oppressive, but torrential downpours often break the heat between October and March. Winters are cool rather than cold. Beach lovers unperturbed by the hazards of lizard-skin and melanomas should come between December and February.

[source : Lonely Planet © 2003]


Sydney Harbour

The harbour is the defining characteristic of the city. Criss-crossed by ferries and carpeted with yachts on weekends, it is both the city playground and a major port. Its multiple sandstone headlands, dramatic cliffs, rocky islands and stunning bays and beaches make it one of the most beautiful stretches of water in the world, and offer a close-up of Aussie beach culture at its best. Officially called Port Jackson, the harbour stretches some 20km (12mi) inland to join the mouth of the Parramatta River. The most scenic area is on the ocean side of the bridge. The Sydney Harbour National Park protects the scattered pockets of bushland around the harbour and offers good walking tracks. The best way to experience the harbour is to go sailing, but if you’re lacking nautical skills there are plenty of ways to enjoy it. Try catching the Manly ferry, swimming at Nielsen Park, walking from Manly to Spit Bridge, having a drink at Watsons Bay, dining with a view at Milsons Point, Balmoral or Circular Quay, or cruising to the heads on the Bounty.

[source : Lonely Planet © 2003]

The Rocks

The Rocks is the oldest, quaintest part of Sydney, named for the prominent outcrops of sandstone on its hillside locale. Today it is unrecognisable from the squalid, overcrowded and plague-ridden place it used to be. Reinvented by visionaries in the building industry and the trade union movement in the 1970s, The Rocks is now a sanitised, historical tourist precinct, full of cobbled streets, colonial buildings and stuffed koalas. If you ignore the kitsch, a stroll around The Rocks can be delightful. Attractions include the weekend market, the Sydney Observatory, and numerous craft shops and art galleries.But it’s the old buildings, alleyways and historic facades that attract most visitors. Try exploring the less developed areas in the contiguous suburb of Millers Point, which has not sacrificed its community life to the tourist dollar. Check out the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel and The Hero of Waterloo, two of Sydney’s oldest pubs.

Circular Quay

Circular Quay is built around Sydney Cove and is considered by many to be the focal point of the city. The first European settlement in Australia grew around the Tank Stream which now runs underground into the harbour here. For many years this was the shipping centre of Sydney, but it’s now both a commuting hub and a recreational space, combining ferry quays, a railway station and the Overseas Passenger Terminal with harbour walkways, restaurants, buskers, parks, the Museum of Contemporary Art and, of course, the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Opera House

Australia’s most recognisable icon is dramatically situated on the eastern headland of Circular Quay. It’s famous sail- and shell-like roofs were inspired by palm fronds, according to architect Jørn Utzon, but may remind you of turtles engaging in sexual congress. The Opera House is so unique that it has been photographed a zillion times, appears on an army of cheap T-shirts, every other Sydney postcard and decorates the frames of Dame Edna’s dramatic glasses. It was built between 1959 and 1973, but plagued with construction delays and political difficulties which culminated in the resignation of Utzon in 1966. Although some visitors are disappointed by the interior, designed by a consortium of Australians after Utzon quit, it’s a truly memorable place to see a performance or to sit at one of its outdoor cafes with a bottle of white wine and watch harbour life go by. The Opera House hosts theatre, classical music, ballet and film, as well as the seasonal opera performances. There is also a venue called The Studio, which stages contemporary arts events. There is free music on the prow of the Opera House on weekends and a craft market on the forecourt on Sunday.

Macquarie St

Sydney’s greatest concentration of early public buildings grace Macquarie St, many of them commissioned by Governor Macquarie and designed by the convict architect Francis Greenway. The most impressive are the elegant, two-storey, verandaed Parliament House, Sydney Hospital, the Mint Building, the exquisite Hyde Park Barracks, St James Church and the voluminous State Library. The Barracks and the Mint are now museums, the library hosts exhibitions and there are tours of both the hospital and Parliament House. Macquarie St is the eastern boundary of the Central Business District and borders The Domain and the Royal Botanic Gardens. It runs from Hyde Park to Circular Quay.

The Domain, Art Gallery & Royal Botanic Gardens

The Domain is a large grassy area east of Macquarie St which was set aside by Governor Phillip for public recreation. Today it is used by city workers for lunchtime sports and as a place to escape the bustle of the city. On Sunday afternoons, it’s the gathering place for impassioned soapbox speakers, who do their best to entertain or enrage their listeners. It is also the venue for free events held during the Sydney Festival in January and the popular Carols by Candlelight at Christmas. The Art Gallery of New South Wales is in the northeast corner of The Domain. It has excellent permanent exhibitions of Australian, European, Japanese and tribal art, and has some inspired temporary exhibits.The Royal Botanic Gardens encompass Farm Cove, the first bay east of Circular Quay, and include the site of the colony’s first vegetable patch. They contain a magnificent collection of South Pacific plant life, tropical displays in the Arc and Pyramid glasshouses, and a beautiful, old-fashioned formal rose garden. The spectacularly located gardens are a favoured spot for family picnics and wedding photographs.

Darling Harbour

This huge waterfront tourist and leisure park comprises walkways, gardens, museums, an aquarium, convention centre, casino, eateries and shops. It was once a thriving dockland area, but it declined to the level of an urban eyesore before being reinvented as Darling Harbour in the 1980s by a combination of vision, planning, politicking, forbearance and huge amounts of cash. The emphasis is on casual fun and enjoyment of the kind appreciated by families with small children and coach tourists. The highlights are the Sydney Aquarium, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the water sculpture, the Chinese Garden, the massive IMAX Theatre, and the nearby Powerhouse Museum, Sydney’s most spectacular museum.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach is the grand dame of Sydney’s beaches with a magnificent sweep of sand and a ever-ending series of majestic rollers crashing into the shallows. The suburb of Bondi Beach is an eclectic mix of ice-cream parlours, designer cafes, greasy fish and chip joints, kosher shops and surf fashion stores. The seafront promenade and pavilion have been given a welcome facelift; you can also access Aboriginal rock engravings a short walk north of Bondi Beach.

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park covers 150 sq km (60 sq mi) of sandstone bushland at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River, 24km (15mi) north of Sydney. The park has over 100km (62mi) of shoreline, plenty of forest and wildlife, a number of walking tracks and some magnificent Aboriginal rock art. Elevated parts of the park offer superb views across Pittwater towards the northernmost suburbs of Sydney.

Royal National Park

The Royal National Park, 30km (19mi) south of city, is the oldest gazetted national park in the world. The sea of low scrub, which covered the sandstone plateau in the north of the park, was devastated by the 1994 bushfires, but the forested river valleys and the beaches were unscathed. The park is dissected by the Hacking River and there are riverside picnic and boat iring facilities at Audley. There’s a spectacular 26km (16mi) coastal track stretching the length of the park, which is accessible from Bundeena. It passes the lovely lagoon beach at Wattamolla, and the popular surfing spot at Garie Beach. The best views are from the southern boundary of the park overlooking Bulli from the edge of the Illawarra escarpment.


Sydney’s sunshine, parks and can-do attitude add up to plenty of ways to get the heart-rate up. The harbour offers sailing, canoeing, and windsurfing opportunities. Spit Bridge and Balmoral are the best places to hire equipment. Good surf beaches include Bondi and Tamarama on the south shore and Narrabeen, North Avalon and Palm Beach on the north shore. Manly is the centre of Sydney’s diving scene. The harbour beaches at Camp Cove, Nielsen Park, Balmoral and Chinaman’s Beach offer picturesque swimming, but no waves. If you want to go bodysurfing, head for Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte on the south shore, and just about any of the beaches lining the 30km (19mi) stretch of coast from Manly to Palm Beach on the north shore. Or try one of the 100 public swimming pools; the Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton is deservedly famous.There are plenty of coastal bushwalks in the Royal National, Ku-ring-gai Chase and Sydney Harbour national parks. The 8km (5mi) Manly Scenic Walkway follows the harbour from the north shore beachside suburb to Spit Bridge on Middle Harbour. Another spectacular but uch shorter walk is along the cliffs from Bronte to Bondi Beach. You can hire horses to ride in Centennial Park, the large park between Paddington and Bondi. The park vies with Bondi and Manly promenades as the favourite jogging and inline skating spot. There are also over 80 golf courses in Sydney, and plenty of tennis courts for hire.

[source : Lonely Planet © 2003]


Because Australia is one of the oldest land masses on the globe, the pre-homosapien history is a bit vague and woolly. What appears certain is that the first humans came from across the sea, between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago, from Southeast Asia. These nomadic tribes spread across the continent, following fairly prescribed tribal paths. Around what is now Sydney there were three main tribes – the Ku-ring-gai, the Dharawal and the Dharug – who, although sharing some dialects and traditions, all possessed their own unique language, rituals and stories, and occupied different nomadic paths that only occasionally overlapped. Indigenous Australians were the first to make polished, edge-ground, stone tools, to cremate their dead and to engrave and paint representations of themselves and animals. They have a sophisticated culture that integrates religion, history, law, art and codes of behaviour into complex ceremonies.The arrival of the British First Fleet in the 18th century made a significant impact on the Aboriginal communities. The Aboriginal people’s egalitarian social structure hampered their attempts at resistance to the new settlers, and the British refused to recognise their legal rights to the land. Sydney’s Aboriginal residents were either driven away by force, murdered by the settlers or killed by unfamiliar diseases. The fleet, which landed at Botany Bay in January 1788 on the recommendation of Captain Cook, who had visited in 1770, carried 730 male and female convicts from Britain’s overcrowded jails as well as an assortment of military personnel under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip. The settlers eventually established themselves at Sydney Cove, north of the bay, and this is where the city of Sydney grew.Over the next few years the second and third fleets showed up, despite the fact that the new settlement was on the brink of starvation for most of its first 15 years. In the last decade of the 18th century there was a huge influx of military settlers, the ‘Rum Corps’, into the settlement – rum became Sydney’s main currency and the military, rather than the governors, ran the joint. In 1813 the Blue Mountains, which had previously hemmed in the town, were broached by explorers, and Sydney was linked with the western plains of NSW. When gold was discovered in Victoria and to Sydney’s west in the 1850s, settlers poured out of the town in search of wealth and Sydney’s importance diminished dramatically.Australia’s states federated on 1 January 1901 – New South Wales became a state of Australia, and Sydney became NSW’s capital. Australia went to war in support of Britain in 1914, and the economy boomed until the late ’20s, when the Great Depression hit – in 1931 around a third of Sydney’s workforce was unemployed. But in 1932 wool prices rose, the city’s building industry took off and Sydney once more became the most special city in Australia. The Harbour Bridge was also opened in 1932. There was quite a kerfuffle at the opening of the bridge, when a sword-wielding chappie by the name of de Groot stole the limelight from NSW premier Jack Lang by slashing the opening ribbon before the premier could give it the official chop.Sydney suffered little during WWII, although several Japanese midget subs were captured in the harbour. After the war, European immigrants flooded into the city, and Sydney spread rapidly westwards, gaining a bunch of pizza places in the process. It also picked up one of its most famous landmarks – in 1957 architect Jørn Utzon won a competition to design the Sydney Opera House. In 1966, before the completion of the Opera House, Utzon resigned in frustration at compromises to his plan. Another architectural team took over, and the Opera House was opened in 1973.During the Vietnam war, Sydney became a major R&R stopover for US GIs, and the city started tasting of Coke and burgers, while King’s Cross developed a fine line in sleazy entertainment for the visiting lads (a speciality it maintains to this day). Throughout the ’70s, NSW went against the national trend and voted Labor, and longstanding premier Neville Wran oversaw much of Sydney’s building boom. The Bicentennial celebrations in 1988 and the massive Darling Harbour redevelopment project boosted the city’s morale, and today the economy is doing reasonably well, though unemployment remains high.After winning the bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games, Sydney poured vast amounts of money into renovating and prettying itself up. Though the Games were declared the ‘best ever’ by IOC head opportunist, Juan Antonio Samaranch, and the follow-on Paralympics were well patronised, visitor numbers were well down on early estimates and changes to Sydney’s infrastructure haven’t necessarily improved the lot of those impoverished locals who couldn’t afford a ticket to the synchronised swimming. It will be some time before the final ledger decides whether the city ended in the black or red – history favours the latter – but at least the city gained a few much-needed roundabouts and overpasses and an excess of darling little bijou wine bars that aren’t really needed at all.

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