Emirates flights to Sydney arrive at Sydney Airport, situated on the edge of Botany Bay. Fittingly, this is the site of English sailor James Cook’s first landfall in Australia; modern visitors to Sydney start their voyage of discovery from the same spot as the renowned explorer.
From its penal colony origins, Sydney has come a long way, and it is now Australia’s largest city and its financial and entertainment capital. Thanks to its multicultural population, Sydney is also one of the world’s few truly global cities.
Sydney is perhaps the most recognizable destination in Australia, hosting the majority of the country’s iconic landmarks, particularly the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, but also offering access to all the quintessentially “Australian” activities, either in the city or within a few hours’ drive.
Unique to Sydney, and astonishingly beautiful, Sydney Harbour is one of the most remarkable places in the world. The opera house and bridge are only the start of it; for the best view of the harbor, book a boat tour, or just take a ferry out to Manly or another suburb—without doubt one of the most picturesque commuter journeys in the world.
Sydney Harbour stretches over more than 50 square kilometers of water, with 240 kilometers of coastline encrusted with lush vegetation and dotted with coves and harbors, often filled with luxury yachts. Overlooking the water are dozens of upmarket homes, including properties belonging to Australia’s great and good. Whatever else you do after your flight to Sydney, make time for the harbor.
At the top of many tourists’ lists after their flights to Sydney is hitting the beach and possibly trying their hand at a bit of water sports—particularly surfing. Sydney is well served with excellent beaches, from the legendary Bondi and its colorful characters (and hordes of sun-seeking tourists) to Manly beach with its surrounding resort across the harbor and Coogee in the trendy eastern suburbs.
The city has a total of 150 beaches, and away from the famous sandy hot spots are quiet coves and hidden gems of beaches, often frequented only by locals, if at all.
Visitors looking for a beach experience away from the crowds can seek out Lady Martins Beach in Felix Bay or the stunning views from Milk Beach at Vaucluse. The truly adventurous could try and find Store Beach at Manly, accessible only by kayak from Manly Harbour.
Beyond the (admittedly delicious) cliché of the “barbie on the beach,” Sydney is one of the very best places in the world to get a decent meal. Every variety of global cuisine is well represented here, from Chinese to Thai to Indian and Italian and back again. While it is possible to get traditional favorites, some of the best offerings are fusion food—a blend of cuisines from different cultures.
Dining options range from family-run eateries hidden in the suburbs to upmarket restaurants on the waterfront at Circular Quay. While some of the latter may in theory be “world class”—and will certainly be priced as if they are—the very best meals are likely to be found in some of the more out-of-the-way places. Check out local guides and listings magazines for hints.
After-dinner entertainment is plentiful, from chilled-out bars on Sydney’s waterfronts to lively and sometimes wild clubs around Oxford Street and King’s Cross. Sydneysiders know how to party—and frequently do.
To the west of Sydney are the Blue Mountains, a favorite destination for hikers and explorers. These rolling hills are covered in forests wreathed in haze, giving them a bluish tinge, and hence the name.
Nature lovers can experience everything from a day-trip by car—or helicopter, for the well-heeled—to a week-long expedition. The Blue Mountains are well served with places to stay, including Wolgan Valley, Emirates' eco-friendly, carbon-neutral luxury resort. Sydney’s state of New South Wales is Australia’s oldest wine-producing region, and many of the country’s most well-known vineyards are within easy reach of the city. Head north to Hunter Valley or northeast to Mudgee for a taste of Australia’s booming wine industry, as well as a taste of the wine itself.