West of Sydney, across the coastal plain, is the Great Dividing Range of Australia and the famous Blue Mountains. Listed as a world heritage site, the Blue Mountains are a stunning visual experience with rugged tablelands, sheer cliffs, deep inaccessible valleys, rivers and lakes. Scenic lookouts abound with such highlights as views of the Jamieson Valley, called Australia's Grand Canyon, and the famous Three Sisters. Hundreds of varieties of plants and animals inhabit the area, many of which don't exist anywhere else in the world. Visitors can engage in a wide variety of activities from bush walking, to exploring the limestone caverns of Jenolan Caves, to exploring the peaceful townships in the area. Numerous day tours that depart from downtown Sydney are available, a listing of which is available here.
For wine lovers, a trip to Sydney is not complete without a visit to the world-class wineries of the Hunter Valley. Dozens of wineries and breweries as well as cafes and restaurants are dotted across the valley. Spend a day tasting the wares of the various wineries and breweries, indulge in a good meal, or just enjoy the beautiful valley setting. More information on Hunter Valley, including information on tours, is available here. See also sydneyboutiquewinetours.com.au.
Sydney is home to several beautiful beaches but the most famous is Bondi. Located south of the city center, Bondi Beach is about one kilometer long and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sydney. Take a swim in the life guard patrolled areas, go surfing (or learn to surf if you don't know how), relax on the sand and try to spot dolphins and whales swimming in the distance, take in the scenery on a coastal walk, or enjoy the many popular cafes and restaurants with views of the beach. Water temperature in June is about 18-20 degrees. More information about the numerous activities available at Bondi can be found here.
Australia is known for its unique wildlife and no trip to Australia could be complete without taking the time to see kangaroos, koalas, emus, and some of the countless other species that inhabit the continent. Fortunately Sydney offers several great zoos where you can see and learn about these animals.
Wildlife Sydney, located in Darling Harbour, is a zoo that features only wildlife that can be found in Australia. Walk through an outdoor recreation of the Outback and see kangaroos and emus, enjoy a stroll through a recreation of eucalyptus forest and see koalas and for an extra fee you can even get your picture taken cuddling with a real koala. Wildlife Sydney also is home to a giant saltwater crocodile, numerous other reptiles, and many more Australian creatures.
Located near Wildlife Sydney, the Sydney Aquarium offers you a chance to see some of the creatures that live in waters of Australia. Having just completed a nine-month, $10 million overhaul, the aquarium features over 70 exhibits containing 700 different species and 13,000 animals including penguins, dugongs, and the iconic platypus. The Sydney Aquarium also is home to the world's largest variety of sharks and rays, housed in a tank that features an ocean tunnel walkthrough that lets you get a unique perspective on these impressive creatures.
Across the harbour, the Taronga Zoo is a more traditional zoo, with both native Australian animals and animals from all over the world. Tours are available that give you an in-depth look at the various unique Australian animals and how they are cared for. Ferries to the zoo depart from Circular Quay, offering you a nice view of the harbour as you journey to the north shore.
Those interested in up close encounters with Australian animals should head to Featherdale Wildlife Park, located about 45 minutes from the center of Sydney. Visitors can had feed a kangaroo, wallaby, or emu, or experience a face-to-face encounter with a koala. Many other Australian animals are also on display in a natural bush setting. Despite being located outside of the center of the city, Featherdale is easily accessed via car or public transport.
When most people think of Sydney, the first thing that comes to mind is the world famous Sydney Opera House. Commissioned over 50 years ago, the Sydney Opera House pushed the boundaries of architecture and construction techniques and put Sydney on the world map. A trip to see the Opera House is a must and while it is visually stunning from the outside, a tour of the Opera house helps one to gain a full appreciation of the building and just how cutting edge it truly was. For people wanting to experience the large concert hall in all its glory, tickets for classical music is the way to go. Operas are usually performed in the smaller opera theater while plays are often performed in the smaller theaters in the basement. Combine a visit to the Opera House with a trip to the nearby Botanical Gardens.
Circular Quay and The Rocks
Located at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Rocks is the oldest area of Sydney. Full of pubs and shops, The Rocks is a popular spot for tourists and one cannot help but feel transported back in time as you stroll the winding cobblestone streets past buildings that date back to the very founding of Sydney. Pub crawls and walking tours are available, allowing people to experience the culture of The Rocks and to learn about its history. Circular Quay is adjacent to the Rocks and can easily be toured on foot in the same day. A day out could include a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Sydney Observatory, a glimpse of the Argyle Cut, upmarket shopping at the DFS Galleria and the Weekend Rocks Markets 10am - 5pm and the adjacent cultural precinct of Walsh Bay.
After the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge is probably Sydney's next most recognized landmark, affectionately called the 'Coathanger' by locals. In addition to providing a popular target for photographs, the bridge also offers a spectacular vantage point to see Sydney and the harbour. The Harbour Bridge climb provides the opportunity to climb to the top of the bridge and enjoy the breathtaking view from over 130 meters above sea level. . To walk over the bridge for free or visit the Pylon Lookout there is a pedestrian pathway on the east side of the Bridge from the city side (use the Bridge Stairs in Cumberland Street, The Rocks - or ask at the Rocks Visitors Centre for directions). If you are coming from the north of the harbour use the steps near Milsons Point Railway Station
The waters around Sydney are popular with whales and dolphins during the time of the conference. While you can see whales and dolphins from many spots along Sydney's coast, you get a much better, and closer, view on a whale watching cruise. In addition to getting a chance to see these majestic creatures in their natural environment, whale watching cruises offer a great way to see the harbour and the Pacific coast. There are several companies that offer whale watching cruises, two possible options can be found here and here but a quick good search can turn up several other options worth looking into to see what best fits for you.
Darling Harbour and Chinatown
Located only a few minutes from the conference hotel, Darling Harbour and Chinatown are two of the most vibrant areas of Sydney. There are many things to see and do here including: the Australian Maritime Museum (free children's activities daily), the Powerhouse Museum, the Star City Casino complex, Pyrmont Bridge, the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World, Madame Tussauds, Paddys Market, Dixon Street Dining Precinct, the Spanish Quarter Dining Precinct, trendy Japanese and Korean fashion boutiques, IMAX and the tranquil Chinese Garden. There are excellent pub and dining facilities at King Street Wharf and Cockle Bay.
Tourists can easily spend a day just exploring this area which includes the Museum of Sydney, the Art Gallery of NSW, St Mary's Cathedral, the State Theatre, the Town Hall, Martin Place, the Strand Arcade, Sydney Westfield and the Queen Victoria Building. Also one may visit nearby Hyde Park, the Hyde Park Barracks, the Australian Museum and the Anzac Memorial. The Macquarie Street precinct is also recommended.