• From facing your fear of vertigo atop theSydney Harbour Bridge to shopping on thecobblestone streets of The Rocks district,there is something for everyone in thecapital of New South Wales

    If you dream of falling in love with a single city somewhere in the world, Australia's Sydney will be a contender. From her natural beauty and recognisable landmarks to world-class restaurants and cultural activities, this Down Under destination has it all.

    Some may perceive it as a ‘trip of a lifetime’ and they would be right. I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know The Harbour City over a couple of weeks and I can certainly tell you that it was worth every moment.

    THE BUCKET LIST ITEMS

    THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

    There are lots of items that come to mind when you think about Sydney. Koalas, kangaroos, boomerangs, and a certain size of ‘what a knife really is’ are to name just a few. But more than likely the Sydney Opera House is right there at the top of your list.

    Looking like a giant origami sailboat on the edge of the harbour, this landmark is oneof-a-kind. I highly recommend taking one of the backstage tours to see what makes the opera house tick. I was astonished by the amount of trivia Colin, our tour guide, had on the iconic structure when it came to life at sea and the love of ships that the Danish designer, Jørn Utzon, has woven into almost every aspect of the building.

    The venue has more than forty shows a week in its various halls so there is something for everybody. If you’re more of a foodie, you can wine and dine your way around the restaurants and watering holes with the Taste of the Opera House experience. It is truly a place to ‘take in a spectacular horizon, and then broaden your own’.

    SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE CLIMB

    Whether you’re an adventure seeker or not, climbing to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge will be a bucket list item that cannot be passed on. The ticket offce is located on the south side of the bridge, on the east side of the expressway and I highly recommend booking in advance.

    Everybody is outftted with all of the necessary gear and equipment that they’ll need for the climb based on the weather and their safety specifcations. You’re not allowed to take anything with you except for your shoes and a pair of sunglasses, but lockers are available for safe storage until you return.

    After you’re suited and booted, there is a safety briefng and a small simulator that each participant is required to climb to get accustomed to the sometimes cramped quarters and steep ladders that will be encountered during the three-and-ahalf-hour climb to the summit and back. Once at the top, there is an unprecedented 360-degree view of Sydney Harbour and the only thought that I had at that moment was, “It looked taller from the ground.”

    HANGIN’ WITH THE LOCALS

    FEATHERDALE WILDLIFE PARK

    Undoubtedly, when you’re in Sydney you will have to check out the koalas and the kangaroos. While we did come across some wild kangaroos while sampling the many vintages through the countryside, it was far better seeing them up close.

    Featherdale Wildlife Park is one of the premiere parks in the area alongside Taronga Zoo. I found that the park was a better afternoon out, simply because you could get closer to the animals, it was about 15 dollars cheaper, plus it specialised in native species that ranged from birds and reptiles to all kinds of marsupials.

    The koala experience is something that I do highly recommend. Although the laws of New South Wales don’t allow you to touch them, you can get right up next to one and have your photo taken at the designated Koala Encounter location.

    Other encounters include getting up close and personal with a dingo, a range of reptiles or mammals, and owls. Some can be booked as private experiences and pre-booking is recommended to guarantee availability.

    GET AWAY FROM IT ALL

    THE BLUE MOUNTAINS

    Once you have had your fll of urbanisation or just want a break. I suggest heading to the Blue Mountains, about a two-hour drive depending on where you begin and how far you want to go.

    The mountains are a rugged region that encompasses cliffs, eucalyptus forests, waterfalls, and lots of tiny villages flled with guesthouses; it’s an ideal vacation in itself. Echo Point offers a great view of the famed Three Sisters rock formation while Katoomba, a major city in the area, gets you started on many of the bushwalk trails that stretch across the area.

    Not actually blue, the mountains take their name from the eucalyptus oil that is seen from afar in the atmosphere making them appear blue. The area offers endless options for hiking, mountain biking, camping, and overall quiet wilderness escapism.

    SCENIC WORLD

    Located near Katoomba, Scenic World offers a few experiences that you can’t have anywhere else in the world. The most notable is the Scenic Railroad, the steepest railroad in the world.

    At an astonishing 52-degree incline, the glass-topped carriages carry passengers over the edge of the cliff and to the bottom of the Jamison Valley which used to be home to a coal mine. If you’re a thrillseeker, you can customise your ride and opt for the ‘Cliffhanger’ which adjusts the angle of the seat to 64 degrees.

    It has been operating since 1945 and still just as hair-raising as it must have been in the past. After you descend the 310 metres through a cliffside tunnel to the valley floor, you disembark and get the chance to walk though the ancient rainforest.

    As you walk along the 2.4 kilometres of elevated boardwalk, you will be amazed at the tranquility around you. As you walk you can explore elements of the local coalmine that was in operation and the reason the railway is there in the frst place. Signs clearly mark the expedited 10 minute route, or the longer one-hour version along with the wheelchair accessible link to the railway stations and cableway.

    THE LEURALLA TOY & RAILWAY MUSEUM

    This one is for the kids or those who are kids at heart. The Leuralla Toy & Railway Museum is housed in a spectacular grand home dating back to the early twentieth century with an astonishing twelve acres of gardens.

    The collection showcases toys that span the generations including the original Barbie, Popeye, Tintin, model trains, and much much more.

    Outside of the main house is a complete building dedicated to O scale model trains from the 1940s and 1950s that has an extensive collection of World War II pieces, some with a disclaimer about the time period and subject matter. For a small fee dropped into a little machine, you make the trains run for a bit of nostalgia.

    This is a place that should not be overlooked or passed by. The collection houses some of the fnest tin toys dating back to the Victorian age and includes the famous Marx range of toys that includes Buck Rogers.

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT

    I’M ANGUS STEAKHOUSE

    There are so many locales to try everything from the best microbrews to fne dining in the area known as The Rocks, that you’ll probably fnd your own personal favorite the frst day you spend roaming around. But I have to make special mention of a place at Darling Harbour called I’m Angus Steakhouse, where you can get, what else, but a kangaroo steak.

    I must admit that even as I asked friends who lived in the area, nobody seemed to know about any restaurant where I could try some kangaroo, but a quick Google search on the topic revealed the family friendly restaurant on the harbour.

    It’s worth the effort in the end if you are bit adventurous at dinnertime. Make a reservation though as it is extremely popular.

    EXTREME GELATO

    Whether it’s dessert after dinner or an afternoon treat, Extreme Gelato in Chinatown will be something that you will tell your friends about.

    Your gelato is made by pouring cream into an electric mixer and letting a splash of liquid nitrogen do the rest. The entire process can be viewed behind some safety glass and when it is underway, the cloud of steam pours out of the mixing bowl and billows to the floor. Once your choice of gelato is scooped into a cup, you can add a topping by a simple syringe injector. How cool is that?