The sail-in experience of the Sydney Harbor is the reason Australia cruise itineraries book to capacity as soon as they are offered. A cruise provides the best introduction to Sydney. Few harbors of the world offer such drama as a sail into sight of the Sydney Opera House on the point, with the high-rise buildings pushed back and the green of the Royal Botanic Gardens framing the view. Cruise ships move under the bridge, within earshot of growls emanating from Taronga Zoo, on the opposite shore, and come to dock where the first settlers arrived.
On the shore is Captain Bligh in bronze, one of the first governors of New South Wales, there to greet everyone.
Once on the Sydney dock, what next? Some visitors head to Bondi Beach, or one of the many lovely beaches along the shore outside the harbor to the south of the city.
Some visitors are whisked onto big buses for a quick ride around, before returning to the harbor area to wander around the Sydney Opera House for a close-up view at icon architecture in a perfect setting.
There is more to Sydney than the harbor. It may not be obvious at a first look. Beyond the harbor and the preserved area of The Rocks, that is the early immigrant section with the warehouses and small flats for new arrivals, there is a palisade of incredibly tall and imposing commercial buildings, the product of economic success of recent decades.
The Sydney most visitors would enjoy seeing is spread across both sides of sprawling Royal Botanic Gardens and several harbors from the Overseas Passenger Terminal in the center, to the east at Cowper Wharf, and to the west at the newly redeveloping Ultimo area of former heavy industry around Darling Harbor. When complete, Ultimo will be the hotspot destination. The Aquatic Center is open and the WildLife Sydney Zoo is scheduled for opening in 2019.
To comfortably venture beyond the harbor, it is helpful to understand the history of the city. Sydney grew by fiat, in clumps, unlike the planned city Canberra, Australia’s capital. Sydney was founded as a depot to support Transportation Era prison camps.
Early governor Lachian Macquarie, who thought he might create a city in the first decades of the nineteenth century, was admonished for his efforts and recalled to London. He was followed by Governor Ralph Darling, who built streets and cashed in on housing subdivisions, although he was adamant that Sydney should not have a theatre.