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Sydney City Guide
Sydney has been the poster child for Australia for many years and with good reason. The glamorous city of sparkling bays and postcard views is home to many of Australia’s most iconic images. Whatever the world perceives the Australian lifestyle to be, you can be sure Sydney had something to do with it.
Sydney has seen many evolutions – from an Indigenous settlement with origins that trace back to the Palaeolithic period, to its founding as a penal colony in 1788. It began with a rocky start as the new settlers struggled to find food and fresh water and the local Indigenous population was almost halved by death from smallpox thanks to their new neighbours. Nonetheless the colony struggled on and survived.
The 1850s saw significant change as the last convict boat arrived and gold was discovered shortly after. There was a population boom, followed by prosperous times and the numerous colonies that had sprung up around the nation decided to become federated. A few decades later the great depression hit hard, closely followed by World War II which included a direct attack from Sydney Harbour by the Japanese. Through all of these events, Sydney continued to grow and prosper.
Today the city is a modern international metropolis with a population of almost 5 million people, speaking 250 or more languages and hosting some of the greatest sporting and cultural events in the world. Sydney is very much the city the rest of the nation looks to for guidance and inspiration - despite Canberra being the nation’s capital. It’s a highly educated population and is defined by its corporate success. Sydney has a strong economy with many of Australia’s top 100 companies based in the city, which of course makes it one of the key players in international business and finance. It has prestigious academic institutions and research facilities and actively supports innovation and entrepreneurship.
The beach culture and waterfront lifestyle are a key part of its character as boats sneak into stunning views along its coastline and almost every day is a great beach day. It has become a playground for the world’s celebrities and billionaires and is a globally recognised tourist destination with visitors contributing more than $6 billion annually to the economy.
Sydney regularly appears on the ‘World’s Most Liveable Cities’ lists due to its prosperity, natural beauty and fantastic climate. It has a rich multicultural heritage and a strong and diverse arts and culture scene. Its restaurants and food are world class and dining out is taken for granted as the beginning to a night at the opera, the theatre or to see any number of globally renowned artists live in concert.
What Melbourne does for AFL, Sydney does for Rugby yet the city is full of passionate supporters of all codes from soccer to football, rugby union to rugby league. Sydneysiders love to live life outdoors and sport and leisure are a big part of their culture. From swimming to sailing, walking the coast to dining by the sea, Sydney is the Australian lifestyle at its finest. It’s no wonder people come from all over the world to enjoy it.
Sydney is a young city and a wealthy city. It’s a fantastic place to raise a family and has a healthy population of retirees. Rich in culture, most migrants can transition well into their new life, finding a small piece of home on a foreign shore in suburbs that sell their food, and speak their language. Commuting can be challenging with so many intervening waterways and busy city traffic, so this is always a consideration when deciding where to live in Australia’s biggest metropolis.
Singles, Young People and Students
Almost half of Sydney’s city residents are under 35 and more than 40% are single person households. Sydney has a big student population with almost a dozen universities and many thousands of international students. Dispersion of young people is of course connected to career and life stage, but those who choose wisely can find themselves ‘living the life’ beach side, through their studies and into their professional lives.
With so many campuses across greater Sydney, students are a fairly widespread bunch, but in the north of the city, Macquarie University students tend to live around campus in Marsfield or close by in North or East Ryde.
To the west, a large student population can be found in Glebe, Newtown and Camperdown in the inner city and Parramatta and Bankstown a little further out. University of New South Wales students strike the jackpot with the closest beach to campus just 4 kilometres away at Coogee. Students here and in Randwick and Bondi Junction have great local facilities and can be sitting on Bondi beach within half an hour of class finishing.
For the young urban professional with a decent disposable income, modern apartments around Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay are a dream made real. All the modern conveniences, the coveted stunning harbor views and café life at your door – this is what life is all about. For the outdoorsy type Coogee or Bronte are ideal, while Bondi, Paddington or Balmain are the places to be to maintain your cool credentials. Newtown is popular with the share house crowd and those post university/early career years, to transition into adult life.
The ideal for any Sydney family is a house by or near the beach – any beach in fact. Sydney generally has great public and private schools so school choice and budget will be most likely behind the final decision about where families choose to live.
Mosman is a great choice in the northern beaches. It’s close to Balmoral Beach and the waterfront areas around the spit. There’s plenty of nature and parklands with the Sydney Harbour National Park and Taronga Zoo nearby and good access to the CBD. For a cheaper option and a similar lifestyle, Dee Why a little further north is appealing for those not tied to commuting. Manly is a popular family spot too - the upside is a fantastic ferry ride to work each day but the downside is the trek home if there’s a ferry problem, plus it can get overrun with tourists when the weather is great - which is often. The southern beaches are densely populated and can get busy in the summer, but suburbs such as Tamarama, Bronte and Clovelly have the same appeal as Bondi and Coogee with a little less celebrity status.
Elegant terrace living by the water in Balmain or Glebe is great for the city commuter and still offers some access to natural surroundings. Executives with older children can enjoy an easy commute to work, when based in The Rocks, Darling Harbour or Woolloomooloo. Here they can enjoy the best of city arts and culture as well as plenty of entertainment for teenagers in the CBD.
Suburban life is alive and well and suburbs such as Parramatta, Blacktown, Willoughby and Erskineville have strong communities, good health facilities and community services and plenty of decent parks, plus just that little bit of extra space that families need to grow.
Sydney has a decent sized older population, with retirement at 55 common and expats coming to the city specifically to live out their retirement; currently 1 in 8 people are aged over 65. The balance of workers to retirees is expected to change considerably over the next few decades with a greater ageing population retiring earlier and living longer, presenting all manner of challenges for health provision and community services.
However, Sydney is still a great location for retirement, offering perfect weather and a fantastic lifestyle, one which is only limited by your imagination and your retirement funds. Apartment living is common in Sydney and after years of managing a career and a family home, downsizing to a low maintenance property is for many a relief. A spacious, contemporary waterfront apartment certainly delivers that holiday feeling that many hope to achieve in retirement.
Inner city suburbs such as The Rocks, Surry Hills and Potts Point offer comfortable and luxury apartment living with easy CBD access for concerts and events. There’s also the choice of multimillion dollar waterfront homes with the lifestyle many of us dream about for retirement. Still conveniently located and a little more inland but with a similar sensibility are Ultimo, Paddington and Double Bay with leafy streets, more space and small villages for daily conveniences.
For those seeking a quieter lifestyle, the far northern beaches such as Palm Beach and Dee Why have lovely natural surroundings for low key walks and fresh air, while areas north and west of the city such as Mosman and Hunters Hill also provide an easier pace and are more suited to the older person wanting to maintain a home and have good access to community services and support.
First Time Buyers
Sydney can be a tough market to get into for first home buyers, especially those on a tight budget. Sydney investors generally have to spend a little more on their first home purchase than those in other states and may end up feeling they got less than what they paid for. As is the case in most states, the further out the better the price, however good research pays off and wise investments can certainly change lifestyles with many suburbs showing incredible growth in recent years and projections for more of the same ahead.
Inner west suburbs such as Strathfield and Burwood are a good place to start and there are plenty of great opportunities to be had around Leichhardt and Rozelle. Suburbs further to the west and north west of the city show great promise for first time investors, though it’s a competitive market. Castle Hill, Blacktown and Paramatta have decent sized properties for those thinking long term and there is diversity for buyers with a good range of houses and apartments.
There are also plenty of great value properties that are very attractive to first home buyers if an address more than 30 kilometres from the city is acceptable. Suburbs well serviced by public transport and homes close to major train stations offer promising growth potential. Southern suburbs such as Ingleburn and Campbelltown have good train and freeway access. While those looking for apartments will have plenty of decent options to choose from around Wollondilly and Bradbury.
Best Investment Areas
Many buyers are looking for the Australian dream and are willing to pay a little extra for the lifestyle benefits. Sydney does offer good opportunity for those willing to slowly build up to the dream property; cautious optimism will pay off for those who take a more measured approach. The property or suburb that is less than ideal today, with patience, can reap rewards tomorrow. Having said that, there are more than 200 suburbs in Sydney where growth in house prices exceeds average incomes.
Boom suburbs in recent years have been in and around the inner west with huge growth in Parramatta, Eastwood, Epping, and Castle Hill particularly. All offer great lifestyle options for non CBD commuters, while excellent schools and local facilities are also a big drawcard, making the competition reasonably tough.
Rapidly growing suburbs should be kept under close watch and timing is everything. Getting the right property during a dip in the market means some buyers may still get in within budget but then benefit from strong and steady growth in the longer term. Fast growth suburbs to watch include Greenwich in the city’s north, while inner west and north west areas such as Rosehill, Oatlands and Carlingford were recently connected by new transit lines, further endorsing them as great potential options.
1. It is believed that Australia is the oldest landmass in the world and the Australian Indigenous people are the world’s oldest living culture dating back 30,000 years. Evidence of this has been found in and around Sydney.
2. Sydney was Australia’s first European settled colony, with 11 boats and roughly 1000 people establishing a penal colony there after their arrival on 26th January 1788, a date now celebrated every year as ‘Australia Day’.
3. Sydney is the biggest city in Australia and with approximately 5 million residents, is home to roughly 20% of the country’s entire population.
4. English is Sydney’s first language with Chinese and Arabic close behind, though there are as many as 250 languages spoken across greater Sydney.
5. Sydney Harbour is the deepest natural harbour in the world and has almost 300 kilometres of shoreline.
6. It’s said that Manly beach was named by the British who noted on arrival that the local Indigenous men behaved in a very ‘manly’ way.
7. One of the city’s most famous icons, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was painted with three coats of grey that used a total of 272,000 litres of paint. Grey was the only colour available in such large quantities. Now a custom colour is used that is not available on the commercial market.
8. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is the largest steel arch bridge in the world and it changes height with temperature change, expanding and shrinking by 180 millimetres.
9. The other famous city icon is the Sydney Opera House. It took 10,000 people 14 years to build it and the roof is covered in over 1 million tiles.
10. The world’s 3rd largest fish market is the Sydney Fish Market (after Tokyo and Mexico City). It is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
11. Sydney is a business powerhouse, with around 60% of Australia’s top 100 companies having their headquarters there.
12. The Australia Day Regatta has been held annually on Australia Day since 1837, it is one of the world’s oldest sailing events.
13. Sydney’s Bondi Beach is the location for Australia’s largest outdoor sculpture event. Sculpture by the Sea is held every year at Bondi and in 2016 celebrates its 20th year.
14. Point Piper in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs is said to be one of the ten most expensive suburbs in the world with property prices averaging $7 – 8 million dollars.
15. Sydney hosted the Olympic Games in 2000 and Bronze medal winners took a piece of the country home with them – the medals were made from melted down Australian currency as 1 and 2 cent coins were taken out of circulation in 1991.
16. Athletes at the Sydney Olympics revealed another way to wind down and keep fit during the games. The standard order of 70,000 condoms ran out and an extra 20,000 had to be ordered for the athletes.
17. The Sydney 2000 Olympics were responsible for a real life fairy tale when Tasmania Mary Donaldson met an actual prince at a pub during the games. She married Prince Frederick, is now Princess Mary and when he becomes King she will become the Queen of Denmark.
18. Australia’s busiest airport is Sydney International Airport and it handles just over 29 million passengers annually.
19. Sydney is the place to retire to it seems with 1 in 8 of its population aged over 65.
20. One of Sydney’s most famous events is the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. It has been held annually for over 70 years and is one of the top three most difficult maxi yacht races in the world.
SYDNEY LIVING – SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS
Sydney is as close to paradise as a city can be, with glorious weather, sparkling harbour views and incredible food and culture. Even the locals feel like they’re on holiday a lot of the time and the greatest attraction is its atmosphere.
The first stops on everyone’s itinerary are the world famous sights – the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Hours can be spent just wandering around, photographing them both from every angle and you will not be alone with plenty of people in great spirits joining you in the spectacle. Circular Quay is also a highlight and it would be a crime to be there and not take an iconic ferry ride across the harbour.
Darling Harbour offers an alternative harbour front experience with restaurants bars, family attractions and nightly fireworks through the summer. The city’s heritage is also very interesting to explore with a number of national and state collections in museums and galleries as well as historic sites and buildings scattered throughout the CBD. There’s also the Sydney Fish Market – one of the biggest in the world and Chinatown is a must see, especially if you go around meal time. Wander around The Rocks precinct and get a taste of colonial life or take in some of Australia’s famous flora and fauna at Taronga Park Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Beyond the city itself Sydney is a fabulous playground. Explore the neighbourhoods from the chic and shiny to the hip and grungy. Indulge in high end shopping and funky café culture. Enjoy some of the best food in the world including the freshest local seafood, award winning Australian wines and a diversity of international menus you will not believe.
Most importantly get down to the water. Sydney beaches are famous for being fully equipped, with great facilities such as cafés, toilets and barbecues. Whether you go for a quick surf or choose to spend the whole day, from Manly to Balmoral, Bondi to Coogee, this is the quintessential Australian experience.
Sydney is a huge city that sprawls amongst harbours and rivers and bays and inlets. Commuting can be tricky if you are on time restrictions and chaos ensues during a transport failure. But when everything works it’s a great city to commute through.
Trains, buses, light rail and ferries provide great access to the CBD from all points of the compass and are much less stressful than driving can be in peak hour traffic. There is really nothing like a ferry ride to work on a glorious day on the harbour.
Ticketing is via the electronic Opal card which can be used across all public transport. Pre-loaded credit offers smooth transiting with a simple swipe at the start and end of a journey and various top up options available.
Many Sydney-siders commute in their own cars and traffic can be heavy. Congestion around bridges is common especially when accidents occur and parking in the CBD is quite expensive. Luckily public transport is great and well supported by taxis, water taxis and Uber drivers.
Sydney has a number of small general aviation airports but it’s main airport is Sydney International Airport at Mascot, located just south of the CBD. It has runways jutting out into Botany Bay, offering the unique experience of what feels like a water landing - the runway disappears from view and there is only water to see on either side as you land. It’s the busiest airport in the country and handles 29 million passengers every year. There are excellent connections from the airport with shuttle buses and train connections from within the terminal.
Sydney is without question the jewel in Australia’s crown. It’s the country’s most vibrant and exciting city and proudly showcases our nation on the global stage. Its fame skyrocketed after hosting the Olympics in 2000 and it continues to impressively host a range of events from the APEC summit to Vivid and everything in between. Its beauty is only matched by its intellect and power and it has earned its credentials on the world stage as a place to watch. For Australians though, wherever we are, images from Sydney immediately connect us to home.