Story and photos by René Kraus
With only two days to see the highlights of Sydney,
we wouldn’t be resting much. Touring the
harbor, seeing the Sydney Opera House, taking in
the infamous Rocks area, and eating the local dish
‘bugs’ were all musts. Plus, we were meeting good
friends for dinner one of our two nights there.
I’d long awaited this trip back to northeastern Australia,
a place where I spent much of my honeymoon
six years ago. This time, I was traveling with
a friend from Big Sky, and my husband stayed at
home, much to his disappointment.
The 13-hour flight from Los Angeles left late at
night and got us into Sydney at 6 a.m., two calendar
days following our departure date. That left us
all day to explore.
Sydney, in New South Wales, is best seen by foot
or by boat. This sprawling city is home to approximately
four million people, one-fifth of the country’s
total population. Because the city is centered
around Port Jackson, which is comprised of three
harbors and several bays, much of the city’s population
commutes by ferry from a neighborhood bay to
the central business district of Quay’s Bay.
We decided to take advantage of the sunny, mild
weather and embark on a two-hour ‘coffee’ harbor
tour. Our tour guide was a lively and informative
Sydney enthusiast; she pointed out several forts
dating back to the 1830s, and also the many fabulous
homes of Sydney’s rich and famous, including
those of Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, and prime
ministers, past and present.
After the cruise concluded, we set out on foot to
explore more of the harbor area, starting with the
famed opera house. Danish architect Jorn Utzon
designed and built this group of buildings in 1973,
notoriously running over budget and deadline by
several million dollars and two decades.
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The Opera House complex is equally stunning from
the outside and inside, and definitely worth a closer
look. We decided against a tour just then, but instead,
purchased tickets for the following evening’s
performance of La Boheme.
Continuing our walk along the harbor, we reached
the Rocks area, where we explored historic stone
buildings built along the hills that skirted the water.
In the late 1700s, limestone from a nearby quarry
was used to construct wharf-side businesses, inns
and brothels here. By the 1800s the neighborhood
had become a slum overrun by hardened criminal
gangs and remained so until the early 20th century,
when the decaying area succumbed to the bubonic
plague, and many of the buildings were destroyed.
What remained was handed over to Sydney’s port
authority, and today, the Rocks is a thriving tourist
destination filled with shops and restaurants, and a
weekend street market.
That evening, we dined at the Sydney Café, on the
rooftop of the old Customs House. My friends,
Americans who’d lived in Sydney for over 10 years,
had secured a deck table with a prime view of the
harbor, the opera house and the Harbour Bridge. I
ordered the signature dish there, a local specialty
called ‘bugs’ which are large crustaceans that look
like a cross between lobster and shrimp and were
served cold and fresh. The restaurant also features
an extensive selection of Australian wines, and we
sampled a chardonnay and a shiraz, neither of which
The following morning we set out on foot for
George Street, where we spent hours window-shopping.
In addition to most of Europe’s top fashion
houses, this area also features Australia’s top designers.
One shopping area in particular stands out – the
Queen Victoria Building, an excellent example of
elaborate Romanesque architecture. This building
was originally a concert hall, and now features the
best of Australian and European clothing, jewelry
and antiques. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at a new
restaurant called the Glass Brassiere, on the mezzanine
level of the Hilton Hotel, in this same shopping
That night, after stopping for drinks at the Shangra-
La Hotel, we set off for the opera house to see the
local company’s version of La Boheme. Jet lag finally
took a hold of us, so we cancelled our dinner reservation
and barely made it back to our hotel before
crashing into a deep sleep. The next morning we
departed Sydney for Cairns in North Queensland,
and then to Palm Cove, the town I fell in love with
on my honeymoon.
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Rene’ Kraus is a communications
freelance writer. Rene works
with individuals and organizations
to develop strategic
and effective communications.
An avid traveler, she
writes to share the beauty of
the world at large. Contact her at