Sydney is known around the world for its spectacular beauty and relaxed cosmopolitan lifestyle. The Australian city's waterways are its premier attraction with stunning beaches and a magnificent harbor.
Next week all eyes will turn to the sea for a grueling sporting event -- the 'Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race'. On Boxing Day, a fleet of 89 yachts will take part this year in the 628 nautical mile journey down the eastern Australian coast.
As the competitors put in their final preparations, find out how to make the most of Sydney's lavish waterways.
.. the start of the Sydney to Hobart
Sydney Harbor is the focal point for many of the city's celebrations whether it is for New Year's Eve fireworks or Australia Day ferry races. But another that's not to be missed is the start of the 'Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race'. Tens of thousands of leisure boats of all sizes follow the fleet out of the harbor and through the headlands. But if you're not lucky enough to be on the water for the starting gun, you can still take part, by joining the hundreds of thousands of people who head to the foreshore in the city's eastern and northern suburbs.
Crowd pleaser: Sydney to Hobart race
.. a show at the Sydney Theatre Company
With Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett and her director-husband Andrew Upton as its artistic directors, you're guaranteed to see a quality production here. Its location is equally as spectacular as the performances, with the company based at The Wharf on the harbor in Walsh Bay.
.. animals with an impressive view
At Taronga Zoo, the inhabitants enjoy some of the best real estate in the city. Giraffes have uninterrupted views of the harbor bridge and birds look on to the Opera House. But it's not just for the animals to enjoy; Taronga Zoo is worth a visit for anyone wanting to get close to some wildlife without leaving the city.
.. some free entertainment
Every January the Sydney Festival kicks off with a range of activities to entertain from music gigs to circus acts dotted around the city. On the first night in particular there are many free events for people of all ages.
.. a tour of the Opera House
'The Sydney Opera House', sitting on the harbor's edge, is the city's most iconic building. The best place to view this amazing feat of architecture is from the water, but it's just as impressive on the inside as it is out. 'The House' is home to operas, ballet, orchestral performances and even rock concerts. Backstage tours are available for those keen to see how they are all put together.
Take a dip at Nielsen Park
.. the Harbor Bridge climb
'The coathanger' as it is affectionately known is a major roadway connecting Sydney's east and north. However the bridge has become more than just a thoroughfare, it is a symbol of the city. You can climb over the bridge with experienced leaders guiding you the way. Most people recommend going at dusk or dawn to witness the most amazing skyline.
.. the Bondi to Bronte walk
Ask any Sydneysider where they would take a visitor and this would be it. The coastal walk stretches for about four kilometers between the two beautiful white sandy beaches. It takes you along the cliff tops, darting in and out of smaller eastern suburb beaches. In the spring you can take in some art at the same time with the free exhibition 'Sculptures by the Sea'.
.. take a dip in the Pacific
No visit to Sydney is complete without a swim in the ocean. Sydney is packed with beautiful beaches or swimming spots. Drop an anchor at Nielsen Park and dive off your boat in this charming harbor inlet or go for a surf at one of the city beaches such as Manly in the north or Tamarama in the east.
.. where you can park your boat
'Doyles' is located on a small harbor beach in Sydney's east. Boaties can drop passengers off at the wharf or pull their boat up to the sand to make the most of the stunning Watsons Bay location. Known for its famous fish and chips, this century-old restaurant has been run by the same family for five generations.
Enjoy some seafood at Doyles
.. with the rich and famous
Woolloomooloo Wharf in the inner-city is the best place to spot a celeb in Sydney. The historic finger wharf has been turned into a luxury hotel and apartments, with some of the city's finest restaurants located within. Diners can enjoy opulent meals at one of the eateries, such as 'Otto Ristorante' or 'China Doll,' while taking in the city skyline and watching magnificent yachts moor at the wharf.
.. where you can be seen
Tourists mingle among the glamor set at Australia's most famous beach, Bondi. 'North Bondi Italian' is a stylish restaurant located just meters from the sand. On a warm summer's evening the queues can be quite long, so for a more relaxed and much cheaper option you can head upstairs to the North Bondi RSL. This servicemen's social club is open to visitors and has the same stunning views as its more sophisticated neighbor.
.. a picnic on the foreshore
There's no better way to appreciate Sydney's stunning harbor and beaches than making up a picnic and hitting the water. Take your boat to Sydney's Fish Markets and stock up on some fresh seafood before sailing along the harbor. If you want to get some sand in your toes at the same time, you can pick up some takeaway from 'The Bathers Pavilion' at Balmoral Beach and soak in the tranquil atmosphere with a few gourmet treats.
.. beer with the best view
Sydney's historic Rocks precinct is in the shadows of the Harbor Bridge. Located in the heart of it is 'The Glenmore Hotel'. This rustic pub is a true reflection of Australia's English colonial past. While the watering hole looks like many others in the area, it's the pub's rooftop, with views of the 'The Sydney Opera House' and bridge, which sets it apart.
Sip wine at Love Tilly Devine
.. wine in a back alley
Sydney's newly relaxed licensing laws have seen sophisticated wine bars pop up all over the city. The small and inviting 'Love Tilly Devine' in the inner city suburb of Darlinghurst is tricky to find, even for locals. Named after a 1920s brothel madam, 'Love Tilly Devine' is tucked away in a tiny alleyway, where many of her 'girls' once frequented.
.. a cocktail in the sky
'Blu bar on 36' boasts its cocktails menu is designed by a team of world champion "mixologists". The exclusive bar is on the 36th floor of the luxurious 'Shangri-La Hotel' in the Central Business District. Here you can sip a Mai Tai while soaking in Sydney's skyline.