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Beautiful Australia
   
Tour Code: STS-AU-001 Price per person from: From RMB 12,169
Departure Date: Every Wednesday/Friday Click for Price Details
   
 
Summary:

Australia is the only country that has a whole continent to itself. World famous for its natural wonders and wide open spaces, its beaches, deserts, "the bush", and "the Outback", Australia is actually one of the world's most highly urbanised countries. It is also well known for the cosmopolitan attractions of its large cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Summary Itinetary Prices Features Notes Customize This Trip

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Tour Dates Destinations Today's Activities Meals Include

                                                             Beautiful Australia     

14days / 13nights

Departure Date: Every Wednesday, Friday..

 

Flight schedule- Fly with Cathay Pacific Airlines-
Date     Flight No.     Dept. City/ Time         Arrival City / Time         Duration
Day1             CX6889             Beijing/ 1330                     Hongkong/1705              3hours35mins      

                       CX111            Hongkong/1900                  Sydney/0615+1                9hours15mins

Day14           CX102                Cairns/09580                    Hongkong/2005              7hours05mins

                       CX2034         Hongkong/0325+1                Beijing/0635+1               3hours10mins

 

Itinerary-

Day1: On the plane.                                                                  Overnight at Sydney

 

Day2: Free Day to explore the best of Sydney including Darling Harbor, the historical Rocks area, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney Opera House, beautiful beaches and much more. You may want to visit the Sydney Tower or Sydney Aquarium and in the evening take a sunset cocktail cruise in one of the most famous harbors in the world (ISV Optional Activity Package).                                                      Overnight at Cruise

 

 

 

 

Day3: Today we drive 40 miles west of Sydney to the breathtaking Blue Mountains. On the way we stop at Featherdale Wildlife Park (ISV Included Activity) to see Australia unique wildlife such as kangaroos and koalas. In the Blue Mountains we will get to see the famous three Sisters? rock formations, and in the afternoon test your courage by rappelling (ISV Optional Activity Package). The scenic sandstone cliffs and gorges of the Blue Mountains are an excellent rappelling location for beginners and experts alike! After dinner, we will
take an overnight trip to Byron Bay.                                                                        Overnight at Byron Bay

 

 

Day4: Today we experience the friendly and eclectic culture of beautiful Byron Bay. Learn to surf at the beautiful Byron Bay Beach (ISV Optional Activity Package), and you might be lucky enough to see dolphins or migrating whales. Explore the town or hike to Cape Byron (Australia's eastern most point).              Overnight at Byron Bay

Day5: Today is a free day to enjoy the beautiful town of Byron Bay and practice your new surfing skills! You may want to relax at the beach, explore the town, trek to the lighthouse at Cape Byron (Australia's eastern most point) for views of the Pacific Ocean or take part in a number of additional activities available. Overnight at Fraser Island

 

 

 

Overnight at Fraser Island   

Day7: Today we will discover the best of Fraser Island on the Indian Head Full-Day Tour (ISV Included Activity). We will cruise along the amazing 75-mile beach to swim in Eli Creek, see the famous Maheno shipwreck and climb to the top of Indian Head for magnificent views of the surrounding sand below, beaches and the Pacific Ocean.                       Overnight at Fraser Island

Day8: Today we continue to experience the amazing scenery and wildlife (e.g. dingoes) of Fraser Island. This morning you will have the option to trek over sand dunes and swim in the beautiful emerald-green Lake Wabby (ISV Optional Activity Package), the deepest of Fraser Islands lakes. Tonight, we leave for the backpacker town of Airlie Beach, gateway to the Whitsunday Islands.                                        Overnight at Airlie Beach

Day9: Airlie Beach is the perfect place to soak up the sun and the warm tropical weather! Today you will have the option to go Ocean Rafting (ISV Optional Activity Package), to Whitehaven Beach. Experience what is known as the whitest sand in the world at Whitehaven Beach. On this Ocean Rafting adventure participants will also go snorkeling and take a guided walk on Whitsunday Island. This evening, enjoy the nightlife of this lively town filled with international travelers.                                                          Overnight at Airlie Beach

Day10: We continue north to the city of Cairns, gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and the adrenaline capital of Australia.   Overnight at Cairns

Day11: In the morning we will visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park (ISV Included Activity) where we will learn about the history, art, dance and way of life of Australia's indigenous people. This afternoon we will visit "Reef Teach" (ISV Included Activity), a fun information session on the Great Barrier Reef which will prepare you for your snorkeling trip tomorrow.                                                         Overnight at Cairns

Day12: We spend the day on the Great Barrier Reef for a full day of snorkeling at two different reefs (ISV Included Activity). There is also the opportunity to scuba pe at an additional cost (even if you have never been scuba ping before!) Here you will explore the persity of marine life from the largest reef of living coral in the world. Some participants will take the option to spend the day and night onboard another vessel called angaroo Explorer?* and take advantage of an extra day of ping and snorkeling. (Limited availability). Overnight at Cairns 

Day13: Depart for the Tully River to white water raft grade III and IV rapids (ISV Included Activity) through pristine tropical rainforest in yet another World Heritage area, the *Wet Tropics!   Overnight at Cairns

Day14: Time to say goodbye. You will be transferred to the airport for your flight home after a great holiday.

 

Day6: Get ready to discover the amazing Fraser Island - the largest sand island in the world. Discover the persity and natural beauty as you explore spectacular surf beaches and stunning cliffs of colored sands.       

 

 

 

Hotel Accommodation:
Pacakge - based on 4 star hotels
Sydney - Novotel Rockford Darling Harbor ( 4 star) - Standard Room
Cairns - Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort ( 4 star) - Standard Room


Package Price:
From RMB12,169 per person

  Price Inclusions and Exclusions

Inclusive feature:
* 01 Nights accommodation in Sydney on 4 Star Hotel basis in twin/double room.

* 04 Nights accommodation in Cairns on 4 Star Hotel basis in twin/double room.

* 05 Breakfast in Sydney & Cairns hotels.

* Air Ticket from Beijing-HongKong-Sydney / / Cairns-HongKong-Beijing fare.

* All currently applicable Taxes (VAT & Service Charge).

 

Not included:
Lunch and dinner for whole Itinerary. All Breakfast except in Sydney & Cairns. Australia domestic train, bus, rental car; Personal expenses, cold drinks, alcoholic beverages. Tips. Fee, Air ticket Tax. Personal travel insurance. Other services not clearly indicated in the Package inclusion above.

Novotel Rockford Darling Harbor
Official Website: http://www.novotel.com/gb/hotel-3021-novotel-rockford-darling-harbour/index.shtml
       
Novotel Rockford Darling Harbor Novotel Rockford Darling Harbour is a 4 star hotel located within easy walking distance of the Sydney city centre. Perfect for business trips, holidays and city breaks, the hotel is close to the Sydney Entertainment Centre and the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. Guests can enjoy a drink or delicious meal in the renowned Pumphouse bar and restaurant. Other features include meeting facilities, a heated pool and a gym, located close to all the excitement and attractions Sydney has to offer.
Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort
Official Website: http://www.novotelcairnsresort.com.au/
       
Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort Beautiful tropical surrounds and modern contemporary style is waiting for you at Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort. Each of the resorts 314 rooms feature a private terrace or balcony facing either the lagoon swimming pool, lush tropical gardens or Cairns city. The city location is ideal with easy access to the award winning Esplanade and Cairns attractions. Come and visit our retreat in the tropics.

Sydney Cairns

Get around

By car

Travel times and routes

You can drive around Sydney reasonably freely, and outside of peak times travelling by car is usually at least as quick as any method of public transport. Congestion can be expected on roads to the city from 6:30AM until 9:30AM, and roads away from the city from around 4PM until 6:30PM. Congestion is considerably worse heading away from the city during Friday afternoon peak.

Roads are generally well signposted to the next major suburb or suburbs along the route. Only a handful of cross-city met-roads are signposted by number.

Congestion can be expected around Bondi Beach, and the other eastern suburbs beaches on summer weekends.

Travel times from the CBD to the Sydney outskirts can take around 45 minutes in good traffic.

Tolls

Some motorways, tunnels and bridges charge tolls.

The M5 (towards the South West and Canberra and the Eastern Distributor Motorway from the airport to the city have tolls of $3.80 and $5 respectively. You can pay in cash, and change is given at the tollbooths. There is no toll payable on the Eastern Distributor heading away from the city towards the airport.

The Harbour Bridge and Tunnel, Cross City Tunnel, Lane Cove Tunnel, M7 and the Falcon Street northbound motorway entrance only use electronic tolling and if you use these you need to decide how you will pay the toll. You can easily avoid the Lane Cove Tunnel, M7 or Falcon Street on-ramp, however, it is hard to avoid the harbour crossings if you are going to Manly, the Northern Beaches or the zoo by car.

Your choice is to have a pass or a tag.

*   A pass (also called an e-pass) is the simplest way to pay tolls. Just register your licence plate and credit card up to 48 hours after travelling on a toll road and tolls will be deducted automatically from your card. The Sydney Motorways website [15] provides links to pass providers. The cost is $1.50 to register online, and 75c on top of each toll as a processing charge. You can't use an e-pass on motorways that accept cash - you must use the cash lane. Make sure you enter the dates you will be in charge of the car, so you don't end up paying for someone else's toll.

*   A tag (also called an E-tag) is a transponder stuck to the inside of your windscreen. You can purchase a visitor's tag from any motor registry  before travelling on a toll road for $5 and set up an account linked to your credit card. Allow about 30 minutes at the registry to sort it all out. It is worthwhile considering only you are staying in Sydney for a while or travelling on toll roads in Melbourne and Brisbane as well. You will only end up ahead it you need to pay six or more toll charges. A few rental car companies allow you to rent a tag from them, for an additional fee, but many of the majors will just refer you to the e-pass website.

A capital 'E' marked on the lane indicates it accepts a tag and a lower case 'e' indicates it accepts a pass.

Not paying a toll incurs a $10-$15 administration fee in additional to the toll. If you are in a rental car the rental car company will charge an additional fee for this to your credit card.

Parking

Parking your car in the City Centre is always possible but expensive. Expect to pay up to $70 per day or $25 per hour at some central parking lots, and around $25 even with specials. Reduced parking charges are made for early bird parking, where you must enter and leave within prescribed times. For example you can park all day at the Opera House for $16 provides you enter before 10AM and leave between 3PM and 7PM. There is no grace period, so you can't get out even one minute before 3PM, and you will be charged the day parking rate of $42 if you are 10 seconds late. Most city parking lots offer reduced flat fees (around $15-$25) for evening and weekend parking.

Street parking in the CBD is generally only possible before 8.00am and after 6.00-6.30pm on weekdays and even then is almost invariably metered until 10.00pm at $2.20-3.30 per hour. On weekends, most parking spaces have a 4 hour limit, again metered at $1.10-2.20 per hour. All day street spots are sometimes available in the Domain/Mrs Macquarie's Chair and Hickson Road, however these spots are often taken up by commuters and since they are metered, an early bird deal may work out cheaper than the metered rate. Parking meters increasingly accept credit card payment, however don't assume this.

City hotels invariably charge for parking for the guests.

Similar prices are charged in North Sydney.

Parking in many major suburban centres and beaches can be a matter of spending time cruising and searching for parking spots. All day street parking is rare around the city suburban shopping centres.

Some train stations have all day free commuter parking. At major stations this can be full by 8AM. Smaller stations with less frequent train service tend to have better parking availability. On weekends it is easy to find a spot in the commuter parking lots. The stations will commuter parking are marked on the Cityrail maps.

Parking at some beaches on summer weekends can often be near impossible. Some beaches are in suburban neighbourhoods, without large car parking facilities. Check the appropriate destination guides for more information.

Parking fines in Sydney are $80 if you exceed the allowed parking time. Reloading the meter, or moving your car within the same parking zone will not get you out of a fine. If you park illegally and wait with your car, you may find you have the licence place photographed and fined before you have the chance to move on, don't expect a warning. If you park illegally in a disabled spot, the fine is $375. If you do get fined for exceeding time, you will not be fined again the same day--so enjoy your parking spot.

Clearways, which are no stopping zones on main roads during peak periods. Fines will be around $400 to reclaim your car after it is towed away. However, clearways also offer parking opportunites if you want to park just after 10AM or 7PM when the clearway periods end.

Sydney driving speeds

Speed limits can change frequently even when following the same main road. Speed limits drop for areas of pedestrian activity, schools, as well as driving conditions. Every road in Sydney has a signposted speed limit, and in every case you will need to read the signs, as you cannot tell the speed limit just by looking at the road. The speed limit is usually 50km/h on residential streets, 60km/h or 70km/h on main roads, and 80km/h and above on freeways or freeway sections.

Some speed limits vary throughout the day. School speed zones (40 km/h) are enforced between 8.00 AM to 9.30 AM and 2.30 PM to 4.00 PM on school days. Some have flashing lights, and some just a sign. It is up to you to check the time and know if it is a school day or not. Some other roads have variable speed limits that drop during busy traffic times. Variable speed limits also drop for road maintenance. These areas are signposted, and you need to read and obey the signposted speed. Speed cameras monitor school zones, and enforce variable speed limits. For example, if there are roadworks in the Lane Cove Tunnel, the variable speed will drop, and the speed camera in the tunnel will enforce the lower speed. There are plenty of warning and reminder signs along the way.

By taxi

Taxis are a convenient way to get around Sydney. They can also be the only transport option available to some locations late at night when the trains and regular buses stop.

It is usually easy enough to flag a taxi down at the kerb in the CBD, or catch one at taxi ranks located in most suburban centres. The availability of a taxi is indicated by a small amber/orange light on the top of the "taxi" sign positioned on top of the vehicle. If the amber light is on, it is available for hire, if the amber light is off, the cab is occupied.

Beware the 3PM change over and the Friday evening rush. It can be near impossible to get a taxi between 2:30PM and 3:15PM, and similarly between 2:30AM and 3:30AM, as almost all of the drivers changeover their shifts at the same time. They are similarly scarce on a Friday and Saturday evening. Booking in advance is no guarantee, as these jobs are simply offered electronically to drivers, who may or may not accept the job. It is easily possible to wait an hour or more for a taxi booked 24 hours in advance on a Friday and Saturday evening. Ringing the taxi company back and complaining will often help (if the operators can relate to your problem they have the ability to offer a taxi driver an incentive to take your fare). Cancelling your job and ringing another taxi company in frustration never helps as the taxi companies have handover systems which would have seen your job handed over if another company had more capacity. You will just end up at the back of the queue again. Evenings other than Friday and Saturday are usually fine.

During busy times it is also not uncommon for a taxi driver to leave the door locked and ask where you are going through the window and drive off if the destination is too close or not on their way home, even though this is illegal.

There are two meter rates: a day rate (rate 1) with a flag fall of $3, a distance rate of $1.79 a kilometre, a "waiting" rate of $0.77 a minute and a booking fee of $1.50; and a night rate (rate 2 - applicable to journeys commenced between 10PM and 6AM) which adds a 20% surcharge to the distance rate. All fares also attract the 10% tax. You can check the rate your taxi is using by looking for a 1 or a 2 next to the current charge: if it's set to 2 it is using the night rate. The so called "waiting" rate is charged whenever the speed drops below 25km/h. For trips in congested traffic it is possible for large amounts of the trip to be charged at the "waiting" rate. All Sydney taxis are metered and taxi drivers will always charge the metered rate, adding the charges for tolls manually. Silver Service taxis are more luxurious vehicles, but they are charged at the same rate as standard taxis.

Taxis accept all major credit cards. They charge an extra 10% on top of the fare for this.

Passengers are required to pay all tolls for their trip. In addition, passengers who are taken north over the Harbour Bridge, for which there is no toll, are required to pay the driver's southbound toll for the return into the city (currently $3). Drivers will usually take the toll roads unless you ask them not to. If you are unsure why they are asking for an amount above that shown on the meter, just ask.

Passengers have the right to control the air conditioning and the radio - don't be afraid to ask the driver! Whilst most taxi drivers behave acceptably, there have been reported incidences of taxi drivers behaving inappropriately towards women - it is always safer to sit in the back of the car.

Tipping is not required or generally expected. However, rounding up a taxi fare the next dollar (or five or ten dollars, depending on the base fare) is fairly common. On the other hand, don't be surprised if the driver rounds the fare down to the nearest dollar - accept with grace and good cheer.

By public transport

Sydney public transport consists of an extensive rail network, multiple buses and ferries, a single light-rail line and a tourist-oriented monorail. It can get you to nearly all of the city's main attractions, especially in areas closer to the city. The further away from the city centre you travel, the less frequent and comprehensive public transport services will tend to be.

Tickets

The ticketing system for Sydney's public transport is complex. There is no comprehensive system, and there is no stored value card. It can be worth spending a little time understanding where you will be travelling, as some of the tickets can save considerable amounts over multiple trips, especially if you are going to be taking ferries.

Bus drivers will check you buy or validate a ticket on entry. Ferry hands will check tickets. Trains have ticket barriers at city and major suburban stations. Minor suburban stations have no barriers but you are still expected to purchase a ticket. Transit Police (in mid-blue uniforms) are renowned for their intimidating behaviour and will generally not accept any excuses. They issue a on the spot fines of at least $200 and post you a reminder to pay. Fines increase if you do not pay them (unless you successfully challenge them).

Children aged 15 years and under are entitled to a discount. Also, on ferries (except private ferries), buses, and trains, you pay for only the first child when accompanied by a parent or grandparent, the other children in the same family allowed for free. Usually, no family identification is ever required, so anything that resembles a family unit will have to pay for only the first child. Children 3 years and under travel free.

CityRail train tickets allow you to make as many transfers as required but you may not break your journey (i.e. leave a station), or your ticket will become invalid. Other forms of transport do not permit any forms of transfer, and you will need a ticket for each trip or some form of pass ticket (described below).

*   Single tickets are available for all forms of public transport, covering a single trip (one bus, one ferry, or until you leave the train station). Fares are based on distance bands. You can buy tickets for cash on all services except prepay-only buses. Single bus tickets (called "MyBus" and coloured blue) are also available at newsagents and convenience stores near bus stops. All bus stops within the Sydney CBD are pre-pay only on weekdays between 7AM and 7PM. If boarding a bus at any of these stops you will not be able to pay on the bus and will need a pre-pay ticket.

*   Ten trip tickets are available for buses and ferries at a 20% discount over normal fares. They will be useful if staying in an area where you need to catch a bus or ferry to travel to and from the city for a number of day. You should ask for a "MyBus Ten Trip" or a "MyFerry Ten Trip" ticket respectively. Tickets are distance based, so the trips taken must be for the same distances on the bus or ferry (there are two distance bands for ferries, and three for buses). You can buy Ten-Trip MyBus tickets at many newsagents or convenience stores near bus stops, or at train station ticket windows. There is no equivalent ticket for the trains.

*  Return tickets are available only on the trains. After 9AM in the morning or on weekends are considerably cheaper than two singles, but before 9AM on weekdays. The return trip can be made anytime up to 4AM the following day, or on a nightride bus the next morning. There are no return tickets on buses, and although ferry returns are available, they are the same as two single tickets). The off-peak discount is not available for single tickets. Children pay a maximum of $2.80 to for a return trip in Sydney on the trains off-peak (plus the airport gate fee for airport line stations).

*   For one day multi-modal unlimited use of buses, trains and Sydney Ferries (not private ferries, the light rail or the monorail) in the entire greater Sydney region (which extends to the Blue Mountains, Wollongong, Goulburn and the Hunter Valley) you can purchase a MyMutlti Day Tripper ticket (adults $20, children $10).

*   A One week multi-modal unlimited ticket is worth considering if you are using public transport for three or more days. MyMulti weekly tickets, which are coloured yellow, are based on zones. A MyMulti 1 ($41) will cover all buses and ferries (not private ferries) throughout Sydney and trains within within 10km of the city centre--which is pretty much all the average visitor needs. A MyMulti-2 ($48) covers everything the MyMulti-1 does and includes trains nearly to the outskirts of Sydney. A MyMulti-3 ($57) covers the entire metro area and beyond - if you are planning on travelling further afield from Sydney (for example, to the South Coast beaches or to the Blue Mountains by train) this ticket may be well worth it. If you purchase the ticket after 3PM you get the remainder of that day and the next 7 days.

*   A SydneyPass tickets ($115/3 days), allows unlimited travel for up to 8 days including tourist services, and includes fares to and from the airport.. Consider this only if you want to take the tourist Sydney Explorer services.

*   A Family Funday Sunday Ticket. These tickets are to encourage family travel on public transport on Sundays. They are $2.50 each and allow unlimited travel across a wide area of central and suburban Sydney including Newcastle and Wollongong on buses, trains and ferries. Most private bus companies also accept this ticket. The group must consist of at least 1 adult and child related by family. Children under 4 years of age travel free. Tickets are available from ticket sellers and bus drivers. Better value than most other tickets on Sundays. Although there are many opportunities for unlimited exploring with this ticket on a Sunday take care if planning to use outer suburban or regional buses, many of which run extremely infrequently or not at all on a Sunday.

Child fares are available to anyone under the age of 16, whether or not they are travelling with an adult. Student and other concessions are only available to those issued with a NSW transport student identification card. This card is only issued to students enrolled and resident in NSW or the ACT. Seniors fares are available to anyone with an Australian Seniors Card. Accordingly overseas visitors are not entitled to student or senior concessions.

Transport Infoline, 13 15 00, 24 hours. Information on fares and route planning for all public transport in Sydney. Available online and by telephone  

TransitShops, Circular Quay (cnr of Loftus & Alfred Sts) or Wynyard under Wynyard Park. Information on fares and route planning for all public transport in Sydney, all travelpass and travelten sales, accepts credit cards  

Access

Some train stations are easy access, with lifts to all platforms and ramps operated by station staff to allow wheelchair access to trains. Some buses have disabled access. All monorail stations have lifts and level access to the car, as do all light rail stations. Station facilities and bus times are available from the transport infoline, online or by phone.

By train

Sydney has an extensive suburban rail network operated by CityRail. Cityrail operates with at least a 30 minute frequency to all metropolitan stations (apart from the (dark blue) Carlingford Line and stations between Riverstone and Richmond on the (yellow) Western Line). There are usually 15 minute frequencies to major destinations and transit hubs such as Chatswood, Bondi Junction, Hurstville, Parramatta, Bankstown, Blacktown, and Liverpool. The Cityrail timetable has a weekday service and a weekend and holiday service.

During peak times 7am-9am and 5pm-6pm trains are faster, more frequent and more crowded. Expect severe congestion around Town Hall. The complex rail network sometimes experiences delays, especially during rain or excessively hot days.

The majority of Cityrail's suburban trains are not equipped with destination displays on the train and announcements can be inaudible. The displays on the platform are usually clear, but you need to make sure you know where you're going and keep track of the station stops.

All stations are equipped with CCTV and trains at night have designated NightSafe carriages and station areas with emergency intercoms and security patrols, making catching trains at night a viable (and cheaper) alternative to taxis.

Outside of operating hours, between 12AM (1AM on Fridays and Saturdays) and 5AM, NightRide buses are available on most routes within Sydney. Any CityRail train ticket is valid for the equivalent NightRide bus except a single. If you don't have a ticket, you'll need to buy a NightRide single from the driver, which is more expensive than a single for the train. NightRide buses stop at most CityRail stations and a few additional stops, but they don't travel on the same routes. If you intend catching a NightRide bus home, check the NightRide route map on the back cover of each timetable or at the station while you are waiting for your train.

On weekends check for trackwork before leaving for the station; CityRail will transfer passengers to buses if lines are closed for trackwork, and the process will add about half an hour to a typical journey. Trackwork will be advertised at the station for about a week before it begins. You need a the same ticket for the trackwork buses as you would for the train.

You must always purchase a ticket for the entire journey before boarding a train from either the ticket office or from the ticket machines that are located on most stations. There is no opportunity to buy a ticket onboard or at the destination. Ticket offices have limited opening hours at suburban stations, and outside of these hours you will need to use a machine. The ticket machines accept up to $50 notes but will give only $19.90 in change (in coins). They will also accept only 10 coins. Ticket offices accept Visa or Mastercard for a total ticket value over $20. A handful of ticket machines also accept Visa or Mastercard at major stations if you have a PIN.

Ticket inspectors will not hesitate to fine you and generally don't accept any excuses--unless if you say the ticket machine was broken at the station which you boarded the train, and then they will check that! If you accidentally buy the wrong ticket or forget to buy a ticket, honesty is not necessarily the best policy.

Within the city area there is a light rail system run by Metro Light Rail. It connects Central station to Sydney/Darling Harbour, Star City Casino and the inner western suburbs.

By bus

Sydney has an extensive bus network, including a free shuttle buses in the Sydney CBD and Parramatta.

Most of the buses in the inner city and inner suburbs are run by the government owned Sydney Buses The rest of the commuter network (primarily around the outer suburbs) is run by private bus companies. These services do not compete so you will usually only have one way of getting somewhere by bus.

You must flag down buses with an outstretched hand if you want them to stop for you - they will not automatically stop unless they need to pick someone up or drop them off.

A Sydney bus fare depends on many sections you are travelling, measured in sections of about 1.6 kilometres. Tickets can only be bought in cash when boarding the bus outside of the city centre or Bondi Junction interchange, and even then only on routes that are not prepay-only. In this case you can just state your destination to the driver and pay the fare. Only single trip tickets are sold by drivers. If in the CBD, at Bondi Junction Interchange, or on a prepay-only route, tickets must be pre-purchased from a ticket agent (usually a newsagent or convenience store) or a transit shop. All types of tickets, including MyBus single-ride, MyBus 10 multi-ride and MyMulti multi-modal tickets, are available from these agents.

In order to buy the correct ticket from a newsagent you will need to know how many sections your journey will be. Section ranges correspond to a colour of ticket. You can find out how many sections your trip is by calling the transport infoline (131500), asking at a transit shop at Wynyard, Circular Quay, or the QVB, or by looking at the route map in the timetable (printed or online). A ticket reseller at a newsagent or convenience store will likely have no idea of the correct ticket to sell you for your destination. Every section you travel in counts as a section. So to travel from Wynyard to North Sydney Station is 2 sections, because you travel in sections 2 and 3. If you boarded one stop before Wynyard, and exited one stop after North Sydney Station, you would have travelled in sections 1, 2, 3 and 4, so you would need a 4 section ticket. 1-2 section tickets will cover any journey within the CBD.

Drivers may be able to give change for a $20 note, but it pays to use lower-denomination coins and notes.

There are two main bus termination points in the CBD, at Wynyard and Circular Quay. These two points are about 10 minutes walk from each other or a one-stop train trip. You will need to make this walk if connecting from buses arriving from north of the harbour bridge to buses heading east or west, or vice-versa. Bus information centres are located at both Wynyard and Circular Quay.

The red Metrobuses (route 10 and route 20) runs between Leichhardt and Kingsford via the city and Oxford Street, and Mascot and Artarmon respectively. They only accept prepaid tickets, and run every ten minutes or so, with no timetable. This bus attempts to be visitor friendly, with electronic next stop displays, but don't count on them working.

Bus stops are not numbered, and on most buses there is nothing on the bus to tell you which stop you are approaching or which stop you are at. There are no poster maps on the bus either. If you are not sure where you are getting off pick up or print out the timetable, which has a route map on it and watch for landmarks as you pass. Also make sure, if you take a bus marked "Limited Stops" or "Express" (the route number will start with an L or an X), that the bus stops where you want it to! Limited stops services stop only at major stops, so give can give you a bit of a walk if you miss your stop. Express services can run many kilometres from the city express before resuming a normal stopping pattern. All normally numbered buses stop at all stops, so missing your stop or getting off one stop early is a manageable mistake.

From midnight to 5AM, most buses cease running with the exception of a few trunk routes that run at a reduced frequency including the 373, which runs 24 hours between the city and Coogee.

Outside of the city and inner suburbs, private bus companies are contracted to provide services, and operate with varying degrees of frequency and reliability. Expect significantly reduced services on weekends and off-peak, and expect many services to stop running around 9PM.

Tourist buses

*   Sydney Explorer , operated by Sydney Buses. The conspicuously red Sydney Explorer is a closed-top single-decker bus that visits 27 tourist destinations on a loop around the city. A day ticket (adult $39, child $19, family $97) allows unlimited rides for one day and services run every 20 minutes. Day tickets also allow access to the Bondi Explorer services. Two day tickets are also available.

*   Sydney and Bondi Beach Hop On Hop Off Tour ($35) is the only open-top double-decker tour bus. It has one a route around Sydney and one to Bondi Beach. The two routes connect at Central Station.

By ferry

*   Sydney Ferries [ central hub is at Circular Quay at the north of the CBD. Ferries run up the Parramatta River via Balmain and Olympic Park, across to Luna Park, around to Darling Harbour, and out to Manly, across to the Zoo and to Watsons Bay. In addition, they also go to Garden island and Cockatoo Island. They only run within the harbour, so you can't get a ferry to Bondi. Ferries run to most destinations at least every hour, with additional peak services, and half hourly services to Manly and Darling Harbour.

More than just a utilitarian means of transport, the ferries are a great way to see the harbourside. The best ferry excursion for visitors is from Circular Quay to Manly. Be prepared to take a stunning photograph of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge as you leave Circular Quay.

Trips to Balmain and Darling Harbour offer other great excuses to take a ferry trip under the Harbour Bridge.

At peak periods the Parramatta River ferries can fill to capacity, and you should ensure that you have an alternative for completing your trip. Passenger counts are strictly enforced. Peak periods are weekends around 4PM-6PM at Parramatta and Circular Quay, and school holiday weekdays from 4PM-6PM at Darling Harbour (heading to Parramatta) (you are okay if you board at Circular Quay where the ferry starts from). The Manly and inner-harbour ferries can get busy, but very rarely do they reach capacity.

By light rail and monorail

The Metro Light Rail and Monorail may be useful for travelling between Sydney City and Darling Harbour, the casino, and Pyrmont.

*   The Metro Light Rail operates one route from Central to Lilyfield (in the inner western suburbs) via Haymarket (Paddy's Market, Entertainment Centre), Darling Harbour, and Star City Casino. Although extensions are planned, at present the Light Rail is rather small, yet it is very reliable with services every 10-15 minutes. Combined tickets are available when travelling on Cityrail and the Metro Light Rail (ask for a "TramLink" ticket at a CityRail station; they are not available on board the tram).

*   The Sydney Monorail runs on a loop through connecting Town Hall, World Square and Darling Harbour. The monorail is really only for tourists, and is more a ride than it an effective means of transport. It is expensive, and if travelling to Darling Harbour it can be just as quick to walk as it is to catch the monorail.

By bike

If you are a fit and experienced urban cyclist, used to riding on multi-lane roads in heavy traffic, then just get on your bike. Cyclists are permitted just about everywhere on Sydney's roads, with the exception of some freeway tunnels where bicycle signs will usually direct you to the alternative route. Kerbside lanes are often narrow, so ride assertively, be seen, and take the full lane when you know there is insufficient room to be passed.

Central Sydney is not particularly cyclist friendly. Also, Sydney is not a flat city and you can expect regular hills but no marathon uphill climbs. The weather is, however, usually good for cycling.

If you are looking for a quieter ride, a number of quiet on-road and shared pedestrian/cycle paths are available, but can be hard to find. A good place to start is at Sydney Olympic Park where you can get your cycle legs on the extensive off-road trails, and then if you feel inclined you can follow off-road/quiet road trails out to Parramatta or following the Cooks River to Botany Bay in Southern Sydney. The Harbour Bridge has a dedicated cycle lane, suitable for all ages, but as soon as you get off the bridge you are back onto urban streets in Milsons Point.

It is illegal to ride bicycles on footpaths unless cycling with children under 12. In reality this is fairly weakly enforced out in the suburbs, but it is common for people to be fined for cycling through pedestrian malls in the city like Pitt St Mall or Martin Place. Bicycle helmets are required by law, as are lights and reflectors at night. Road rules applying to cyclists and maps of cycleways in the greater Sydney area are provided by the state government authority, but are not comprehensive, and indicated cycle routes can sometimes be busy roads with car-door lanes.

Bicycles can be taken on all Cityrail trains, but a child fare should be paid if any part of the journey is made before 9AM or after 3:30PM on weekdays. Check trackwork schedules on weekends, when buses replace trains and make taking bicycles more challenging.

Bike hire is available in many locations in Sydney. Unfortunately, bike hire for two bikes for a day usually costs more than hiring a small car and petrol for the day; however, for shorter periods some places may be reasonably priced (for example Sydney Olympic Park). In addition you have to consider the cost if the bikes are stolen or damaged. However, they are much easier to park, are greener and can be more fun. See the district articles for bike hire listings.

Tours

There are tours around Sydney offered by bus, hike, walking, motorcycle, and in a variety of other forms. See the district articles for listings.

See

Landmarks

*   The Sydney Harbour Bridge crosses the harbour from the The Rocks to North Sydney. There are many different experiences centred around the bridge. You can walk or cycle across, picnic under, or climb over the Harbour Bridge. See the details in The Rocks.

*   The Sydney Opera House. The Sydney Opera House is simply one of the most famous structures ever built. It is in the city centre.

*   Darling Harbour is a large tourist precinct and includes a range of activities, restaurants, museums and shopping facilities.

*   Sydney Olympic Park. Home of the 2000 Olympics and now parklands and sporting facilities.

*   Luna Park, 1 Olympic Dr, Milson's Point, tel. 02 9033 7676. Is a large theme park situated near the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Its mouth-shaped entrance can be seen from many areas of Sydney as well as the large Ferris Wheel.

*   Sydney Tower also called Centrepoint Tower or AMP Tower. The tallest structure in Sydney, the tower contains a buffet, cafe and a rather large restaurant and attracts many visitors a year. The tower is in the City Centre

*   St Mary's Cathedral. Sydney's main catholic cathedral. Corner of St Mary's Road and College St. The cathedral is in the City Centre.

Historical areas

*   The Rocks has sites preserved from Sydney's early settlement.

*   Parramatta to the west of Sydney is the site of many of Sydney's oldest buildings from colonial times.

*   Macquarie Street in the City has a string of historical sites, from the first hospital in the colony, to the Mint to Hyde Park Barracks, to the Conservatorium which was the original government house stables. Sydney Hospital was first known as "The Rum Hospital", it was the first major building established in the colony.

*   La Perouse, near Botany Bay, in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs contains the grave of an early French explorer, museum, and old fort.

*   The walk from Manly to Middle Head passes many coastal artillery fortifications built into the cliffs of Sydney Harbour during the late nineteenth century.

*   Mrs Macquarie's Chair and walk near the Botanical Gardens in the City

Museums and galleries

*   The Australian Museum is much the old style natural history museum. Usually a special exhibition on as well. The museum is near Hyde Park in City Centre.

*   The Australian National Maritime Museum has inside and outside exhibitions - much of the history of Australia is a maritime one, and much of it is in this museum in Darling Harbour.

*   The Art Gallery of NSW has mostly classical, but some modern and Aboriginal art. Near the Botanical Gardens in the city centre.

*   The Powerhouse Museum has some buttons to push, some technology, but some interesting displays of Sydney in the 1900s, in the City West in Ultimo, right on the boundary with Darling Harbour. Exhibits designed for children also.

*   The Museum of Contemporary Art in the city centre, near Circular Quay.

*   The Museum of Sydney in the city centre.

Or see one of the smaller chic Art Galleries in East Sydney.

Wildlife

In captivity

*   Taronga Zoo Large zoo whose animals have the best view in the world, a short ferry trip from the City on the North Shore.

*   The Koala Park Sanctuary in the Outer West.

*   Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour.

*   Sydney Wildlife World' adjacent to the aquarium in Darling Harbour.

*   Featherdale Wildlife Park in Western Sydney

and just out of Sydney, the

*  Australian Reptile Park about an hour north of Sydney, has kangaroos, wallabies, dingos, and more.

*  Symbio

In the wild

*  Whale Watching see whales migrating the Pacific coast. There are boats from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay.

*  Bats (Flying foxes) nest next to the fernery in the Botanic Gardens in the city, and fly to feed over the city buildings and Harbour Bridge at dusk, you can see them on the eastern side of the Opera House at sunset.

*  Rainbow Lorikeets swarm around the trees in many suburbs at dusk, making a tremendous chatter Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are commonly seen in the leafier suburbs all day.

*  Ibis are an unusual wader bird, that has made its home in the suburbs, especially in Hyde Park in the city

*  Possums are a native marsupial at home in the urban environment. Look up carefully in tree lined streets, or in Hyde Park after dark.

*  Kangaroos, Wallabies, and Rosellas. These can be spotted with patience in most of the Sydney National Parks, including the Royal National Park, ask the local rangers where they tend to be seen in the late afternoons. This is a great way to experience Australia’s native wildlife in their natural habitat compared to seeing these amazing animals confined in zoos, but requires considerably more time and patience.

Sydney Harbour

Sydney's large natural harbour was the reason that the original penal settlement was established in the area, near what is now known as Circular Quay. It is now well developed, with skyscrapers, highrises, and houses all around its shores, but it is still very beautiful.

The harbour is served by ferry services that transport passengers around the harbour. An excellent way to see both the harbour and Sydney attractions is to take a ferry east from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo or Manly or west under the Harbour Bridge towards Parramatta. These are reasonably priced and a favourite for tourists. If time is short, for a shorter route, the ferry between Circular Quay and Darling Harbour will let you ride under the Harbour Bridge and see the central part of the harbour.

You can take a cruise on Sydney Harbour. There are many cruises to choose from and they depart from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay. For a bigger adrenalin rush, try the jet boats that zip around the harbour at breakneck speeds.

Sydney Harbour can be viewed from the city or from on of the many walks next to it, most of which are easily accessible by ferry or bus.

You can arrange a guided tour of the islands by contacting the Sydney Visitors Centre at Cadmans Cottage, 100 George Street, The Rocks, ph 02 9247 5033. fax 02 9241 3303.

The world famous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race begins every year on Boxing Day, on Sydney Harbour. Thousands of spectator craft take to the water to farewell the yachts as they set off on their grueling journey to Hobart. Seaworthy craft can follow the yachts through the Sydney Heads into the open ocean. You can also see the race from a harbour vantage point like Watsons Bay. where you can see them sail towards you across the harbour, and then cross to the gap to see them sail down the coast.

Aboriginal Sydney

Far from being confined to the inland areas, Aboriginal people extensively occupied the Sydney area prior to the arrival of European settlers.

*  Rock Carvings, can be seen in the Royal National Park - catch the train and ferry to Cronulla and Bundeena. There are extensive carvings in Kuringai National Park, near West Head that are accessible only by car. Closer to the city, there are examples at Balls Head and Berry Island, near to Wollstonecraft station. There is an interpretive walk at Berry Island.

*  Meeting of Civilisations. Interpretive centre is at the site of the landing place of Captain Cook, at Kurnell.

*  Bangarra Dance Theatre, is a modern dance company, inspired by indigenous Australian themes.

*  Aboriginal Art. A wander through The Rocks and you will find many places exhibiting and selling contemporary Aboriginal art. The Art Gallery of New South Wales the City Centre has an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Gallery, which is free to visit.

Do

*  Swim at one of Sydney's many surf beaches. Try Bondi, Manly, Coogee, Cronulla or Wattamolla, or get off the tourist trail at one of the other beaches in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs or Northern Beaches.

*  Swing by the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Art Gallery of New South Wales  on the edge of the gardens. While you're in the area visit Mrs Macquarie's Chair for a picture postcard view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in one picture. You may have to compete with the numerous wedding couples on weekends.

*  Cycle around Centennial Park in the Eastern Suburbs or Bicentennial Park at Sydney Olympic Park

*  Visit the IMAX Theatre, which provides a movie experience with one of the largest cinema screens in the southern hemisphere in Darling Harbour.

*  Drive a dodgem car at Luna Park in North Sydney.

*  Go to a sports fixture.

*  Winter: The winter football season generally begins with trial matches in February, before the season proper kicks off in March and runs to late September or early October. Sydney's most popular winter football code is rugby league (often just called 'football' or 'footy' by locals - although never just 'rugby', which refers to rugby union). Nine teams from the national competition are based in Sydney and the sport is an important part of the city's culture - many teams play at least some of their games at intimate grounds in their suburban heartlands, and this can be a good way to experience the traditional heart of the sport. Other major sporting teams playing in Sydney over the winter are the Sydney Swans (AFL), the NSW Waratahs (rugby union) and the Sydney Swifts (Netball).

*  Summer: Sydney's primary summer sport is cricket, which you'll find being played (in somewhat modified form) on beaches and in backyards across the city. The professional stuff is largely based at the Sydney Cricket Ground close to the CBD: the traditional New Year's Test, between the Australian team and whichever foreign team is touring at the time, commences around the 3rd of January and runs for four to five days. Later in the summer, international one-day and/or Twenty20 matches are held at the SCG. The primary domestic tournaments, contested between Australian state teams, are the Sheffield Shield (first-class), Ford Ranger Cup (one-day) and KFC Big Bash (Twenty20): they are usually sparsely attended and so are much cheaper to attend than internationals. Some one-day and Twenty20 matches are played at ANZ Stadium at Olympic Park rather than at the SCG, but the cavernous stadium is far inferior to the grand old ground if you really want to get a feel for cricket culture. Australia's professional soccer tournament, the A-League, runs over the summer and struggles to attract a great deal of public enthusiasm; Sydney's team is Sydney FC, which plays out of the Sydney Football Stadium.

*  Catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. Before returning to the Sydney CBD, walk from the Manly ferry wharf along the Manly Corso to famous Manly Beach. A great day, afternoon or evening out at a fraction of the price of a commercial harbour cruise.

*  You can get guided tours of Sydney by coach, bicycle, foot or boat. See the local articles for details.

*  Scenic Flights Adventures and Flight Training, +61 2 9791 0643 (contact@redbaron.com.au). A fantastic way to see Sydney Harbour is from the air. Red Baron Adventures do scenic flights over Sydney Harbour and the Northern Beaches most days of the year (weather permitting) in an open cockpit Pitts Special bi-plane. They also have heart stopping Aerobatic Flights available for the more adventurous (note: these are not done over Sydney Harbour). Flights range from $440 to $660 and go for between 45 min and 80 minutes.

Walk

There are many picturesque and interesting walks throughout Sydney. The following are just a few of the better-known routes.

*  Across the Harbour Bridge in The Rocks.

*  Coogee beach to Bondi. Following the eastern coastline past several of Sydney's beautiful beaches. Stop off for a swim if you get too hot.

*  Manly to the Spit. Along the foreshore of Sydney Harbour,.

*  Circular Quay and surrounds. Start underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge, then walk past the The Rocks, Circular Quay, the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Botanical Gardens and Mrs Macquarie's Chair. For an extended tour of the city centre, covering these and other major sights, see Walking tour of Sydney.

Skate

Sydney has three indoor ice skating centres in the suburbs. The closest to the city centre is:

*  Macquarie Ice Rink. Macquarie Ice Rink is in the vast expanse of Macquarie Shopping Centre in North Ryde. Activities include training sessions, birthday parties and casual visits. Skates are available for hire (usually a bit worn and not necessarily sharp), or bring your own. Phone to enquire about public session times as the ice is shared between many other users (like hockey teams) and may not be available for the whole day. It is located within a 2 minute walk from Macquarie University railway station.

Performance Art

Sydney has three theatres which show major international productions, the Capitol Theatre in Haymarket, the Theatre Royal under the MLC Centre in the CBD and the Lyric Theatre in Star City in Pyrmont Bay. Usually one of the latest theatre blockbusters will be on show at these theatres. Slightly more on the cutting edge, with more locally produced drama can be found at the Sydney Theatre Company, in Walsh Bay in The Rocks, or occasionally at the Opera House Drama Theatre. Similar productions are often on at the Seymour Centre next to Sydney University just off Broadway on City Road. Smaller theatres, some with lesser known performers, featuring new and local writers can be harder to find. Try the Belvoir St Theatre in Surry Hills in City East, or the Newtown Theatre in the Inner West. Amateur theatre, especially musical theatre, proliferates in Sydney, with over 30 amateur musical theatre companies providing a fun night of theatre for around $20 per ticket in the suburbs. Check the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, the Zenith Theatre in Chatswood on the Lower North Shore, or the Sutherland Entertainment Centre in Sutherland.

For classical music fans, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra plays at the Opera House and at  Angel Place Recital Hall If the Sydney Symphony aren't playing, the Recital Hall may have other performances of interest. Conservatorium of Music often hosts performances on a smaller scale.

Opera Australia perform at the Opera House in the City Centre.

Cinema

Sydney has mainstream movies showing on multi-screen cinema complexes all around Sydney, including the City Centre and Moore Park. The two main operators are Greater Union and Hoyts ].

For arthouse, or more obscure movies, try the Chauvel, Verona and Academy Twin cinemas on Oxford Street in the City East, or the Dendy near the Opera House in the City Centre or in Newtown, or Cinema Paris at the Entertainment Quarter at Fox Studios at Moore Park in the City East.

Many of the larger cinema complexes offer premium seating and services for a premium price.

There is one drive-in movie left open in Sydney, at Blacktown in the Outer West.

Festivals

Sydney is home to a number of major and minor festivals and calendar events each year. Listed chronologically these are:

January

*  Sydney Festival (Festival Of Sydney), An arts festival aiming to be international in reach, inviting acclaimed international artists to exhibit their work or perform in Sydney. A number of free outdoor events are held alongside the festival including the hugely popular Jazz in the Domain, Symphony in the Domain, and Festival First Night. Concerts held in the Domain and Hyde Park in the City Centre. The Bacardi Latin Festival in Darling Harbour is held in early January as part of the Sydney Festival, and contains a week of Latin dancing and music.  

*  Field Day Festival. January 1. Attracts the infamous Sydney NYE party-goers as well as rested Sydneysiders. The festival offers an exemplary cross section of leftfield bands, artists and DJ's for the true music lovers' delectation. Past artists have included The Presets and Kaskade.  

*  Big Day Out, . An Australia-wide rock/alternative music festival with a side of dance, plays to up to 60 000 Sydneysiders at a time for one or two days in late January (normally on the January 26th public holiday). Past acts have included Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, the Chemical Brothers and Marilyn Manson from overseas, and Powderfinger, Regurgitator and Gerling from Australia. It normally sells out the day of ticket release.  

*  St. Jerome's Laneway Festival, An alternative/indie music festival held in January/February each year (see website for upcoming dates), where bands play in laneways around the city, this this festival a rather unique vibe and atmosphere. The Festival attracts both international and domestic artists, which has included such artists like Feist, Architecture in Helsinki and Born Ruffians. If you're interested in getting involved in the Sydney 'underground' or alternative/indie scene, this festival is a good start.  

*  Sydney Fringe Festival, Features fringe art in the form of film, TV, performance and sport.  

February

*  Good Vibrations Festival, A multi-genre festival held in February every year attracting major international acts like Fatboy Slim, Cypress Hill, Kanye West, Beastie Boys and Snoop Dogg.  

*  Future Music Festival. Held in late February every year, drawing in an enviable array of international and domestic artists like Paul Oakenfold, Basement Jaxx, N*E*R*D ft. Pharrell Williams, and CSS.  

*  Chinese New Year. Widely celebrated by Sydney's Chinese community, with the centre of festivities being at Chinatown. Look out for Lion dancing, Dragonboat races at Darling Harbour, and of course plenty of good food.  

March

*  Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, . A festival organised by and for the queer community. It includes sports, cultural and arts events that run throughout February, culminating in the Mardi Gras parade in Darlinghurst on the first Saturday of March each year. The festival began as a street protest, and has grown into a huge celebration.  

*  Royal Easter Show, Is the major agricultural show in New South Wales, and is held around Easter each year at Sydney Olympic Park. Farmers from all over the state come to show their prize produce. But it isn't just an agricultural show: a huge number of amusement ride operators set up for the show as well, together with vendors of the worst kind of child baiting junk food: fairy floss and deep fried hot dogs (known as "dagwood dogs" or "pluto pups").  

*  Sydney French Film Festival (The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival), Offers an impressive and ambitious panoramic view of contemporary French cinema, screening the films at Palace Academy Twin in Oxford St, Darlinghurst, Verona in Paddington & Norton Street in Leichhardt.  

*  V Festival,. Showcases a huge array of international and domestic musical acts. Previous artists have included The Pixies, Beck, The Rapture, Groove Armada, Phoenix, The Pet Shop Boys, Jack Johnson, The Killers, Snow Patrol and The Human League.  

*  Cockatoo Island Festival. 25-27 March. Where lots of friendly people enjoy a fabulous mixture of music and culture while discovering one of Sydney's best kept secrets.  

April

*  Sydney German Film Festival (Audi Festival of German Films in Australia). Shows contemporary German films.  

May

*  Sydney Spanish Film Festival, Showcases the best that Spanish cinema has to offer.  

*  Biennale of Sydney,. A contemporary arts and multimedia festival held in winter in even numbered years.  

June

*  Sydney Film Festival, Shows over 200 movies in 16 days, including an enormous number of Australian movies, most of which will premiere at the festival.  

September

*  Lavazza Italian Film Festival, Showcases the finest that Italian cinema has to offer, picking contemporary films from the vibrant Rome International Film Festival to the more established events such as the prestigious Berlinale and the world-famous Cannes Film Festival; and a selection of Italian Classics from the archives of the Cinecittà Studios in Rome.  

October

*  Sydney International Food Festival (Formerly October Good Food Month),. Showcases the city's best restaurants, established and up-and-coming young chefs, food and wine culture. Events which were part of the Good Food Month will still be held, including "Let's do lunch" (set-menu lunch specials at Sydney's notable restaurants at $35), "Hats off dinners", the night noodle markets at Hyde Park, and hands-on cooking classes.  

*  Musica Viva Festival,. Sydney's premier chamber music festival. The festival presents a rich feast of masterworks and musical treasures played by some of the world's finest practioners, interspersed with music of different cultures. It will be first held in October 2008.  

*  Sculpture by the Sea,. Join tens of thousands of Sydneysiders as they take a leisurely walk between Bondi Beach and Tamarama Beach to admire the numerous larger than life sculptures set up at both beaches and along the walk. Bring a camera to take snaps of the weird and wonderful exhibits.  

December

*  Homebake, A rock/alternative/dance festival featuring only Australian acts. It is held in the Domain in the city centre.A  

*  Carols in the Domain, Held annually in the Domain in the city centre on the last Saturday before Christmas. Attracts around 100,000 people (so plan to get in there early for a good spot) with candles sing along as night falls.  

*  New Year's Eve. Features massive displays of pyrotechnics around Sydney Harbour and the Harbour Bridge (including fireworks shot from the bridge itself). There are two shows, a "family show" at 9PM, and the major fireworks display at midnight. Immediately following the 9PM Family Fireworks, the spectacular Harbour of Light Parade begins. Over 50 vessels make a majestic passage on a 15km circuit around the Harbour, featuring illuminated emblems representing the Sydney New Year's Eve theme, glittering either on their hulls or masts. Many of the hotels and bars near the Harbour hold special parties with high cover charges, and boat cruises sell for a premium. Or get in early for the free alternative with some cheese, fruits, wine, picnic blanket and some friends on a warm summer night by the harbour. Save some sympathy for Northern Hemisphere cousins freezing in Times Square waiting for all the excitement of a ball dropping by a couple of metres.  

Learn

You can take language classes, join a cafe book group, learn to draw, sign up for historical or foodie walks, or take computer or business classes at City of Sydney Library, where you can sign up to borrow books or just read magazines in their café as well.

Buy

See the Sydney District Pages for things to buy in the City, and other Sydney districts.

Most stores will accept VISA/Mastercard credit cards, and only a few take only cash. American Express is generally accepted only at larger stores.

Currency exchange

As with the rest of Australia, currency exchange offices operate in a free market, and the small convenient exchange booth you pass on George Street, by the Opera House or at the airport can charge 15% or more over the best rate you can obtain elsewhere. As always, check rates and commission carefully. Know today's rate and be prepared to walk away if the amount of money they calculate isn't what you would expect. Banks typically offer much better rates, but are only open business hours on weekdays.

You may find it better to pay by credit card and use ATM withdrawals and have the certainty of getting the rate and fees provided by your bank.

Opening hours

Main department stores and speciality stores open around 9am and close around 6pm, staying open until 9pm on Thursday. On Sunday expect them to open around 10am in the suburbs, and around 11am in the city centre, and to close at 5pm. There are a few locations where you will find shops opening a little later, such as Darling Harbour which is open until 9pm every weeknight.

Large supermarkets will be open from 6am until midnight.

Many convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and petrol stations within the Sydney metro area are open 24 hours a day.

Banks will usually only open weekdays, with only an occasional branch opening Saturday morning. Travel agents (not including booking agents in tourist areas) close on Sundays.

Souvenirs

Those quintessential Aussie souvenirs - stuffed koalas and kangaroos, various "Australiana" knick-knacks - can be found in any souvenir store around the city, as well as in airport shops. Authentic Aboriginal/indigenous arts and crafts, such as traditional paintings, hand-made didgeridoos, are expensive, and the range in Sydney is much smaller than in Alice Springs. For those who only wish to take home a replica, as a memento of their trip to Australia, head to Paddy's Markets in the Haymarket area of the southern end of the city. The markets also sell a huge range of souvenirs at much better prices than regular souvenir stores. Dollar shops (see "Food and Essentials" below) also sell souvenirs at bargain-basement prices, albeit at a much reduced quality.

Fashion

Australia's unique style and creativity means Sydney is developing on the international fashion circuit, as designs from Australians such as Wayne Cooper, Collette Dinnigan, Akira Isogawa, Lisa Ho, and Easton Pearson are seen around the globe. In fact, around 60 Australian labels are currently exporting their designs to boutiques and department stores in Asia, Europe and the United States.

The greatest concentration of clothing and accessories stores are to be found in the northern half of the CBD, starting from the Town Hall precinct, neat the Queen Victoria Building.

*  Queen Victoria Building in the City Centre is a renowned, beautifully maintained, 19th century sandstone building, home to over 400 stores. The stores in the building are laid out in a hierachial style- literally. The basement level has cheap, casual-fashion stores with a food court, the street level mid-range brand-name chains and level 3 is where various Australian designers, some European labels and Italian shoe stores are located. It is one of Sydney's more photogenic pieces of architecture. Located on George St adjacent to Town Hall.

*  Castlereagh Street in the City Centre is lined by many of Sydney's most expensive European-label boutiques and jewellery stores.

*  Department stores. There are only two of these in the City Centre, Myer  and David Jones , located practically next door to each other near the Pitt Street Mall, and joined by an above-ground covered pedestrian walkway. Both offer your standard department-store range of goods.

*  Pitt Street Mall is a pedestrian mall in the City Centre. It is one block long between Market Street and King Street and is one of Australia's busiest and most cosmopolitan shopping precincts. Despite the areas small size, it is home to many flagship chain stores. However, many of the stores along The Mall is currently closed (June 2009) as they undergo renovation/construction.

*  Oxford Street just east of the city is lined with shops, bars and nightclubs. The section between Taylor Square and Queen St, Woollahra is particularly good for mid-high end Australian fashion designers and boutiques. Some of these boutiques and other fashion retailers sell at Paddington Markets , which are held in the grounds of the Paddington public school every Saturday from 10am.

*  Queen Street in Woollahra also east of the city is an upmarket shopping destination with high-end boutiques, food and homewares stores.

*  Westfield Shopping Centres  Large shopping malls at Bondi Junction, Chatswood, and Parramatta. The Bondi Westfield offers the most upmarket experience, with many European fashion labels available. All are easily accessible by car and public transport, see the district articles for details.

*  Birkenhead Point - A multi-story factory outlet in Sydney's Inner West. Short bus ride from the City Centre. Also accessible from the city centre by ferry from Circular Quay, though the usual trip time is far greater than the equivalent bus trip.

*  DFO  is a place to shop for brand name fashions at discount prices. It is located near Sydney Olympic Park at the corner of Homebush Bay Drive and Underwood Road. By public transport, take the 525 bus from Strathfield Station to the last bus stop on Underwood Road.

*  Warringah Mall  is a large cheerful mall on the Nothern Beaches on a sprawling complex that includes dolphin-featured waterfalls and sunny courtyards

Food and essentials

Prices are inflated in convenience stores and in tourist areas, and it is worth seeking out the supermarkets - even in the city centre. The main Supermaket Chains in Sydney are Woolworths, Coles , Franklins  and Aldi. See the local guides for locations.

Postcards

Sydney postcards are least expensive at post offices (AUD 0.75), where you can buy stamps from as well. Convenience and souvenir stores may sell a wider range of (more expensive) postcards, but generally they do not sell stamps. An overseas stamp for a postcard costs AUD 1.40

Eat

Prices

Prices in Sydney's restaurants vary. A main meal in a mid-range restaurant is around $25 - $35. Upper mid-range averages around $35 - $45. At the real top-end places a dinner for two with wine can run up to $400-500 and beyond.

For the more budget-conscious, go for the "multicultural" restaurants, especially the Asian ones. Many restaurants also offer "lunch specials". For example, a good Korean "set lunch" can be found for less than $15.

Eating times

Cafés serving breakfast start opening at 6AM and breakfast is usually served until 11AM, or occasionally all day. Orders for lunch start at about noon and continue until about 3PM. Many cafes will start closing late afternoon, although a few may remain open for dinner.

Restaurants usually open for dinner around 5PM-6PM and while there are exceptions (usually concentrated in areas with active nightlife), last orders for dinner are typically taken around 10PM. Restaurants in business areas open for lunch as well. It is common for restaurants in suburban locations to sometimes be closed on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday nights.

It is more expensive to get a sit down meal in the evening, than it is for lunch.

Eat streets

Just about every suburb of Sydney will have a restaurant or two, a cafe or coffee shop, and a place that sells takeaway food.

However, there are are a number of places in Sydney where you can window shop through many restaurants, and take your choice.

All of Darling Harbour is like this, there are restaurants of every variety all along the waterfront. East Circular Quay in the City Centre is similar, along with the International Passenger Terminal on the west of Circular Quay.

In the east of the city, Victoria St in Darlinghurst and Crown St in Surry Hills (between Oxford and Cleveland Sts) have a large range of restaurants ranging from cheap Asian take-aways to mid-high end restaurants.

King Street, Newtown, centred on the railway station, has a constantly changing selection of good value restaurants, cafes and bars. Not at all touristy.

On the Lower North Shore Willoughby Road at Crows Nest, has honest and consistently good Indian, Thai, and other choices. Parramatta has a eating strip, many with alfresco options.

Splurge

Sydney is also home to some of the world's best restaurants.

If you are wanting to try Sydney's finest rated restaurants during your visit, make a booking in advance at Quay in the The Rocks; Tetsuya’s, Bilsons, or Est in the City Centre; Marque in the City East or Pier in the Eastern Suburbs.

Neil Perry is one of Sydney's celebrity chefs, and runs Rockpool at The Rocks. He also has the Rockpool Bar and Grill in the city, not far from Circular Quay, with Spice Temple downstairs.

If you want to splurge on the location make an advance booking at Forty One, on the forty first floor of Chifley Tower in the City Centre but be aware the food may not live up to its price-tag, or Guillaume at Bennelong Restaurant in the Opera House. You may be lucky on a weekday and get a walk-up table at one of the restaurants in Campbells Cove in the The Rocks.

If you want to have fine dining, away from the central Sydney, try Jonah's in the far Northern Beaches - go for lunch, the view is stunning.

Modern Australian

Thanks to Sydney's (or rather, Australia's) multicultural mix, "modern Australian" is usually characterised by a fusion of cuisines. Think entrees spiced with a Thai-inspired chilli dressing, mains with a hint of a Chinese-style ginger-based marinade or sunny Tuscan flavours- all in the same menu. Many of Australia's celebrity chefs are of ethnic backgrounds, and many have trained overseas, bringing with them a world of experience back home.

*  Visit the Sydney Fish Markets in Pyrmont (within walking distance of Darling Harbour) for a lunch of fresh seafood of almost any description.

*  Hit a steakhouse and try Australia's world-famous prime Angus beef. Easily accessible upmarket Sydney city steakhouses include I'm Angus  at Darling Harbour and Kingsley's in Woolloomoolloo in the City East.

Alternatively, many CBD pubs offer $6 to $10 steak "meal deals", provided that you also order a particular alcoholic drink at the same time. You can also go to Phillip's Foote  at The Rocks to cook your own steak on a BBQ.

Multicultural

For those who are after authentic multicultural culinary experiences, there are unique "food districts" scattered around the greater city. The range of food available is huge and isn't necessarily expensive. It is usually possible to find a restaurant of any nationality, specialising in almost any cuisine.

*  Yum cha in Chinatown is very good, arguably even better than Hong Kong since many of their best chefs moved to Sydney in the 1990s. Yum Cha is an entire meal comprising many small dishes called "dim sum" (Mandarin: dian xin). It's similar to Spanish tapas in serving style- but the food moves in roving, heated trolleys around the restaurant.

*  Eat Chinese (Cantonese) in Chinatown Chatswood on the North Shore. "Noodle markets" are also held in Chinatown every Friday, starting from around 5:30PM. Many Chinatown restaurants hold open-air stalls, selling everything from finger food, to stir-fry noodles, to Chinese-style desserts. For more northern Chinese flavours, including Shanghainese and Pekingnese, head to Ashfield and Strathfield in the Sydney/Inner West- both easily accessible via public transport. Some outer suburbs are particularly known for their Chinese restaurants - recommended examples are Eastwood (north-west), Parramatta (west) and Hurstville in Sydney's southern suburbs which all have a number of restaurants offering more home-style Chinese food. They are all accessible by public transport.

*  Eat Uyghur on Dixon Street, Haymarket (Chinatown)- fiery, flavour-bursting food originating from the Turkic regions of Central Asia.

*  Eat Thai in one of the many low priced Thai outlets in Newtown's King Street in the Inner West.

*  Eat Italian in one of the restaurants in Leichhardt's Norton Street, or nearby Ramsay Street, Haberfield in the Inner West. Or in Stanley St in East Sydney - a walk from the CBD.

*  Eat Spanish in Liverpool Street in the city.

*  Eat Portuguese in Petersham in the Inner West.

*  Eat Indian in one of the many restaurants in the Outer West with all types of Indian cuisine (North Indian, South Indian, Vegetarian, meat, etc.)

*  Eat Korean in Liverpool & Pitt St in City, Strathfield, Eastwood and Campsie.

*  Eat Japanese in Neutral Bay or Crows Nest.

*  Eat Nepalese in Glebe Point Road, Glebe, in the Inner West.

*  Eat Turkish in Auburn (Outer West). Closer to the city, there try Enmore Rd Enmore / South King St Newtown in the Inner West. Get your Sucuklu and Pastirmali here.

*  Eat Lebanese in Cleveland Street. Baba Ghanouj, Lahem Begin and Baclawa here. Salam Alaikum.

*  Eat Vietnamese. The most authentic Vietnamese can be experienced in Cabramatta.

*  Eat Kosher in Bondi. Many great restaurants throughout the area.

*  Eat Indonesian in Anzac Parade, Kingsford & Maroubra.

Many of the areas mentioned above also sell produce related to the original nationality of the locals. CityRail also has a section for eating your way round Sydney by train. Organised by each train line, you will find a range of places to eat out often within easy walking distance of stations

Take away

Take away food in Sydney can be as cheap as buying the ingredients and making it yourself, and many stores specialise in take-away food. There will usually be a picnic table, park or beach nearby to eat whatever you can select. Quintessential Aussie takeaways include the meat pie (minced beef with gravy sauce in a crusty pastry shell) and sausage roll (sausage mince in a puff pastry casing), usually topped generously with tomato sauce/ketchup.

Most restaurants will do take-away food as well, but almost certainly at a premium to the cost of buying food from a take-away. Outside of the city an occasional restaurant may offer a 10% discount for take-away.

Vegetarian and special diets

Vegetarians are well catered for. Every restaurant will usually have at least one vegetarian dish. Indian retaurants can be relied upon to provide a wider selection. Maya Sweets on Cleveland St is a must visit for vegetarians and Wafu does Japanese with lots of vegan and vegetarian options. The trendy East Sydney and Inner West suburbs have many choices, Cabramatta in the western suburbs have many Asian Buddhist cuisine resturants that are vegan and vegetarian.

There is an awareness of gluten-free and dairy-free diets in Sydney, and again the more trendier inner city suburbs are more likely to cater for these diets.

Food festivals

It seems every weekend, there is a food festival on in one of the suburbs of Sydney. Usually the idea is that restaurants take part, providing smaller portions of their signature dishes around $7-$12 a plate.

The largest good festival, the Sydney International Food Festival, which showcases Sydney's food culture is in October, which includes the night noodle markets operating in Hyde Park in the City Centre

Tipping

The general rule on tipping in Australia is that it is not compulsory and generally not expected. This remains true for most cafes, and for counter service in Sydney. However for a full service restaurant in a tourist areas and mid to higher end restaurants a tip would be expected by the waitstaff. However, most Australians will still not tip, and you should feel free to follow their lead should you wish to. Nobody will follow you or give you a hard time. Otherwise a 10% tip added to the bill or rounding the bill up to the nearest $10, $20 or $50 to a maximum of 10% (depending on the size of the bill!) will usually meet their expectations. They may be expecting a little more if you have an American accent, as they are well aware of what Americans tip at home.

Drink

Sydney has an enormous number of places to drink and party. A limited number of venues have 24 hour licenses, however the majority close before 3AM and some as early as 11PM, particularly if there are nearby residents. Most venues will have door staff checking photo identification to determine that you are over 18. Admission is also commonly refused to those who seem visibly drunk. More popular venues have discriminatory door practices, the most common of which is refusing entry to groups of men who are not accompanied by women.

Most places have at least a basic dress code. For most generic pubs, men should wear closed toe shoes (not running sneakers), full-length pants, and a shirt with sleeves (not a singlet). For clubs, men should don neat business-style shoes.In almost all cases, women can dress more freely, but a small number of places require closed shoes or dressy sandals or high heels.

Be aware that something called a 'hotel' may not actually be a hotel. Many pubs around Sydney are called hotels, but only very few can ever offer you a place to sleep. Hotel pubs are usually found on a street corner with at least one ground-floor bar, and are usually a few floors high (though not all floors may be open to the public).

Entry charges for live music or DJs are usual and range from $5 to $30 depending on clientèle. Entry charges are rare if you're going into a pub for a drink.

There is a taxi shift change at 3AM, and it is notoriously difficult to catch a taxi anywhere between 2:30AM and 3:30AM. Also beware that there is currently a government enforced lockout at many establishments between 2 and 5AM - which means that you need to stay inside or you won't be able to get back in - even if you go out for a cigarette (smoking is illegal inside). Ask the bouncers or some locals if you're unsure and they will tell you which places are affected by the lockout and which aren't.

Some types of nightlife are concentrated in particular areas:

*  Backpackers drink near the hostels, and will find a lot of fellow budget travellers in pubs in the Eastern Suburbs Beaches like Bondi Beach and Kings Cross in the City East

*  In some ways Irish pubs are a global phenomenon, but they've certainly taken Sydney by storm. Irish pubs are concentrated in both The Rocks area and the southern area of the city. They are outrageously popular on the 17th March for St Patrick's Day.

*  Business pubs also cater to the city crowd: lawyers, financiers and brokers and are very busy Friday nights when the city workers are let loose for the week.

*  Large nightclubs are concentrated in the Darling Harbour area.

*  Sydney's large gay scene is concentrated on Oxford Street in City East although it still has a large range of pubs and clubs for all ranges of sexuality and is a prominent nightspot for many party-goers.

*  Sydney's students drink in the Inner West.

*  Some nightclubs and Sydney's younger party-goers are found in North Sydney.

There are many great nightclubs in Sydney, unfortunately they are very spread out so it would be a good idea to get an idea of were you want to go. Check guides in Friday's newspapers, or the free guides available in music stores and youth clothing stores.

Tipping

Most bars and clubs in Sydney will simply return your change, and no tip is expected. Some more upmarket bars will return your change on a tray. Most Sydneysiders will simply collect the change from the tray, however feel free to leave the coins on the tray if you would like to tip. Working out a percentage of the drink cost, or tip per drink is never required.

 

Get in

Get around

By foot

The center of Cairns is small enough to cover on foot.

By bus

Frequent Sunbus buses depart from the market square to the suburbs and Northern Beaches. You can buy a bus ticket that lasts for 24 hours. The bus driver stamps the time of purchase and it valid for the next 24 hours.

By car

Apart from the town centre, a car is useful to see the surrounding attractions if you are not taking a tour.

Numerous car rental agencies are available from the airport.

See

Events

*  Catch an amateur rugby game in town if you can, the locals play a mean game, and it's a great way to meet local folks.

*  International cricket is sometimes played in Cairns at Cazaly's Stadium . Time your visit right and you could catch a great game for just a couple of dollars.

*  Cairns is home to one of Australia's best basketball teams, as well as basketball's most famous mascot, Joe Blake the Snake.

Natural attractions

*  Many natural Cairns attractions include the Great Barrier Reef, Copperlode Dam, Atherton Tablelands and Daintree Rainforest

*  Cairns is the hotspot for wildlife diversity in Australia and is an ideal place to see a huge variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Places such as Mount Lewis, Lamb Range, or Mount Hypipamee are ideal locations to see anything from a Cassowary to Tree Kangaroos.

Do

Cairns is an adventure sports enthusiast's paradise: every second shop is a tourist information centre with signs blaring "dive dive" or "tandem skydiving". Its location close to the ocean, the mountains and the rainforest gives travellers lots of choices of activities.

Standby rates are ubiquitous: many of the more expensive activities, including scuba diving and skydiving, are up to $150 cheaper if you are prepared to go on standby for a cancellation.

*  Swim in the artificial "lagoon" (a public swimming pool with some sand on one side) on the promenade near the pier. The lagoon is unfenced and free to use. A shallow depth(max depth 1.5m) makes it ideal for families with children. The lagoon is a good place to cool off especially during "stinger season" between October and May (cf. Dangerous creatures in Australia) when local beaches should be avoided. Note that there are also no beaches in Cairns itself - one can catch a bus to the northern beaches, but the sand there is rather rough, and during stinger season the area protected by netting at the northern beaches is no bigger than the lagoon.

*  Sun-bake or people watch on the grassy part of the promenade near the lagoon. On a sunny day, even in the middle of Cairns's tropical "winter", there will sometimes be more sun-bakers than there is visible grass.

*  Have a barbecue on the promenade. Cairns has free barbecues scattered generously among the picnic tables on the grass.

*  Go walking - Cairns is surrounded by rainforest clad mountains, and there are nearly 200 walking tracks in this World Heritage Area. Keen walkers should keep an eye out for Tropical Walking Tracks, found at local bookshops and adventure shops. It lists all of the tracks around Cairns as well as those between Townsville and Cooktown and has maps of them and 'how-to-get-there' directions as well.

*  Cairns Wildlife Dome, 35-41 Wharf Street, +617 4031 7250 (info@cairnsdome.com.au), A spectacular all-weather wildlife exhibit enclosed by a 20 metre high glass dome on top of the iconic Reef Hotel Casino, visitors walk through a replicated rainforest environment whilst birds such as parrots, cockatoos and lorikeets fly freely around you. See other animals such as koalas, frogmouths, kookaburras, rainforest wallabies, crocodiles, turtles and pythons. Complimentary guided tours and animal presentations take place throughout the day.  

Coach Tours

Many coach tours depart Cairns daily, with a couple of hundred to choose from. There are rainforest tours to Mossman Gorge, the Daintree River, Cape Tribulation, and the Cairns Highlands (Atherton Tablelands), specialised 4WD tours, city sights tours, tours to wildlife parks, outback tours, and much, much more.

*  Tropic Wings Coach Tours, PO 1230 Cairns, +617 4041 9400 (daytours@tropicwings.com.au, fax: +617 4041 9499), Tropic Wings Coach Tours is one of the largest and longest established coach touring companies in Cairns, operating since 1981. Tropic Wings operates full and half day tours to Kuranda including Kuranda Scenic Railway, Skyrail, Rainforestation Nature Park and Australian Butterfly Sanctuary; Cape Tribulation and the Daintree; Port Douglas; Atherton Tablelands and the Outback; and extended tours to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree.  

*  Cairns Discovery Tour, Includes the Royal Flying Doctor Service visitor centre and botanical gardens.  

*  Food Trail Tours, PO Box 112, +61-7-4041-1522 (fax: +61-7-4032-0422), This tour offers a chance to experience a food, wine and sightseeing extravaganza on the tropical food trail while meeting local people and tasting local produce. The tour includes a tropical fruit wine maker, coffee plantation, macadamia plantation, inclusive barramundi lunch, and a hint of chocolate, as well as a very unique wildlife feeding experience at Granite Gorge Food Trail Tours is a small locally owned company that takes you away from all the attractions, souvenir shops and other coaches, to meet local people, and taste their exceptional produce. A day on the tropical food trail costs $137 for adults, $65 for a child, and $395 for a family(2A+2C).

*  Jungle Tours, PO Box 2945, +617 4041 9440 (res@jungletours.com.au, fax: +617 4041 9499), Jungle Tours specializes in day and extended tours to the World Heritage areas of Cape Tribulation and the Daintree - where the oldest rainforest in the world meets the Great Barrier Reef. Small groups travel with their informative guides on air-conditioned buses. Tours can include Port Douglas, The Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary, cruising on the Daintree River searching for crocodiles and wildlife, swimming in the Mossman Gorge and exploring Cape Tribulation Beach. On extended tours, various levels of accommodation are offered, from backpacker dorms to deluxe resorts, with plenty of options to party and play. Activities vary from reef trips with Rum Runner, to horseriding, jungle surfing, and sea kayaking.  

*  NatureTour Australia, Specializes in trips to local wildlife hotspots.  

*  Northern Experience Eco Tour, P.O.Box 177 Stratford 4870, 07 40580268. Visits the waterfalls, Lake Barrine Cater lake, The Curtain Fig Tree, Famous Milla Milla Falls, Delicious 2 course hot lunch & cheese/yogurt tasting at the Mungalli Organic Bio-Dynamic Dairy, & rainforest of the Southern Cairns Highlands, plus the historic Spanish castle ruins & gardens of Paronella Park & Mena Creek falls, near Innisfail, and the Beautiful Babinda Boulders for a swim in clear mountain spring waters. Back to Cairns via Bruce Highway, sugar cane fields and Walsh's Pyramid. Many photo opportunities, a photographers delight. Small groups, Max 20 passengers.  

Diving and snorkelling

A number of Cairns operators run day and liveaboard scuba diving trips from Cairns. For seeing the Great Barrier Reef, the smaller dive boats provide the best experience, both for diving and for snorkelling. The larger operations have more amenities - better food, larger and faster boats, more activities, but sometimes provide a poorer underwater experience, as the underwater areas that the larger boats visit are heavily overused, and somewhat barren of coral and fish. Your mileage may vary.

*  Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, 143 Lake Street, +61-7-4053-0500 (resv@mikeball.com), Dive sites suited to serious divers. Allows solo diving and rebreather diving if you provide appropriate equipment. Cabins with private bathrooms are available. 3 night trip from $1480, 4 night trip from $1678 and 7 night trip from $2938, rental equipment and courses extra.  

*  Passions of Paradise, +61 7 4041-1600 (sales@passions.com.au), A 25 metre modern, fast sailing catamaran travelling daily to two of the most sought after destinations on the Great Barrier Reef. The first is Michaelmas Cay, where the company holds one of the few rare permits which allow passengers access to the beach. This unspoilt paradise is recognised internationally as one of the most important bird nesting sanctuaries on the Great Barrier Reef. Host to over 20,000 sea birds, the cay combines brilliant white sand, warm shallow water and an abundance of marine life making it perfect for snorkelling, scuba diving, glass bottom boat tours or just relaxing on the beach. The second destination is the Outer Barrier Reef, where they have their own exclusive mooring at Breaking Patches. There you will find the beautiful hard coral gardens that the Outer Reef is famous for. The day includes a beautiful chef prepared hot and cold buffet lunch, all snorkelling equipment and the chance to sail on one of the fastest catamarans travelling to the Great Barrier Reef.  

*  Tusa Dive Australia, cnr Shield Street and the Esplanade, +61-7-4031-1028 (shop@tusadive.com, fax: +61-7-4031-3141), Tusa Dive Australia are a particularly good small operator. Tusa Dive offer 2 dive day trips to the Outer Reef for $160 ($190 with equipment hire).  

*  Pro Dive Cairns, 116 Spence Street, +61-7-4031-5255 (info@prodivecairns.com, fax: +61-7-4051-9955), Pro Dive Cairns specializes in 11 dive/3 day 2 night liveaboard trips to the Outer Reef, departing every day except Tuesdays. Their dive sites are suitable for inexperienced divers: most trips will include one or more groups of students doing their checkout dives. The liveaboard trip is $580 for a twin share or double cabin (including all equipment). Pro Dive Cairns also offer several PADI courses which include the liveaboard trip: the basic Open Water course (2 days of classroom and pool work plus the trip), Open Water referral checkout dives, Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver. The trip is $580 per person, twin share or double and equipment included. Additional fee applies of $35 per person, includes a $15 Government Environmental Management Charge as well as a Port Departure tax and administration costs. The trip is $560 per person, twin share or double, reef tax and equipment included. Open Water course $725, Open Water referral $630.  

*  New Horizon Sail and Dive, PO Box 5957, +61-7-4055-6130 (info@reefcharter.com, fax: +61-7-4055-6315), New Horizon Sail and Dive operates two classic sailing boats, Santa Maria and Coral Sea Dreaming, to the outer Great Barrier Reef. They allow you to experience the reef in a smaller more intimate affair with a maximum of ten (10) passengers on each trip. The trip is from $380 per person for a two day liveaboard and from $540 for a three day liveaboard, all equipment included..  

*  Taka Dive Adventures, 131 Lake Street, +61-7-4051-8722 (takadive@taka.com.au, fax: +61-7-4031-2739), Taka Dive offer two liveaboard trips: a 5 day/4 night tour of Cod Hole and the Coral Sea (from $1050 for a 4 share cabin and $1175 for a twin cabin) and a 4 day/3 night tour of Cod Hole and the northern part of the reef (from $900 for a 4 share cabin and $1000 for a twin cabin). The two trips can be combined into one from $1850 (4 share cabin).  

*  Cairns Dive Centre, 121 Abbott St, +61-7-4051-0294 (info@cairnsdive.com.au, fax: +61-7-4051-7531), Cairns Dive offers both live aboard and day trips out to the Great Barrier Reef.  

Skydiving

If you are sick of the sea, head up in the air.

*  Skydive Cairns 59 Sheridan Street. tel 1800 330 044 (free call in Australia) or +61 7 4031-5466. fax +61 7 4031-5505. email: reservations@skydivecairns.com.au. Skydive Cairns offers tandem, single jumps, and AFF courses. One of the most beautiful plane rides up to 13,000 feet overlooking the reef just long enough before you lose your lunch on the way down.

*  Tandem Cairns Shop 10, 93 The Esplanade (entrance on Aplin Street). Tel: 1800 805 432 (free call in Australia), email: admin@tandemcairns.com.au. Tandem Cairns offers tandem skydives for $270.

Hang Gliding

Hang gliders fly off Rex Point Lookout, halfway between Cairns and Port Douglas on the Captain Cook highway. On weekends, it's common to see multiple gliders soaring the sky above the scenic lookout, and the winter season provides consistent flight conditions.

*  Airplay Hang Gliding, 0412000797 (gregandpatch@yahoo.com.au), Airplay offers tandem hang gliding flights of durations up to an hour and a free outbound shuttle service. Lessons and full instruction are also available to those wishing to learn to fly.  

Ballooning

The Cairns region has some of the best weather for ballooning in the World and so trips go year round and are rarely cancelled. It's also one of the cheapest places to go flying, anywhere. The trips go inland to the Atherton Tablelands and take off at first light at Mareeba, finishing around 10AM and can connect directly to a Great Barrier Reef tour or drop you in Kuranda.

*  Ballooning with Hot Air, 1800 800 829, Includes a hot breakfast, champagne & transfers. $200.  

*  Champagne Balloon Flights, 07 40392400, Offers a slightly cheaper trip that doesn't include breakfast.  

White Water Rafting

Rafting in North Queensland has the advantage of departures all year round, tropical water temperatures and ease of access to compliment breath-taking scenery and rapids. The region's white water rafting adventures are suitable for all levels of fitness and enthusiasm. Ride through our planet's oldest continuously growing tropical rainforests on rivers that still run totally wild.

*  RnR White Water Rafting, PO Box 2945, +617 4041 9444 (res@raft.com.au, fax: +617 4041 9499), . RnR, based in Cairns, is Australia’s White Water Rafting specialist. Operating since 1984. The Tully River is Australia's best and most famous one-day white water rafting experience, with up to 5 hours of rafting over more than 45 Grade 4 rapids through World Heritage Rainforest. The Barron River option is a great half-day tour, with up to 2 hours of rafting on Grade 3 rapids. For something longer, the North Johnstone 4 Day Expedition is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Helicopter in, 4 days of Grade 5 rapids and camping 3 nights under the stars in riverside rainforest clearings.  

Sail and visit Duyfken

The 16th century replica Duyfken is now berthed at Marlin Wharf, Marlin Marina, Cairns. Duyfken was the first recorded European ship to visit Australia. Duyfken is open to the public from 9AM to 5PM every day as a floating museum. Come and see what life was like on a 16th century sailing ship and learn about Australia's earliest maritime history. Admission costs are Adults $5, Children $3 (under 12) Family $10 (2 adults and up to 4 children).

You can also Sail Aboard Duyfken Adults $75 Children (under 12) $40

Buy

*  Night Markets 71-75 The Esplanade. ph +61 7 4051-7666. The night markets operate every night of the week till late. They are a collection of stalls catering mainly to tourists: you can buy lots of clothes, games and Australiana.

*  Pearls. Of course, you can buy pearls everywhere and the price range is huge. In Cairns you can find shops where you can buy real A-grade pearls from the Torre Strait - not cheap, but at the end more than fair in comparison to the European or US prices for the same quality level.

Eat

As with much of Cairns, you can divide the city into the Esplanade and the places within a block of it, and the rest of the city. The Esplanade is littered with bar and grill places supplying red meat and beer all in the one place, and with seafood restaurants. It's relatively difficult to find anything open before 11AM, since they expect the clientele to be sleeping in. The rest of the city has small cafes and milkbars catering to locals. The number of Japanese tourists here makes Japanese food a fairly reliable option, although prices can be steep.

A number of the more expensive restaurants on the Esplanade, particularly towards the north end, offer discounts of 20-30% for early birds: usually you will need to order by 6:30PM and pay and leave no later than 7:30PM to get a discounted meal.

*  La Pizza Trattoria, 93 The Esplanade. tel +61 7 4031-2646. La Pizza Trattoria has good pizza. It lures most patrons in by letting them wander past the pizza chef kneading the dough as they smell the baking pizzas. Medium sized pizzas $17. Open 7 Days 7AM until late.

*  Villa Romana Trattoria Aplin Street (cnr The Esplanade). tel +61 7 4051-9000. fax +61 7 4031-5557. Large Italian meals with some good seafood options and overworked wait staff. 30% discount if you order before 6:45PM. Meals are $20-$30.

*  Hide's Coffee Cafe, Shop 7, 87 Lake Street. tel +61 7 4041-1899. Hides Coffee Cafe, a couple of streets back from the Esplanade, is a good place for a delicious and relative cheap (under $10) breakfast or lunch. Order at the counter and remember to keep an eye on the collapsing umbrellas at the outside tables. They have free wifi for guests too.

*  Sushi Express, Shop 28 Orchid Plaza, 79 Abbott Street. tel +61 7 4041-4388. fax +61 7 4052-1277. A sushi train made up to look like the Kuranda Railway, this place is popular but not wildly busy. The tempura seems to get more attention than the sushi or sashimi. Plates from $2.50 to $4.50.

*  Perrotta's At The Gallery, 38 Abbott Street. tel +61 7 4031-5899. If you want to escape from several evenings touring the bar and grill places, Perotta's is just off the Esplanade and does more sophisticated Western food. Try the French toast with roast pear for breakfast. Breakfast, lunch and dinner approximately $20.

*  Donnini's Ciao Italia, at the Pier Marketplace, features indoor and outdoor dining with a beautiful ocean backdrop. Located at The Esplanade, Donnini's is within walking distance of many of Cairns' hotels. Meals will set you back around $20-$25, and are extra delicious!

Drink

Cairns has pubs and bars to cater to travelers, students, and locals. The nightlife is vibrant.

*  Rattle 'N Hum, 67 The Esplanade. tel +61 7 4031-3011. The Rattle 'n Hum is a bar and grill in the midst of one of the busiest parts of The Esplanade. It's quite large and getting a seat is seldom a problem: sit out back once they light torches in the evenings. Competition for the pool table is not formidable so you should be able to get several games in. They do a number of main meals, including wood-fired pizza (approximately $20). The staff are highly variable in quality, ordering a cocktail can be risky, but they're certainly able to pull a beer.

*  Blue Sky Brewery Bar & Restaurant, 34-42 Lake Street. tel +61 7 4057-0500. A new world-class venue and attraction situated in the heart of Cairns CBD. Its bar, restaurant and function rooms attract locals and visitors alike. It has a wide selection of boutique beers brewed onsite, a comprehensive wine cellar, a diverse modern cuisine, and dynamic, yet relaxed Tropical North Queensland atmosphere. All of Blue Sky's handcrafted beers are unpasteurised and brewed naturally, giving a distinct depth of flavour and fresh taste not found in mass-produced beers made by larger commercial breweries.

*  Rhino Bar Cairns, corner of Lake & Spence Street. PH: +61 7 4031-5305.

*  The Woolshed Chargrill & Saloon Bar , 24 Shields Street. tel +61 7 4031-6304. fax +61 7 4041-2283. If you are looking for a place to find all the travelers, go to the Woolshed in downtown Cairns.