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Saturday May 11, 2013

Feeling on top of the world

Breath-taking: Enjoy stunning views of rocky pinnacles and distant valleys from atop the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. Breath-taking: Enjoy stunning views of rocky pinnacles and distant valleys from atop the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.

Exuberant and beautiful, Sydney makes for an attractive holiday destination.

WITH a world-famous harbour and dozens of surf beaches on its doorstep, Sydney is a charming city with a penchant for the great outdoors.

There is plenty to explore and see in its ever-evolving neighbourhoods, from the golden sands of the beaches of the eastern suburbs to the edgier urban atmosphere of the inner west. When it comes to the people, Sydneysiders are renowned for being friendly.

They love outdoor pursuits like surfing, and have discerning tastes as well, meaning you will find vibrant culinary establishments, trendy cocktail bars, great entertainment and exciting shopping spots and more.

To start off, you can check out the numerous attractions in the city. Head over to The Rocks at the northern end of George Street for a sense of Australia’s colonial history, or maybe catch a glimpse of the cityscape from the Sydney Tower Skywalk – some 260m above street level.

If you are holidaying with the kids, make sure you visit Darling Harbour where there is a concentration of family-friendly tourist venues. Pop into the National Maritime Museum and Chinese Gardens, enjoy a movie at the IMAX cinema or recharge at Cockle Bay or King Street wharves.

The lovely view from the South Steyne end of Manly Beach. The lovely view from the South Steyne end of Manly Beach.

Of course, there is also the Taronga Zoo, which must not be missed. Get acquainted with Australia’s famous furry critters at the zoo located on the harbour front. It is not just kids who love Taronga Zoo, you know? The short ferry-ride from Circular Quay to get there provides stunning views of the city’s icons that anybody would appreciate.

And who doesn’t recognise the Sydney Opera House? Perched on the eastern headland of Circular Quay, this icon of the city is a beautiful building that offers a variety of cultural performances, tours and dining options.

Speaking of dining options, you will find yourself spoilt for choice. Whether it’s Chinese, Thai, Indian, African, Greek, Italian or French, Sydney is regarded by some to be amongst the most eclectic food capitals in the world. And rightly so, for fresh produce, creative chefs and multicultural flair have made the city an epicurean paradise.

In daylight hours, the city buzzes with life and shows. At night, its pubs and cutting-edge dance clubs will keep you out until dawn. There are also various festivals and events taking place, regardless of the season.

There is the Crave Sydney International Food Festival, for one, when the city’s parks come alive at night throughout October with the tantalising scent of food wafting from the night markets, with stalls representing an array of restaurants doing brisk business. During the day, produce markets and foodie events take place.

Plan your trip around Sept 20 to Oct 20, 2013, and you will be able to rub shoulders with hundreds of artists. It is during this period that the Art and About Sydney Festival takes place. Along with pop-up art installations and exhibitions, the festival also brings a number of exciting events and talks to the city.

Avid shoppers are catered to as well. Busy arcades, boutiques, galleries and large department stores offer quality goods. For Sydney’s version of Fifth Avenue, you should take a walk down Castlereagh Street for some serious label shopping at international designer stores.

On the other hand, Oxford Street in Paddington and Queen Street Woollahra are Sydney’s “style mile”, being packed with designer boutiques selling exclusive Australian labels.

From the city, you can then venture out to other areas within New South Wales. The World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains is two hours by car or train west of Sydney and an ideal short break from the city. Most of the towns and villages in the mountains are perch on a 1,000m-high plateau and have stunning views of waterfalls, rocky pinnacles and distant valleys.

Two hours’ drive north of Sydney, past beaches and bays, is the vast, winding waterway of Lake Macquarie, the biggest saltwater lake in New South Wales. Nearby, Newcastle is the state’s second-largest city, offering great beaches, colonial heritage and a lively social scene as well.

There is also the Hunter Valley, about two hours’ drive north of Sydney. The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions, with more than 80 wineries, and it is here that you can picnic, barbecue or dine in one of the many fine restaurants dotting the area. There are also options to explore the rolling hills and vineyards by bicycle, horse-drawn carriage or hot air balloon.

Malaysia Airlines flies from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney 14 times per week. Visit www.malaysiaairlines.com. Source: Tourism New South Wales/Tourism Australia

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