Getting Around Sydney
If you are planning a trip Down Under with some time in Sydney, you need to build your plans around their great public transportation. Like most large cities, buses are plentiful but Sydney also boasts a metro rail system and an express system called “Light Rail” that connects most major parts of the metropolitan area along with a regional conventional railroad network along with a fantastic ferry system. The metro and light rail boasts frequent service and cars that are modern, clean and comfortable.
Riding on the entire system is based on the Opal Card which is a “tap on – tap off” system. You can buy a one trip card or a card that can be loaded with specific amounts of money. Each time you board, you tap your Opal against the sensor pad and again when you exit. At ferry terminals and metro stations the “tap sensor” is usually associated with a turnstile and on buses and light rail the tap post is usually at the car entrance. Be sure and tap as there are conductors that come through occasionally with readers to check that you did.
From the neighborhoods around Central there are any number of metro stops that will get you to Convention, Exhibit stops, Darling Harbour, Bondi Junction, Circular Quay and Fish Market all in less than a half hour. In addition, the extensive Sydney harbor region is crisscrossed with dozens of ferries which all seem to converge on Circular Quay located between The Rocks and the famous Sydney Opera House.
Even without a destination, taking a ferry is a great way to see the sights around the harbor and the city skyline. Ferries from the Quay take you out to Watson’s Bay (be sure and have fish ‘n chips at Doyle’s on the Beach), Manley Beach (a popular ocean front beach town noted for good surfing) and across to Luna Park, Sydney’s classic amusement park.
If all this wasn’t good enough, there is also a multi-day fare system based on the Opal Card. You buy the card with your choice of an amount loaded (you can also reload) and than tap on and tap off on all of the above systems as well as the regional rail lines. But here’s the best part. As you use the card there is a maximum daily fare of A$15 (A$7.50 for children) with Sundays capped at A$2.50. That means you can ride all day for no more that A$15.
Taking a train to the Blue Mountains over an hour and a half from Sydney on a Sunday, spending the day and returning, go to Darling Harbour for dinner and back to your hotel costs all of A$2.50. There is also a weekly cap of A$60 with the card as well and, after eight paid journeys with Opal, you can travel for the rest of the week for half-price fare.
Sydney is a very walkable city. The focus of the downtown area (CBD) is the Circular Quay and The Rocks. Facing the water at the Quay, the Opera House is to your right with a number of restaurants and shops nearby and the ferries straight ahead. Off to the left is The Rocks, the location of the original English settlement at the harbor with a number of popular shops, restaurants, galleries and museums. Some of the museums offer free or reduced entry admissions so be sure to check this out if you are in the area.
A short walk From The Rocks is the approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is worth the climb up to its walkway for the view. If you are really adventurous and aren’t afraid of heights you can book a climbing tour up the suspension cables to the very top. A dozen blocks west and south is the Kings Street Wharf and Darling Harbour area with a great waterside walk lined with restaurants and tourist attractions including a wildlife center, an extension of the Sydney zoo and the aquarium.
A metro rail trip out to the town of Bondi with a bus connection at the station to the famous Bondi Beach itself will take about forty minutes from the Central station area.
Often getting around a large city as a tourist can get costly but not Sydney with a Opal Card.