Sydney & Australia's New South Wales
Following is an excerpt from this extensive & highly detailed guide by a lifetime resident of Australia. The guide covers all the hotels, restaurants, sights to see and activities, from beachgoing to hiking, kayaking to exploring the Outback or the cultural attractions of Sydney. Flying into New South Wales, it's undeniable that Sydney's spectacular setting is simply one of the world's best: A melding of lushly green parklands, classic historic buildings, and polished modern architecture set back from the glistening water. Gliding above the city shows the spider's web of highways and bridges linking the sprawling mass of civilization, which extends more than 12 mi/20 km along the Port Jackson inlet. Some four million Australians live here, and 10 million more tourists flood into Sydney each year; little wonder, with attractions ranging from famous museums, gardens, and zoos to dozens of dazzling beaches. And the activities are endless: Bush hiking and bike tracks, harbor cruises and water excursions, and high-powered flights above the whole scene. In short, Sydney is the country's showpiece for holiday and adventure. The continent's most active port city, Sydney actually sits inland of the Pacific, around nine mi/15 km inland from the coast along the Port Jackson waterway, which itself is carved into numerous smaller islands and bays. Surrounding the harbor are great patches of pine and semi-tropical forests, which quickly lead up into the bumpy foothills of the Great Dividing Ranges. This is eucalyptus territory, where the arid environment of blue gums is colored by a heated haze given off from the leaves; hence the region's name - the Blue Mountains. Also, of the more than 70 national parks throughout New South Wales, more than a handful are settled right around Sydney itself - the coastal Royal National Park, the northern Wollemi National Park, and the western Blue Mountains National Park among them. With its diverse personalities, multicultural flavors, and sophisticated yet down-to-earth airs, Sydney offers something for every traveler. It's a place where history, culture, activities, and adventure are blended into a well-run and engaging metropolis where locals take pride in their heritage and guests are welcomed like friends. Massive transport systems provide a choice of city-wide links that are clean, quick, and cheap; food runs from simple Australian to worldly gourmet, and endless accommodation options spread from ocean to mountains. With 224 million acres/80 million-plus hectares, the large state of New South Wales has a continually changing landscape which delves into some of Australia's best scenes. The classic, golden-sand beaches form a string along the east coast, getting more tropical the farther north you travel toward Queens land, or becoming more rocky and chilled the farther south you head toward Victoria. The mighty Murray River forms the southern border, stretching a watery band of blue along the northern edge of Victoria, and providing sustenance to some of both states' richest farms, grazing grounds, and wine regions. The Darling and Murrumbidgee also feed the dry western plains, and offer a string of charming settlements to explore along their edges. The Great Dividing Range runs parallel to the continent's edge, curving down all the way from the far north tip of Queensland through New South Wales and on down to Melbourne. Included within the peaks are the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney, as well as the Snowy Mountains in the far south of the state. And the mountains are indeed a dividing factor in the country's atmosphere, not only in visual landscape from eastern beaches to western plains and deserts; they also form a border between the balmy ocean settings and the scorched western Outback. Fertile farmlands and orchards are tucked into the folds of the mountains, while the state's famous vineyards spread out through the glistening river valleys.
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