Friday, February 22, 2008

4th April 1997: Arriving in Australia

Aerial view of Sydney

If you ever fly into Australia you need to have your camera at the ready as the flight over the city centre and harbour / River Paramatta gives you simply stunning views. It's one of those flights where virtually everybody is trying to look out the window. After all it is the biggest natural harbour anywhere in the world!

I can't take credit for the photo at the top - which I found on Wikimedia Commons (thanks Joel). Here's my version (right) taken just before 7.00am on a slightly overcast morning.

Both views are taken from the west of the city looking east across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the "Heads" and the Pacific. Building the bridge, which opened in 1932, led to the expansion of settlements north of the harbour. In both the photographs, North Sydney, the Northern Beaches and the northern suburbs (where I stayed) are to the left of the photograph.

The water, the trees and the boats
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The first thing I was amazed by in Sydney is just the huge amount of land which has a sea or river frontage or one nearby.

The second thing I was amazed by is the enormous numbers of trees around and about the place. The suburbs north of central Sydney, which I became quite familar with during drives in and out of town, are incredibly 'low-rise' (lots of one storey homes) and have masses and masses of trees. Sydney also has an awful lot of national parks which extend into the suburbs - and my sister and her family lived on the edge of a major one of these. Overall, it makes it a very pleasant area to be in. "Green" soon began to be a word I very much associated with Sydney.

A 'few' facts about Sydney

Anyway - just to remind myself (and for anybody else who's interested) - here's a few facts about Sydney
  • some 3.6 million people live in the urban area of Sydney plus it gets over 10 million visitors a year - and yet I rarely felt crowded due to its very low population density. People are just very spread out!
  • At the centre of Sydney is Port Jackson, which is the largest natural harbour in the world (it's a flooded river valley for the geographers amongst us!)
  • The discovery of Sydney harbour is attributed to Captain Cook in 1770. However this is actually when it was discovered by a European as it was already extremely well known to the various tribes who had lived around the harbour area for some 30,000 years prior to his arrival!
Circular Quay and Sydney ferries
courtesy of Wikimedia
and Dr Edwin P Ewing Jr
  • the first British penal settlement was at Sydney Cove - now home to Sydney Ferries, Circular Quay and The Rocks. It looks a little different today!
  • there are more than 70 harbour and open beaches in the urban area - making for a very outdoor oriented lifestyle. Those wanting to look at or check out the beaches and surf at different times of the day can so using Coastalwatch and its surf cams. Here's the 'surfcam' for Sydney Harbour - and just for Belinda and Robyn(!) here's the one for Mona Vale.....but you have lots to choose from!
  • January - June is much wetter than July - December....and for Australians living overseas who'd like to check out the weather back home right now we have the New South Wales' government weather forecast website which provides a weather forecast which is very accessible. Alternatively check out the webcam and other details on the Weather Underground's Sydney website
  • it has the most fantastic choice of places and types of food to eat - with a leaning towards the Far East which suited me very well. Let's just say those living in Sydney enjoy their food!
  • my experience of the transport system is that it worked well for me - although I gather not everybody living in Sydney now thinks likewise. For those visiting, Wikitravel provides a good overview of options for getting in and getting around. It's also worth checking out the Public transport in Sydney page on Wikipedia. If likely to use the trains, check out also the Cityrail page and the Day Tripper map here. I used to come down the North Shore line and travelled across the Harbour bridge by train. The bonus for many commuters is that they can commute by ferry.
  • it has to have a downside - and Sydney is apparently the 16th most expensive city in the world
  • the Sydney pages on Wikipedia and Wikitravel both provide a lot more information about the actual area.
Balmoral Beach

After I'd had a bath and a short sleep after the flight, my sketchbook tells me that Helen took me to Balmoral Beach for fish and chips! This was the beach she used to go to all the time when she first arrived in Sydney as she used to live and work nearby. Belinda and Robyn have already started to wax lyrical about Balmoral Beach (see earlier comments). The fact is it's incredibly picturesque and also very popular with Mums as the waters are shallow and hence it's much safer for small children. You can find it on the map in the Mosman area here (which also shows where it is relative to central Sydney - very close!!!) It's apparently got some of the best fish and chips you can find in Sydney. I know the ones I had were absolutely delicious.

The next post is about the iconic Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Balmoral Beach in Autumn - looking north
courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Note: You'll note that I'm making quite a bit of use of Wikimedia Commons images. This is partly because I didn't have my camera with me on every occasion and/or didn't get shots of some of the things I remember very vividly - like Circular Quay from particular perspectives and there are photos on Wikimedia which do represent the place very well. Also, one has to remember that these are pre-digital days when I certainly didn't take as many photos as I do now.....



  1. Okay, you've made me cry - twice!
    First for reminding me of and showing me the beach at Mona Vale. Second for reminding me of the wonderful Asian influences in Sydney food. I'd give you a kidney for a Thai feed right now!

    By the way, your sister Helen, really treated you in terms of restaurants.

    But, painful as it is, I'm really enjoying this, Katherine.

  2. Thanks for reminding me of when I flew into Sydney in 2004. I actually saw the opera house from the window in my aisle. I had to stiffle my crying, because I had this stuff businessman sleeping that I didn't want to wake up. Because if he woke up, he'd have blocked my view.

    In fact, tonight I was working on a little sketch of the opera house as seen from the Harbor Bridge pylon climb (much, much, much cheaper than bridge climb).

  3. Hi Robyn - glad you're enjoying this. My aim is to get Dermott shedding a tear too! ;)

    Why is it that people who aren't interested in views always seem to get the seats next to the windows? :)

    I didn't do either climb but thanks for the tip 'Lost in Wonder' - I'm sure others reading this will appreciate it.

  4. I loved Sydney ... loved loved loved it! Spent seven days there, six years ago this week. I bought a leather-bound sketchbook at the Art Gallery of NSW, but because I was a more self-conscious sketcher at the time, I didn't manage to make a single mark in its pages - and I very much regret that now!

    We watched some foolhardy souls making the Harbour Bridge climb in rain so thick it turned the city monochrome!

  5. I hope you got to visit the Rocks - whenever I am in Sydney I try to get there and wander through the convict-carved tunnels and up the steep hills where the old settlement used to be.


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