Sydney, capital of New South Wales and one of Australia’s largest cities, is best known for its harbourfront Sydney Opera House, with a distinctive sail-like design. Massive Darling Harbour and the smaller Circular Quay port are hubs of waterside life, with the arched Harbour Bridge and esteemed Royal Botanic Garden nearby. Sydney Tower’s outdoor platform, the Skywalk, offers 360-degree views of the city and suburbs.
Sydney Aquarium, Taronga Zoo and Wildlife Sydney Zoo shelter animals like koalas, kangaroos, sharks and snakes. Pyrmont’s Sydney Fish Market has a working seafood auction and restaurants serving the day’s catch. There are multicultural dining opportunities all over the city, including in Haymarket’s Chinatown and the restaurants serving the Italian community in Leichhardt. A ferry ride through the harbour is part of the experience in visiting outer Sydney destinations such as Bondi and Manly Beaches – both popular for surfing.
Melbourne is the coastal capital of the southeastern Australian state of Victoria. At the city’s centre is the modern Federation Square development, with plazas, bars, and restaurants by the Yarra River. In the Southbank area, the Melbourne Arts Precinct is the site of Arts Centre Melbourne – a performing arts complex – and the National Gallery of Victoria, with Australian and indigenous art.
Melbourne Museum and the Royal Exhibition Building explore city history and culture. The Immigration Museum and the Chinese Museum provide differing cultural perspectives on local settlement, while Old Melbourne Gaol offers insight into 19th-century prison life. A major shopping destination is Queen Victoria Market, a Victorian-era building with food stalls. The city’s 19th-century “laneways” and shopping arcades are lined with cafes, galleries and boutiques. The riverside Royal Botanic Gardens shelter 10,000-plus plant species, and Yarra Park is home to the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Brisbane, capital of Queensland, is a large city on the Brisbane River. Clustered in its South Bank cultural precinct are the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre, with noted interactive exhibitions. Another South Bank cultural institution is Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, among Australia’s major contemporary art museums. Looming over the city is Mt. Coot-tha, site of Brisbane Botanic Gardens.
Ferries cruise the winding river. At one bend, modern skyscrapers crowd around the restored 1920s City Hall. Nearby, the Roma Street Parkland is a subtropical garden that’s home to native and endangered plants. For shopping, the Queen Street Mall is also in the central business district, and James Street in Fortitude Valley has restaurants and cafes. Further upriver, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary offers visitors the chance to hold koalas and hand-feed kangaroos. Out in Moreton Bay, North Stradbroke Island is home to an Aboriginal settlement, a former convict station and shipwrecks.
The capital of Western Australia sits where the Swan River meets the southwest coast. Sandy beaches line its suburbs, and the huge, riverside Kings Park and Botanic Garden on Mount Eliza offer sweeping views of the city. The Perth Cultural Centre houses the state ballet and opera companies and occupies its own central precinct, including a theatre, library and the Art Gallery of Western Australia.
Central Perth also has the interactive Scitech science centre, Perth Mint’s displays of gold bars and nuggets, and Barrack Square’s glass Bell Tower, with its own viewing platform. Shopping is concentrated in pedestrianised Murray and Hay streets, with high-end boutiques on King Street. The neighbouring 19th-century port of Fremantle draws visitors to its craft markets, a 1850s prison and seafood restaurants in the Fishing Boat Harbour. The shoreline north of Perth is known as the Sunset Coast. It’s home to family-friendly Cottesloe Beach, popular snorkelling site Marmion Marine Park and Trigg Beach, with large waves for surfing.
Darwin is the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory and a former frontier outpost. It’s also a gateway to massive Kakadu National Park. Its popular waterfront area has several beaches and green areas like Bicentennial Park. Also near the water is the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, displaying Southeast Asian and Pacific art, plus a pearling lugger and other seafaring vessels.
Elsewhere along the ocean, there’s a wave lagoon and Stokes Hill Wharf, with alfresco restaurants and vendors offering harbour cruises. Cage swimming with crocodiles at Crocosaurus Cove and barramundi fishing in the nearby wetlands are popular pastimes. At the city’s heart is the Smith Street pedestrian mall, notable for shops selling Aboriginal art and crafts, South Sea pearls, opals and diamonds. Military history can be seen at the World War II Oil Storage Tunnels, housing historic photographs; the Darwin Military Museum, exhibiting weaponry and vehicles; and the Aviation Heritage Centre, with bombers and wreckage.
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