4 Hours In …
Australia’s biggest city offers a glimpse into its historical past with tranquil gardens and Aboriginal art
1 JUSTICE AND POLICE MUSEUM
A good crime yarn is hard to beat, particularly if true. The rambunctious tavern-ofthe-seas history of Australia’s most populous city (with more than four million of the country’s 22 million people) is graphically illustrated in one of Sydney’s lower-profile, though easy-to-find museums. The Justice and Police Museum at 8 Phillip Street chronicles some of Sydney’s most spectacular crimes, events plucked from a sinister underbelly but now largely forgotten. Some of this law-breaking occurred in the British colonial era, while the rest of it happened more recently.
The former courthouse and jail is a historic sandstone pile that occupies a location deliberately chosen to make the criminally minded aware that the forces of law and order were watching. Exhibits chronicle past crimes that hit headlines, as well as a corridor of cells and imaginative handmade weaponry devised by notorious lawbreakers. It’s only open Saturdays and Sundays 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM but if you’re in town on the weekend, it’s worth the visit. Admission is $10. Visit sydney living museums.com.au.
2 HARBOR CRUISE
Head back to Circular Quay and buy a ticket for a 12-minute ferry ride to Taronga Zoo ($5.00). Because of the limited time, taking one of the harbor’s full-length cruises (offered by several companies) is likely not on the itinerary, but this is a largely ignored next-best-thing. The zoo is worth a visit if you have the time and you’re really interested, (it’s one of the southern hemisphere’s best). Otherwise, use the ferry ride as a mini-cruise. After arriving, just take the next boat – they run every 30 minutes – back to the city. Taronga Zoo (taronga.org.au), incidentally, is much used by professional photographers to take pictures of Sydney’s steel-and-glass skyline, of which it offers splendid vistas.
3 THE ROCKS
Located to the left of Circular Quay, alongside the Overseas Passenger Terminal and opposite the Opera House, is the original part of Sydney, the historic Rocks precinct. The Rocks’ buildings – a number of which have been reborn as boutiques, galleries and restaurants (both upscale and cheap and cheerful) – are mainly sandstone, a popular material for construction in the 18th and 19th centuries when they were built. Many of them were hand-hewn by convicts deported to Australia after being found guilty of
petty crimes in Britain. A prime tourist zone, it has some of Sydney’s oldest pubs, including Fortune of War at 137 George Street, which dates back to 1828 and claims to be the oldest in the district. Pause for a schooner of beer before moving on to your next stop.
4 ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS
Alongside Sydney Opera House, a few minutes’ walk from Circular Quay, is the 75-acre Royal Botanic Gardens on Mrs Macquaries Road – it’s a tranquil world away from the bustle. Take the harbor-edge walkway, which makes for a pleasant amble. The gardens are awash with unique Australian flora as well as foreign plants and flowers. Among more than 10,000 examples of local and foreign species are trees planted nearly 200 years ago. The Royal Botanic Gardens adjoin the Domain, another of Sydney’s green “lungs,” a vast lawn-like expanse crossed by paths heading to downtown’s high-rise rim. Admission is free and opening hours change seasonally.
5 ART GALLERY OF NEW SOUTH WALES
Along Art Gallery Road, which cuts across the Domain, is the free Art Gallery of New South Wales. A sandstone structure built in 1896, its neoclassical façade and old wing are precursors to later additions. Regarded as one of Australia’s best, collections include European old masters, modern Australian works, Aboriginal art, and examples from South Pacific countries such as Papua New Guinea. Open daily 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Wednesdays until 10:00 PM.Visit artgallery.nsw.gov.au.
6 QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING
Walk to the Domain’s downtown edge and across to Macquarie Street, Sydney’s answer to London’s Harley Street (many prominent doctors have offices here). Several imposing buildings are in situ, including New South Wales’ state parliament. Navigating the business district’s grid system, aim for George Street – the city’s main drag, parallel to Macquarie – and Market Street, where one of Sydney’s grandest buildings occupies an entire block. The Queen Victoria Building – with a statue of an unamused-looking monarch standing outside – was built in 1898 to be a concert hall and trading area. Sydney was in the grip of recession and construction of this ornate Romanesque edifice was intended to provide work for craftsmen. The Queen Victoria has since served as government and private-sector offices, and is now a shopping arcade. A refurbishment that was completed in 2009 cost $45 million and has made it a major tourist attraction. Visit qvb.com.au. BT