Sydney: destination or state of mind? Australia's largest city sprawls from Botany Bay and the beaches where it kicked off; to the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Everything is on a grand scale and having a hire car to get around is a massive advantage here to explore the city.
Due to the huge population and workforce distribution if you can travel outside of peak hours (yes they go on for hours) your driving experience will be more pleasurable. No matter when you choose to drive in Sydney, always allow yourself a little extra time.
Pre-planning your trip can save you a lot of time. For example, if you need to go from the airport to the north side, there are many harbour crossing options. If you aren't in a hurry then the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a great icon to drive across.
If you are in a rush to go north, then consider using the Harbour tunnel. Or if you are going to the north-west of Sydney you can opt to go west first then north, which while further in distance might prove to be a much more free flowing driving experience. Pretty much every option will involve toll roads, they are simply a fact of life in Sydney.
Once you have carefully planned your Sydney route, be prepared to change it! Live traffic up-dates are available from http://m.livetraffic.rta.nsw.gov.au/Search.aspx but locals find http://www.snarl.com.au a much more intuitive site. Check them out, even on a weekend. You don't want to join the urban legends of people being caught for hours in road closures due to the City2Surf fun run!
Discover Sydney - Southern Beaches
No, we don't mean Bondi. It's been discovered. Sure drive through it, check to see if there is a vet hanging around or some lifeguards but keep on driving. Bronte Beach, beautiful. Clovelly, classy. Coogee Beach, classic. All are on the city's doorstep. Sydney real estate prices almost make sense in these beautiful beach suburbs. Further south you can follow the stunning coastline and magnificent beaches stretching all the way down to the 'Gong (Wollongong).
Discover Sydney - Northern Beaches
Manly. The northern beaches of Sydney have been where a large section of the city bunkers down to raise a family. It's more than Manly, Curl Curl, Dee Why, and up to Palm Beach (NSW), not Queensland; although many Sydneysiders joke that they don't go that far north even for a holiday. The further most beach on this peninsula, Palm Beach is only just over 1 hour from the Sydney CBD. This proximity makes Sydney a great day trip. It also is a good idea to consider basing yourself here for a holiday rather than right in the CBD.
Discover Sydney – Sporting Events
In this Olympic year, some may feel mildly surprised to reflect that the Sydney Olympics are now 16 years in our rear view mirror. The infrastructure that remains provides venues for an astonishing range of events. There is also an up-side to Sydney being slightly less fanatical about attending sporting events, you can often gain access to last minute tickets as not everything is booked out well in advance.
For example, AFL matches in Melbourne routinely draw 40,000+ people. An NRL equivalent is often half that, in a massive stadium. Sydney Sports stadiums are not conveniently located in the heart of the Sydney CBD precinct either - you will be happy to have a hire car to get you out to Homebush.
Discover Sydney – Cultural & Culinary
There is more to Sydney than spectacular fireworks at every opportunity. The dining experiences and the cultural melting pot that Sydney offers are great to absorb. Proudly home to people from all over the world, this diversity provides a Sydney with a unique sense of identity and spurs creativity for world-class innovation.
Discover Sydney – Shopping
Paris. Milan. New York. London. Sydney. You can try to add another town to that fashion list but it will probably come across disparagingly. Sydney gets away with it. Sydney gets away with a lot of things. The shopping is not all haute couture, there are Direct Factory Outlets, amazing shopping strips and this is the city that started the mega-Westfield Mall phenomenon.
Discover Sydney – West and Blue Mountains
For many Australians, visiting Sydney's western reaches has been for business or family travel purposes. The old joke is that if there are street signs pointing to Sydney, then you don't live in Sydney. Penrith, Blacktown, Parramatta, as well as Greater Western Sydney have really come into their own and the area has a population greater than Adelaide and depending where you draw the line, add Darwin and Canberra populations too. Katoomba is only 1 hour 40 minutes drive from the Sydney CBD, where you can access the Blue Mountains National Park.
Hire Car Tips
Sydney feels like it has more toll roads than not. It is a good idea to register your hire car for tolls. Often hire companies have a day rate for tolls that covers them all.
Allow additional time to drop return your car to Sydney Airport. The roads around Mascot can come to a grinding halt. If you have a passenger, it is a great idea to get them to tap out online boarding passes.
Anyway, whilst driving in Sydney can sometimes be a challenge, having a hire car to get around will take you to those delightful nooks and crannies you would have never had thought of visiting by public transport. Enjoy your trip!