Visiting Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef

Aeriel view of Arlington Reef in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Part of the Great Barrier Reef, Arlington Reef is full of soft corals. Photo © strangerview/123rf.

Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef: two of Australia’s main attractions, and as different from each other as they come. Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, is Australia’s largest city—cosmopolitan and modern yet full of history. For most visitors to Sydney, it is love at first sight. It doesn’t take more than arriving for the first time at Circular Quay, seeing the Sydney Opera House on one side, the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the other, and in between the two the bustling harbor, all usually topped by glorious blue skies. It truly takes your breath away.

This bustling metropolis charts the beginnings of modern Australia; it all began here in the late 1770s, when the British settled the land down under. And just when you think Sydney has it all, it has more: stunning beaches, generous parks, and proximity to gorgeous countryside that ranges from mountains and valleys to farmed lands that undulate gently between world-famous wineries. What more could you want from a visit to Australia?

Ah, yes. The Great Barrier Reef, of course. The world’s largest coral reef system, stretching over 2,600 kilometers and featuring some 900 islands, is a must-do for anybody who is even vaguely interested in what lies beneath the waves. In addition to the colorful marine life, there are countless pristine beaches on the islands and along Queensland’s endless coast.

But Queensland has not only the reef to boast about, but also the Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest rainforest, which remains pretty much unchanged over the last few million years. It’s stunning, eerie, and awe-inspiring—a bit like the reef, really.

So, you’ve got two extremely different destinations: a bustling city and a state full of breathtaking natural beauty. In Sydney and Queensland, you have choices that satisfy every need, from high-end shopping to soaking up history, from scuba diving among coral gardens to relaxing on deserted beaches, from hiking through truly wild nature to meeting some of the local animals that are just as enchanting as the rest of the country. And then some. Come see for yourself.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Sydney & the Great Barrier Reef.