Sydney, the largest city in Australia and
capital of the state of New South Wales. Site of Australia's first European
settlement, Sydney remains today the gateway to the entire continent for
about two thirds of visitors from overseas. The city's temperate climate,
natural beauty, economic resources, and urban amenities have continued
to attract new settlers, and the resulting varied population has contributed
significantly to the history and culture of the area.
With its oustanding deepwater harbor crowned by the magnificent Sydney Opera House, the city uniquely combines recreational facilities with opportunities for a cosmopolitan life. By Australian standards, the pace of life in Sydney is fast and aggressive, yet residents enjoy a high standard of living, and the egalitarian nature of Sydney society makes for relatively easy social mobility.
In the late 20th century, however, Sydney increasingly began to experience the problems of pollution, congestion, and unemployment common to most large metropolitan areas.
Located on the southeastern coast of the
Australian continent, Sydney extends some 55 miles (90 km) from north to
south along the Pacific seaboard and some 35 miles (55 km) inland to the
Blue Mountains in the west. The greater Sydney statistical division, which
covers 4,867 square miles (12,406 sq km), ranges from undulating lowlands
in the south and west to sandstone plateaus in the north.
Sydney's climate is temperate, and the city sees at least some sunshine on about 342 days in the year. The average temperature during the summer months -- December through February -- is 71°F. (22°C.). Winters, which run from June through August, are mild, with an average temperature of 53°F. (12°C.). Though there are no clearly marked dry and rainy seasons, most of Sydney's rain falls in winter. Average annual precipitation is 47 inches (1,190 mm).
The population of the Sydney urban center
was 3,143,900 in 1991, accounting for 55 percent of the population of New
South Wales. While the metropolitan area, encompassing 3.5 million people,
has continued to expand, Sydney itself and its immediate environs did not
gain many inhabitants during the 1970's and 1980's. Only the outer western
suburbs substantially grew in population. The inner residential suburbs
surrounding downtown Sydney have remained densely populated, however, and
have gained popularity among young professionals, who are restoring older
houses that formerly attracted mainly poorer residents and recent immigrants.
Roughly a quarter of Sydney's population consists of immigrants from abroad. Greeks, Italians, Yugoslavs, Lebanese, English, and Asians are the largest foreign-born groups, most of whom live in their own ethnic communities.
The heart of Sydney's commercial, cultural,
and recreational life is the Sydney Harbour district with its impressive
modern opera house. The city radiates southward along the harbor from the
ship and ferry terminal at Circular Quay to Broadway via the major traffic
arteries of George and Pitt Streets.
Between George and Pitt streets lies Sydney's main commercial quarter. Increasingly congested by traffic, Martin Place, in the heart of this area, has been set aside as a pedestrian mall, flanked by historic buildings in the Victorian style and adorned by the Martin Place Amphitheater, the site of public concerts during the day. To the east of Martin Place lies Macquarie Street, home of Sydney's legal and medical professions and site of the New South Wales Parliament House. To the south, George Street runs into Haymarket, an area of markets and warehouses adjacent to Sydney's Chinatown. Further on, George Street passes the Central Railway Station, entering Broadway near the original city limits.
Sydney's architecture is largely in colonial Georgian, Victorian, and modern styles. Outstanding landmarks in the older styles include the churches of St. James and St. Patrick, the Hyde Park Barracks, the Parliament House, Town Hall, the General Post Office, and the Central Railway Station. Victorian-era shopping arcades are found near Pitt Street. Notable modern skyscrapers include Australia Square, which offers a panoramic view of the city and its suburbs. The Sydney Tower also offers a fine panorama.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge, opened in 1932, crosses the waters of Port Jackson to the satellite city of North Sydney -- now a major commercial center in its own right -- and leads on from there to the affluent northern suburbs and to Palm Beach 20 miles (32 km) beyond. The Sydney Harbour Tunnel was opened in September 1992 to relieve congestion on the bridge, which previously was the only link to the northern suburbs.
Among the eastern suburbs are Wooloomoolo, a cargo and passenger port and an increasingly popular residential area, Woollahara, Paddington, and Vaucluse. Double Bay, perhaps Sydney's most cosmopolitan suburb, is also on the east, as is Watson's Bay, which serves as a gateway to the headlands where Port Jackson meets the Pacific.
Particularly since the opening of the Opera
House in 1973, Sydney has offered a wide range of cultural activities.
The Opera House is a center not only for classical opera, but for drama,
music, and dance, its silver shells housing a full-sized concert hall,
an operatic theater, a smaller dramatic theater, a cinema, an auditorium,
and other facilities. The Sydney Theater and Modern Dance companies are
headquartered there, along with the Australian Ballet and the Australian
Opera Company. Since 1973, the Opera House has hosted a month-long festival
of the arts in Sydney each January.
Permanent and special exhibits are displayed in Sydney's Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Australian Museum, and the large Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.
Sydney has abundant recreational facilities. Excellent beaches, both along sheltered coves and on the Pacific, provide outstanding opportunities for water sports, and 12,000 acres (30,000 hectares) of parkland offer facilities for cricket, tennis, soccer, rugby, golf, and other land sports. Along with professional soccer, horse racing is highly popular as a spectator sport. Sydney was chosen to be the site of the summer Olympic Games of the year 2000.
Sydney offers a choice of free public schools and partially subsidized private schools. The University of Sydney, founded in 1850, is the oldest higher educational institution in Australia. The city is also the home of the University of New South Wales, established in 1958, of Macquarie University, and of a number of technical and professional colleges.
State-owned bus and ferry services and a
network of underground (opened in 1926) and surface railways form the basis
of Sydney's public transportation system. Ferries and hovercraft operating
out of Circular Quay serve communities located along Sydney's many bays,
and buses and electrical rail lines serve most of the city's metropolitan
and outlying areas. An eastern extension of Sydney's subway system opened
in 1979, linking the Central Railway Station to Bondi Junction in the east.
Sydney's roads are heavily congested with traffic from the city's many commuters. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, opened in 1932, was until 1992 the single central road and rail link connecting the city with the suburbs in the north, and it carried an estimated 35 million passengers a year in the 1980's. The Sydney Harbour Tunnel was opened in 1992 to relieve congestion on the bridge.
Both domestic and international flights are handled by Sydney's Kingsford Smith airport, though rapidly expanding air traffic has prompted plans to build a new international airport in the area during the 1990's.
Sydney's deepwater harbor, with its extensive wharves, is a major international port of call for passenger ships as well as an important trading port. Port Jackson to the east and Botany Bay to the south provide additional commercial cargo facilities.
Sydney is governed by a city council consisting of a lord mayor and aldermen, elected on the basis of proportional representation. The city is also the seat of the New South Wales state government.
Manufacturing industries dominate Sydney's economy and account for roughly a third of Australia's total manufacturing output. Major manufactures include automobiles, clothing and footwear, food products, paper, and textiles. Some 10,000 manufacturing establishments employ about one fifth of Sydney's work force. Two thirds of the city's workers are engaged in service-related occupations, and only one percent work directly in agriculture.
The first European visitor to the Sydney
area was Captain James Cook, who sailed into Botany Bay in 1770. On his
return to England, Cook urged that the bay be made the site of a new colony.
When Captain Arthur Phillip arrived to found the new settlement 18 years
later, however, he wisely fixed on Port Jackson, slightly to the north,
as the preferable site.
In its early years Sydney served a dual function as a penal colony for deported British convicts and as a remote but strategic defense post in the Pacific. The 736 convicts in Captain Phillip's fleet, together with a handful of officials, constituted the area's first European residents, and it was not until 1820 that free settlers, drawn by the lucrative wool trade, began to arrive to supplement the steady stream of felons and officials. By 1842, however, Sydney had a population of 30,000 and was incorporated as a city, with road and rail links to the surrounding area. Six years later Britain stopped sending convicts to the city.
With the discovery of gold in New South Wales in the 1850's immigration increased enormously, and the expanding ranching and wool industries continued to draw new settlers, boosting the population to nearly 400,000 by 1891. Further waves of immigration followed in the 20th century, particularly in the periods following the two world wars. By 1930 Sydney proper had more than a million residents, and by 1960 it had more than two million. With these later immigrants, moreover, came new industrial techniques and a pool of skilled and unskilled labor that opened new trading opportunities for the area. As a result, Sydney today is Australia's largest city, its largest commercial and manufacturing center, and its busiest port.