Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, Australia's biggest LGBTQIA event, wraps up its unforgettable 40th anniversary celebration in just a couple of days -- and though you might've missed some of the festivities, the city has amazing events to choose from year round. Just a hop, skip, and a non-stop flight from the Los Angeles, San Francisco or Dallas-Fort Worth on Australian flag-carrier Qantas Airways, New South Wales' capital is a beautiful adventure waiting to be explored. Let's take a look, shall we?
Along the picturesque waters of Sydney Harbour rests Handa Opera, an iconic outdoor cultural center that hosts world-renowned classics against one of the most unique backdrops. From March 23 to April 22, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour will host Puccini's La Boheme, directed by Andy Morton (Carmen, The Turk in Italy) and set in politically charged 1960s Paris. The scenic venue opens at 5 p.m. and invites the public to dine waterside at pop-up restaurants and bars as the sun sets over the Sydney skyline before the show begins at 7:30.
"Expect amazing lights and projections, soundscapes, bangs, flames, performers flying and the rather singular sight of freezing snowy weather in the middle of Sydney Harbour," Morton told Opera Australia. "And fireworks? Well that goes without saying."
Vivid Sydney is set once again to transform the Harbour City into a dazzling creative canvas when it returns for its ten-year anniversary from May 25 to June 16.
The world's largest festival of light, music and ideas, the program includes large-scale light installations and projections throughout the city (Vivid Light); music performances and collaborations (Vivid Music) including Vivid Live at the Sydney Opera House; and creative ideas, discussions and debate (Vivid Ideas), all celebrating Sydney as the creative hub of the Asia-Pacific.
New South Wales is known worldwide for its natural beauty. The region alone houses six designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, holding "outstanding universal value" in the designation's stringent criteria -- meaning the sites are not only gorgeous, but historically and culturally rich, as well. While in Sydney, take in the impressive architectural wonder of the Sydney Opera House, visit convict heritage sites like Hyde Park Barracks and Cockatoo Island, and travel west to hit Old Government House for a visit to Australia's oldest surviving building.
If you're looking to get outside of Sydney during your stay, traveling to the North Coast will bring you to the Gondwana Rainforests. The world's largest area of subtropical rainforest, the site also houses the world's oldest conifers. The Blue Mountains, just two hours from Sydney, also house impressive wildlife: one third of the continent's bird species are found here, as well as the resilient Wollemi pine.
In the outback, the Willandra Lakes region contains the world's oldest cremation site at Mungo National Park. And just two hours by plane from Sydney lies Lord Howe Island, a magnificent island getaway with the option of luxury and casual accommodation along its pristine coastline.
SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium should ensure that alone. The aquarium contains the world's largest collection of Australian aquatic life and allows visitors to get up close with two of the world's five dugongs in captivity. Feeling adventurous? The Sydney Aquarium even permits snorkeling with its sharks.
From May to November, Sydney plays host to gentle giants migrating north. With peak season in July and September, we suggest hopping on one of the city's whale-watching ferries and witnessing a truly majestic sight not often seen in the states. Captain Cook Cruises offers numerous whale-watching tours, including a popular breakfast cruise that includes both a hot and cold buffet, while Oz Whale Watching takes visitors out on a 21-meter catamaran and offers a barbecue lunch.
Traveling to Australia might seem like a journey, but it's one that Qantas makes fly by with its award-winning aircraft, quality service and host of comforting amenities. Australia's flagship airline, Qantas offers more non-stop flights into Australia from the U.S. than any other carrier.
An authentic Australian experience awaits even before landing, starting with the Qantas First Lounge in Los Angeles, signature warm Aussie hospitality during the flight, and cuisine designed by local celebrity chef Neil Perry.
No matter how you decide to spend your time in Sydney, we're positive New South Wales has something to offer that will make your stay absolutely unforgettable. Book tickets here.