HYDE PARK In the center of the city is Hyde Park, a favorite with lunching businesspeople. Of note here are the Anzac Memorial to Australian and New Zealand troops killed in the wars, and the Archibald Fountain, complete with spitting turtles and sculptures of Diana and Apollo. At night, avenues of trees are lit up with twinkling lights giving the place a magical appearance.
ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS £ If you are going to spend time in just one of Sydney's green spaces, then make it the Royal Botanic Gardens (& 02/9231 8111), next to Sydney Opera House. The gardens were laid out in 1816 on the site of a farm dedicated to supplying food for the colony. They're informal in appearance with a scattering of duck ponds and open spaces, though there are several areas dedicated to particular plant species, such as the rose garden, the cacti and succulent display, and the central palm and the rainforest groves (watch out for the thousands of large fruit bats, which chatter and argue amongst the rainforest trees). Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, a spot carved out in rock along the coast path, offers superb views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. (It's a favorite stop for tour buses.) The sandstone building dominating the gardens nearest to the Opera House is the Government House, once the official residence of the Governor of New South Wales. (He moved out in 1996 in the spirit of republicanism.) The pleasant gardens are open to the public daily from 10am to 4pm, and the house is open Friday through Sunday from 10am to 3pm. Entrance to both is free. If you plan to park around here, it's well to note that parking meters cost upwards ofA$3 (US$1.95) per hour, and you need A$1 coins.
A popular walk takes you through the Royal Botanic Gardens to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The gardens are open daily from 7am to dusk. Admission is free.
MORE CITY PARKS Another Sydney favorite is giant Centennial Park (& 02/9339 6699), usually accessed from the top of Oxford Street. It opened in 1888 to celebrate the centenary of European settlement, and today encompasses huge areas of lawn, several lakes, picnic areas with outdoor grills, cycling and running paths, and a cafe. It's open from sunrise to sunset. To get there, take bus no. 373, 374, 378, 380, or 382 from the city, or via the Bondi & Bay Explorer.
A hundred years later, Bicentennial Park, at Australia Avenue, in Homebush Bay, came along. Forty percent of the park's total 100 hectares (247 acres) is general parkland reclaimed from a city rubbish tip; the rest is the largest remaining remnant of wetlands on the Parramatta River and is home to many species of both local and migratory wading birds, cormorants, and pelicans. Follow park signs to the visitor information office (& 02/9763 1844), open Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30am to 4:30pm. To reach the park, take a CityRail train to Homebush Bay station.
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