Meetings Canada



A laid-back attitude permeates this beguiling Australian city.

By Rob McFarland

From the centre of Sydney, it’s less than 30 minutes to the nearest beach—this means visitors can shop all morning and swim all afternoon. Throw in an unrivalled harbourside location, an enviable climate, an innovative restaurant scene and two of the planet’s most recognizable man-made icons—the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge—and it’s hard to imagine anyone getting any work done in this beautiful city.

But work they do. In fact, in the last financial year, the number of events secured by Business Events Sydney set a record for the city. Moreover, the International Festival and Events Association named Sydney the World’s Best Festival and Event City.


The city’s main event space, the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, is ideally located on the waterfront, at Darling Harbour. Starting late 2013, the existing facilities will close, to make way for a 49-acre convention, exhibition and entertainment complex scheduled for completion in late 2016.

Another option is Sydney Olympic Park, which has more than 100 function spaces ranging from intimate boardrooms to a 150,000-sq.-ft. exhibition hall that can seat 7,000. A 30-minute train ride from the city centre, it also has five hotels onsite.

It’s been more than a decade since the last new five-star hotel opened in Sydney; hence, the buzz around the unveiling of The Darling last October. Part of the new $860-million AUD The Star complex (formerly Star City), near Darling Harbour, the 171-room luxury hotel boasts an 82-ft. infinity pool and a sumptuous 16-room spa. Inside The Star are 20 new restaurants and bars, including Momofuku Seiobo, Michelin-starred chef David Chang’s first restaurant outside New York. Still under construction—but already taking bookings—is a 24,000-sq. ft. events space due to open in mid-2013.

Not to be outdone, the Park Hyatt Sydney recently re-opened after a $60-million AUD renovation, unveiling a larger spa, a new restaurant and a brand new floor of spectacular suites with eye-popping Opera House views.

Sydney’s bar scene has exploded since the licensing laws were changed in 2008 to make it easier to operate a small bar. The city is now chock-a-block with intimate venues serving up inventive drinks in funky surroundings.

Kick off the night at Baxter Inn, a New York-style basement speakeasy hidden down an unmarked alleyway off Clarence Street; move on to Stitch, another subterranean drinking den near Wynyard; and finish with a cocktail, served in a jam jar, at Grasshopper, just off the city’s main artery, George Street.


For some first-rate sustenance, Westfield Sydney recently unveiled a collection of fine-dining restaurants on level six of its swish shopping complex in Pitt Street Mall.

Another well-received addition is Gastro Park, in inner-city suburb Kings Cross. Chef Grant King’s wizardry is evident in imaginative and beautifully presented dishes such as crispy scaled snapper with calamari crackling.

While Sydney has the usual smattering of museums, art galleries and shopping centres, it’s the city’s natural attractions—the harbour and its beaches—that make it such an appealing destination.

There are countless ways to enjoy Sydney’s natural assets, but a perennial favourite is to catch the ferry to Watsons Bay for fish and chips and a stroll along the beach.

Another must-do is walking the cliff-top trail from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach for spectacular ocean views, dramatic sandstone cliffs and picturesque inlets and bays.
While there are dozens of harbour cruise packages available, for an authentic Aussie experience, grab a sandwich and join locals on the sunset ferry ride from beachside suburb Manly back to the city. Not only does it showcase Sydney’s greatest asset, but it epitomizes the relaxed, carefree attitude that permeates this beguiling city.

— Rob McFarland is a freelance writer based in Sydney.


  • Flights (Toronto to Sydney): Qantas, Air New Zealand, Delta, United, Cathay Pacific
  • Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre 333,000 sq. ft.
  • 14 hours ahead of Toronto
  • January temp range: High  26 C, Low 19 C
  • Summer: December to February
  • Australian dollar.
    1 CAD = 0.95 AUD
  • Second-largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world, with 1.2-million revellers hitting the streets.
  • The top of the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge rises and falls by up to 7.2 inches when the temperature changes. The bridge is fitted with hinges to accommodate this.
  • In 1957, Danish architect Jorn Utson unexpectedly won the competition to design the Sydney Opera House, with a sketch initially rejected as “too ambitious.”

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