Sydney’s urban area covers 1788 km² and is separated by the Sydney Harbour which has several large tributaries including the Parramatta River, southern rivers such as the Nepean and Georges River, and northern waterways which include the Hawkesbury River and the Pittwater river system. The land areas surrounding these waterways are hilly and create impressive views throughout the city.
The overall urban area of Sydney is considerably large and spreads across 12,000km2 bounded by the Blue Mountains to the West, Cronulla in the South and Hornsby in the North. The international airport is located only 15 minutes south of the CBD.
Sydney’s main districts have developed for two main reasons. One is from residents capitalising on the waterways and beaches, the second is to access the transport networks. From Sydney’s CBD the city has four main spikes of high density commercial and residential areas. Directly east, crammed into a very small region of land between the CBD and the beach, are the Eastern suburbs. One major train line runs to Bondi Junction, and generally residents either drive or rely on buses in this area. Some of the suburbs in this area are the wealthiest in Sydney as they are very old and have large estates and properties which demand a large price tag.
Venture north and the main spike is the North Shore. The train line and the Pacific Highway run directly from the city up to Hornsby and then further to the northern city of Newcastle which is approximately a 1.5 hour commute. The areas either side of this train line are well developed and grow every year. Located in this area is Chatswood, a large commercial hub with offices, shops and residential density. The Ku-Ring-Gai National Park is a highlight of the North Shore and has hectares of protected bush land. Much of the national park connects with the waterways and is a haven for wildlife and Australian native plants.
Running parallel to the North Shore but hugging the coast are the Northern Beaches. Unfortunately this area is not serviced by a train line. It does have buses, but only one main road, Pittwater Road. Getting in and out to the area is difficult. For many, although living by the beach is a seemingly idyllic lifestyle, it can be tarnished due to transport woes.
One of the most popular areas for expats is the band of suburbs which reaches from North Sydney down to Manly. People are drawn here due to its proximity to the city as well as access to the beach and waterways of the harbour. The main road connecting these two areas is Military Road.
Directly West from the CBD the main path to the Blue Mountains is again a strip of medium density residential and commercial areas reaching about 60km. A train line and a freeway provide access points to the region. These areas become more affordable as you move away from the city and the beach. There is a large waterway called the Parramatta River which stretches from the CBD to Parramatta and this provides ferry transport and also excellent cycle and walkways for residents in these areas. Parramatta is a large business area, and a second large commercial business area is in North Ryde located about half way between Parramatta and the North Shore.
Heading South from the CBD is a major train line and excellent freeway which connects Sydney with the southern city of Wollongong, approximately a 1-hour commute. This area is more affordable than the areas North of the Harbour. On the route to Wollongong is Sydney’s largest national park, the Royal National Park.
An interesting element of Sydney is that within one city exist a number of totally unique hubs. There are whole districts that are cosmopolitan, modern styled areas, as opposed to the beach, surf, laid back districts, and then alternative arts areas, followed by cultural districts where, for example, Italians, Chinese or Greek have drawn together. Each area has housing, shops and food that reflect a unique social culture and means that there truly is something for everyone in this city.