Sydney Smartvisit Card

After reading an item about the Discover Adelaide Card (March ’05, pg. 75), I set out to see if such a card for Sydney exists. It does. Here are my impressions and comments.

As Bill Bryson writes in “In a Sunburned Country,” “Life cannot offer many places finer to stand at eight thirty on a summery weekday morning than Circular Quay in Sydney.”

And if you are a visitor on that summery morning, Sydney could not offer more places to see. So much to see, and so little time (and, perhaps, so little money). What can a tourist do? My advice — pick up a See Sydney & Beyond Smartvisit Card.

For Aus$119 (near US$90), you can purchase a 2-day Smartvisit Card (3- and 7-day cards are available too). With it, at many attractions you can jump the queue and walk right in; your admission is already paid.

However, to make the most of the rather pricey card and all it has to offer, buy a 2-day card and really go for it: get up early and stay out late. In addition to entry to attractions, the card offers discounts at shops and restaurants.

Here’s what my husband and I did in Sydney in June ’05 in just two days.

First, we chose an area in the city and traveled just in that specific area. The card comes with a guidebook that arranges the city’s attractions into geographic areas. We selected two areas: the Opera House and Darling Harbour. Remember that Sydney’s main method of travel is ferry, so pick a section of the harbor and stick to it or you’ll waste a lot of time.

Day one — We started at Circular Quay and walked to the Opera House for a guided tour (Aus$23 — I will include the noncard entrance fee after each attraction). While we waited for our tour to commence, we sipped a complimentary coffee (Aus$2) and watched the boats in the harbor.

After seeing the Opera House’s magnificent architecture and hearing the famed acoustics (an orchestra was rehearsing), we zipped across the harbor on the 12-minute Taronga Zoo Ferry for, you guessed it, the zoo (Aus$25). We walked among the kangaroos and gazed at the koalas.

Then we sailed back to the city for a little stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens to walk through the Tropical Centre (Aus$5). Wild cockatoos and fruit bats filled the trees. At the Sydney Tower, overlooking the city, we flashed the card and enjoyed free wine (Aus$20) with our dinner.

Day two — With a new day and a new plan, we set out for Darling Harbour on the Darling ferry. We first visited the Australian National Maritime Museum and boarded the destroyer Vampire and the submarine Onslow (Aus$18). Crossing Pyrmont Bridge, we toured the Sydney Aquarium, one of the world’s biggest and best (Aus$25). Walking through the tunnels in the tanks was a marvel — sharks swam above our heads so close we could count their teeth!

Before lunch in the food court of the Harbourside Shopping Centre (show your Smartvisit Card for a shopping discount card), we hopped onto the Harbourjet Speed Boats (Aus$80). Good thing we went before lunch, let me tell you. The jet boat blasted out of Darling Harbour with local boys AC/DC (music group) pouring from the speakers. The speedboat screamed under the Harbour Bridge at speeds up to 45 mph, with a few 270-degree turns added for fun. My husband and I were the only people in the boat over the age of 12, except the captain, of course. He was 20.

At a much slower pace, the Darling Ferry stopped on its way back to Circular Quay via Luna Park, a Sydney Landmark from the 1930s. This amusement park was recently revamped to its original gaudy glory. We jumped off and entered the theme park; with a flash of the card, we rode six rides (Aus$18).

With the dazzle of Luna Park’s lights behind us and the glow of the Sydney Opera House ahead, we ferried back to the city for dinner at the Summit Restaurant, a revolving restaurant 165 meters above the city. The card earned us a 15% discount (Aus$15).

Day three — Our total savings for two days was about Aus$94 (US$70) per person. Had we not used the card, we would have spent Aus$213 (US$160) each for those two days for all the activities listed above.

Granted, we may not have pushed quite so hard to really get our money’s worth if we didn’t have the card. But, feeling like we really accomplished some serious sightseeing goals, on the third day we rested.

A breather was needed, so my husband and I hopped the Manly Ferry to one of the city’s best surfing beaches. As we arrived, I glanced at my Smartvisit guidebook and discovered that Ocean World, just a short walk from the Manly Pier, was listed among the free sights. Maybe I should have picked up a 3-day card after all.

For a See Sydney & Beyond Smartvisit Card, contact Australia Travel Specialists (Suite 303, Level 3, 270 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest, NSW 2065 Australia; phone 1 300 661 711 or visit www. or or visit their office in Sydney at Circular Quay, Shop W1, corner of Alfred and Wharf 6.

Note: the above 2–day Smartvisit Card does not include ferry transportation. Sydney Daytripper and Travelpasses Travel Tickets can be sold in conjunction with the Smartvisit Card. See the website for details.

Boulder, CO