Sydney Harbour: More than meets the proverbial eye.
The city of Sydney is stirring. If you set out onto Sydney Harbourfront early morning, the sky begins to blush, turning the bay an oily pink as the sun reflects off the glistening water. Every rivet and beam refracts the light and, despite previously having seen the bridge from almost every angle, gliding underneath its metal underbelly fills one with wonder and awe.
With its beguiling harbor and shining beaches, Sydney is the kind of place that leaves an indelible impression on the soul. However, away from the harbor, along its main arteries and beneath the ground, the capital of New South Wales is in a state of metamorphosis forever changing every single year: a new light rail network is under construction, extending from the Central Business District (CBD) to the east; a motorway is being built to the west; and Sydney Metro, Australia’s biggest public transport project, which is set to deliver 31 new metro stations and more than 40 miles of new railway. The city is a myriad of construction zones.
And yet, still, on the water, it is the waves that curve through Sydney’s sandstone core as they seem to wash away all the dim and sin. The Pacific Ocean laps its eastern coastline, the harbor spills in at Port Jackson, and Parramatta River pushes beyond the bridge to the geographic heart of a city that won’t stop growing.
Everyone wants a piece of Sydney's history and pristine views. Some buy in, spending millions on a harbourside property; others fly-in, selfie stick in hand. But, despite this being one of the world’s most expensive places to live, the best things about Sydney are free — namely its waterways and coastlines, from Smugglers Track at Palm Beach in the north to the Figure Eight Pools at Burning Palms Beach in the south across to the Bronte Baths which overlook the seafront.
But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been meddled with. Remarkably, over 50% of the harbor and surrounding areas have been artificially constructed, and parts of the coastline have also been irreversibly changed most noticeably graffiti has been scrubbed clean in recent years.
Throughout Sydney, these tiny pockets of maritime history stand out amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Although the development has opened up the harbor to the public, it’s come at a price and quite a high one. In the past few years, more than 600 housing tenants living in the local area around Millers Point and nearby The Rocks have been forced out of their homes; the subsequent sale of 193 properties generated A$608 million (£325 million) for the state government and changed the demographics of the neighborhood forever. Ultimately, focusing more on tourism then local residents that reside in the surrounding areas. As the industry has wound down to a close towards the end of 2019, parts of the shore have been opened up.
But slowly, the harbor despite what flaws it may have, always drags you back. The view is hypnotic and mesmerizing. Ferries roll across the bay, the water shimmering around them like an apparition, and skyscrapers blink slowly against the dark sky. Anchoring it all is the Sydney Harbour Bridge; tiny shards of moving light blurring the road as cars cross the threshold between north and south, its pylons standing sentinel and its arch lit in flickering colors that fade in and out, like the heartbeat of the city.
This is Sydney, this is the heartbeat of Australia it always has been and for the time being, always will be.