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August 4, 2011

We featured bridges, beautiful low-income housing experiments, and beachside pools in our Touring Sydney, Part 1, slideshow and it would be remiss of us not to include the Australian city's most famous icon: the Sydney Opera House. I recently traveled Down Under and continue this two-part series with glimpses inside the Opera House as well as in and around the Royal Botanic Gardens (and then a jaunt up the coast to sunny Cairns!).

Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney Australia
Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, a 74-acre park in the middle of the city, is a place to go and get lost in (and, as signs in the park say, "smell the roses, hug the trees, talk to the birds, and picnic on the lawns"). It stretches from the harbor to Hyde Park and features countless gardens within the Gardens, such as Succulent Garden, shown here. Australian landscape designer Jamie Durie created this sculptural planter, the centerpiece of the Succulent Garden, using recycled material from 5,500 baked bean cans.
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Succulent Garden in Sydney Australia
I could have spent all day in the Succulent Garden (and I ended up visiting it more than once during my trip). Here's a close up of one of the many varieties on display.
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The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney Australia
The Royal Botanic Gardens creates a bubble of nature in the middle of the bustling city yet here and there you're met with astounding views of the Sydney skyline. Reaching up toward the clouds are the Chifley Tower (center) and the Deutsche Bank Place (to its left with the white frame and two spires), among others.
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Sydney Opera House by Jørn Utzon
Another part of the park offers vistas of the harbor and the Sydney Opera House, whose multicolor, gloss and matte tiles give it what architect Jørn Utzon hoped would be an iridescent quality. (Watch our slideshow about the surprises of the Sydney Opera House.)
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The Opera House Bennelong Point on the edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens
The Opera House sits on Bennelong Point on the edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Looking back from the steps rising up to the iconic performance center are views of the park, the downtown skyline, and Circular Quay, the city's busy ferry port.
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Sydney Opera House in Australia
Here, the classic view of the Sydney Opera House. One of the most amazing things about the structure is that the technologies needed to build and support the sails were not yet discovered when Utzon's plan was approved. (In fact, it wasn't until seven years after his design was selected that Utzon presented his "key to the shells" solution that would let them be built at all.)
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Interior of Sydney Opera House
Though the exteriors of the Sydney Opera House are stunning enough on their own, the lobbies inside the performance halls are, to me, the most magnificent spaces. (Interestingly enough, the interiors are not by Utzon but by architect Peter Hall, with Lionel Todd and David Littlemore as well as the New South Wales government architect Ted Farmer, since Utzon was forced off the project in 1965.)
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Textured sail detail Sydney Opera House
I never realized how textured the sails of the Opera House are—nor did I realize that they are not perfectly white. Utzon specified the use of 1,056,000 cream and off-white tiles made in Sweden.
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Great Barrier Reef Sydney
After several days in Sydney, we headed north for a bit of warmth and for a visit to the Great Barrier Reef, which Dwell follower @leedingtheway advised was not to be missed. We flew to Cairns and headed out for a day and a half on the reef snorkeling and diving. The dark patches in the water are sections of the reef close to the surface.
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Boat ride view of Cairns Australia
As we headed back to land, we were greeted with this view of Cairns and the surrounding mountains. We wished we had a few more days in the area to visit Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest.
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Cairns waterfront Australia
Cairns is a waterfront tourist town and retreat for Aussies escaping the winter weather. Though on the coast, it lacks a proper beach due to its large, long mud flats. Instead, the center of town features the Cairns Esplanade Pool, a public saltwater pool/fountain/lagoon.
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The Cairns Esplanade Pool in Australia
The Cairns Esplanade Pool is wonderfully integrated into the park and effortlessly transitions from fountain to swimming space to beach substitute (parts of the pool have a sandy bottom and sections of the surrounding area are filled with sand, making it perfect for sunbathing). It was incredibly well used and was our favorite part of the town. Watch our Touring Sydney, Part 1, slideshow for more highlights from Sydney (and check out our recent Detour story about Melbourne—you'll want to add the city to your itinerary after getting a glimpse of it).

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Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney Australia
Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, a 74-acre park in the middle of the city, is a place to go and get lost in (and, as signs in the park say, "smell the roses, hug the trees, talk to the birds, and picnic on the lawns"). It stretches from the harbor to Hyde Park and features countless gardens within the Gardens, such as Succulent Garden, shown here. Australian landscape designer Jamie Durie created this sculptural planter, the centerpiece of the Succulent Garden, using recycled material from 5,500 baked bean cans.

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