One of the things I’ve discovered while traveling is that pretty much any city that has an important seaport will also have an imposing Customs House. The styles vary by country and/or era, but three things don’t seem to change: an impressive size, a central location, and the original intended purpose, which is handling the imports and exports pouring through the seaport.
Sydney’s Customs House, which dates to 1844–1845, is front and center at Circular Quay, with a view of the bustling harbor. The handsome building, renovated prior to Sydney’s hosting of the 2000 Olympics, has now been repurposed into a multifunction facility that includes galleries, a museum, a library, performance space, a rooftop café, a Parisian-style bar/bistro, and a huge model of the city of Sydney, displayed beneath the transparent floor in the entryway. Customs House is open to the public, and galleries and the museum are free.
Because it is hard to visit Sydney and not find yourself occasionally down by Circular Quay, I had seen the building several times before I found out what it was. In fact, it was hard to miss it, even if one didn’t stop. So while it might not be high on your list of things to see in Australia, at least you know it won’t be hard to find. And, if you simply dash past it on your way to your harbor cruise, now you’ll know what you’re passing.