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Time Off: Get a bird's eye view of life Down Under; Andrew Lee discovers marine marvels in Sydney.

Byline: Andrew Lee

G'DAY, mate! That panoramic view from the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge was well and truly bonzer. . .

Ocean liners bringing passengers from all over the world to the wonderland of Australia seemed like toys in the blue water 440ft below.

I was at the summit of the arch of the 1, 650ft long Sydney Harbour Bridge, as part of a three hour adventure that took me through a giant Meccano set of metal walkways below the busy road and then up, up, up the latticework of steel to the top of what the Aussies call the world's biggest coat hanger.

I started the climb with other sightseers just an hour after landing in Sydney from London.

Even though it's a 23-hour flight, Sydney is rated as the top dream holiday destination by Brits in most surveys and there are more than 600, 000 visitors every year.

The day after going over the bridge, I went under it, aboard the triple-deck MV Sydney 2000, a cruising restaurant. They serve a buffet and inexpensive meals on the lower Club and Show Decks, or a champagne dinner on the top Sky Deck, as the vessel skirts around famous landmarks.

The waters of Australia are infamous for deadly creatures and at the Sydney Aquarium you can see many of them: 12ft-long killer sharks, evil-eyed man-eating crocodiles and box jellyfish which can sting an adult to death in a minute.

The aquarium has capitalised on the Walt Disney cartoon film Finding Nemo, the box office hit set in Australian waters about the search for a love able lost clown fish named Nemo.

During my stay, I attended a lavish party for the world premiere of the film and bumped into a longtime friend, actor Bill Hunter, the voice of the dentist who buys and keeps Nemo in a fish tank at his surgery.

Wanting a picture of the reunion, I handed my camera to a passer-by, advising him how to focus and which button to press.

``No need for the instructions, mate, '' Bill whispered. ``That's Andrew Stanton, the director and chief photographer of Finding Nemo. ''

Drive north from Manly and you can find a necklace of glorious beaches including Curl Curl, Avalon, Barrenjoey and Palm Beach.

There are lots of top-notch fish and chip shops, though business has dropped in recent months.

Owners complain that parents and children are boycotting them, put off by the prospect of eating relatives of the love able Bruce, Squirt, Crush and Nemo. Well, you can't win them all, can you?Fact Filen Andrew Lee travelled as a guest of the Australian Tourist Commission and Qantas Airways. Visit the ATC's web site at www. australia. com for further information. n For a copy of ATC's travellers' guide, call 09068 633 235 or visit wwww. australia. com.

n Qantas (0845 7747 767 or visit www. qantas. co. uk) flies to Sydney 17 times a week via Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

Return tickets start at pounds 696. 20, including taxes, valid for travel Mar 28-June 30, 2005. n Thomson's new Australia & New Zealand programme for 2005/6 offers guided three-day tours of Sydney from pounds 175 per person, including accommodation, with a range of bolt-ons including Seaplane Safari (from pounds 38) and Opera House Tour, with dinner, from pounds 92. For reservations call 0870 060 3300.

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HIGH POINT: The sights and sounds of Sydney
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 2, 2004
Words:568
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