Australia's first and largest city started life in 1788 when Arthur Phillip, having orders to found a penal settlement in New South Wales, then a virtually unknown territory, decided to camp in Sydney Cove on the shores of Port Jackson, a magnificent natural harbour. It was a place teeming with fish, waterfowl and native game and was evidently inhabited by the Eora Aboriginal people. Although relations between the colonists and the Aborigines seem to have been generally quite amicable at first, the latter gradually succumbed to disease, imported by the Europeans, social dislocation and eventually also conflict with the newcomers; some Europeans took Aboriginal women and their descendants still live around the city, notably in Redfern and around Botany Bay, the area Phillip surveyed first but turned down in favour of Sydney Cove.
The city of Sydney gradually grew around the harbour, although farming was done further west in Parramatta, that for a time became the seat of government. Campbelltown, to the south west, was founded by Governor Macquarie in 1820 and by this time Sydney was well established, with fine public buildings, designed by Francis Greenway, a convict architect.
Today Sydney is a vast city, the capital of the State of New South Wales, sprawling for 50 kilometres along the coast and 30 kilometres inland, with a population of close to 4.5 million. But its main attractions are within easy reach in the centre: the magnificent harbour with its world famous icons: the harbour Bridge, nicknamed "Coathanger", and the striking Opera House. Ferries connect to the northern suburbs and an efficient public transport system links the Central Business District with the outer suburbs.