If the Dutch had scratched below the surface of the barren landscape in 1606, it would probably still be known as New Holland.
And if the French had paddled their aristocratic arms a little faster, this wonderous, mineral rich and bountiful land could have been hailed Nouvelle France.
Yes, the English pulled a fast one on Jan. 26, 1788 when the First Fleet sailed into what is now the magnificent Sydney Harbour and proclaimed New South Wales, Australia as part of the Empire.
In fact, it wasn't until 1770 that Capt. James Cook discovered the country's more hospitable eastern coast before returning to his homeland with tales of exotic creatures and vast expanses of apparently uninhabited land.
Even then, it took another 18 years for England's "First Fleet" to set sail for the new land to set up a penal colony (England was overflowing with convicts that could no longer be sent to the United States after the War of Independence).
For the next 100 years, Sydney covered itself in colourful, and often grisly, tales of discovery, death and fortune found by its newcomers - some of whom the Aboriginals weren't sure were male or female, given their elaborate dress sense.
Another century or so on, throw in two of the planet's most iconic landmarks - Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House - and it's easy to figure why this easy-going, cosmopolitan and spectacular city is one of the most visited in the world.
Suffice to say, there is no shortage of picture-perfect photo ops in Sydney, not least from the bay window of a delicious grand harbour view room at the Shangri-La, where both the bridge and the Opera House can be found in the same, breath-taking, panoramic shot.
The Shangri-La is in the heart of The Rocks district - the historical birthplace of Sydney's and Australia's aforementioned English roots and should be on the "must visit" list of anyone touring the city.
The Rocks - such named because the stony escarpment still evident and preserved to this day - was one of the first sights for the English fleet when it sailed into what is now the harbour.
Nearby, you can stroll along Circular Quay in the shadow of the bridge and Opera House, gazing in awe at the Olympic-sized cruise liners that dock during a world tour or watch the transit ferries buzzing in and out, carrying commuters and tourists to neighbouring communities, such as the famous Manly Beach.
Or, simply sink into the vibe of the Aboriginal buskers and breeze through the amazing fresh food and gift market, flanked on either side by a small army of boutique restaurants, hotels and 200-year-old pub patios - the oldest in all Australia.
There simply wasn't enough time in my four-day stay to get to the bottom of Sydney's historical barrel, so I delved into two distinctly different walking tours to get as big a mouthful as possible.
To get the full effect of the "macabre tales of murder, suicide, hangings and hauntings," I tried out the Ghost Tour @ The Rocks in the evening.
Starting off in the virtual blackness of one of the original settler's cottages, "Ghost Tour Gary" weaved a sorry tale of how John and Elizabeth Cadman (both convicts from England) tried in vain to begin a new life in Sydney and how their spirits still loiter centuries after their passing.
The rest of the two-hour tour snakes in and around The Rocks in the twilight hours, with Gary regaling you gruesome stories such as Sydney's first coroner burying people alive by mistake.
At $40 each, the tour sounds expensive but, like most things in the Sydney area, expect to pay more than usual; the minimum wage in Australia is $20 an hour incidentally!
A cheaper and certainly less bloody alternative to discovering Sydney is the Free Walking Tour, whereby you only tip your guide what you feel the tour is worth.
This near three-hour tour would be a fabulous idea on your first day in Sydney, as it takes in the history of the Opera House, The Rocks, Harbour Bridge, Sydney Tower and much more.
The Shangri-La itself is far enough away from the buzz of the quay and the blasting of ship's horns, but close enough to enjoy all The Rocks has to offer.
And, although at the higher end of the price scale (upwards of $300 per night for that grand harbour view), the hotel was immaculate and faultless and the professional staff cater for your every whim, especially at the breakfast buffet.
If your budget doesn't stretch to the Shangri-La, then The Russell Hotel might fit your bill. Creaky, but not cranky, The Russell is not so much in the heart of The Rocks, it actually is The Rocks.
This boutique hotel is old school Sydney, with personalized rooms decorated with various bric-a-brac and is clean, homey and is next door to the city's oldest licensed pub, dating back to the late 19th century.
There's an endless line of cruises you can take out on Sydney Harbour to get a close look at the bridge and opera house from the water.
A better and cost-saving idea is to take the 30-minute transit ferry ride to Manly ($14 return), spend the day at the magnificent surfer's dream of Manly Beach and then, on your way back, click to your heart's content as both the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge hone back into the viewfinder - both in one frame and up close and personal.
While on the subject of world-famous beaches, no visit to Sydney would be complete without a trip to Bondi.
A 35-minute, air-conditioned $9 return transit bus ride from Circular Quay was all it took to witness this legendary strip of beach.
It's busy, for sure. But what do you expect with soft, brown sugar sand you sink in up to your ankles, crystal clear waters and big waves?
I spent most of the day body-surfing (catching a wave and swim for your life) and only abandoned ship when the shark siren blared to heave ho out the water - women and children first, of course.
I'd never considered visiting Australia; never fancied it at all to be fair.
But the Aussies' thirst for a cold tinny (beer) and a laugh, their hilarious compulsion to abbreviate almost every word (avocado is "avo," ambulance is "ambo"), their immaculate beaches and their spectacular sights has me planning my next trip Down Under to perhaps venture further into the outback.
IF YOU GO:
? www.therussell.com. au
? www.ghosttours.com. au