As the northern hemisphere begins its gradual tilt towards Autumn and Winter so too comes that time of year when late-term holiday goers begin their pilgrimage to warmer climates. An ever popular destination for English speakers is the shimmering coast of New South Wales, in particular the state capital Sydney and its suburbs. While eternal rival Melbourne still trumps its neighbour in culture and nightlife scenes, three areas in which Sydney is undeniably the victor are natural beauty, climate and attractions.
That being said, how do you make the most of a spring/summertime visit to this world renowned harbour city? Our advice is simple: get out, feel the sun on your face, and discover outstanding outdoor activities. Here’s a few of our favourites, including one that’s brand new for 2015/16.
Sydney’s food scene is as diverse as its cultural make-up, but one that never changes is the quality of seafood. If you expected such an iconic coastal city to be strong in this department then you’re unlikely to be disappointed. Probably the best way experience the flavours of the ocean à la Sydney (without breaking the bank) is to visit the Sydney Fish Market. This bustling complex on the south-eastern end of Blackwattle Bay is home to a daily wholesale auction, 6 locally famous retailers and a mouthwatering array of restaurants. Try everything from steamed lobster to sushi.
For the ultimate in relaxation wander along to the Chinese Garden of Friendship at Darling Harbour. This oriental escape charges a small entrance fee, but the secluded interior is a wonder to behold. High walls filter out most of the surrounding din, supplanting it with a gentle ambience composed of rustling willow branches, gurgling waterfalls, and a soft clanking of porcelain from the Chinese Teahouse. Be sure to admire the stunning Dragon Wall, Twin Pavilion and penjing collection.
A great thing about the Sydney and Bondi Explorer Bus Tour is that you’re essentially getting two flexible sightseeing routes for the price of one. A top stop we’d recommend on the Bondi route lies at the southern end of Bondi Beach. The ‘Bondi Icebergs‘ is both a winter swimming club and a marvellous outdoor swimming pool whose rocky edges are licked by the waves of the Tasman Sea. Pack some swimwear, jump aboard the hop on hop off buses, and feel the thrill of ocean spray without the spectre of a shark.
Similar to the Chinese Garden, but on truly grand scale is the Sydney Botanic Gardens, a sprawling public parkland on the east side of the CBD. The Sydney and Bondi bus tour has various stops at which you can disembark for a lazy on-foot exploration. Free guided walks lasting 1.5 hours are available at 10:30 each day, and you can also choose to visit the National Herbarium of NSW, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and much more.
Another unmissable spot for lovers of good seafood and amazing scenery is ‘Doyles on the Beach‘ near the tip of Watsons Bay. Our tip for getting there would be to take a boat from Circular Quay No.6. As soon as you’re berthed along Watsons Bay Wharf the sights (and occasionally smells) of Doyles should be clearly evident just a hundred or so meters away. This long established family-run eatery has been delighting the palates since 1885. Have a sift through their à la carte menu and tuck into a dish with the grains of the adjacent beach resting warm beneath your toes. Our dinner choice? Well you can never go wrong with a fresh fish n’ chips.
Fancy a good movie? Well it wouldn’t be Sydney if the city didn’t combine a love of cinema with its boundless scenic beauty. Head up Mrs Macquaries Road on the north-eastern spur of the Botanic Gardens and pull up a seat at the St. George Open Air Cinema (booking required). It’s 20th summer season gets under way on January 2016, so you’ll have plenty of time to join up to 70,000 Sydneysiders for a nightly roster of big scene magic set against the glowing backdrop of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
A must-do outdoor activity for any traveller to Sydney (especially during the Spring months) is take a boat out of Sydney Cove towards Taronga Zoo. The city’s most popular wildlife institution attracts thousands of visitors each year and is home to over 4,000 animals of 340 species. As well as extensive Australian mammal displays and walkthrough aviaries, Taronga hosts what it calls ‘Roar and Snore’ events during the warm seasons. These are luxury overnight camping experiences that invoke a sense of being stretched out beneath the vast sky of the Australian outback- sounds of the wilderness and all. There’s also seal, spider and free flying bird presentations, along with a Wild Ropes Course boasting majestic Sydney Harbour views.
There’s no better way to get a real feel for the history of Sydney than to get as close to the experiences of early British settlers as possible. Do this by joining the Sydney Heritage Fleet as they cast off on the James Craig Tall Ship, an authentic, fully-restored vessel from the 1870s. This seafaring adventure costs AUD $170 for adult non-members, but is an experience you’ll never forget. Those who choose to go will set out from Wharf 7, Pyrmont on the morning of their chosen date.
Something we’d strongly recommend for those who like to revel in all things retail is The Rocks Market. It runs form 10:00-17:00 on Saturdays and Sundays along Playfair Street, George Street and Jack Mundey Place. Stallholders offer everything from professionally craft jewellery and textiles to traditional wood works and bush art. Forget the stuffy tack shops and browse for meaningful trinkets under a blue sky. If it sounds like something you’d be interested in then you could also check out The Rocks Friday Foodie Market, which takes place from 09:00-15:00. Reach the Rocks by hopping off at stop 25 on the Sydney Explorer bus tour.
Finally, from late 2015 onwards be sure to have a beat around the Barangaroo Reserve, a new public park which officially opened on August 22nd. It can be reached by disembarking at stop 23a on the Sydney Explorer tour. While the Barangaroo foreshore walk has been available since 2009 this new zone promises 5.7 hectares of lush scenery arranged upon multiple tiers of hand crafted sandstone. Its charm is compounded by the presence of some 75,000 native plants, incorporated in a way that emulates the natural scenery of the Australian bush.
At the opening ceremony the Premier of NSW, Mike Baird, is quoted as saying:
“Everyone else around the world is looking at this city and wishing it was their city, their home, their state.
“Barangaroo is now not only open to this city, to this State, to this country, but it is open to the world.”
So there you have it, your invitation to experience Sydney’s natural splendour is more cordial than ever. Have a safe trip and aim to pack in as much outdoor fun as you can.