After checking in, dropping off our bags we walked along King Street to Darling harbour. We meandered along the waterfront taking in the views as we went. Navigating through a bit of construction, we found ourselves close to the iconic Sydney Harbour bridge and the Sydney Opera house. It was happy hour so we grabbed an Aperol Spritz and pizza at one of the many outdoor cafes. The weather was very pleasant, in the mid 20s with clear blue sky.
The next morning we were treated to another private tour. We were looking forward to this one as it was supposed be in a classic Holden car. Unfortunately ‘Horace’ the Holden wasn’t feeling too well (carburetor troubles), so we had to settle for a brand new Holden.
Jon, our driver and tour guide is a retired teacher who spent time in Africa and Romania. He’s a busy fellow not only doing the Holden tour, but he works at the Maritime museum and is a Bridge walk leader at the Sydney Harbour bridge climb.
We spent the next four hours making our way through the central part of Sydney. We explored interesting neighbourhoods and beaches. We got a sense of where Sydney came from and some of the challenges it faces today. It’s really a beautiful city with dozens of beaches within the city itself.
It’s a large city, with a population over five million and is one of the most expensive cities on the planet. We toured through a couple of old neighbourhoods that have spectacular houses with even more spectacular views. Houses in these areas sell for tens of millions (40, 50, 60 million), with one recently selling for 100 million dollars. Let that sink in for a minute.
Today was alsoAnzac Day which is the Australian and New Zealand equivalent of our Remembrance Day. It’s a public holiday so the roads are relatively clear, but the beaches are packed.
We drove by Bondi Beach which is one of more popular (at least with tourists) of the Sydney beaches. I had never heard of it before, until one of our friends recommended we watch Bondi Rescue which is an Australian TV program that follows the life guards at Bondi Beach around as they handle five thousand rescues per year in the summer period. It’s on Netflix and worth a watch to see the beach and how silly some people are that get into trouble. The conditions at the beach can change rapidly due to tidal conditions which doesn’t help matters much. We didn’t stop but it was interesting to see where it’s filmed.
Jon was a wealth of knowledge for suggestions of things to do, places to eat and his favourite wine areas. When we get back home we’ll have to keep an eye open from wines from Yara valley (particularly the Pinot), Claire valley, Bossa valley and Hunter Valley.
Jon ran a little quiz throughout the tour and Deanna won. Her prize was a very tasty box of chocolate caramels. We’ve had a few tours over the course of our trip and this one was one of favourites, mostly due to Jon’s demeanour and his vast knowledge about his city.
One thing he strongly suggested was buying Opal cards and exploring the city with the vast transit network. With a city of five million, it’s not a surprise they have the transit system they do. It comprises busses, commuter trains, larger trains that service the outer suburbs and quite an extensive ferry system. There is also apps that help with journey planning. Like London, San Francisco and New York these large cities do a really great job of getting folks around without needing cars.
After Jon dropped us off, we found a convince store that sells Opal cards. Starting with $20.00 on each we made our way down to Circular Quay (which is where we walked yesterday and the Opera House is located). From there we hopped on a ferry and a short twenty minute ride we found ourselves at Rose Bay beach, one of the spots we drove through with Jon in the morning. We walked a bit and grabbed a drink at the Rose Bay Hotel.
Dinner was at Saké , a contemporary sushi restaurant that was excellent.
Other than dinner plans with Deanna’s friend Camara and her husband Matt, we didn’t have any plans for Friday. Taking Jon’s advice, we took the ferry to walk between Watson’s Beach and Rose Bay Beach. It took about 2.5 hours to walk between the two ferry stops. The route is a combination of walking through neighbourhood streets and along pathways. About 1⁄3 of the walk is along the Hermitage Foreshore track which wends it’s way through beaches and trees. It’s mostly along a boardwalk path. It’s quite up and down with a number of sets of stairs. There are a number of look out spots, popular beaches and other beaches that were completely deserted. It’s a great walk, something we would highly recommend.
Camera was another Aussie gal that Deanna met at River’s Edge camp. She made reservations at 360 degree dining which is a rotating restaurant 309 metres high. Dinner was a three course meal and it was excellent. It was nice catching up with them, seeing photos of their three children and their beautiful house.
Our last organized tour of the trip was a day trip to the Blue Mountains. We joined three other people and our guide and headed out. The first stop was at Featherdale Wildlife Park, another wildlife sanctuary. This one was interesting for all the birds they had. After spending an hour there, we hopped back in the van for an hour or so into the Blue Mountain National Park. Our guide had prepared a morning coffee/tea break for us that included the now familiar Lamington cake. There were a couple of wild kangaroos in the vicinity. We kept an ear open for native birds, including the kookaburra but they weren’t around.
We stopped at a few lookouts, went for a walk to Wentworth Falls and stopped for a very tasty lunch at the cafe in the park. We arrived back in Sydney about 5:00. Dinner was a subway sandwich at the hotel.
Deanna really wanted to do the Sydney harbour bridge climb, something that held no interest for me whatsoever. Jon, our guide from the Holden tour, extended his staff discount.
We spent the morning wandering about. There are some beautiful shopping arcades in downtown Sydney, circa 1920s. Much nicer experience than our typical mall we have back home.
We took the train back down to Circular Quay. Being the weekend, there is an outdoor market. We wandered through the stalls and while there were some nice things, it was mostly geared towards the throngs of tourists. Deanna’s bridge walk was scheduled for 2:30 so we passed an hour or so in a park looking out over the harbour.
Deanna’s bridge walk admission included a separate admission to the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon. Unlike the three hour (1300+ steps) bridge climb experience, this was a self guided walk into one of the four supporting pylons. 200 steps later I found myself with a stunning view of the harbour, downtown Sydney and the bridge itself. It was high enough for me. There were a number of displays of artifacts, and photos from the building of the bridge that were quite interesting.
I met Deanna back at the bridge climb start where we made our way to the Rock’s Cafe for our last meal in Australia.
And with that, our close to one month Oceana trip comes to a close. It was a great trip. We saw some interesting places, met some really nice folks and had a very smooth experience. The outings that Kensington arranged for us were, on the whole, great. The pickups from the airports were perfect and the quality of the hotels that were booked for us were high. It was the first time we had something of this scale organized for us. We would recommend Kensington tours.