BEYOND the cosmopolitan skyline of New South Wales’ capital, Sydney, is a host of micro-adventures. Embarking on a series of them during one holiday is not only a cinch, but a great way to feed the explorer in everyone.
As destinations go, you’d hardly go wrong planning a family vacation there, especially if you love simple discoveries but are unlikely to spend months planning an African safari.
Even on your own and without leaving the city, just pick any number of interest-themed Urban Walkabout Sydney Guide maps available at most hotels, and you’d be off to a good start.
A road trip around the state easily fills up one trip with a series of day-long, achievable goals for anyone from grade-schooler to grandparent.
Given the close proximity of these activities to one another, you will return with varied experiences, and save precious hours that on other trips are lost in getting from one location to the next.
A detour that promises something for the whole family is apple picking. Get your fresh fruit fix at Glenbernie Orchard at Darkes Forest (right, www.appleshack.com.au).
The business, operated by the same family for four generations, offers preserves, fresh and dried fruit, juice, honey, honey mead, cider (alcoholic or otherwise), as well as farm tours. Book a “pick-your-own” session between November and April, or a small group tour at other selected times.
A must-see is La Perouse (www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/ parks/la-perouse-area). Check out the heritage-listed military outpost on Bare Island, a near-intact example of late 19th-century coastal defence, which is connected to the suburb of La Perouse by a footbridge.
This French-named suburb, about 14km south-east of Sydney’s central business district, sits at the northern headland of Kamay Botany Bay National Park, near Maroubra.
While you can explore the military fort and tunnels only on a guided tour, there are nearby protected swimming areas at Congwong Bay Beach, Little Congwong Beach, and the beach at Frenchman’s Bay.
Barangaroo Nature Reserve
Start your adventure in the city, with a trek at Barangaroo Nature Reserve (www.barangaroo.com). Australia’s soil holds the story of its people, in ways big and small. A walk through this nature reserve, located within Sydney, is worth a full morning, whether on a guided tour or on your own.
In addition to a fresh take on Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, exploring the 6ha re-imagined Sydney Harbour headland reveals its rich aboriginal history and cultural significance. The reserve, located at the Cutaway, is home to more than 75,000 native trees and shrubs, extensive walking and cycling trails, as well as lovely coves and picnic spots. Its winner is a shoreline that invites you to simply sit and breathe deep.
Most compelling is the story of its namesake, Barangaroo, the second wife of Woollarawarre Bennelong, the senior man of the Eora aboriginal people of the Port Jackson area. She was matriarch of the Cammeraygal clan, a fisherwoman and community leader, at the time of the first British settlement in Australia, in 1788.
While her husband, Bennelong, famously nursed a curiosity about British culture — and in particular its socks — Barangaroo eschewed Western clothing, once wearing nary but a tribal bone through her nose to a state dinner.
“I like the story because it shows how she stood her ground,” says my guide, Ms Henrietta Baird, a descendant of the Kuku Yalanji and Yidinji people of Far North Queensland who now resides in Sydney. “She was her own woman.”
Ease into your travels with a walking excursion of Surry Hills (www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/learn/sydneyshistory/ urban-history/history-walks), Sydney’s bohemian enclave. With a guide or on your own, stroll down Crown and Devonshire Streets and explore the trendy boutiques and vintage stores.
Tuck into a meal at Suzie Q Coffee + Records (www.suzieqcoffee.com.au, 1/18 Hutchinson Street), a local secret, whose range of fresh pastries and seasonal produce is presented on a charming menu, shaped in a miniature vinyl record sleeve — homage to its rare vinyl collection. Don’t miss its iconic wall-to-wall photograph of Woodstock by Elliot Landy, which encapsulates its free-spirited approach. The adventure? Uncover what’s new on its ever-evolving menu, and don’t miss its single origin coffee.
Bald Hill lookout
If adventuring gets you hungry, which happens to me all the time, tuck into a hot dog at Bald Hill lookout (www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/thingstodo/lookouts/bald-hill-lookout) en route to Wollongong.
Drink in the view of Hill End’s countryside, a vista that includes the Sea Cliff Bridge, which extends along the Grand Pacific Drive. The drive is a 140km award-winning coastal drive beginning 45 minutes south of Sydney International Airport in the Royal National Park.
The area is among the most popular lookouts in Illawarra and a renowned hang-gliding point.
Drive out to Wollongong (www.visitwollongong.com.au). At the height of summer, dawn breaks past 5am, rousing runners and their ilk with the sound of gulls and lapping waves, its blue-skied morning warming up the day.
Alternatively called “The Gong”, the district lies to the south of Sydney, in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, on the narrow coastal strip between the Illawarra Escarpment and the Pacific Ocean.
The fixture of the state’s beach community offers any number of options from cycling to trekking. Even the 80km ride up is dotted with worthy pitstops and pop-bys, taking explorers through smaller towns that, whatever their size, seem to serve up great coffee and cake.
Just outside the city, you will be delighted with offerings that range from apple picking to trekking through the Blue Mountains (sg.sydney.com/ destinations/blue-mountains).
Head down the Grand Pacific Drive (sg.sydney.com/things-to-do/drivesandroad-trips/grand-pacific-drive), towards the Blue Mountains, which is rich with stories, sights, charming accommodation and hearty dining options.
Potter about small towns like Leura, and sample sticky date pudding at Lily’s Pad Café (19 Grose Street, Leura) or indulge in a teapot history lesson with Maurice Cooper, aka “Mr Teapot”, at the Treasured Teapot Museum (20-22 Grose Street, Leura). Drink in the air up at the Three Sisters. For that, Scenic World (www.scenicworld.com.au) promises a suite of experiences for any crowd.
Singapore Airlines flies four times daily from Singapore to Sydney. It has an economy class minimum two-to-go fare (from $618) until April 15, for travel from April 1 to Dec 31.
Check out brandinsider.straitstimes.com/siasydneystories for more information on New South Wales’ attractions.
The writer’s trip was sponsored by Singapore Airlines and Destination New South Wales.
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