Travel: Here's our when-and-where-to-go guide for Sydney

Jun 12, 2016, 09:41 IST | Anju Maskeri

If you think CST at night is a mesmerizing affair, head to Sydney for a piece of the real thing

Tour & Taste
                          Ancient & Historical

There are 3.964 trees and 67,100 plant specimens in the botanical gardens. This is a public space and entry is free
The Matter of Painting by Danny Rose at the Museum of Contemporary Arts

Heading to Sydney this week? Forget about the postcard view of the Opera House that you see the whole year. Instead, visualise this: the 58-year-old structure’s broken white tiles become an animated canvas where you see birds aflutter at one moment and an oriental design the next. Colours and patterns change like a wonderland across the bridge that glows with multicolored LED lighting, reflecting its light into the harbour after dawn.

The light-cum-art works are part of the Vivid Sydney festival which opened on May 27, and will run for 23 nights until June 18. In its eighth year, it has 150 artists participating from 23 countries, including two from India. The big draws remain the light projections on landmarks such as The Museum of Contemporary Art which became a giant easel featuring splashes of acrylic and oil paints while Customs House tells Sydney’s hidden story through the journey of adventurous blue-tongued lizards. Dubbed Lighting the Sails: Songlines, the Opera House’s sails featured animated contemporary paintings of the country’s indigenous artists.

If Sydney by day now seems like unfamiliar territory, here’s our when-and-where-to-go guide:

On top of the harbour
After a restful start, what you need is an adrenaline rush. I found myself sitting in a small room with eight others. Each of us underwent a breathalyser — after all, you can’t climb the Harbour Bridge drunk. With prices starting at $200, climbing Sydney’s Harbour Bridge doesn’t come cheap.

All climbs have different prices depending on time of day but most of them range from  $188 to $298
All climbs have different prices depending on time of day but most of them range from  $188 to $298

Your hat and glasses are allowed but are tied down to your suit that connects you to the cable that runs all the way around the arched climb. Cameras and phones aren’t allowed. Constructed in 1932, the bridge took eight years and $13.5 million to build to connect the Sydney Central Business district and the North Shore. While motorists travel below, adventure seekers can walk above.

The climb may not be daunting, but the wind at 160 feet can nearly blow us away if it were not for the harness. The highpoint, literally, of the climb, is a small music system placed at the top where you can celebrate your achievement with a jig.

Some green love
The Royal Botanical Gardens becomes our first stop with our effervescent host Marina Albert, a resident of Bondi. This is a short walk from Circular Quay. Come by ferry or catch the train to Martin Place, a 10-minute walk away from the gardens. This year, the Sydney garden is celebrating its 200th anniversary.

(Right) The Matter of Painting by Danny Rose at the Museum of Contemporary Arts; (above) While the walk along the harbour side has no entry fee, entry at the Taronga Zoo will cost $17.95, and $11.95 for kids
While the walk along the harbour side has no entry fee, entry at the Taronga Zoo will cost $17.95, and $11.95 for kids

Set up in 1816, it is the oldest such garden in the country, occupying 27 hectares along the shore of Sydney Harbour.  Specific areas of the Botanical Gardens have been designed to include a rose garden, tropical rainforest, tranquil oriental garden and herb garden.

The Matter of Painting by Danny Rose at the Museum of Contemporary Arts
There are 3.964 trees and 67,100 plant specimens in the botanical gardens. This is a public space and entry is free 

We are informed about the time when aboriginal children were stolen from their families and suffered abuse in institutions.

But now, it seems, the authorities and the local aboriginal communities work together to develop themed gardens, educational programmes, guided tours and publications to acknowledge the significance of these lands to aboriginal people.

Sunshine on my plate
Stepping into Australia and eating greens isn’t exactly living the dream for a non-vegetarian. However, you would be grateful you’ve stepped into Yellow at 57 Macleay Street, Potts Point. You would have never enjoyed vegetables more. The vibrant little restaurant offers excellent food, beautifully presented, skillfully executed. The menu is designed to be shared, we are told. So we order the Eggplant + Broccoli + Parmesan + Hazelnut and the Roast Cauliflower + Pickled Egg + Barley. The homemade bread ($6) is delicious.

Our new favourite veggie, however, is the pumpkin which becomes both chips and dip: crisps, given a dusting of toasty coriander seed, with a pale puree of pumpkin. In fact, we hear that when chef Brent Savage announced that his Potts Point venue, Yellow, would be going strictly vegetarian, it sparked an uproar in food circles there. However, the menu has been raking in rave reviews since.  

Sydney by air
Our date with the seaplane starts at Rose Bay from where we take a ferry for the ride, to be followed by a four-course lunch with wine pairings handpicked by Jonah’s restaurant head chef Logan Campbell and head sommelier Luke Collard. Rose Bay is the location of Sydney’s first international airport and from where the Empire Flying Boat used to depart for Southampton UK — a journey that took 10 days.

The Corsair seats eight and has four rows with one central aisle, so everyone gets a window seat. The take off in a sea plane is an exhilarating experience with engines at full throttle as we thrash into the waves like a speedboat trying to thrill its passengers, until finally we stopped slapping back down to water and took off over it. The choppy winds made us a bit queasy. The bay was dotted with yachts, and the long white arch of Manly Beach was one of the most recognisable beaches we passed on our flight.

Take the country roads
If you’re looking for a short break from the city, the Southern highlands are where you should go. Our first stop at the Southern Highlands is Mittagong at Tertini Wines, a cellar door and winery dedicated to producing premium, cool climate wines with a particular interest in alternative varieties. Although the vineyard is young, with the first plantings in 2000, it won a Gold Medal and a Trophy in the first wine show they entered in 2013. Its owner Jonathan Holgates suggests we halt for a session for wine tasting of the 2014 Pinot Noir which is rich, elegant and full of character.

The Berkelouw book barn at Berrima where you can have coffee and take in the fresh country air. Pic/Anju Maskeri

Our next stop is the little village of Berrima. Established in 1831, it is the only example of an existing and largely preserved Australian Georgian colonial town that still stands. Today, Berrima Village is a living museum with dozens of art & crafts, antique shops and restaurants that operate from old homes. In fact, there is a charming book store Berkelouw book barn where you should stop if you love reading.

City calling
When in Sydney ensure you have a meal at Bennelong restaurant inside the Sydney Opera House. It was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who got the job after winning an international design competition in 1957. The outside is visible through the massive windows, as tourists snap pictures of themselves in front of the iconic building.

The Bennelong restaurant.  Pic Courtesy/ Bennelong Cured  & Cultured
The Bennelong restaurant.  Pic Courtesy/ Bennelong Cured  & Cultured

The real view, though, is inside. We sit across the square table and watch the chefs work their magic. The food is a celebration of local Australian produce, meat and seafood.

At the end of our meal, dessert comes in the form of a miniature opera house structure called the pavlova, a creation of its head chef, Peter Gilmore.

It includes poached meringue filled with a seasonal fruit which is topped with piped whipped double cream. The dish is completed with crisp meringue sails. As we slice into it, we realise there couldn’t be a more befitting end to our trip.

Getting there

Singapore Airlines offers 51 weekly flights from six Indian cities — Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai.

As a Singapore Airlines passenger, you will receive a complimentary Changi $40 voucher which you can use at participating outlets during your transit in Singapore.

The information desk at the airport will be able to guide you to the voucher collection stations. The in-flight entertainment on flight is touted as one of the best with a wide range of films.

Stay at: In the city, stay at InterContinental at Macquarie St. Room rates start at $250. For more, log on to

Countryside: Stay at Biota Rooms at Bowral. Rates here start at $160 to $285. Log on to

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