Sydney’s a gorgeous city to visit with plenty to do and see. But when you have just 72 hours to burn here, I like to suggest 6 must-do activities in early winter for a memorable trip that will have you plan future visits again. So come along and join me on my quick trip Down Under.
Must Do #1 – Visit the Sydney Opera House
No trip to Sydney is complete without a visit to the iconic Sydney Opera House. Missing it would be like visiting Paris without seeing Eiffel Tower. A fusion of ancient with modernist influences , the immense beauty of the Sydney Opera House has made it one of the most recognizable icons of 2oth century architecture -” a building that, to quote US architect Frank Gehry, “changed the image of an entire country”. (Sydney Opera House website)
The Opera House viewed from ferry cruise at Sydney Harbour. Day or night, the sight is always splendid. Do get an Opal card to maximise on transport expenses. To travel on the ferries and all other public transport in Sydney you need an Opal card. Opal card allows you to travel on all public transport in Sydney for $15 per day for an adult, $7.50 for a child. They are available from most newsagents, convenience stores and the Transport Information shop opposite jetty 5 at Circular Quay.
The opera house’s roof is constructed of 1,056,000 glazed white granite tiles imported from Sweden. Despite their self-cleaning nature, they still require scheduled maintenance and replacement. Its interior is composed of pink granite mined from Tarana, NSW and white birch and brush box plywood supplied from northern NSW.
Go on a guided Opera House tour. Get to see the inner workings and experience back stage activities on the walk. Very informative and a great way to see the grand dame of Australian art scene from another angle. Price of tour – from S$39.07/pax (as at time of writing) . Duration – 30min (approximately).
The inner facade of the Opera House. The Opera House is being continually refreshed to keep up with time amid changing demands. For instance, the acoustics in the theatres are in the midst of being upgraded to enhance auditory experience. Even for those not keen to walk the grounds, the Opera House numerous cafes and restaurants are simply superb.
Must Do #2 – Get up close to the Harbour Bridge
Situated just across the Sydney Opera House, is another iconic landmark, the Harbour Bridge. This mammoth structure , nicknamed “The Coat Hanger” because of its arch-based design is a steel through arch bridge across Sydney Harbour between the Sydney central business district (CBD) and the North Shore and is an important link carrying human or vehicular traffic. A good walk up the bridge will let you enjoy amazing panoramic view of the harbour, the Opera House and and city skyline.
The Harbour Bridge silhouetted against dusk lovely hues. In moment like this, you just wished time could stand still.
A walk up the bridge to the lookout point will be a great cardio exercise. But do factor in sufficient time (at least 1.30-2 hours) and it is not recommended for those with mobility issues. The entry to the bridge is free unless you opt do the Bridge Climb, which offers gorgeous panoramic view of the Sydney Harbour. This bridge walk should be planned with a visit to The Rocks, which is just stone throw away, for great eateries and weekend market.
The Harbour Bridge as viewed during our ferry shuttle across the harbour. There is many ways to shoot the photogenic bridge, limited only by time, effort and creativity.
The bridge when captured in the late afternoon sun. In early winter, the sun sets earlier so do factor in changes in daylight hours. This was taken at 3.00pm but the sun is already low.
Must Do #3 – Take off on a Seaplane aerial cruise
For the treat of a lifetime, a scenic aerial cruise over the Sydney Harbour on a seaplane is an absolute way to bump up the excitement factor. Located in Rosebay, this is Sydney’s first purpose built seaplane terminal. It is a chic and slick harbour side destination and luxurious lounge, featuring a waterside oyster and cocktail bar, discreet VIP space and a flying boat museum paying homage to a historical site in Australian aviation.
The Sydney Seaplane terminal which houses the classy Empire Lounge, carries a good menu of top quality local produces for diners’ enjoyment. This is where you get to chill out with breathtaking harbour views and observing the incoming and departing seaplanes . For those not on the aerial cruise, it’s still a great place to enjoy aviation action.
A Cessna Caravan seaplane taxiing off on a aerial cruise. You can rarely get to observe such activities elsewhere in the world. A must-do activity indeed.
Terminal staff busy ensuring smooth operations at the flight jetty. The company flies two aircraft models with Cessna Caravan Amphibian and the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver. Both chosen for their reliability and safe track records.
Our flight boarding pass. Great sense of adventure as you wait in the lovely lounge for your flight to be announced over the intercom.
Our flight captain bringing us up in the blue yonder. The flight is about 15min and takes in the highlights of Sydney Harbour with Bondi Beach along the way. For those with motion sickness, heavy meals prior the flight is highly discouraged.
Amazing view of Sydney Harbour available only with this seaplane cruise. There’s helicopter cruise too, but that is another story.
Must Do #4 – Get up close with Humpback Whales
Nature lovers will be pleased to know that spotting the gentle giants like Humpback whales is just about a 1.5 hours cruise out of Sydney Harbour. There are a number of different migration and whale seasons. The humpback whale migration passing Sydney occurs between April and December each year. The season is split into two distinct sections depending on the direction of travel of the majority of whales at that time.
The distance of the whales from the coast is believed to be influenced by the movements of the ocean currents, primarily the East Australian Current. The East Australian Current is a strong southerly current that the humpback whales make use of during their southern migration. On the Northern migration the Humpback whales will often use the Inshore Northern current, which is a north flowing counter current to the EAC. The main purpose of the annual humpback migration is to breed. (Wikipedia)
One of the exciting moments of whale watching – seeing part of the mammal as it breached the water surface. A keen sense of response and camera with quick auto-focus capability are a must to capture such shots.
A Humpback calf getting excited at sea. Such moments are purely subject to luck and you may not get to observe such action shot all the time. On some occasion, you may even see the whale head popping out of the water, if lady luck is on your side.
A flipper shot of a Humpback calf. Adult Humpbacks have much bigger and longer pectoral fins.
A Humpback whale blowing waterspout, which are used by the boat captain during the cruise searching phase to guide them to the whales. The sound from the whales discharging the water can also be heard. There are many cruises providing whale watch trips and we had a pleasant trip with Ozwhalewatching.
Must Do #5 – Chill out at Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach needs no introduction as it is one of Australia’s and the world’s most famous beaches. This beach is perfect for surfers and also a great place to people-watch (if that’s one of your favourite pastime). “Bondi” or “Boondi” is an Aboriginal word meaning water breaking over rocks or noise of water breaking over rocks. But whatever the meaning, this place ROCKS !
The beach is about a kilometre long and is passionately patrolled by lifesavers. Every beach has it’s unique character and Bondi Beach is not different – the lifeguards trainees with varied coloured vest and swim caps, powdery sand, roaring surfs and an energetic vibe, you will remember this beautiful beach for a long time to come.
Lifeguard volunteers exercising on Bondi Beach on a weekend. Saving life is both a technical and physical endeavour and the volunteers work hard at this.
Professional lifeguards with clearly marked vest on duty. Apart from scanning the water surface for surfers, they also look out for sharks too.
The Bondi Beach is both a surfers heaven and a potential hazard. A rip is a kind of current that pulls swimmers a long way away out pretty quickly and swimmers may find themselves in shark territory or worse. This is why you must swim between the flags – the RED and YELLOW flags. Observe the flags on the beach is a must before enjoying the waves.
Seagulls and beach goers exist in peaceful harmony alongside each other at the beach. The birds are simply feets away from you and comfortable with human presence.
Beach goers out in droves on the beach. You can easily spot the locals and tourists. Certainly a beach with an energetic vibe.
Must Do #6 – Enjoy Vivid Sydney
Vivid Sydney is an annual 23 days festival of light, music and ideas. The colourful event features many of the world’s most important creative industry forums, mesmerizing public exhibition of outdoor lighting sculptures and installations and cutting-edge contemporary music. The city is transformed into a wonderland of ‘light art’ sculptures, eye-catching light artworks and grand-scale projections for all to enjoy – for free ! It’s good to plan your travel calendar to coincide with this mega event for an awesome experience. For 2017, the event is held from 26 May to 17 June.
The Opera House decked out with ethereal lighting displays and “morphed” to something else. The light-up commences at 6.00pm with the Opera House taking the lead.
The light design projected on the roof of the Opera House changed the landscape of the area, “transporting” you to another place.
Lighted art installation on the wall of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). Did someone said art transform life ? Certainly so during this festival.
The Harbour Bridge takes on a different feel all together . The harbour becomes even more vibrant with many ferry companies providing Vivid Sydney cruises.
The lighting displays shot from the Opera House steps, giving a refreshing angle not available at other time of the year.
A section of the light installation at The Royal Botany Garden. The crowd of visitors can be overwhelming. For photographers, a weekday shoot might be a better choice as it’s less crowded.
Lights and firework displays at Darling Harbour. The entire city gets even livelier and makes Sydney that much more vibrant and exciting place to visit.
Regardless of whether you’re exploring the city centre and its metropolitan areas, each area have gained their own unique character and vibes. There seems to be a “must see” location around every corner or a “must do” activity the whole year calendar ! The six activities I listed are just scratching the surface what Sydney has to offer. The best solution is to plan a longer visit in future based on your interest. You might like to check out my previous Sydney self-drive travelogue for some travel tips. Thanks for hopping along on this quick trip.
Footnote : All pictures used in this travelogue are copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Holiday Tours and Travel (Singapore) and all rights reserved.