First time traveller to Sydney and New South Wales, and I was warmly welcomed by the first burst of spring!
Just recently, I read that travelling tends to magnify our human emotions, sensations and thoughts. Most truly, on my trip to Sydney and NSW, I have indeed, seen more than remembered, and experienced more than seen on this epic trip that spans from Sydney, Wollongong, South Coast and the Southern Highlands.
[pullquote-right] I have indeed, seen more than remembered, and experienced more than seen on this epic trip [/pullquote-right]
It seemed like just moments ago that I had sleepily boarded the midnight flight via Scoot at Changi Airport Terminal 2 and sank into the comfortable seat for a snooze before arrival. While it was a full flight, it was nonetheless a pleasant travel experience as the attentive Scoot air crew made it their priority to attend to our needs with warm meals and warmer smiles. In fact, 7 hours later, I found myself surprisingly refreshed and raring to explore the city.[hr] Day 1 – Exploring Sydney city
Upon arrival, I was warmly welcomed by the cool and refreshing blast of spring air where my charming host, Michael was patiently waiting. Traffic was relatively smooth as we cruised seamlessly along the wide and spacious streets of Corner Pitt and Alfred before arriving at award-winning Neptune Palace for our lunch. As its name and reputation suggests, I was expecting to savour the freshest catch of the day and other delectable seafood delicacies. I was piled with succulent scallops, crispy soft-shell crab and tender fish fillet that melted almost instantly in my mouth.
Having satisfied my hunger pangs, we checked into Mercure Sydney Central, nestled and tucked away in a quiet corner of Sydney city centre. Re-energised by the cool spring air, I was eager to check out the neighbourhood and of what it had to offer eager beavers like myself.
Craving your comfort Asian nosh? Well, with Chinatown and Paddy’s Market just in the vicinity, I was delighted to know that my favourite dim sum and other local fresh produce were just steps away. At every corner, I found myself tempted by rows of quaint cafes and Asian delis sitting alongside, undoubtedly, a reflection of the vibrant Asian community that has integrated and thrived so well in Sydney.
Before I knew it, it was time to rejoin my party and head out to Nick’s Seafood Restaurant at Darling Harbour. At this lovely waterfront precinct, I found myself lost in a dazzling maze of tempting delights, iconic tourist attractions and international cuisine that hail from different parts of the world.
Moments later, I found myself quickly seated outdoors and quietly basking in the majestic beauty of Sydney’s skyline juxtaposed against the silhouette of its iconic Darling Harbour. In no time, we were greeted by the charming servers. While mulling over the extensive wines list, Michael regaled us with stories of the illustrious maritime history of Darling Harbour in the old days and its socio-economic significance and contribution to Sydney’s past, present and future.
If Paris is the city of lights, then Sydney must be the city of fireworks- unknown
In between stories, dainty bites and delectable bottles, I was treated to a lavish show of fireworks and lights which imploded and lit up the clear night skies. Perhaps it was the magical impact of the fireworks or maybe it was the intoxicating effect of fine cuisine and great wines. But as cameras and smart phones clicked away, I truly felt that life was so full and hopeful.[hr]
The day started bright and early for me as I had registered for the Blackmore’s Medi-Bank Family 3.5km run.
As I made my way to the flag-off, I was greeted by sights of young families, experienced runners, and parties of friends who have all made it their weekend priority to run the race. Here, with make shift tents that dotted the grounds, the atmosphere was simply bustling with energy, festivity and anticipation as runners were all raring to take on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The weather was pleasant and the route was well-planned and easy to manoeuvre even for a novice runner like myself. I enjoyed breath-taking views of the bridge, a rare luxury for one to stop and admire the intricate architecture of this monumental bridge.[tribulant_slideshow gallery_id=”24″]
Minutes later and still riding high on the adrenalin rush after the run, I found myself on the edge of my seat in the front row of Oz Jet Experience.
[pullquote-left] I enjoyed breath-taking views of the bridge, a rare luxury for one to stop and admire the intricate architecture of this monumental bridge.[/pullquote-left]
My affable driver gave us a safety briefing and sneak preview of the thrill ride. However, nothing could prepare me for the exhilarating combination of spins, power-break stops and slides as the jet boat jolted us around. Besides the adrenalin rush and sprays of icy cold water, I was also treated to panoramic views of the Opera House, Sydney Harbour, Clark and Shark Island and of course, the iconic Sydney Harbour bridge.
In the afternoon, I found myself craving sweet treats and quite deservingly so! After all, I must have burnt at least 2000 calories owing to the running and screaming.
Keep calm and just eat dessert!
So, this is how I found myself standing patiently in a queue that snaked out of the tiny Black Star Pastry in Newtown –a cosy space with just limited seating near the counter and outside.
With time on my hands, I chatted up the locals who swore that the main highlight- the strawberry and watermelon was worth the wait.
Topped with rose sprinkles and layered with almond dacquoise, light cream and a slice of cool watermelon and ripe strawberries, it tasted as good as it looked! It was undeniably light, fragrant and yet still luscious with the cream and nutty dacquoise sponge. Simply Heavenly![hr]
Day 3-South Coast and Wollongong
The next morning, I bade farewell to the city and headed out to the South Coast where the best of nature and its beauty awaits!
Arriving at Glenbernie Orchard after a leisurely 90 minute drive later, I found myself warmly greeted by our lovely host who was eager to show us her lovely orchard where rows of apple trees were just coming into bloom. Besides receiving a mini-lesson on how to differentiate between the different varieties of apples on the orchard, I was also treated to generous servings of ciders, jams and crunchy apples! As an aspiring Martha Steward, I was thrilled to learn that the Orchard also conducts bespoke in-house baking workshops utilising the fresh produce and in-house produce.
Bidding a reluctant farewell to our lovely host, I resumed my gastronomic adventure and set off for Lagoon Seafood Restaurant– renowned for its fine award-winning seafood cuisine and unrivalled prolific views of Wollongong’s North Beach.
As soon as I was seated, I was presented with their winter lunch special menu. Minutes later, I finally decided on the John Dory Fillet which was grilled to moist perfection and topped with a champagne and basil beurre blanc. However, the show stealer of the meal had to be the Noisette Crème Brulee- creamy goodness coupled with a divine combination of silky hazelnut praline and crispy toffee.
Adventure, adrenalin and altitude.
Having missed out on my exciting F1 weekend in Singapore, I decided that I could still make up for it by hitching a fast ride in one of the go-karts at C1 speed located at Princes Highway. As I skilfully manoeuvred my way round the spectacular indoor circuit of bends, straights and stops, I wondered if I could give Louis Hamilton a run for his trophy.
With my pulse still racing, I resumed my quest for more adventure and nature as I departed for Bigfoot Adventures Tour at Coolangatta Estate.
Minutes later, I found myself climbing my way up this massive, mean-looking machine of a 4WD vehicle. As I soon realised, it could conquer heights of 1000feet elevation and manoeuvre steep angles to make its way up to the peak of Coolangatta Estate where panoramic views of the sprawling award-winning estate as well as views of the South coast can be enjoyed.[pullquote-right] Having missed out on my exciting F1 weekend in Singapore, I decided that I could still make up for it by hitching a fast ride in one of the go-karts at C1 speed located at Princes Highway. [/pullquote-right]
I could almost imagine myself enjoying a lovely Aussie-style picnic, savouring a glass of my favourite bubbly and watching the sun set on the horizon.
As I reflected on my very eventful day, I felt that the drive from Sydney towards the South Coast was a leisurely and picturesque one. Of particular mention would be the Seacliff Bridge located at Stairwell Park in the area of Wollongong and surrounds which is an iconic feature along the Grand Pacific Road. Spanning 665 metres, the viewing platform on the bridge promises jaw dropping and unrivalled views of the ocean and whales.
My wish for a beautiful sunset/sunrise was indeed granted as my stay at The Sebel Harbourside, Kiama was situated on one of the best spots in picturesque, seaside town Kiama.[hr]
Day 4-South Coast & Southern Highlands
The next morning saw me waking up bright and early to make my way to Jervis Bay for a Whale Eco Tour with Jervis Bay Wild. As I cast a nervous eye at the overcast sky and looming dark clouds, I was somewhat assured when the ship set sail into the open, inviting seas. True enough, I was rewarded by sightings of the dolphins and whales which swam quite close to us and playfully beckoned us to join them in their merry go-around.
Picture courtesy of NSW
After the exhilarating and refreshing cruise, I decided to spend the rest of the day in Bendooley Estate and Berkelouw Book Barn for quiet solitude and deep reflection. After all, there was no better way to do than to immerse myself in books, comfort food and great wines set against the backdrop of lush greenery and blooming beauty. My quest for more of Nature’s gifts continued as I proceeded to the widely-acclaimed Milton Park Country House Hotel & Spa which was set in the historic Milton Park for a 3 course degustation. The highlight of my meal was the cheese platter of brie, cheddar and blue cheeses which were wonderfully complemented with the sweet combination of strawberries, fruit and honey compote coupled with crisp, light crackers. Divine![hr]
Day 5- Southern Highlands
There are always flowers for those who want to see them-Henri Matisse
Indeed, this is precisely how I found myself at one of Australia’s leading floral festival-Tulip Time at Corbett Gardens in Bowral the next morning where a visual, breathtaking feast of rows of tulips, pansies and parsley lie in wait for the discerning nature and flower lover. I also took time to while away the afternoon exploring the festive stalls operated by the community and offering a variety of local produce and exquisite wares.
Whetted by the sight of so much beauty around me, I resumed my journey for more gastronomic bliss at the Centennial Vineyards Restaurant and exquisite wines-tasting at the award-winning Cellar Door.[hr]
Those who seek shall find- Biblical verse
A week ago, I had embarked on this journey in search of blooms, beauty and gastronomic bliss. True enough, I had found that and so much more in this wondrous journey!
“Where beauty, blooms and gastronomic bliss await”
By Rae Kim