Summer’s almost here, and Friend Number 1036 has decided it’s the perfect time to pay you a visit in sunny Sydney…
But unfortunately, you’ve shown off the Manly Ferry, Bondi Beach and the Rocks to the previous 1035 and you’re quite frankly sick of them. So where can you take your freeloading overseas guests that feels distinctively Sydney, unquestionably special and – more importantly – keeps your good natured tour guide sanity intact? Well, there’s this little lot…
1. The Pylon Lookout
Too tight for the BridgeClimb? Well there’s a passable alternative that involves schlepping up approximately eleventy billion steps inside one of those entirely decorative stone pillars.
The views from the Pylon Lookout ($13) aren’t quite as good as those from the top of the bridge, but they’re hardly a shabby imitation either.
Once back down, head to Dawes Point and look at the bridge from underneath. The humungous grey rivets are oddly impressive close up and bring home just what a monster the Coathanger is.
2. The Wollemi Pine
Strolling among the strutting cockatoos and sinister ibises in The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney is hardly a big secret. But taking one of the free guided tours makes you take a proper look at what you’d ordinarily amble past in a shamefully blasé manner.
This includes the site of New South Wales’ first farm and a Wollemi Pine – a tree so rare it was only discovered in 1994 and the exact location where it lives in the wild is kept top secret.
And after the enviro-education, have a swim – the harbourside Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool on the eastern side of the gardens may be budgie-smuggling central, but it’s one of Sydney’s most spectacular spots for a splash.
3. Palm Beach
Stop your visiting Pom insisting on Bondi by promising them The One Off The Telly. Palm Beach is the last stop on the Northern Beach run that heads past quieter, cuter alternatives such as Whale Beach and Bilgola.
But there’s a fair chance of seeing Home and Away filming at Palmy, and it’s a long old walk to the Barrenjoey lighthouse at the far end, pretty much guaranteeing a large stretch of sand to yourself on the way.
4. The North Bondi to Watson’s Bay Walk
If you do lose the Bondi battle, then you can at least put a novel spin on the Bondi to Coogee clifftop walk by heading in entirely the opposite direction. The North Bondi to Watson’s Bay Walk will take about two hours at marching pace, and isn’t quite as well laid out as its more famous sister.
But the highlights come thick and fast in the last 5 kilometres from Dover Heights. The old fort at Signal Hill, the somewhat phallic Macquarie Lighthouse and the memorial to the Dunbar shipwreck all tell tales of Sydney’s past, while the Tasman Sea engages in some furious, nuclear grade cliff-smashing.
5. North Head
Fend off those jokes about Australia having less culture than a yoghurt with more history on the other side of the harbour. The Quarantine Station (from $18) offers often disturbing, regularly fascinating tours around the somewhat grim facilities that once greeted many new arrivals.
But the national parkland around it on the North Head is hugely memorable too – partly for the harbour views, partly for the bandicoots and kookaburras scurrying around.
6. The Hawkesbury River Mail Run
It’s fair to say that the posties on the run from Brooklyn got the plum route. They deliver to a series of small communities – some arty, some stubbornly refusing to join the real world – that can’t be reached by land.
That means they get to cruise around for a few hours, dropping off the odd letter, fussing a few dogs who come to meet the mailboat at the wharf and being greeted by the president of the self-declared independent republic of Milson’s Passage.
Members of the public are allowed to come along for the ride (riverboatpostman.vpweb.com.au), in return for $55.
7. The Berowra Waters Inn
Also cut off from the rest of the city by craggy waterways, the Berowra Waters Inn makes no apologies for its inconvenience. It’s an unashamed extravagance, with even the restaurant’s gas supply shipped in daily.
Access is via private ferry (or seaplane from Rose Bay if you really fancy making a special occasion of it), meals are strictly degustation only, and they’re designed to take a looooong old time – which you’d probably expect for $165 a head.
8. Fort Denison
Not quite as isolated, but still a pretty darned cocky waterside dining option, Fort Denison sits in the middle of a harbour like a toy castle that someone forgot to pack away. And it has been turned into a restaurant with disgracefully greedy 360 degree harbour views.
Hop on a ferry or river taxi from Circular Quay, then feast on kangaroo loin or barramundi for around $35 a main.
9. The Euroka campground
Once expectations of finding kangaroos bounding down the Pitt Street Mall have been rudely crushed, the standard options tend to be Featherdale Wildlife Park or Taronga Zoo.
But that’s cheating – and a pretty much guaranteed spot for seeing wild ones is the sprawling Euroka campground inside the Glenbrook section of the Blue Mountains National Park. And, what’s more, the turbo-photogenic Jellybean Pool swimming hole and Mount Portal lookout over the Nepean River gorge are nearby.
For more information: Expedia.com.au