Australia is a vast country of sharp contrasts from the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef and lush vineyards of Barossa Valley to Ayers Rock in the Uluru Outback with its fascinating Aboriginal culture, as well as the cosmopolitan cities of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and, of course, Sydney. If you had a month you might be able to experience a taste of all six states and two territories and this short article cannot begin to overview the entire country so I will focus on highlights of one of my all-time favorite destinations, Sydney, the amazing capitol of New South Wales and its surrounding area.
Every luxury hotelier has a dynamic property in Sydney in addition to unique beachfront hotels and luxury lodges around the country, so I won’t spend time reviewing the accommodations here. If you would like to see a few of our favorites, please visit our blog for links to them. Our Privileged Journeys team will match your style with impeccable properties to enhance your love of Australia.
Let’s begin the Sydney immersion my husband and I enjoyed with our private tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the iconic Sydney Opera House. One of the most passionate tour guides we’ve ever had provided us with a private, backstage tour of the Opera House. There are eight different theaters in this building all operating at the same time, every day, with more than just the opera in residence. The Sydney Ballet, Theater, and Orchestra all perform in this architectural wonder as well. We watched a performance from backstage while our guide explained the process of changing a complete set in less than 24 hours to set up an entirely new show. Our wonderfully choreographed tour was topped off with a magical evening Opera of Puccini’s Turandot.
The next day we were up early to experience a magnificent sunrise with a pre-dawn climb to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge for the most breath-taking views of the area. There are climbs during the day and evening, but this is not for the faint of heart as it is still the world’s tallest steel arch structure. After pausing to take in this stunning view of the city, and learn about its unique history from our guide, we descended the bridge and enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens along the bay. Our private Aboriginal guide explained all the native plants and how they are used for Bush foods and medicines.
The day was completed perfectly with a Sydney Harbor private yacht excursion, which sailed into all the little bays and we learned about each unique neighborhood, their hot spots, and restaurants. After all the foodie talk and fresh air, we were ready for our stop in the middle of one of the bays where the crew prepared a gourmet dinner over the water. We enjoyed grilled tenderloin and fresh salmon paired nicely with Australian wine.
After a well-rested night’s sleep, we greet the morning at the Taronga Sydney Zoo. We started early with a gondola ride to the top of the sanctuary so to see all the animals from above and then went behind the scenes with a zoo keeper for a private tour and learned about the animals indigenous to Australia.
This may not be on most itineraries, but from my experience you’ll absorb the passion from the team here who love to share their conservation efforts with visitors and be inspired to explore more of Australia’s natural beauty. We spent the afternoon at the world’s second largest Fish Market (Japan has the largest) with a behind the scenes tour where we learned the Dutch auction buying system, witnessed professional Oyster shucking, learned how and where the top restaurants select their seafood and more. An exquisite seafood dinner followed along with an evening walk in Hyde Park taking in the magnificent St. Mary’s Cathedral.
The next morning we enjoyed some local shopping in The Rocks as Sydney’s fashion and design boutiques offer some unique items I simply had to bring home. After working up a healthy appetite we were ready for our very special lunch experience. A private sea-plane whisked us away from Rose Bay to Cottage Point for our gourmet lunch. We flew over the famous Bondi Beach and stepped out onto the dock of a tiny restaurant where the mesmerizing scenery added to our enjoyment of the incredible food and wine. A leisurely three hours later the plane reappeared for our return to Sydney. When you go, have your camera ready because the pilot will ensure you have the chance to take amazing shots of the Bridge and Opera House as you fly over these icons.
Just one and a half hours from Sydney is a day trip worth taking to the UNESCO World Heritage Blue Mountains. This full day exploring the wilderness with our private guide provided the opportunity to visit Featherdale Wildlife park to feed kangaroos and wallabies, capture pictures of the sleepy koala bears, and observe exotic birds in their natural bush setting. We enjoyed the mountain culture in the little town of Leura with its antique shops and international sweets at The Candy Store. Take in the panoramic views and sweeping vistas via cable car or rail. I prefer the scenic railway that travels through an ancient rain forest as the train descends 1,361 feet in the world’s steepest incline at a gradient of 52 degrees. Hear Aboriginal legends of the awe-inspiring rock formations, and enjoy fresh seasonal meals before returning to Sydney for an evening on the town…or early to bed for some well earned rest.
There is still so much more to explore within Sydney such as the art museums, Sydney Tower SKYWALK, James Craig Tall Ship, and its world famous beaches. Keep an eye on our blog for more explorations down under of the wonderful wine regions, Kangaroo Island, and the incomparable Great Barrier Reef.
We welcome the privilege of curating your own Aussie experience and will ensure your vacation is suited to your interests while capturing the best Australia has to offer.
About the author
As President of the Vacation Division of Travelink, Linda has developed the luxury division of our leisure business, Privileged Journeys, and continues to grow the company applying new, creative media channels. Linda has served on the American Express CTN Advisory board as well as the American Express Vacations Advisory Board and the Departures Luxury Council.