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Mike Yardley: Autumn fling in Sydney

Mike Yardley,
Publish Date
Sat, 27 Apr 2024, 1:38pm
Photo / Visit Sydney
Photo / Visit Sydney

Mike Yardley: Autumn fling in Sydney

Mike Yardley,
Publish Date
Sat, 27 Apr 2024, 1:38pm

Crisp, clear days sets the stage for cracking autumn adventures in Sydney. If you’re planning a fresh fling with the Emerald City, here’s a roundup of some winning picks to rev up your city-break, from bucket list classics to seasonal treats and in-the-know gems.  

If you’ve scaled Sydney Harbour’s Bridge Climb, here’s another tantalising way to herald the new day. A sunrise kayak tour with glorious photo opportunities in the morning calm is really quite something. Sydney by Kayak run these dawn tours from Lavendar Bay, while most city-dwellers are still reaching over their pillow to hit the snooze button. The harbour water at daybreak is velvety smooth, and the kayaks are very stable, so it’s quite a doddle to paddle around Luna Park, under the Coathanger and get into position before the first bolt of sunlight strikes Sydney Opera House. 

Photo / Sydney by Kayak

Speaking of snaps and water, Bondi’s Icebergs Pool is the most instagrammed in Australia. The 50-metre saltwater pool has been a Bondi landmark for 100 years, and it’s only $9 for casual entry – giving you access to the pool and sauna. Splashing out? Go next-level and head upstairs to Icebergs Dining Room for a cocktail and bowl of crab risotto with one of the best views in town. 

It’s one of the greatest light shows in the world, spangling the city centre with epic projections and artful installations – Vivid Sydney. The annual extravaganza is fast approaching, bursting into life from Friday 24 May to Saturday 15 June this year. Over 23 days and nights, the city will come to life with awe-inspiring art installations and 3D light projections, along with live music and culinary experiences. A new feature this year will be 40km-long laser beams, that will project from the city’s tallest structure, Sydney Tower.   

The Harbour City sure loves its immersive light experiences, but if you can’t wait until Vivid takes over the city in May, Luna Park is here to help. The iconic attraction’s newest installation – Sonic Neon has just opened. Housed in the 90-year-old Crystal Palace building, Sonic Neon takes you on a trippy journey through six different rooms, with state-of-the-art visuals and a layered soundscape creating a transportive experience, powered by 26,000 lights and a pulsating soundtrack. The whole experience is powered by state-of-the-art technology that’s never been used before in Australia. Go sober, because it’s a pinch-yourself, disorientating, out-of-body experience. 

Sonic Neon at Luna Park. Photo / Supplied

Hankering for a musical? Few musical references are as iconic as those from Grease, and Grease the Musical is currently on-stage at the Capitol Theatre until June, bursting with joyful nostalgia, transporting you back to 1950s Chicago. 

For a spot of art, head to the Australian Maritime Museum that is currently staging the Ocean Photographer of the Year exhibition, anchored by 100 of the most mesmerising ocean wildlife shots ever snapped. Another headline photography exhibition has just opened – Diana: Accredited Access. The exhibition documents the life of Princess Diana and is on in Sydney until July. Hot on the regal heels of sold-out tours across North America, it’s Sydney's turn to spotlight Princess Diana's life, showcasing her version of events as told through the lens of her official royal photographer, Anwar Hussein. 

The trending Italian stallion sparking up Surry Hills is Pellegrino 2000. Drawing inspiration from Italian garage-style trattorias, this Campbell St restaurant is bathed in a warm palette of gold, burnt orange and red, decorated with framed vintage photographs, packets of pasta, olive oil bottles and fresh tomatoes. The burrata, rigatoni bolognese and fritto misto are Italian staples you'll recognise. But try the luxurious prawn ravioli, bathing in brown butter-and-sage sauce, and you’ll see why Pellegrino has become a hot ticket in the Sydney dining scene, since opening two years ago. Dessert is a revelation. Begin with a superb crema caramello which is served with a billowing plate of cream (not unlike the Leaning Tower of Pisa), and finish with adults-only Limoncello jelly shots – except Pellegrino’s version replaces the shot glass for segments of lemon. Excellent Negronis, too. Great fun. You may recall Taylor Swift dined here, on her recent swing through Sydney. 

Dining at Pellegrino 2000. Photo / Visit Sydney

The powerhouses behind Pelligrino also opened Clam Bar last year, which takes its cue from the great steakhouses of New York. So yes, prime-aged steaks are the menu headliners at this Bridge St venue. But there’s some additional temptations that pull the crowds - the spaghetti with clams, and like a hymn to 1970s dining, a succulent prawn cocktail. Plus, Clam pumps out some of Sydney’s best burgers. 

Beyond the soaring sails of the Sydney Opera House, Shell House might just be Sydney’s second favourite house. Located in Wynyard, the historic clocktower building is now home to not one, but four glamorous venues – the Dining Room & Terrace, Sky Bar, Clocktower Bar, and Menzies Bar. You could make a night of it, but the venue not to miss is the ground floor Menzies Bar. They operate an ace happy hour. Their $10 Mini Martinis and lobster rolls hooked me right in.  

Another great new haunt for evening libations is at the underground Martin Place bar, Centro 86. This dedicated tequila bar, offers a head-swirling range of different margaritas, plus plenty of tequilas and free spiced popcorn on arrival. Its lime green walls are adorned with posters and paintings, in a nod to Mexican cantinas. 

Centro 86 tequilla bar. Photo / Supplied

Towering over the magnificent Barangaroo Precinct, which has recharged the wider Wynyard and Darling Harbour area, is Sydney’s sparkling new landmark, Crown Towers Sydney. I happened to enjoy a stay here at the same time Taylor Swift in the house, ensconced in her two-level roof-top villa. Sydney’s tallest hotel, soaring 275 metres skyward, sports a sleek, geometric, reflective design. This sky-scraping jewel truly does offer and above-and-beyond experience, from the epic views to the exemplary service and dining venues.  

Bag an Opera King Room, where the floor-to-ceiling glass bedroom windows serve up gazillion dollar views of Sydney’s great icons. Outrageously spacious, the living room is well-appointed with a mini bar and coffee machine, a long-curved cream sofa and a giant TV screen. 

Beyond the dream accommodations, another starring feature is the heated multi-level infinity pool on the fifth floor of the Crown Towers with its Darling Harbour views, fringed in private cabanas, stylish day beds and stylish white sail sun umbrellas. Seriously bougie!  

Harbour views from Crown Sydney. Photo / Supplied

With a dozen bar and dining venues on-site, it’s an epicurean wonderland, but no matter how deep you dive into the culinary explorations, do not miss the buffet-style Epicurean restaurant. You’d struggle to find a more extravagant yet elegant buffet breakfast experience in Sydney, with artfully presented food stations covering everything from freshly made crepes and classic hot breakfast foods to Asian-inspired options and irresistible pastries. Wash it all down with the best range of fruit juices I’ve ever experienced at a hotel buffet, beautifully served in exquisite glass bottles. www.crownsydney.com.au 

I flew to Sydney with the low-fares leader, Jetstar. When you book on Jetstar.com, you're guaranteed the lowest fare. With their Price Beat Guarantee, if you find a better fare online, they’ll beat it by 10% - and that includes Jetstar flights you find on other websites. Jetstar ensures its base fares are the most affordable, by giving you complete choice and flexibility over whether to include checked luggage, an in-flight snack or assigned seat. For the best fares, head to www.jetstar.com 

Mike Yardley is our resident traveller on Jack Tame Saturday Mornings. 

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