Virtuoso Global November 2018 Real-Deal Australia in New South Wales

Real-Deal Australia in New South Wales

Sydney Harbour glitters.
Sydney Harbour glitters.
Photo by Destination NSW
Start in Sydney and then venture into greater New South Wales for a true Australian experience.

Sydney is not a city that presents one face to visitors and another to locals. Off-duty, Sydneysiders are just as likely to take a Manly ferry from Circular Quay or treat themselves to BridgeClimb as they are to spread out a towel on one of the city’s 100 golden beaches.

They might even take a selfie with two of the city’s oft-photographed landmarks – the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House – or chase down local prawns and rich, sweet Sydney rock oysters.

The Harbour City provides a fascinatingly authentic launching pad for a quintessential Australian experience in the state of New South Wales, home to remote islands, intriguing mountains, ancient landscapes, plush eco-retreats, and legendary wineries.

Join the party.
Let’s start where the buzz is, since that’s how locals do it. Festivals of light, culture, arts, and food bring Sydneysiders out to play in force. Savvy visitors time their travel to coincide with big events, like the Sydney Festival (January 9 through 27, 2019), which every summer uncorks the bottle of creative energy that is trailblazing theater, cabaret, art, and music.

Also on balmy summer nights (January 8 through February 16, 2019), St. George OpenAir Cinema shows movies on a giant screen that rises from the harbor as the sun sinks behind the Sydney Opera House. Which way to look!?

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, already a big-ticket event on the city’s culture calendar, is sparking renewed interest with an upcoming reinterpretation of West Side Story (March 22 through April 21, 2019). Pop-up restaurants and bars make the event especially delicious

For three weeks during the Southern Hemisphere’s late fall and early winter, the city becomes the world’s most colorful outdoor gallery. Vivid Sydney (May 24 through June 15, 2019) celebrates the technology of light with dazzling illuminations and spectacular projections onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House, the exterior of the Museum of Contemporary Art, the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and many other locations.

Festivals or not, Dallas-based Virtuoso travel advisor James Strong II says there are two imperative Sydney Harbour experiences for any visitor. “A behind-the-scenes tour of the Sydney Opera House is a must,” he says, “as is a sunset dinner cruise on the harbor for a night never to forget!”

Sydneysiders and visitors rub shoulders at the Opera Bar during Vivid Sydney 2018.
Sydneysiders and visitors rub shoulders at the Opera Bar during Vivid Sydney 2018.
Photo by Destination NSW
Enter a state of grace.
Several Virtuoso hotels in Sydney offer a well-appointed base for exploring the city, but don’t get too comfortable; New South Wales is calling. With nearly 900 national parks, 1,000 miles of coastline, and 800 beaches, this southeastern state packs a natural punch.

Two and a half hours north of Sydney by car, nature comes in the varietal variety. The Hunter Valley ranks as one of Australia’s oldest wine regions. They do things bigger and better here, whether it’s beefy shiraz or signature sémillon, luxurious day spas or star-studded concerts held on estate lawns. Brokenwood, Tulloch, and Tyrrell’s are among the big-name wineries to visit over a long weekend. Leave room for cheese, craft beer, a sweep over the vines in a hot-air balloon, and plenty of gourmet food.
One of the best views of the Hunter Valley region is from a hot air balloon.
One of the best views of the Hunter Valley region is from a hot air balloon.
Photo by Eluminate Media
New South Wales also boasts six UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, including the Sydney Opera House, the Lord Howe Island Group, the Blue Mountains area, and the Willandra Lakes Region. Worthy of their nod from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, they all more than merit a visit.

Lord Howe Island is just a two-hour flight from Sydney, and because the number of visitors is capped at 400, it always feels like your own private idyll. With its abundant birdlife, luxuriant coral, and fish and turtles that swim at your feet, the area boasts an environmental mind-set. Snorkel, scuba dive, kayak, or hike. The trek to the top of the 2,800-foot Mount Gower is one of Australia’s best day walks. 

“Lord Howe Island is the ideal alternative to the Great Barrier Reef during the wet season,” says Phoenix-based Virtuoso travel advisor Cassandra Bookholder. “Come for the marine life, but enjoy the laid-back Aussie lifestyle surrounded by spectacular beauty.”

The Willandra Lakes Region in the Far West of New South Wales is a destination for archaeology buffs who want to channel their inner Louis Leakey. The traditional meeting place of several indigenous tribes, Lake Mungo (its star attraction) made headlines in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when 45,000-year-old remains of Aboriginal people were discovered. Today it’s one of Australia’s most significant archaeological regions. Expect emus skittering over sand dunes, lots of kangaroos, panoramic desert views, and star-packed skies.
Kayaks ply clear waters along Lagoon Beach on Lord Howe Island.
Kayaks ply clear waters along Lagoon Beach on Lord Howe Island.
Photo by Destination NSW
Sip wine, spy wallabies.
Named for an optical illusion, the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains (about a two-hour drive west of Sydney) are the vast and majestic home of strange rock formations such as the Three Sisters. Gain a sense of scale from a Scenic World railway carriage that descends into a deep valley or from a cable car high in the canopy.

Factor in extra time to visit the mountain villages of Leura and Katoomba, with shops, art galleries, and spectacular open gardens in spring. The Norman Lindsay Gallery at Faulconbridge celebrates the work of one of Australia’s most famous artists and authors. Its attached café offers a bush breakfast (kangaroo sausages with that?) and lattes served in porcelain-fine, ruby-colored mugs.
The Three Sisters command the view from Echo Point Lookout in the Blue Mountains.
The Three Sisters command the view from Echo Point Lookout in the Blue Mountains.
Photo by Destination NSW
Farther west, the 40-room Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley sits proudly on a 7,000-acre nature reserve. Built around an 1832 homestead, this remote resort is a multiple award-winner with conservation credentials. Wallabies, kangaroos, and wombats graze at dawn and dusk against a picture-ready backdrop of eucalyptus woodlands and sandstone escarpments.

“The villas are in a stunning valley with canyons full of wildlife,” says Austin, Texas-based Virtuoso travel advisor Keith Waldon. “The accommodations, service, and cuisine are world-class. I highly recommend a helicopter transfer back to Sydney. Ascending from the valley and seeing the fantastic mountains is matched by the thrill of seeing Sydney’s iconic bridge and Opera House from the air.”
 
Nature is a balm at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley spa.
Nature is a balm at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley spa.
Photo by Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley

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