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Saturday April 20, 2013

Loving every second in Sydney

Grand Pacific Drive, New South Wales. Grand Pacific Drive, New South Wales.

You are spoilt for choice in Sydney, the city that never sleeps, so much so that you will rue any wasteful minute.

PICK any date on the calendar, and in all probability there will be something going on in Sydney. Whether it’s outdoor sculptures, an international contemporary arts festival, a major sporting event or neighbourhood street festival, the vibrant harbour capital city of New South Wales (NSW) will put on a show.

Don’t just take my word for it; check out Sydney.com.

The highlight of Sydney’s winter event calendar has to be Vivid Sydney – the largest light festival in the southern hemisphere. Once again the city will be transformed into a spectacular canvas of music, light and ideas after dark by this festival, which takes over the city from May 24 to June 10.

Vivid LIVE music festival at the Sydney Opera House will be overseen by visionary creative director Fergus Linehan, who has already announced German electro-music maestros Kraftwerk as the headline act. Sydney’s famous Harbour Bridge will become the centrepiece of an interactive light projection, allowing the public to play and interact with the bridge for the first time in its history.

And in another first – Vivid Light will also extend to Darling Harbour and transform the precinct into a spectacle of dancing water fountains, water screen projection performances and dazzling light and water shows never seen before in Australia, all masterminded by France’s legendary Aquatique Show International.

Now let’s get out of the city for a while and head down to Wollongong. Getting there entails an amazing scenic ride offering some of the most stunning costal views fronting the Pacific. Try the Illawara Fly Treetop Walk, mate, and enjoy the breathtaking view 45m above the majestic rainforest. Go on a self-guided walk around the Illawara Fly to appreciate the beauty of the native flora and fauna.

Apart from the many, many superb surfing beaches around Wollongong, you could also opt for more nature at Jervis Bay where various species of whales swim. Or drop by Hyams beach, home to the world’s whitest sand, according to the Guinness World of Records. Note that whale-watching season is from May to November.

Rocking the sand dunes
at Port Stephens. Rocking the sand dunes at Port Stephens.

Whales not your cuppa and you want the gentle, friendly bottle-nosed dolphins instead? Then head over to Port Stephens at Blue Water Paradise two-and-half-hours out of Sydney. And yes, there are some humpback whales, too, if it’s whale season.

There’s also horse-riding on the beach, deep-sea fishing, parasailing and kayaking, as well as nature walks up Gan Gan lookout or Tomaree Head National Park. Or take a 4WD drive on the ancient sand dunes and then sandboard down.

Hungry after all that? Fret not – check out the famous seafood restaurants around Nelson Bay marina. And who hasn’t heard of the World Heritage-listed site, the Blue Mountains. It’s only a 90-minute drive west of Sydney, and offers a scenic wonder world with waterfalls, limestone cave systems, rainforest, as well as bushwalks, art galleries and pretty villages where you can enjoy good food and wine.

Think the famous Three Sisters rock formations; the world’s oldest open cave, the Jenolan; also the quaint old shophouses of Leura Village, great for vintage shopping.

Another must do is Byron Bay, NSW North Coast, a melting pot of bohemian chic, alternative philosophies, surf culture and outstanding natural beauty, set against lush volcanic hills. This stylish coastal village offers a wide range of experiences and activities including surfing, kayaking, scuba diving, cycling, skydiving, spa and meditation retreats.

And more dolphins and perhaps some whales. Notable places to head to: Cape Byron Lighthouse, Crystal Castle, Minyon Falls and Bangalow.

What’s a trip to Australia without food or wine? Two words: Hunter Valley.

It is two hours north of Sydney and is home to the oldest vineyard in Australia, and renowned for its Semillion and Shiraz grape varieties. There are wine appreciation and winery tours with more than 110 choices of wineries to choose from, some being boutique wineries.

From world-class cuisines to delectable bar grub, you have your pick. Indulge in a spot of gourmet produce shopping, as you select fine cheese and wines from the vast choices for your pantry back home.

Take a walk through the beautifully-landscaped, 25ha Hunter Valley Gardens which has 12 beautiful feature gardens, including an 8,000-rose display and even a Story Book Garden for children.

Indulge with a pampering spa treatment, or work up an appetite with a game of golf at any of the championship golf courses at Cypress Lakes Resort and The Vintage designed by Greg Norman.

See if you manage to fit all these in the time you have. – S.S. Yoga

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