To coincide with the launch of our new Bridge the World Australia brochure, we have spent the last few weeks on an online journey through Australia’s unique wilderness landscapes, wildlife adventures and hidden luxury retreats.
This week we are in New South Wales – a state whose reputation is understandably dominated by the iconic landmarks and stylish urban lifestyle of its world-famous capital Sydney.
At Bridge the World we are by no means immune to Sydney’s dazzling cosmopolitan charms, fully recognising that few cities in the world feature so highly on the average bucket list or are capable of sucking so many well-intentioned and once intrepid travellers into it’s magnetic vortex, never to return (we’ve lost a few good customers this way, they’re currently very happy, tanned and living in flipflops).
Expecting that visiting Sydney is a given, we are temporarily shunning the expected day trips out to the Hunter Valley and Blue Mountains in favour of a few days self drive into the staggering natural splendour, gastronomic and grape-infused wiles of New South Wales. Perfect for a short Sydney stopover or one dreamy long weekend away, this self drive ventures into the soaring mist-cloaked peaks and plunging canyons of the Blue Mountains; vine-clad rolling countryside and rich earthy tones of the Hunter Valley; and sheltered white beaches and calm emerald waters of Port Stephens in just 4 days. Although, given what we already know about this intoxicating part of Australia, we would recommend longer – we of course refer here to intoxicating natural beauty as well as the wine.
A destination that requires little introduction, few cities capture the imagination like the instantly recognisable white sails of the Opera House, iconic Harbour Bridge and enviable urban beach culture. Wander along the sparkling quayside, over the cobbles of the historic Rocks, take the ferry to Manly, watch the tribes of surfers at Bondi and uncover the local’s haunts in Newtown.
Stay: Sebel Pier One. Sat at the foot of the Harbour Bridge, this beautiful historic pier conversion commands a unique and privileged waterfront position in Sydney’s prestigious Rocks. Combining old world federation charm with contemporary boutique luxury, explore by day and in evening soak up the best views in the city.
Sydney to the Blue Mountains
In a country of extraordinary wilderness extremes, nowhere else in Australia can you appreciate the contrast between urban and wilderness landscapes than here. In little over an hour from Sydney’s polished waterfront, you’ll be transported (well, it’s a self drive so you’ll be doing this bit yourself) into the dramatic blue-tinged peaks, blanketed ravines and crisp alpine air of this breathtaking World Heritage park. Dotted with wilderness spa resorts and historic country hotels, this is the perfect retreat from which to discover miles of walking trails, artist communities and your own mountain top deep thoughts.
Stay: Lilanfels Blue Mountain’s Resort & Spa. Built on a Victorian homestead adjacent to the towering escarpments of Echo Point, this colonial country house exudes elegant heritage charm, luxury and the romance of a by-gone era. Take breakfast in the Orangery, afternoon tea in the lounge, and a glass of wine on the terrace overlooking Jamison Valley.
The Blue Mountais.
Blue Mountains to the Hunter Valley
In just under a 3 hour drive, watch the passing scenery change from the dramatic to the serene, swapping cloud-covered mountains for miles of undulating countryside woven into tapestries of golden vines. Soaked in history, as well as fantastic Semillon, the picturesque Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest wine making region and home to 150 cellar doors, boutique breweries, artisan cheesemakers, chocolatiers and world-class dining. Essentially, a foodie’s dream.
Stay: Pepper’s Guest House. This lovely and luxurious boutique retreat is a much-loved favourite amongst Hunter Valley’s discerning regulars, with the hotel’s restaurant being somewhat of an institution amongst local winemakers who head to it’s sun warmed veranda after long days amongst the vines.
Hunter Valley to Port Stephens
After a night of indulgence in the Hunter Valley, a little over an hour drive will take you to the head-clearing sea air and relaxing coastal beauty of delightful Port Stephens. Flanked by lush dormant volcanoes; the crystalline white beaches, sparkling waters and small fishing villages of this beautiful stretch of coastline is an idyllic spot to dive, dolphin watch, wander barefoot through the surf and feast on fresh seafood. When you’re ready, it’s a few hours drive back to Sydney. Or you could just stay forever.
Stay: Anchorage Hotel. Built directly onto the shoreline, against a backdrop of unspoilt bushland, this luxury coastal retreat is pure relaxation, calming sea breezes and balmy evenings overlooking the marina from your veranda. Unwind amidst gentle natural beauty, luxuriate in the hotel spa, sail or simply trudge along the sand.