Add these seven unique Sydney and New South Wales adventures to your bucket list

Head Down Under for the Southern Hemisphere’s largest festival of light, music and ideas, hidden mountain lookouts, whale-watching and more

Sydney will host the largest festival of light, music and ideas in the Southern Hemisphere from May 24 to June 15 — Vivid Sydney 2019
Sydney will host the largest festival of light, music and ideas in the Southern Hemisphere from May 24 to June 15 — Vivid Sydney 2019PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

What’s happening in Sydney from May 24 to June 15? Millions of revellers from Australia and around the globe will descend on Vivid Sydney 2019.

Be enthralled as the city becomes a wonderland of light art sculptures, innovative light installations and grand-scale projections as part of the Vivid Light programme. Witness the Lighting of the Sails, fluidly animated light projections in a tribute to Australia’s native plants unfurling across the facade of the Sydney Opera House, then delve deeper into the festival on a Vivid Light Walk that stretches past over 50 light art sculptures on display from The Rocks, through Circular Quay and into the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.

Captivating light installations at The Rocks during Vivid Sydney 2018. PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

Vivid’s music programme is another force on its own. Just announced for this year’s line-up are alternative rock legends The Cure, who will be playing an exclusive world-first show at the Sydney Opera House to mark the 30th anniversary of their groundbreaking album Disintegration. Another act to catch is Australian alternative dance group Rüfüs Du Sol, who will be performing at contemporary multi-arts centre Carriageworks.

After taking in the sights and sounds, engage with thought leaders from fields ranging from innovation, imagination, start-up culture to film, including Academy Award-winning director and producer Spike Lee, who will be speaking as part of the Vivid Ideas programme.

Vivid Sydney 2019 will be held at a time when the weather in Sydney is pleasantly cool (a lovely 20 deg C at most). Be sure to add these other adventures in Sydney and New South Wales (NSW) to your itinerary:

Sydney: Ride the ferries to various wharfs

The picturesque North Head Cliffs in Sydney’s Manly Beach. PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

With so many ferry services plying Sydney Harbour, cruising from one wharf to another can be a breeze. At Circular Quay, the hub of ferry services at the harbour, there are many ferry services at your disposal.

The Manly Fast Ferry can take you to Manly Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Sydney, in just 17 minutes. The scenic Manly Beach to Spit Bridge Walk is a 10km coastal track that weaves through secret beaches with stunning sea views.

Or take a 30-minute Watsons Bay ferry ride to Watsons Bay in the South Head peninsula. Tuck into a seafood lunch at Doyle’s on the Beach, enjoy a refreshing drink at Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel Beach Club, or take a dip in the turquoise waters of Camp Cove, a popular spot for paddle boarding and snorkelling.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cockatoo Island is just a 30-minute ferry ride away from Circular Quay. Learn more about the site’s rich history, from aboriginal times to housing convicts, and the role it played supporting war and maritime efforts.

Sydney: Explore the city’s burgeoning drinks scene

Archie Rose Distilling Co. is known for its exceptional gins, vodkas, whiskies and rums. PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

Drop in to Australia's most highly awarded distillery, Archie Rose Distilling Co., which is known for its exceptional gins, vodkas, whiskies and rums. You can even go on a distillery tour, attend a master class and meet top tastemakers.

Then cosy up with your dram at one of the world’s best 50 bars, The Baxter Inn, which is hidden in a basement accessible from a dimly-lit disused service alley. Marvel at its wall of over 600 whiskies before picking one, or start easy with a whiskey-based cocktail.

Also trendy are city-centre cellar doors, like the aptly-named Urban Winery Sydney. Try its handcrafted A.Retief wines or opt for an experience package where you can get to stomp grapes, taste and blend wines and more, without even leaving town.

Sydney: Visit the various neighbourhoods, each with its distinct flavour

A visit to The Grounds of Alexandria is a must-do while in Sydney. PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

While waiting for your Vivid Sydney event to start in the evening, why not spend the day exploring one of Sydney’s many interesting suburbs?

Get artsy at Chippendale (or Chippo), which boasts contemporary galleries such as the White Rabbit Gallery and creative programmes like experimental dance at Seymour Centre.

Alexandria, largely a furniture warehouse and industrial area, is also undergoing gentrification. One good place to hang out is The Grounds of Alexandria, which encompasses a café, restaurant and bar, garden, bakery and patisserie, coffee roaster, florist and even an animal farm.

Have a taste of Sydney’s affluence at Potts Point, with its Art Deco architecture, harbour views, fine dining establishments and all things designer. It is also one of Sydney’s oldest neighbourhoods.

Other enclaves to check out include Cabramatta, with its authentic Vietnamese food and other Asian fare; as well as Guildford Road’s various Lebanese restaurants and shops selling baklava (a Middle-Eastern sweet made of filo pastry and chopped nuts). Both places are about an hour’s train ride from the city centre.

NSW: Book a whale-watching cruise

Hop on a cruise to Port Stephens or Jervis Bay as late May to November is whale-watching season. PHOTO: DESTINATION NSW

Late May to November is the annual whale-watching season and there are many cruises that will take you to the best spots to catch these blowhole beauties.

For the time-strapped, there are quick cruises from Circular Quay that will take less than half a day. But if you have time, head to either one of two famous areas for whale-watching: Port Stephens and Jervis Bay. These locations are about three hours by car from Sydney’s central business district.

Port Stephens is known for its over 140 Bottlenose Dolphin residents, while Jervis Bay allows you to also take in views of unspoilt coastline and towering remote sea cliffs.

NSW: Make your way to hidden lookouts in the Blue Mountains

The gorgeous Pulpit Rock lookout in the Blue Mountains. PHOTO: THE TRAVEL INTERN

While most of the tourist crowd goes to Scenic World for its rainforest walks and railway experience, another way to experience the Blue Mountains is to have a picnic at a hidden lookout point — so that the blue-tinted vistas feel all the more magical and surreal.

Head to the Pulpit Rock lookout in the Blue Mountains National Park with your nerves, because you will be perched high above the Grose Valley. From here, you can get on the cliff-top Pulpit walking track to Govetts Leap lookout.

Another spot is Boars Head Lookout on Cliff Drive, Katoomba, named after the unique rock formation that overlooks the Jamison Valley and Megalong Valley. The adventurous can even join an expedition to abseil down the Boars Head Rock.

The Blue Mountains is a 90-minute drive from Sydney, or 100 minutes via fast train to Katoomba from Sydney Central Station.

NSW: Get your heart rate up with quad biking, sand boarding and skydiving

Skydive over the beautiful Southern Sydney beaches in Wollongong. PHOTO: SKYDIVE AUSTRALIA

In Wollongong, you can experience freefall over the beautiful Southern Sydney beaches. Most skydiving providers will take you up 15,000 feet before you jump from the moving plane, hitting speeds of up to 200km/h.

Or get your adrenaline pumping with quad biking and sand boarding in Port Stephens. Join a quad bike cultural tour or take on the undulating Stockton Bight Sand Dunes, the largest moving coastal dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. You can also join a 4WD tour of the dunes, and zoom down 40m-high slopes with a sand board.

NSW: There’s much more to the Hunter Valley than just wine

Taste exceptional wines and more when you explore the Hunter Valley. PHOTO: MJK CREATIVE

It is a two-hour drive from Sydney up to the Hunter Valley, Australia's oldest and most famous wine region with over 100 cellar doors. But there’s more than just wine to be had in Wine Country — check out these standout breweries and distilleries.

Hope Estate has very drinkable wines, but it also has award-winning beer and a range of speciality brews like Gluten Free Pilsner, Choc Milk Porter and Super Juicy Neipa (a New England-style IPA).

Also check out Hunter Distillery, the only certified organic distillery in the Hunter Valley wine region. Try its award-winning Copperwave Distilled Gin, distilled in the traditional London Gin method, but each of its 11+ botanicals are distilled separately according to flavour groups, then blended like a fine wine.

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