Four Sydney Harbour watering holes

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Sydney’s care-free lifestyle is indeed alluring.

Sydneysiders appear to have it all — sublime scenery, sunshine, confidence, casual waterfront dining and romantic ferry rides.

Here are four sun-kissed locations around Sydney Harbour, where you can soak up Sydney’s laid-back vibe, enjoy waterfront watering holes which are casual and relaxed, and where you can catch a ferry to. Sound that ferry horn.

Ferry action on Sydney Harbour. Photo: Hamilton Lund Destination NSW

Ferry action on Sydney Harbour. Photo: Hamilton Lund Destination NSW

Mosman Bay

Tucked away in secluded Mosman Bay is Mosman Rowers, the former boatshed of Mosman Rowing Club. Now a neighbourhood watering hole, modern Australian dining is the flavour here with plenty of seafood including chilli lime prawn skewers, pan seared scallops, Sydney rock oysters and classic fish and chips.

Take a chilled drink onto the deck and embrace that scenery. Finish with a stroll around the bay through bushland parks and gardens.

Mosman Bay is a leisurely 20-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay.

View of Mosman Bay from Mosman Rowers. Photo: Mosman Rowers.

View of Mosman Bay from Mosman Rowers. Photo: Mosman Rowers.

Manly

Perched on the wharf along Manly Cove is Manly Wharf Hotel, offering seafood, steaks and sharing plates. Kick back, ferry spot and people watch from sun-drenched decks.

Strolls with ice-creams are the order here — along harbour esplanades, promenades and Pacific Ocean beaches.

Manly is a rollicking 30 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay.

Ferry arriving at relaxed Manly. Photo: Andrew Gregory Destination NSW

Ferry arriving at relaxed Manly. Photo: Andrew Gregory Destination NSW

Watsons Bay

At Watsons Bay, the namesake Doyle’s restaurant is where Sydney’s famous fishing and restaurateur family have sold daily catches since 1885.

Right next door, the Beach Club serves up a more casual setting along with spectacular harbour views — perfect for long lunches, sunset cocktails and dinners.

Watsons Bay is a 20 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay.

Sunset at Beach Club Watsons Bay. Photo: Beach Club

Sunset at Beach Club Watsons Bay. Photo: Beach Club

Double Bay

As you disembark from the ferry, the sunny harbourside deck of the Australian 18 Footers League sailing club beckons. Feast on sumptuous seafood platters combining fish, calamari, scallops, prawns, Sydney rock oysters and mussels.

Toast the good life. Be sure to save time to meander boutique strips, shop for something special or head to the beach for a swim.

Double Bay is a 12 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay.

Inviting deck at 18 Footers, Double-Bay

Inviting deck at 18 Footers, Double-Bay

Rob Dunlop

More

Explore more of Sydney Harbour’s best bays, beaches and bars with Thirst for Sydney. My award-winning app features walking and ferry routes, maps, photos, insider tips from ferrymasters and crew, bar and food reviews, and a real-time feature so you connect and meet up with locals and travellers along the way. See thirstforsydney.com.

How to play in Australia’s richest hood

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Australia’s richest neighbourhood, Point Piper, shimmers from a spectacular location on the world’s most beautiful harbour — Sydney Harbour.

Aerial view of Point Piper looking across to Sydney CBD Credit: Ethan Rohloff – Destination NSW

Aerial view of Point Piper looking across to Sydney CBD
Credit: Ethan Rohloff – Destination NSW

The tiny peninsular suburb (with only 11 streets) boasts its own bay, secluded beach and private yacht club.

Price tags for mansions run as high as $50 million. In fact, its main drag, Wolseley Road, is ranked as one of the most expensive residential streets in the world. At 1km long.

So where do the peeps of Point Piper play when they tire of multi-million dollar views and private yacht club décor?

Well, they head down the road to the glitzy harbourside village of Double Bay, also cheekily known as Double Pay.

And thanks to Australia’s egalitarian nature, it’s where you can play too. Here’s a quick guide to playing in Australia’s richest hood.

Getting there

The most appropriate way to arrive is, of course, by boat. Take the Watsons Bay ferry service from Circular Quay to Double Bay — a 12 min ride. From the wharf, it’s a 15 min walk to the edge of Point Piper. But take your time, there’s too much to see.

Beaches

Lady Martins Beach is Point Piper’s own secluded cove. With head held high, access the beach from a narrow lane beside the private Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club, near the end of Wolseley Road. In all, this walk from the wharf, which passes the mansions, takes about 30 minutes.

Seven Shillings Beach at Double Bay has a shark-netted harbour pool with boardwalks and sunbaking pontoons. While you could paddle near the ferry wharf, most people head around the point (via the road) to this beach, which is officially the closest swimming beach to the city. Access is from Blackburn Gardens alongside the Woollahra Municipal Council building, at 536 New South Head Road. This is a 15 min walk from the ferry wharf.

Shopping

Double Bay’s leafy streets are known for upscale intimate shopping, and the odd red Ferrari which purrs along them.

Shop for fashionable clothes, jewellery, homewares and furnishings in boutiques along the commercial strips of Cross Street, Transvaal Avenue, Knox Street and Bay Street – all within a 10 min walk from Double Bay wharf.

Eating and drinking

Sunning on the deck at Australian 18 Footers League, Double Bay

Sunning on the deck at Australian 18 Footers League

Australian 18 Footers League is a sailing club conveniently perched on the wharf at Double Bay.

Feast on casual lounge food or restaurant fare, including the popular seafood platter. Head to the deck to soak up those harbour views. Address: 77 Bay Street, Double Bay. See www.18footers.com.au.

Mrs Sippy is a café, restaurant cum funky bar that occupies a white Victorian terrace along one of the village’s tree-lined streets.

Food offerings include light café style and restaurant fare. People watch outside on the veranda or from a pavement table.

Address: 37 Bay Street, Double Bay. See www.mrssippy.com.au.

Staying there

InterContinental Sydney Double Bay is a spanking new luxury hotel – opening November 2014. Buzz surrounds the Mediterranean-style rooftop terrace offering gin cocktails and harbour views. Yeah.

Address: 33 Cross St, Double Bay. See InterContinental Sydney Double Bay.

Stickybeaking

While you can certainly walk the streets of Point Piper for a gander, the mansions are best admired from the water. Catch a ferry from Double Bay to Rose Bay (the next stop along the Wastsons Bay route), which travels around the peninsular of Point Piper.

Although you won’t get too close for a proper stickybeak, you’ll be at a much safer distance to mutter about the disparity of wealth.

Rob Dunlop

More

Explore more of Sydney Harbour’s best bays, beaches and bars with Thirst for Sydney. My award-winning app features walking and ferry routes, maps, photos, insider tips, bar and food reviews, and a real-time feature so you connect and meet up with locals and travellers along the way. See thirstforsydney.com.

Thirst for Sydney

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Does your idea of travel include meeting locals and hanging out with them at their favourite watering holes?

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Mine too.

You don’t want a thick guide book either – just a no frills introduction from a local professional travel writer. And maybe some suggested itineraries with maps and step by step directions so you can hit the ground running.

Yeah. I hear you.

And wouldn’t the icing on the cake be an easy way to meet locals and like-minded travellers along the way. Maybe using some fandoogled technology.

Wow, this is spooky. That’s exactly how I like to travel too. So that’s why I created an app — to do just that. [Although, I confess, my mate Charlie did all the tricky stuff.]

So here it is. Thirst for Sydney.

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Discover Sydney Harbour’s best bays, beaches and bars. The way you like it.

Yep, you can find it on the App Store.

Cheers Sydney!

Rob Dunlop

Award winning app: Thirst for Sydney won ‘Best Travel Blog or Travel App of the Year’ at the 2015 Australian Society of Travel Writers Awards.

And was a finalist in the Australian Mobile & App Design Awards 2014.

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Canned coffee in Japan

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For those of us reared on unrestrained diets of third wave coffee, Japan can be a struggle.

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Polite hosts will tell you that “good coffee” is available everywhere — on street corners, at train stations, and even in remote villages of Central Japan.

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“Look – good coffee!”

where

Where!? Oh there…

Arigatou.

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So, from the lookout at Shirakawa-go, I soak up the UNESCO world heritage site and crack open another tinnie.
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Ah, canned hot coffee won’t scare me away…

Rob Dunlop

Bloody Bora Bora

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Ah, Bora Bora. The epitome of natural beauty.

Beautiful-Bora-Bora

So why the bloody hell are the Kardashians here? Well, they’re not anymore, that was so 2011. (Equilibrium has been restored.)

However, they have left their mark at Bloody Mary’s, a bar, restaurant and institution on the French Polynesian island.

The rich and famous along with ordinary cashed-up folk have been visiting the watering hole since it opened in 1979.

Bloody-Marys

Any visitor worthy of a mention, and who’s announced themselves either by way of shenanigans or self promotion, can expect a legacy — their name inscribed at the door. Literally, in white paint for everyone to see. Trust an American owner to think of such symbolism.

And with party animal monikers like Johnny Depp, Drew Barrymore, Sean Penn and Charlie Sheen, you know you’re in good company. More than 230 hedonists appear on the two timber walls of fame at the entrance.

Wall-of-fame

This is no Manhattan style bar though. Remember these folk are vacationing or honeymooning on a tropical island. So, expect a large thatched roof hut, tables made of coconut palm lumber, stools cut from palm trunks, and a sandpit for a floor.

Inside-Bloody-Marys

With a Bloody Mary cocktail thrust into your hand, it’s time to view the catch of the day, laid out on a long tray of ice, and decide your fresh seafood fate.

Eyes dart between fish steaks and possible celebrity sightings.

Seafood-and-cocktail-feast

So how did KK leave her mark at Bloody Mary’s? Did she earn a place on the wall of fame, or did she simply scratch a coconut table with her handbag?

Hmm. Is that worth knowing? Bit far to travel to find out too, huh?

Rob Dunlop

wine fit for popes

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Cunningly hailed as a ‘wine fit for Popes’ in the 16th century, the Vatican has enjoyed a steady supply of Sciacchetrà (sha-ke-tra) since.

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The rare and difficult to make desert wine hails from the spectacular rocky stretch of Italian Riviera — Cinque Terre. Grapes are harvested from steep centuries-old vineyards that face the Mediterranean Sea.

Bar-dell-Amore-500

During the 16th Century, Genoese scholar, Agostino Giustiniani, wrote “there is no baron, prince or any king who does not consider it a great honour when on his table Cinque Terre wine is offered.”

So I head to Bar dell Amore along “lovers walk” in Riomaggiore to take my seat.

Such a loooong bottle

Such a loooong bottle

Tasting notes: Honey with fragrances of cocoa, apricot and maquis (an aromatic Mediterranean shrub). Such is my sophisticated palate, that strawberry topping isn’t too bad either.

Now we can only assume that the current pappy, Pope Francis, has graciously traded his Andes Mountains’ Santa Julia Tardio for the fruits of Cinque Terre.

Salud pappy. Cin cin.

Rob Dunlop

Sh*t coffee

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Coffee loving visitors to Indonesia face an unusual dilemma. While there’s sh*t coffee, there’s also fake sh*t coffee.

Indonesian coffee plantations are some of the world's largest

Indonesian coffee plantations are some of the world’s largest

I am, of course, referring to the droppings of civets (think jungle cats) and the collection-cleaning-roasting-packaging of said crap into the ‘world’s most expensive coffee’.

Show me any decent coffee lover who isn’t intrigued by the process and who doesn’t want to taste it. It’s a great story.

When Dutch colonialists planted arabica plantations in Indonesia, they forbade the locals from partaking. They didn’t plan on sneaky wildlife though.

At night, civets helped themselves to the juiciest of coffee cherries. By day, locals helped themselves to civet droppings plump with coffee beans.

After cleaning, roasting and brewing the beans, they discovered a coffee with an unusual taste and aroma. Civets also have anal musk glands.

So while civet coffee, known as Kopi Luwak, was quietly enjoyed for some time, the Dutch eventually caught on, and so did the rest of the world.

Sh*t coffee strung up in the wild

Sh*t coffee strung up in the wild

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now for the fake sh*t.

If your definition of fake is inauthentic, then you might consider what is now happening to Kopi Luwak as fake, if not cruel.

The romantic image of civets roaming freely around coffee plantations eating fruit at leisure doesn’t quite paint an accurate picture. The reality is otherwise — freedom happens on a small scale only. Civet farms have emerged where civets are caged and force fed coffee cherries.

It’s a lucrative market.

I pay around $30 dollars for my 50 gram stash. My verdict. Piss weak. My regret for not knowing whether or not civets were harmed to produce it. Full bodied.

Eww - don't touch that nasty sh*t!

Eww – don’t touch that nasty sh*t!

Learn more from World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Rob Dunlop

Cruise lines failing bar crawl test

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Cruisers, I’m happy to report that the news isn’t all bad. Some cruise lines are in fact passing the bar crawl test.

According to Louise Goldsbury, blogger at The Cruisey Life Uncensored, inclusion of the social activity is on the rise.

Louise, who cruises the world writing ship reviews, has spied ship-organised bar crawls on Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ships.

Thirsty Rob hanging with the pixelators on a Mediterranean cruise bar crawl

Thirsty Rob hanging with the pixelators on a self-serve, Med cruise bar crawl

As the youngest cruise editor in the southern hemisphere (and travel writer of the year – watch her win at the NTIA Awards), she recommends signing up for the ship’s bar crawl.

“It draws all the young passengers, who you haven’t seen anywhere else for the past few days, out of the woodwork.

“It’s a great way to meet people as well as the bar tenders, and you also discover where all the hidden bars are located and which has the best ocean view.”

It’s not uncommon for passengers and new friends to organise their own bar crawls either — onboard and as self-guided shore excursions.

So would you select a cruise based on whether bar crawls were on offer?

Maybe. It does offer some insight into a cruise line’s personality.

OK, I hear you. Leave it with me then. I’ll ask the questions. Stay tuned.

Which cruise lines do bar crawls?

NCL – Yes

They call it the Pub Hop Program. For $25, you can hop around five bars for a drink at each. Lasts for around an hour, includes games and booze trivia.

Holland America Line – Yes

AIDA – No but…

They have onboard breweries offering tours and beer tastings. Go the Germans!

Cunard – Nup

Carnival – No but…

Typical activities include cocktail creation challenges, wine tastings, happy hours, karaoke parties and pub guitar.

Star cruises – No but…

They aim to excite and amuse. Think cooking competitions and eating contests.

[P.S. You can ignore this blog post headline – just a bit of click bait. Cruise lines do a wonderful job at entertaining us.]

Rob Dunlop

Pare back the boys’ weekend

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Why are boys’ weekends heading further afield, taking longer, and packing more action?

New Zealand

New Zealand! [Are you kidding?]

Fo’ sure. Let’s do it.

Yet, we could be anywhere in the world for the same antics to play out. It’s competitive. Even in wine country.

Who takes the wheel on the country roads?

Who takes the wheel on the country roads?

Who snatches the best room in the luxury villa?

Who snatches the best room in the luxury villa?

Who can sample the most savvy B without visiting a cellar door?

Who can sample the most savvy B without visiting a cellar door?

Who ends up being the designated driver to cellar doors?

Who ends up being the designated driver to cellar doors?

Who can stomach the most acrobatic turns in a vintage Tiger Moth aeroplane?

Who can stomach the most acrobatic turns in a vintage Tiger Moth aeroplane?

Who dares wins.

Who dares wins.

[Guess it could have been worse. Could have been Queenstown.]

Rob Dunlop

When beer upsets your tummy (pfft!)

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ObriensI love all my friends equally — even the gluten sensitive ones.

But seriously, do you have to give up on great tasting beer?

Apparently not. So what’s with all the noise?

Refusing to join the moaning minnies’ chorus, John O’Brien, after he was diagnosed with coeliac disease, just got on with the business of creating a beer he could stomach. Not just stomach, but enjoy.

In 2005, the self-taught brewer, alongside established brewer Andrew Lavery, launched Australia’s first commercial gluten-free beer — O’Brien Beer.

They’ve since been collecting awards in the US, UK and Australia. At the 2013 Australian International Beer Awards, one of their concoctions won a gold medal — the first for a gluten-free beer.

Taking a balanced approach, the boys now brew traditional gluten-packed ales too. You can taste them on tap, along with gluten-free ales, at their Rebellion Brewery bar in the historic beer town of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.

I’m about to crack open a bottled, limited-edition, India Pale Ale. It’s being talked up as “tropical fruit salad with a bitter finish”.

Bottoms up.

[Wish me luck.]

Rob Dunlop

Paris end conundrum

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You’re stuck in the Paris end of Melbourne. The the rain is holding off. And it's fast approaching 5pm. What do you do? Head to the obscure bolted door at 161 Spring St. Impatiently wait for it to open. Sprint up the flights of stairs (all of them - hurry now). Race out onto the terrace towards and snatch a front table (outpacing any other early birders). Take a seat. And order that drink. Ah, the Siglo Bar.

You’re stuck in the Paris end of Melbourne. The rain is holding off. And it’s fast approaching 5pm. What do you do?

Head to the obscure bolted door at 161 Spring St. Impatiently wait for it to open. Sprint up the flights of stairs (all of them – hurry now). Race out onto the terrace and snatch a front table (outpacing any other early birders). Relax now. Take a seat, order a well-deserved drink, and soak up that view. Aah, the Siglo Bar.

[P.S. Sorry about being so bossy before. Just don’t want you missing out.]

Rob Dunlop

Is Sweden hiding the world’s finest whisky collection?

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Sweden’s biggest whisky bar is on Sweden’s second biggest island, Öland. That’s all you need to know.

Honestly. Don’t go asking the Swedes how many islands they have. Responses range from:

“Oover 200,000.”

“Aroond two dozen.”

“Aboot 400.”

They can’t decide on a number. That’s because of the varying schools of thought about what actually constitutes an island (and which hymn book they sing from). That last part isn’t true — most Swedes aren’t religious.

Anyway, too much time has been wasted already. You’re here to sample whisky, not count islands.

[Sorry to interrupt. Was just thinking, maybe this post should start here instead. See what you think, if you make it to the end.]

Word is that the family-owned Hotel Skansen is home to Sweden’s biggest whisky bar — Whisky Dram shop, which also gets talked up as one of the world’s best.

Fredrik serving Sweden's

Fredrik serving Sweden’s “biggest whisky bar”

The action takes place inside a buttercup-yellow, 19th-century timber hotel. Not very rock and roll, I know. But it is somewhat redeemed by a 400-year-old fortress that surrounds the hotel.

Inside, sitting at the bar, which could be anywhere in the world, there’s only a handful of stools.

Big must mean something else in Sweden.

Even holding a menu of 1000 whisky varieties, I’m just not feeling it.

Plan B — blow this joint off and check out the 50 beaches of frolicking Swedes. Yeah.

Then the barmen, Fredrik (son of the owner), extends me an invitation.

I follow him down a stairwell, and step into another world.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about! Amber hues, dark timber furnishings, well-worn leather sofas, and walls and walls of whisky bottles.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about

That’s what I’m talkin’ about


The cellar doubles as a meeting place for the mysterious Long Island Whiskey Club, which Fredrik’s father, Stefan, helped establish in 2004. Their mission — to hunt down, and bring home the world’s finest whisky.

Hit me up with one of your finest, Fred.

He steers me towards a single malt from another pristine island, some 15,000km (10,000 miles) away — Tasmania, Australia (the country’s second largest island).

I take a swig of the namesake Sullivans Cove.

Nice one, Fred.

[Alternative ending]

Hey Fred, just an aside. Australians also have problems counting islands. Many don’t actually refer to the mainland as an island. So I’m not sure if that second island theme holds up.

No worries, mate. Cheers.

Rob Dunlop