Sydney boasts many unexpected delights, from sunken gardens to exquisite Asian food – but what else awaits discovery in Sydney?
After Brett Whiteley passed, Wendy dedicated herself to turning an abandoned train yard into the garden of her dreams – today it can be found in Lavender Bay. Cathay Pacific gives you access to great deals on flights taking you from Vancouver to Sydney.
1. Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden
Wendy Whiteley is best known for her art; however, she’s also an adept gardener. Her tranquil oasis lies only moments from Milsons Point and North Sydney train stations and features winding pathways leading to benches or quiet corners of restful peace tucked among whimsical sculptures scattered about. All this and breathtaking plant-framed views of Sydney Harbour make for a peaceful retreat!
When The Secret Garden opened for business in 1993, Wendy had been widowed for nearly 10 years and still mourning Brett Whiteley’s passing – as Lavender Bay featured prominently in his paintings – their view from their home featured. Wendy channeled her grief into creating this hidden garden from what had previously been derelict railway land.
As her vision took form, it quickly blossomed into one of Sydney’s most stunning public sanctuaries. Over time she and her gardeners planted an array of exotic and native plants on pathways and terraces cut into the hillside overlooking Sydney Harbour, complete with circle of bangalow palms and grove of fig trees for added charm.
There are also a few statues, such as a life-sized head of her late husband and a Balinese goddess who meditate, that add to this work of living art. Her garden offers plenty of seating areas such as benches with raw bush timber balustrades, raw bush timber balustrades, retaining walls, and cobbled stairs that draw you in further.
The Secret Garden is open daily from dawn to dusk, free to visit and is an easy walk from Luna Park – the fun fairground with an entrance face – as well as restaurants, cafes and views of Sydney Opera House across Kirribilli Creek. If visiting from outside Sydney, a train or ferry to Milsons Point would be your best bet for accessing it.
2. Elizabeth Bay House
Elizabeth Bay House and Gardens is a heritage-listed home and gardens built between 1835-1839 and described at its completion as ‘the finest house in the colony”. Today it stands as an outstanding example of Australian colonial architecture, located within its magnificent setting. Now managed by Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales as a house museum open to the public, this truly wonderful structure remains open for inspection.
The interior of Alexander Macleay and Susannah’s house has been designed to reflect their family lifestyle in 19th-century America, complete with elegant rooms and extensive collections that create an accurate portrait of life during this era. Additionally, there is also a significant display of their botanical and insect collections within this property.
The garden was designed by a team led by Colonial architect John Verge and inspired by English gardens of its day. It has been described as “a botanist’s paradise”, boasting rare exotic and indigenous plants still planted within its original plantings.
It has great significance as an indicator of NSW cultural and natural history, featuring interior designs loosely inspired by Henry Holland’s Carlton House built for Prince Regent in London c1820. Furthermore, its architectural value is enhanced by the fact that its original encircling colonnade was never completed.
William Sharp, Alexander Macleay’s younger son, assessed his finances upon arriving in NSW in 1839 and discovered it would not be possible for them to complete the house as planned. Instead he kept two notebooks recording plants exchanged or imported for use in his garden, becoming an avid amateur horticulturist as well as being admitted as a corresponding member of Linnean Society of London.
Cumberland County Council purchased and made repairs to this property during the 1960s. Subsequently, it was altered for use as a reception house and bedsit apartments; later being restored and opened as a house museum in 1977.
House and Grotto are set in a beautiful park replete with lawns, trees, paths and hedges – as well as being equipped with barbecue facilities and picnic tables – making it the ideal setting for wedding receptions and other special events.
3. Chau Chak Wing Museum
Chau Chak Wing Museum on the University of Sydney’s Camperdown campus offers an innovative space, uniting art, science, history and ancient cultures in one space. It draws together three former museums owned by the university – Nicholson Museum for antiquities and archaeology, Macleay Museum of natural history and cultural history and University’s art collection – into one cohesive whole.
Attractions at its 18 exhibitions range from amazing taxidermy displays to remains of four Egyptian mummies, transporting visitors back in time as they explore archaeological finds from Romans, Greeks, Cypriots, Chinese and Indigenous Australians – and further back still with pre-human artefacts that predate human history.
The museum features one of the largest collections of Aboriginal art in southern hemisphere, including some of the earliest-known Aboriginal bark paintings. You can also get up close and personal with fossils and an array of bizarre zoological specimens in glass showcases.
The new museum honors Chinese Australian businessman and philanthropist Dr Chau Chak Wing with designs by Johnson Pilton Walker’s world-class architectural firm and features world-class galleries to host major traveling exhibits from internationally-acclaimed collections. Our structural team was instrumental in providing solutions that met stringent requirements across multiple projects within this museum involving multiple objects and materials.
Our structural designs had to be as resilient as possible and accommodate an extreme range of object weights, from large pots and ceramics, long spears, bark paintings, tapestries and fabrics – to long spears. Furthermore, gallery spaces needed to support these heavy objects while offering enough movement and security.
Chau Chak Wing stands out as an institution of ideas, providing a forum for debate on some of the major challenges affecting museum around the world today, such as attracting a more diverse audience, repatriation/decolonisation issues and digital engagement becoming ever more significant. We love its role as an incubator of new thinking on these matters!
4. Dudley Page Reserve
Dudley Page Reserve in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is an incredible park that provides stunning panoramic views of Sydney icons including the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Offering open grass spaces to sprawl out on, picnic areas to spread a blanket upon, small playground and cricket pitch; Dudley Page Reserve offers some of the best spots for sunset watching while being family friendly – make time to visit during an off peak time (ideally before 5PM or come on New Years Eve (ticketed event) to avoid crowds).
Dudley Page Reserve in Dover Heights is just minutes from Bondi Beach, making it the ideal location to watch the sunset or take some beautiful pictures. Offering spectacular views of Sydney city skyline and Harbour Bridge, Dudley Page Reserve also makes an excellent location from which to witness New Year’s Eve fireworks displays!
Running enthusiasts also love this park, with its looped track that weaves its way through the reserve. Sunrise and sunset offer two of the most magical times to visit; don’t miss them for breathtaking views!
Not only does this park boast stunning views, it also features a small playground complete with slides, swings and seesaw. Perfect for children of all ages. Additionally, an outdoor fitness gym features both static equipment and mobility stations to allow users to stretch, perform beginner calisthenics workouts as well as advanced sets.
If you want to experience Sydney’s hidden gem of Dudley Page Reserve for yourself, Moovit offers the most efficient way of getting there. As an all-in-one transit app that provides riders with information on bus, train and ferry routes and schedules Moovit also allows users to easily find their ideal route with step-by-step directions; simply download it now, enter your destination address, and let Moovit guide your way!