Culture / Nature / Photography / STUDIO e*

Secret Sydney

I’m back from Bali and I’m still soaking it all in.  What an intoxicating, crazy, beautiful place!  Despite being only a 6-hour flight away, Bali wasn’t anywhere near the top of my travel hit list, but now that I’ve been, I’m desperate to return.  But more about that in the next few posts . . .

Talking of beauty, often the most beautiful places are significantly closer than one expects.  That’s definitely true when it comes to Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.  And yes, while there are some pretty dilapidated and  downright ugly bits, its many suburbs boast some of the most striking architecture and natural beauty that this city has to offer.  While some of them are easy to spot (Rose Bay Marina, the panoramic city views, the back streets of Woollahra and Darling Point and many more), some of my absolute favourite locations are a little more “secret”.

My parents were recently in Sydney and I wanted to show them this very special side to my ‘hood.  We hopped in the car and less than ten minutes later we felt like we’d been transported into an historic English garden estate.  Whilst Vaucluse House (part of Sydney Living Museums) is by no means a secret, it’s not frequented by many Sydney-siders.  I think that they’ve kind of forgotten it’s there because every time I go, I feel like I have the run of the place; particularly during the week.  The house is a grand Gothic Revivalist-style mansion, which was built in the early to mid 1800’s by William Charles Wentworth, an early colonial statesman.  The house remains a testament to the style and lifestyle of that era.  I can just imagine Mr Wenthworth and Lady Sarah sipping G&Ts and playing croquet on one of the many manicured lawns.  (Mind you, it’s said that in those mega-moralistic Victorian times, the couple were “undermined by illegitimacy and convict associations”, that Wentworth’s wife Sarah was deemed as “lacking respectability” and that the family had to “socialise outside of colonial society”.  So I guess that one can imagine that slightly less savoury activities that may have taken place there!)

The grounds themselves were modelled on a 19th century estate plan with stables, rural outbuildings, carriage drives, paddocks, lawns, a “pleasure garden” and a Victorian kitchen garden.  The estate also has a lovely tea room which is nestled in the middle of the grounds.  I just love walking around the estate and watching the plants, trees and flowers change shape and hue as the seasons progress.  It’s a rare treat and pleasure which I count as one of my favourite Sydney experiences.  Vaucluse House is also just across the road from an inner city, harbour beach called Nielson Park.  Another treasure, Nielson Park is both a park and a beach with a lovely tea-room / kiosk and a gorgeous beach.

And then, just as my folks thought I’d pulled out all the stops, I introduced them to Parsley Bay Reserve, a mere five minutes away.  It’s another secluded harbour beach that epitomises the phrase “inner city sanctuary”.  Hidden below the windy roads of Vaucluse and located just at the foot of a glorious bushland nature walk, it’s a tranquil and beautiful little gem.

PLUS

*Bookmark Sunday 5th May for this event @ Vaucluse House.  Looks like it’s going to be so much fun!

*Loving Frost’s re-brand for Sydney Living Museums.

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