It is about three weeks since I ran the full marathon at Blackmores Sydney Running Festival, and it seems that the travel withdrawal syndrome is kicking in overwhelmingly. Well, it was a 5-day trip graciously hosted by Destination New South Wales, the lead government agency promoting tourism and major events in the south eastern Australia and state.
I had previously spent some months in this state studying and had then taken the opportunity to travel around. When this trip’s itinerary was shared with me, I got all excited; I had done some of the activities previously, but those were the days when I was lighter and younger.
Below are must-do activities, an incomplete trip if you miss them.
#1 Surfing At Manly Beach
Manly Beach sits on the northern side of Sydney, conveniently accessible by a scenic ferry ride from Circular Quay. The 40-minute ride provides views of the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge and the surrounding suburbs.
Unlike Bondi Beach – another iconic beach but one that sees throngs of tourists flocking towards it – Manly is an honest-to-goodness suburb with locals running, cycling and sending their kids to weekend “watersmart” programs. It is laidback yet offers that high quality weekend lifestyle, probably one of the key reasons Sydney typically comes up tops as the most liveable city in the world.
The day prior to the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival, the kind folks at Destination New South Wales decided that I should limber up with a 2-hour session at the famous Manly Surf School. While I had surfed at the turn of the millennium and my surfboard now is a humble piece of garden furniture, it sure was fun to be back in the water and learn to surf all over again.
After all, to visit Sydney’s famous beach and not to somehow get wet seemed almost blasphemous.
#2 Biking From North Head To Shelly Beach
While still at Manly, it is worth to stay a bit longer and spend some time on land, and on two wheels. The guide from Manly Bike Tours led the tour from the North Head area.
Heading up towards Fairfax Lookout, the view of the Sydney skyline was simply stunning. Although easily accessible, this area is still some good distance away from the city centre, and best experienced on a pedal bike as traversing through tracks were necessary. This meant that big tourist groups would generally not visit, and you could easily appreciate the beauty of this Sydney suburb in very simple ways.
#3 Bushwalking In The Blue Mountains
Bushwalking in the Katoomba region of the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains takes place in a uniquely combined temperate and tropical climate. Thus, the fauna and flora diversity of this region is a source of pride for the state. Famous exports include the eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil, sourced from the eucalyptus “blue gum” and melaleuca “tea tree” oils respectively.
My half day bushwalking journey started from the Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains, through The Valleys of the Waters and completed at the Wentworth Falls. Waterfalls, rainforests and canyons were the order on the sunny yet windy spring day.
In true Aussie style, respect for the environment was embraced wholeheartedly. My lunch pack consisted of organic ingredients sourced locally made from materials that were biodegradable and even at the touristy endpoint of the Wentworth Falls, there was no rubbish bin in sight. Visitors are expected to bring out whatever items they bring into the area, and therefore keep carbon footprint to a minimum.
#4 Riding The Steepest Incline Railway At Scenic World
If your runcation includes having young kids or elderlies, or your muscles are sore post-full marathon, then a more relaxing destination at Scenic World in the Jamison Valley would be fitting. My tour started on the Scenic Skyway, a big cable car with an electro-glass cabin suspended 270 metres above ancient ravines, and provided views of the iconic Three Sisters rock formation.
Next up was the 52-degree incline ride down the value on the steepest passenger railway called Scenic Railway. If you’re feeling more adventurous on this 310m ride, you have the option to change your seat to a 64-degree Cliffhanger setting!
The tour then continued with a leisurely stroll through the former coal mining area before returning to the start point on the Scenic Cableway.
#5 Horse Riding in Kanimbla Valley
Another leisurely paced activity to consider would be horse riding with Centennial Glenn Stables. There are a variety of horses and ponies to fit riders of all ages and skills. Fret not if you’re a beginner.
Unlike in Singapore where you would go through the paces within the stable grounds, I had the opportunity to immediately be guided around the valley against the backdrop of scenic mountain views. This tour took slightly more than an hour and was a good introductory session to assess if you would like to take this sport seriously.
Filling the tummy up is definitely a cool thing – or two – to do while you’re in New South Wales. It is not in my top 5 list just because I think it deserves a dedicated mention on its own. I have always been impressed with how creative the Sydneysider chefs can be in infusing local produce with ingredients and spices from Asia.
On this trip, I had the opportunity to visit all-time favourites such as The Boathouse Shelly Beach and Hugo’s Manly Wharf while sampling hip cafes including No.1 Bent Street, Yayoi Garden and the uber hip Indu Dining.
Tips for Runcation in New South Wales
- Prioritise your run in the earlier part of the trip. You have invested to run overseas, so you would want to be in optimal form and not risk any injuries through the vacation activities.
- When you are done running, you may want to plan for a protein-packed dining on that same day to aid muscle recovery.
- Typically, you would want to do a recovery run the day after your long run. All the activities above are not too strenuous and can be substitutes.
- Travelling around Sydney on their public transport is easy and safe. Consider getting an all-in-one Opal card for ferries, buses, trains and light rail travels.
- The Blue Mountains is about a two-hour drive from Sydney. A day trip is possible if you are tight on time; however it best to spend two to three days in the Katoomba region to appreciate the beautiful mountain views and soak in the fresh air.
- The Blue Mountains is colder than in Sydney. It is good to invest in windproof jacket, gloves and beanies especially if you would like to start your activities early in the day.
The next Blackmores Sydney Running Festival will take place on 16 September 2018. There is ample time for you to commit to a healthier lifestyle, to run on the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and end at the Opera House, and have a quality vacation with your family and friends around New South Wales.