Circumnavigating Australia — Starting in Sydney

Sydney Harbor Bridge, “The Coathanger”

Today I begin a new series that was almost a year in the making. In March, 2019, Ursula and I arrived into Sydney, Australia, for a two-month odyssey that would take us to New Zealand, various destinations along the east and north coasts of Australia, and Singapore. From Singapore we boarded a flight back to Auckland, New Zealand, and boarded another cruise ship back to Los Angeles.

Sydney reflections

We returned to Sydney in February of this year, after our brief stay on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands (that six-part series begins at this link). This return to Sydney was for another set of voyages that would take us on a circumnavigation of the entire Australian continent, and another trip across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand before returning to Sydney for the flight home.

Sydney Tower at the Westfield Sydney shopping center

From Sydney we barely made it back to the U.S. in time. We arrived into Los Angeles on March 16 after a flight that departed Sydney and connected in Auckland. New Zealand had just days before shut down because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and we were worried we’d be placed into quarantine upon arrival, but people connecting to international flights were exempted as long as they stayed within the secure area in the international terminal.

Cruising past the Sydney Opera House

The world changed between the time we arrived into Sydney on February 7 and the day we departed for the U.S. on March 16. And while our back-to-back voyages were quite enjoyable, news from home and around the world cast a hint of gloom upon the passengers. Our excursion to Bali left us stranded offshore, and the only reason our Royal Caribbean ship Radiance of the Seas went there was to satisfy Australian tax requirements before we could return to the west coast of Australia. Our cruises the preceding year held none of the drama and uncertainty of these voyages.

Cruising past the Sydney Opera House

So, why am I combining two trips to Australia and New Zealand that were taken 11 months apart? First of all, the weather. Our 2020 trip to Sydney and other parts of Australia were met with torrential rainfall that precluded any worthwhile photography. Another is that we visited several different destinations. Additionally, in those ports that were duplicated on the two trips, we often went on a different excursion. Thus, combining these two trips will give you a better idea of what to expect when cruising around this area of Oceania.

We’ll start this week with Sydney, the city with the largest population in Australia. In March, 2019, the weather was extraordinary, so most of this week’s photos will date from that trip. This past February we witnessed rains the likes of which I’ve never before witnessed during our many previous trips to Sydney. But that was a good thing, as those days-long rains extinguished the horrendous 2019-2020 Australian bushfires that decimated much of eastern Australia in the months before we arrived.

7 December 2019 satellite imagery overlaid (red areas) with bushfire areas (Wikipedia)

Let’s get started today with two iconic Sydney structures. First up is the Sydney Opera House:

Sydney Opera House

Those broad, sweeping white roof shells represent the sails of old time sailing ships. The precast concrete shells are in turn encased in over 1,000,000 tiles laid in an intricate pattern. Here’s a closeup view:

Sydney Opera House tiles

The other famed piece of Sydney skyline is the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But don’t let the locals hear you call it that. To them it’s “The Coathanger”, for obvious reasons:

Sydney Harbor Bridge, “The Coathanger”

Feeling a bit adventurous? Then why not walk atop The Coathanger? Think I’m joking? Nope. There’s actually a tour for that, and it’s for people much less afraid of heights than am I:

Tourists walking the arch on “The Coathanger”

On Wednesday we’ll take in the more conventional sight around Sydney.


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