Sydney sea planes, exploring the city from above

With its stunning harbour, postcard-perfect beaches and rocky coastline, Sydney is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. And the best way to take it all in is from the air, as Kelly Allen discovers.

Having lived on Sydney’s Northern Beaches for 13 years, I thought I was familiar with the natural beauty surrounding me. From Manly to Palm Beach, there are stunning coves, lagoons, lakes, bushland and steep limestone cliffs. They’re all perfectly lovely from ground level. But to truly appreciate this part of the world in all of its glory, you need to see it from above.

One of the ‘Fly and Dine’ experiences with Sydney Seaplanes is a four-hour adventure that starts in Rose Bay at the new Empire Lounge. Perched over the water and surrounded by glass, the lounge is a jaw-dropping location to enjoy a glass of bubbles before departing on an incredible flight over the harbour and up the coast.

Our six-seat DHC-2 Beaver Seaplane, Cambria, has good views wherever you sit. We glide across the water for several seconds before lifting off, swooping to take in views of Shark Island, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, not to mention ferries coming and going and dozens of sailboats making the most of a perfect autumn day. We couldn’t have asked for better weather and our pilot, Gareth, reminds us to keep an eye out for whales – migration season has just started, and there have already been sightings.

Lunch at Jonah's



Though I travel often for work, flying in a seaplane is a completely different experience to a commercial jet, and it absolutely blew me away. Being able to fly so low over familiar places in my own neighbourhood and seeing the coastline from above is truly inspiring – I could stay up in the air all day. I spot surfers, paddlers, people hiking … and I’m constantly on the lookout for whales and sharks.

We continue up the coast from Manly and then cut across at Mona Vale to fly over Pittwater, landing on the water at Palm Beach. Here, the lovely team from Jonah’s – part restaurant, part boutique hotel – collect us and take us on a five-minute drive to the top of the hill for a delicious four-course lunch with matching wines.

The view from the terrace is one of the best I have ever seen. From the perfectly manicured gardens of Jonah’s down to the sandy coast of Whale Beach, the 180-degree vista over the water is impressive to say the least. After an alfresco drink we move inside and enjoy a leisurely meal of fried zucchini flowers stuffed with prawns, tomato jam and goat’s curd followed by tagliatelle with Morton Bay bugs, and a Wagyu beef skirt steak with a portobello and beef cheek stuffing. For dessert, the chocolate and hazelnut gateau hits the spot. Throughout our meal, sommelier Luke Collard handpicks the perfect wines to suit each course. 

New Executive Chef Matteo Zamboni has recently launched his new four-course lunch menu featuring Italian-influenced dishes like black Angus beef battuta, linguine with ocean perch, bottarga and squid ink, wild caught fish served with broad beans, green peas and macadamia, and raspberry semifreddo for dessert. 

Our journey back to Rose Bay is just as beautiful as the one we experienced earlier in the day, with the addition of a loop around Barrenjoey Head and a great view of the lighthouse. Sydney is beautiful on the ground, and from the sky she is near perfect.

The Flight

Sydney Seaplanes has a number of ‘Fly and Dine’ packages on offer. The Deluxe Lunch at Jonah’s  package in Palm Beach takes guests on a four-hour return journey to and from Rose Bay. The flight times are approximately 20 minutes each way: the left side of the plane has the best views on the way there, and the right side has them on the way back. Rates start from A$670 per person including return seaplane flights and four-course lunch with matching wines. seaplanes.com.au

 

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