Eastern Suburbs, Sydney - Region Information
Sydney has two main roads running east out of the city which both meet eventually at Watsons Bay, just inside South Head at the entrance to Sydney Harbour. They form a loop which follows the harbour and then the ocean coastline, offering fine views which you can enjoy from your car.
They pass through many of Sydney's fashionable suburbs as well as major restaurant and entertainment areas. It is a good trip to do by car on a weekend when there is no commuter traffic. You can catch buses from the city, though a car gives you much more flexibility.
Some of Sydney's finest homes are in this area, which is much sought after for its harbour views. There are three major street directories to Sydney available from bookstores and big newsagencies.
At about $20, one is a worthwhile investment as there are streets which leave the main road and follow the headlands which do not appear on rental car maps. There are few historic sites of consequence, so treat is as a daytime drive with stops for coffee or lunch. The drive is full of photo opportunities from spectacular water views to street scenes and people shots.
The first road out of the city to the east starts as Park Street at Town Hall, becomes William Street at it cuts through the centre of Hyde Park, passes through Kings Cross and quickly turns into New South Head Road at the next suburb, Rushcutters Bay. It then continues through the Eastern Suburbs of Edgecliff, Double Bay, Rose Bay and Vaucluse to Watsons Bay.
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The second road starts at the south-east corner of Hyde Park as Oxford Street and runs through Darlinghurst, Paddington and Woollahra, bypassing to the south of Kings Cross, where it joins Syd Einfeld Drive to bypass Bondi Junction (major shopping area of no great appeal to visitors, though it does have some good restaurants and pubs) and connects to Old South Road at the next major intersection (veer left). It passes through Dover Heights to Watsons Bay.
The biggest patch of green in the city, Hyde Park starts at Queens Square (Hyde Park Barracks) and extends two city blocks to Liverpool Street. It is a pretty walk in daylight and a pleasant enough spot to sit on a bench and enjoy a sandwich at lunchtime. Being in the park at night is generally to be avoided.
Hyde Park's main attractions are the Archibald fountain at the Queens Square end and the Anzac Memorial at the Liverpool Street end.
Rushcutters Bay And Darling Point
Leaving Kings Cross you pass Rushcutters Bay Park.
A left turn (New Beach Road) will take you to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia which runs the annual Sydney-Hobart Yacht race, one of the world's blue-water classics. The race always starts on Boxing Day (December 26) on the harbour and is a fantastic spectacle as competing yachts fight to get a good run out to sea.
The club marina is usually crowded with the cream of ocean racers. The road runs past the CYC, as locals call it, to the up-market residences of Darling Point.
The next suburb of note is Double Bay, which has many of Sydney's exclusive fashion boutiques for men and women and real antique and art shops - no bric a brac or cheap copies here. The streetside bistro at the Cosmopolitan Hotel is a favourite place to be seen in, as are several chic restaurants.
There are a couple of large pubs which are popular meeting places. The Sheaf on New South Head Road has a large, casual outdoor eating area - through the hotel at the rear. Double Bay has some fine homes and a pretty harbourside park. It is home to many of Sydney's Jewish community and has a noticeably European style about it.
Point Piper And Rose Bay
Point Piper is one of Sydney's most exclusive residential suburbs. It is home to the city branch of the Royal Motor Yacht Club which overlooks Rose Bay and welcomes visitors.
Largely residential, Rose Bay is the base for a flying boat service which operates scenic flights to the Hawkesbury River at the extreme north of Sydney. It calls at a couple of restaurants in the Hawkesbury which cannot be reached other than by water. Using a high-wing aircraft seating about six, it is a spectacular flight. Add lunch and you have a real treat.
If you don't want to go that far, the Catalina restaurant on the waterfront in Lyne Park just left of the main road, is a modern Australian award winner with a pretty view over the harbour and tables inside and out. Rose Bay is also home to the exclusive Royal Sydney Gold Club to the right off the main road.
Walkers can enjoy the heritage Foreshore Scenic Walk which starts and Rose Bay and goes to Neilsen Park, which is also a very popular harbourside beach and picnic area 1.5 kilometres away. The area can be crowded on weekends, but the harbour view is great. You can drive to the park by turning left down Vaucluse Road beyond the Rose Bay shopping centre. Parking is difficult on sunny weekends, but it is well worth the effort, especially if you feel like a swim.
Vaucluse And Watson's Bay
An old, leafy residential suburb with fine homes and gardens, Vaucluse was named after Vaucluse House (Wentworth Road). Built in 1803 and set in 10 hectares of lawns and gardens, it is a prime example of a wealthy family's residence at the time. Open to the public Tuesday to Sundays 10am to 4.30pm (phone 9388 7922),Vaucluse House is occasionally used as a setting for music recitals during Sydney's long summer evenings.
Chosen for its sweeping harbour views, Vaucluse straddles the peninsula and overlooks the ocean as well. On the ocean side it is connected by a cliffside walking track to Watsons Bay.
It passes the South Head signal station built in 1848 to communicate with and control shipping about to enter Sydney Harbour.
The walk passes by The Gap, which was once notorious for the number of people who committed suicide by jumping off the cliff face some 100 metres (300 feet) to the rocks or the sea below. It was the site of many heroic recoveries of dead and injured people by the Police Rescue Squad.
The headland was also a graveyard for many ships in the early days of steam and sail which ran aground trying to reach the safety of the harbour during storms.
The walk ends at HMAS Watson, a naval reserve which occupies the headland and is 'off limits'. But there is access to Camp Cove, just inside South Head where Captain Arthur Phillip first stepped ashore in Sydney Harbour after sailing north from Botany Bay with the First Fleet.
The Doyle family dominates food at Watsons Bay, owning Doyle's on the Beach, a more casual restaurant on Watson Bay wharf where you can catch a ferry to Circular Quay (in summer to Manly), and the Watsons Bay Hotel between.
Doyle's was not much more than an old shop with tables on the esplanade along the beach in the 1960s where you waited in line clutching a bottle of wine. It is now licensed, seats hundreds, and has parking which is a scarce commodity. The wharf outlet is a bit more casual.
In between, the Watsons Bay Hotel has for years been a major draw for Sydney people happy to sit in the open air and queue for seafood and steak. All three have great views, and all three are packed on weekends when the sun shines. Cleverly, they cater for a range of budgets. A couple of minutes walk to the right from the wharf there is a two-storey Italian restaurant in a grand old house. The top floor has a verandah where you can dine al fresco.
A ferry service from Circular Quay (No.4 Wharf) operates daily to Double Bay, Rose Bay and Watsons Bay, ideal if you are staying in the city and do not want to drive and bother about parking - or watching how much wine you drink. The trip up the harbour is a treat in itself which will make you appreciate how beautiful Sydney can be from the water.
The weekend service from Circular Quay calls at Taronga Zoo, the weekday one - designed for commuters - calls at East Balmain, McMahons Point, MilsonsPoint, Cremorne Point and Darling Point on the way. That's a great harbour tour, even without commentary.
If you are driving or travelling by bus, you can choose to return the way you came or take Old South Head Road. Buses stop in the centre of Watson Bay village, which is about 5 minutes walk from the wharf, the restaurants, and the pub.
Driving back on Old South Head road is fairly uneventful until you reach Woollahra and Paddington. You can quite easily get to Bondi Beach from Watsons Bay by getting off the main road, but you will need a directory which show you which streets run closest to the coastline.