There’s something very evocative about flying boats and sea planes. I have been fascinated by them since I visited the Flying Boat Museum in Foynes, Co. Limerick which recalls the nostalgic era from 1937 to 1945 where Foynes, on the Shannon estuary on the western coast of Ireland, briefly became the centre of the aviation world. That delightful museum is housed in the original terminal building of Foynes airport and features a full size replica of the B314 flying boat which transported the first adventurous transatlantic passengers. If you get a chance pay it a visit.
Rose Bay in Sydney Harbour was also pivotal in the aviation world in that era when a first class mail service was delivered to the “colonies” by flying boat. It still holds its airport licence and is now the home of Sydney Seaplanes.
As we have too little time for side-trips outside Sydney on this short visit to Australia, it was Claire who suggested we take a once-in-a lifetime trip and fly to lunch at Cottage Point Inn on the Hawkesbury River in the heart of the National Park north of Sydney.
Our plane for the day was a “Cambria” VH-NOO DHC-2 Beaver named after a classic Empire Flying Boat. de Havilland in Canada started producing these single-engine monoplanes after World War II and their construction was placed in the top 10 most influential Canadian developments in history.
Our pilot Andy, who was born in Alaska and lived in Oregon most of his life, explained that the one we were travelling in was built in 1961 and has been used in the Bolivian airforce and as a crop-duster among other things before becoming part of the Sydney Seaplanes fleet. These hard-working planes go on and on and are completely manual in operation.
At 11.30 am six of us passengers set off with Andy, sweeping over the glorious beaches and pristine seas north of Sydney and in over the bush to land at Cottage Point Inn.
There we had a relaxed lunch of delicious fresh food made with local ingredients. Subtle Asian influences were obvious in the menu which included Rangers Valley Beef Tartare with Quail Egg Yolk and Pan Seared Scallops with Fluid Almond Gel as starters and Steamed Barramundi Fillet and Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon as mains. Denmark Riesling from Western Australia was a good choice to accompany the meal – bone dry but with lots of floral notes – at least that’s how the owner described it. 🙂
A highlight of a meal of highlights was the plum soufflé served at the end of the long and leisurely meal.
At 3 pm we left the peaceful river side and flew back to Rose Bay in a long sweeping arc over Sydney Harbour. This truly must be one of the most beautiful harbours in the world and the most special way to see it. You begin to appreciate the expanse of water, the beaches stretching away north and south, the bush lands never far away from the modern city centre and the way in which the plain on which the city sits nestles in the arms of the Blue Mountains. And then of course there is the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, both beautiful from any perspective but especially from a low-flying aircraft.
Verdict: This was a special trip and definitely a once-in-a lifetime experience, both because it is very expensive and because the memories of that unique perspective on Sydney and its environs are powerful enough to last a life time. Lunch is included in the price but drinks are not and they are pricey at $15 for a glass of wine. It would be nice to have a little time to explore the immediate area around the Inn but the leisurely lunch service did not allow for that.
All, in all a great day out and worth saving up for if you are ever planning a holiday Sydney.
I’m not surprised that Sydney Seaplanes won the 2009 Australian Tourism Award for best Tour/ Transport Operator.
For a much larger selections of photos from the day see the gallery below.
Thank you Andy and Sydney Seaplanes.
Sydney Seaplanes – www.sydneyseaplanes.com.au