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As I sat shotgun in a five-passenger seaplane in Sydney Harbor, with a bank of cockpit gauges and a view of windswept Rose Bay before me, the initial moments of my first-ever water takeoff felt a lot like bouncing down a backcountry dirt road in a four-wheel-drive jeep.
The ride improved a great deal when the little aircraft finally ascended from the undulating surface of the bay, climbing smoothly over a gathering of sailboats and waterfront homes along the eastern edge of Sydney Harbour. Before long, I was scrambling to capture shots of the destination’s stunning east coast beaches with a digital camera that just wouldn’t take pictures fast enough.
“For me, touring Sydney from the air is simply the best way to see the city,” said Yvonne Hoelzel, the marketing executive for Sydney Seaplanes. “And it gives visitors a terrific understanding of where all the highlights are situated.”
My 30-minute Sydney Secrets flight traveled north along the spectacular Tasman Sea coastline to photogenic Palm Beach and the mouth of Hawkesbury River. We then returned south again for a climatic look at the Sydney Harbour Bridge and its iconic neighbor, the Sydney Opera House.
“Sydney and the region it sits in, New South Wales, is about as beautiful an area as anywhere on the planet,” said Kirk Demeter, president of Down Under Answers, a Seattle-based wholesaler that works regularly with Sydney Seaplanes. “When you’re able to take off out of the harbor and fly right over the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, it’s like nothing you’ll ever see again. Visually it’s just amazing.”
Sydney Seaplanes offers a great deal more than just the chance to enjoy the region’s iconic urban highlights from the air. The activity company features a range of products, including trips that fly up the coast and land near the Hawkesubry River for a meal at a first-rate regional restaurant or even a romantic picnic on a secluded beach. Clients can also fly up the coast and stay overnight at a selection of small hotels and inns.
According to Ian Swain, co-founder and president of Philadelphia wholesaler Swain Destinations, hopping on a seaplane to travel a short distance outside of Sydney for a day with friends has long been popular among residents.
“We’re trying to come up with out-of-the-ordinary things so that visitors can experience Australia the way Aussies do, and the seaplane is a big local tradition,” Swain said, noting that his company has worked with Sydney Seaplanes for years. “For people to jump on that plane and go up to Cottage Point, take a three- to four-hour lunch, have some Aussie wines and then fly back is an incredible experience.”
Commissionable to agents, Sydney Seaplane products start at $200 per person.