Almost every place that we visit near the sea, I look for a maritime museum. In Sydney, we visited the Australian National Maritime Museum and I was not disappointed. This museum has real ships, exhibits on a multitude of subjects and beautiful nautical models, paintings and instruments. In June 1985, the Australian government announced the establishment of a national museum focusing on Australia’s maritime history and the nation’s ongoing involvement and dependence on the sea. Proposals for the creation of such a museum had been under consideration over the preceding years. After consideration of the idea to establish a maritime museum, the Federal government announced that a national maritime museum would be constructed at Darling Harbour, tied into the New South Wales State government’s redevelopment of the area for the Australian bicentenary.
As part of the Sydney Maritime Museum, they have a replica of the HMS Endeavour which was the British Royal Navy research vessel that Lieutenant James Cook commanded on his first voyage of discovery, to Australia and New Zealand, from 1769 to 1771. The idea of recreating Endeavour for use as a museum ship was generated during the establishment of the Australian National Maritime Museum in the 1980s. A specialist shipyard, complete with viewing platform and guided tours for the public was set up, and construction of the vessel commenced in 1983. Due to financial problems the building had to stop but was finally completed by a private foundation. The Endeavour replica was launched at the end of 1993, and completed in 1994. After sea trials, the replica sailed from Fremantle to Sydney, where she arrived at the end of 1994. During 1995, the ship recreated Cook’s voyage along eastern Australia, then visited New Zealand at the end of the year. In late 1996, the Endeavour replica set out on a circumnavigation of the world, visiting ports in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and North America, before returning to New Zealand in late 1999. During 2011 and 2012, the replica circumnavigated Australia.
Since our hotel was on the west side of Darling Harbor, we really enjoyed hanging out in the many attractions and restaurants located there. Darling Harbor is named after Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling, who was Governor of New South Wales from 1825 to 1831. In 1984 the premier of NSW, Neville Wran, announced the Government’s decision to redevelop Darling Harbor and “return it to the people of Sydney” in time for Australia’s 1988 bicentennial celebrations. In 2000, Darling Harbour hosted five sports during the Olympic Games and construction of the King Street Wharf was completed. In 2009, Darling Harbour celebrated its 21st anniversary with a year of activities including a multicultural birthday festival and the publication of a commemorative book, A History of Sydney’s Darling Harbour. Today it is a large recreational and pedestrian precinct that is situated on western outskirts of the Sydney central business district. Since we live in the desert, we don’t usually think of ferries as a way to get around but in Sydney, they are most often the quickest way to get places. There are ferry wharves including Darling Harbour and Pyrmont Bay which provide access to the Inner Harbor ferry services, which runs services to Circular Quay and other suburbs.
When we were in Sydney I wanted to take Lisa for a nice birthday dinner and the hotel suggested the O Bar. Previously known as The Summit restaurant, O Bar and Dining has a revolving floor which captures a 360 degree view across Sydney as well as two bar areas – one which forms part of the building’s stationary center floor and the other which makes up part of the revolving outer section of the restaurant. It sits forty-seven floors above Sydney, in Australia Square Tower, which was built in 1967. O Bar may be Sydney’s loftiest landmark, but still manages to retain some neighborhood warmth. The food is based on chef/owner Michael Moore’s healthy eating philosophy from his best-selling book Blood Sugar. Moore still owns it, but he recently made the move of installing fellow Englishman Darren Templeman to run the kitchen as executive chef. His is a great “High Anglican” cooking of the sort you find in Michelin restaurants in London and around the world, French-influenced but not dominated.
Finding the right hotel can be a tricky business. What seems great for one person/couple may be completely unsuitable for someone else. In general terms hotels can be separated into purpose built American style hotels and renovated older buildings like those often found in Europe. American style hotels usually have much larger lobbies, rooms and other amenities while Europeans are more comfortable with much smaller rooms, beds and actually spend much of their time in the more intimate lobbies. I have come to prefer European style boutique hotels, the smaller rooms don’t affect us since we really just sleep there (although we do appreciate a good bathroom), the more intimate lobbies usually have other guests giving us a chance to socialize, the staff is usually more friendly and surprisingly internet and computer use are almost allways free. My other personal needs are a restaurant preferably with room service, a bar and we both prefer a hotel in a quiet location near but not directly in an area with popular bars/restaurants and attractions. The 1888 Hotel was a referral from a friend and met every requirement and more, we loved this little “home away from home” and we loved the affordability even more.