DESTINATION ( DOLLARWISE) AUSTRALIA Thrills without frills
Barry Oliver sleuths a dozen good-value Sydney attractions
UICK on the draw: For an insight into the life of artist Brett Whiteley (1939-92) visit his former Sydney home and studio, now an art museum. The artist bought the former warehouse in 1985 and converted it into a studio and exhibition space, living there from 1988 until the year he died.
The studio, at 2 Raper St, Surry Hills, is much as it was when he worked there, with unfinished paintings, art equipment, reference books and a graffiti wall covered with quotes and images. The living area contains memorabilia such as photographs, postcards, sketchbooks and the artist’s music collection. The gallery runs regular exhibitions of Whiteley’s work and there are two-hour drawing classes on Saturdays. Open weekends, 10am to 4pm, admission free; guided tours by request. www.brettwhiteley.org.
Step out: Sydney’s 100km Great Coastal Walk, from Barrenjoey to the Royal National Park, is a seven-day affair that can be broken down into a series of one-day excursions, each of about 12km. It also can be tackled in either direction: south from Palm Beach or north from Cronulla. Prepare for eye-popping scenery plus some ideal spots for a cooling swim. Manly to Spit Bridge is a typical hike with some sweeping views; allow a half day and finish with fish and chips at the Spit. www.walkingcoastalsydney.com.au.
Just the ticket: On Tuesday nights, it’s pay-whatyou-can at Belvoir’s downstairs theatre B Sharp. Show tickets cannot be booked in advance but are available one hour before the performance. Minimum price is $10 with a maximum of two a person. Belvoir also has a Student Rush offer on Tuesdays at 6.30pm and Saturdays at 2pm with tickets for $25; available from 10am on the day. The latest B Sharp play is Ladybird by Small Things Productions, until April 12. www.belvoir.com.au.
Crime time: Delve into Sydney’s murky past at Circular Quay’s Justice and Police Museum, which features a magistrates’ court, police charge room and remand cells. Come face to face with scary mugshots of the city’s early criminals and check out the lethal weapons they were caught carrying. Learn about notorious crimes such as the pyjama girl case or the history of forensics. The museum’s latest exhibition, Femme Fatale, tells the stories of some of Sydney’s most notorious female felons. Entry, $8; concessions, $4. www.hht.net.au/museums.
Fun of the fair: Harbourside attraction Luna Park, with its striking laughing clown face at the entrance, has had a chequered history since its 1935 launch at Milsons Point in North Sydney, but it’s still going strong. Entry is free and $10 will get you into its most popular attraction, Coney Island, the park’s so-called fun house that dates back to the early days. Old-fashioned delights include wooden slides, a talking palmist, moving floors and the spinning joy wheel (last one remaining wins). There are crazy mirrors as well as postcard-humour artwork by Arthur Barton, artist-in-residence from 1935 to 1970.
Or $20 buys a Go Easy Pass for unlimited rides on the carousel, Ferris wheel — great harbour views from on high — and entry to Coney Island. Visitors can just wander around and soak up the atmosphere and magnificent watery backdrop if they prefer. www.lunaparksydney.com.
Screen scene: Popcorn Taxi, founded in 1999 by independent filmmakers Gary Doust and Matt Wheeldon, is a regular in-depth gathering, usually held at Greater Union Bondi Junction, where filmmakers and enthusiasts meet, watch movies and discuss the process. What makes this different is that the focus is on filmmaking, not show-biz gossip. George Miller, Dennis Hopper, Baz Luhrmann, Gillian Armstrong and Wim Wenders are among previous guests. From $15. www.popcorntaxi.com.au.
Picture this: The Art Gallery of NSW has extended opening hours on Wednesdays (until 9pm) with free events such as films, talks and performances, and food and wine accompanying the exhibitions. This Wednesday, for instance, artist Tim Johnson discusses the gallery’s latest exhibition of his work (to May 17) and ABC presenter Fenella Kernebone talks with Archibald Prize artists. There will also be a screening of the movie SamaritanGirl . A free bus service runs from the gallery to Martin Place every 15 minutes from 7.15pm until after the last film. www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au.
Class act: Discover your artistic side with a $3 life drawing class at the ArtHouse Hotel in Sydney’s Pitt Street. Classes, which started in 2001, run Mondays from 6pm to 8.30pm on the Dome level. Over 18s only and BYO drawing equipment. $6 drinks special from 5pm. www.arthousehotel.com.au.
Happy days: Take a trip back to the 1950s at Blacktown’s twin-screen drive-in cinema, where a ticket for a double feature is $16. Drive-ins came to Australia in 1955 but just two remain in NSW. It may be oldfashioned but the movies are the latest releases; hotdogs, popcorn and hamburgers continue to be de rigueur. www.greaterunion.com.au.
See stars: Cast an eye over the heavens during Sydney Observatory’s night tours. Two-hour visits are led by an experienced astronomer and include a short talk on the observatory, which dates to 1848, films or videos, a 3-D space theatre and viewing through a stateof-the-art 40cm mirror telescope. Tours run seven days a week throughout the year, regardless of weather. Adults, $15; children, $10. Day admission is free but tours are extra. (02) 9921 3485; www.sydneyobservatory.com.au.
Pitch perfect: Go into bat at the Sydney Cricket Ground — SCG to those in the know — with a behindthe-scenes tour. See the dressing-rooms where batsmen and bowlers prepare for the big games, run down the players’ tunnel, soak up the view from a private suite and experience the tradition of the Members’ Pavilion. Visitors can explore the museum and learn about its friendly ghosts and check out the 47 champions featured in the walk of honour. Tours, which run daily, except public holidays, are $25. www.sydneycricketground.com.au.
Island escape: Have a picnic on Sydney Harbour’s picturesque Shark Island. The bargain price of $17 buys a return ferry ticket — $15 for children (five to 15) — from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay (including national park entry). With large grassy areas, shade trees, gazebo for 30, picnic tables and benches, it’s a great spot to take in the buzzy harbour traffic while enjoying a leisurely lunch. Ferries leave every 45 minutes. Be warned, there is no shop and the gazebo can’t be booked: it’s available on a first-come, firstserved basis. www.captaincook.com.au.
www.visitnsw.com This is the second in a series of features on bestvalue options in popular Australian destinations.
Bargain buy: A $17 ferry ticket buys a trip to Shark Island; with its dress circle position on Sydney Harbour, it’s a perfect spot for a picnic while soaking up the views
Pitch perfect: Take a tour at the SCG
Art show: Brett Whiteley’s studio in Surry Hills