DES­TI­NA­TION ( DOL­LAR­WISE) AUS­TRALIA Thrills without frills

Barry Oliver sleuths a dozen good-value Syd­ney at­trac­tions

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

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.bret­twhite­

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.walk­ing­coastal­syd­

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.

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.­se­ums.

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.­na­parksyd­

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.pop­corn­

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.­

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.­house­ho­

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.

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.syd­ney­ob­ser­va­

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.syd­neycrick­

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.cap­tain­

www.vis­ 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

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