Destination: Sydney

Destination: Sydney

Airports: London Heathrow into Sydney International Airport via Singapore Changi Airport

Flight Duration: 13 hours + 8 hours

Country: Australia

Language: English

Currency: Australian Dollar

Climate: Mild winters and hot summers

This summer, the In2 team headed down under to deliver a summit event for 200 delegates who travelled into the stunning city of Sydney from across Australia and New Zealand. Of course, we couldn’t travel halfway across the world and not take some time to explore and feedback on what makes this destination so exciting as a location for conferences and events.

G’day Sydney

Okay, so you can’t get away from the fact that travelling to Oz is long-haul, but when you touch down and take your first breath of Australian air, the fact that you’ve been in transit for 27 hours quickly fades from your mind.

Arriving in Sydney, we weren’t disappointed to find that winter in this part of the world meant temperatures of 20 degrees and blue skies – essentially their ‘winter’ is our British summer and we certainly weren’t complaining.

Getting To Know The City

Jumping straight in, we shook off the jet lag and got straight to work with site visits to InterContinental Sydney, The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia and Pier One.

InterContinental Sydney

First off, we went to take a look around the InterContinental Sydney, a fantastic venue right in the middle of Sydney’s picturesque Circular Quay. The historical building is architecturally beautiful, and has a heritage spanning back to 1851, where it was once the Treasury. Now, wonderfully restored, the developed site has 509 bedrooms, including 28 suites and 15 event spaces that are elegant, yet highly functional.

The James Cook ballroom is the hotel’s largest event room and can seat up to 350 delegates in theatre style, with many other setups available to suit a variety of event formats. We were really impressed at the capacity the hotel had, and would recommend it to clients looking for a venue that could facilitate multi-faceted programmes, requiring separate spaces for a main plenary session, exhibitions, breakouts, display areas, registrations and catering. We also loved the private balcony adjacent to the Fort Macquarie Lobby that overlooks the Royal Botanic Gardens – a serene place that would be ideal for delegates to recharge and revitalise.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia

Next, just 3 kilometres east of Sydney, we ventured to Rushcutters Bay, which is situated harbourside and is an area that’s great for water-based activities including yachting. We headed to check out The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, a premier yacht club and, as we soon discovered, a fantastic location for delegates to come together, pre or post event, to enjoy a private lunch and participate in some fun yachting action in the idyllic Sydney Harbour. In our opinion, incorporating elements like this, can really add a VIP component into an event programme and it’s a unique way to give delegates a different perspective of the impressive city skyline.

After our visit to the yacht club, we took a stroll around Rushcutters Bay and found that there’s an abundance of restaurants, offering a selection of cuisine and all boasting unbeatable harbour views, which would be great for lunches and dinners for event groups.

Pier One Autograph Collection by Marriott

There’re so many fantastic vantage points to take in the spectacular and iconic views of Sydney Harbour. However, one spot we found, situated right at the base of Harbour Bridge, would be pretty tough to beat. Pier One Autograph Collection by Marriott, built on and over the water, perfectly frames the breath-taking harbour sights.

During our visit, we were shown the hotel’s outdoor Bridge Marquee, which is available for private hire and offers space for up to 200 delegates to take in the eclectic scenery and sounds of the harbour; it was easy to see how this setup could be utilised as a really cool and standout option for a large networking reception. With a further 9 great event areas inside, Pier One is certainly a venue that offers scope for events of up to 1,500 delegates.

Before we left, we were also lucky enough to get to enjoy a drink in one of the hotel’s igloos – picture a large pod framework, covered in a transparent canvass – which had been constructed and strategically placed out on the decking looking over the water – an absolutely incredible way to see in an Aussie winter sunset.

Time To Be Tourists

No trip to Sydney would be complete without a closer look at the Sydney Opera House; it was just awe-inspiring, and it felt almost surreal to be standing there in front of it. After soaking it all in, we grabbed some food from the nearby Opera Café and sat to appreciate our incredible surroundings some more. Here’s a little word to the wise though: when eating alfresco, beware of the seagulls who are persistent in trying to nab food from tourists and locals alike. Even with a seagull patrol dog (no we aren’t making it up), the pesky birds still nearly managed to carry out a well-timed fly-by and steal our fries.

A Weekend In Hunter Valley

Getting There

Before we knew it, it was the weekend and we were excited to explore this amazing country more. Hiring a car, we headed out of the city and took a 3-hour road trip to Hunter Valley Wine Country. The drive was mesmerising as we wound our way through the impressive mountains and national parks of New South Wales. Then it happened: our first spotting of a wild kangaroo. It was fantastic to see them in their natural habitat, although the novelty was short-lived, as we quickly realised that they are absolutely everywhere in the lowland areas. As we continued our journey, the astounding scenery filtered in through the windows and provided all the entertainment we needed – no pictures or TV documentaries could ever do these landscapes justice.

Authentic Oz

Our home for the weekend was Cessnock. Cessnock, named after Cessnock Castle in Scotland, is an energetic country town, which offered a wonderfully authentic feel. With historical buildings lining one of Australia’s longest main streets, the place had a great vibe, which was instantly welcoming, intriguing and a hive of activity – the perfect base for our weekend adventure.

Raising A Glass

On Saturday, Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tours took us on a superb 6-hour wine tour and scenic road trip through the most gorgeous Hunter Valley vineyards. En route we stopped at three vineyards (Lambloch Estate, Tempus Two, Hermitage Road Cellars), sampled some tasty olive oils and balsamics at Myanbah Farm and, without much temptation, we tried the chocolate at the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company in Hunter Valley Gardens. This kind of day trip would be a brilliant exclusive outing for smaller groups and would provide an opportunity for guests to experience the true beauty of the Hunter Valley wine region.

Saddling Up

Following a lovely day of wine tasting and travelling around in a minibus, we were ready to saddle up for a horseback experience with Hunter Valley Horse Riding and Adventures. The trek of the Molly Morgan Range was fantastically rustic, and we felt like we were on the set of a Western movie with the sun beating down and not a cloud in the sky.

Using horses as our mode of transport gave us the chance to explore the hidden aspects of the Hunter Valley; our 90-minute tour of the local grassland hills, led by two lovely and informative guides was a great way to learn all about the land around us and to get up close to the local wildlife – cue appearances from more kangaroos, wallabies and eagles soaring overhead.

Overall the Hunter Valley didn’t disappoint: the magnificent countryside views, the rolling mountains and azure lakes all provided an extraordinary and unforgettable backdrop to our short trip. The people we met here were incredibly hospitable too, and we just fell in love with the pace and way of life in this part of the world.

In Sydney, Everything Is Possible

We loved Sydney as a conference and event destination. There are a range of venues to choose from, whether you want a 5* hotel, a large conference centre or a smaller, more intimate event space.

The location is, in a word, awesome. There’s plenty for delegates to see or do if they have free time and there are lots of great restaurants and locations for dinners or receptions, such as Café Sydney -who serve the most delicious oysters with remarkable views over Circular Quay – and Pony Dining The Rocks which, sitting on the vibrant and historic corner of Argyle Street and Kendall Lane, specialises in modern Australian gastronomy; in fact this was where we had our first taste of kangaroo and we have to say it was very tasty.

The city is also a great base to explore from; you can head off into the outback relatively quickly, or stay closer and take a short drive to Bondi, which provides further dinner locations like the iconic Icebergs Dining Room and Bar at Bondi Beach. There’s also the option of hopping on a water taxi to Manly Beach or Taronga Zoo. And, as if that wasn’t enough, you can also book once-in-a-life-time whale watching excursions through one of the many tour companies that operate out of the harbour.

In Sydney, everything is possible, and we cannot wait to go back.