Destination Sydney: Catching a seaplane to an oyster farm on the Hawkesbury River

Jumping into a seaplane at Rose Bay in Sydney was a particularly fitting way to celebrate the opening of the trans-Tasman travel bubble as it was in there the two countries were first connected by air.

On April 30, 1940, an aircraft named 'Aotearoa' operated by TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited) flew from Auckland's Waitemata Harbour to Sydney. Times have certainly changed, but seaplanes are still a key part of the Rose Bay community.

A seaplane called 'New Zealand' arrives at Rose Bay.
A seaplane called 'New Zealand' arrives at Rose Bay. Photo credit: Getty

I was part of a group spending a weekend in New South Wales and on Saturday morning we boarded our flight at Sydney Seaplanes headed for lunch at Broken Bay Pearls on the Hawkesbury River.

After a brief circling of Sydney's CBD, we flew north above Manly and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park before landing in the waters around Spectacle Island.

Seaplanes as they are in 2021.
Seaplanes as they are in 2021. Photo credit: Newshub

When we arrived at Broken Bay Pearls, we were taken on a tour of the pearl farms, which are located in the waters around Mooney Mooney, an area which just weeks ago was under metres of water due to a flooding disaster.

Only a handful of tree branches floating in the water remained as a reminder of the event which sent houses and sheds floating down the river just last month.

To be honest, I really didn't know much about pearls before this trip. But as we were shown the various oyster nets, we learned everything about the five virtues of a pearl: size, shape, lustre, complexion and colour.

Then and now.
Then and now. Photo credit: Getty/Newshub

If you are a fan of pearls, you do get up close and personal with quite a few, some of which are worth tens of thousands of dollars. You are locked in a highly secure, double layered security room at the time though.

The team at Sydney Seaplanes Cafe had packed a picnic lunch for us, which is part of many of their flight experiences. It included a bottle of bubbly, which was another lovely way to celebrate my first trip abroad since the COVID-19 pandemic halted international travel.

Destination Sydney: Catching a seaplane to an oyster farm on the Hawkesbury River
Photo credit: Newshub

Our flight back to Rose Bay was in a different aircraft, this one slightly smaller and a lot louder. 

Taking off on the water is a very weird experience - it's hard to tell when we'd actually lifted off. The same can't be said for landing. 

The short space of water available for landing at Rose Bay means the descent is quite steep, and for a period all we could see in front of us was the surface of the water, which was a little alarming. But within a couple of seconds we were sliding through the water and slowly making our way past the handful of yachts and boats which were also out on the water.

A flight above Sydney Harbour was the ideal way to begin a weekend of adventure.
A flight above Sydney Harbour was the ideal way to begin a weekend of adventure. Photo credit: Newshub

A seaplane ride over Sydney Harbour is an ideal way to take the area in, from the stunning amount of beaches to the iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

We didn't have time to stick around in Rose Bay, but if we had, it would have been a stunning place to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. As well as the bay itself, there's a large park right next to the seaplane base.

My visit to Rose Bay may have been 91 years after Kiwis first landed there, but as the first flight kicked off an exciting period in our aviation history, this seaplane flight did the same thing for a weekend of adventure in New South Wales.

Dan travelled to Sydney as a guest of Destination NSW.