As I mentioned in an earlier post, the first Australian gondola operation I discovered was in Sydney.
They called it “Grande Gondola” and I found it while searching the internet; it was a very simple website that I found.
By the text and an artistic logo, I could tell that they truly were doing a “Venetian gondola thing” and not operating ski lifts or other things called by the name “gondola”.
I have to hand it to them, they were on the web early, which speaks well of their business savvy. With their website, they did something that guaranteed my fascination: they had no photos. Telling a gondola fanatic about a gondola service in a unique locale, but not showing him the boat…well, that’s just torture. Mind you, I’m not judging them for their lack of photos, back then if a website had photos, they had one, and usually a poor one at that.
As I investigated and eventually contacted the Sydney gondola operators, I learned a lot about gondolas in Oz. First of all, I was fascinated to hear about Peninsular Gondolas (I’ll go into detail about these great boats in a future post), and I was impressed with the level of quality and dedication these Aussie gondoliers were putting into their servizio. These days the company is known as “Sydney Gondolas”. When I was looking over their website I found yet another item to that piqued my curiosity: “Sydney Gondolas are proud of our alliance with the Tribal Warrior Association - an Aboriginal training organisation - who provide most of our Coxswains.” So I looked up the Tribal Warrior Association and learned from their website: “The Tribal Warrior Association was established by concerned Aboriginal people with a view to spread and vitalise Aboriginal culture, and to provide economic and social stability.” Now I’m from Southern California. Aboriginal people are just about the most exotic folk I can think of. I’m ready to get on a plane and fly 17 hours just to meet an Aboriginal Gondolier. Leave it to the Aussies to fascinate me with everything from their boats to the gondoliers who drive them.
Because the Sydney gondola is a Peninsular, she’s got a motor, concealed in the stern. I’m told it comes in handy with all the crazy ship traffic there, not to mention strong winds and big chop. The harbor there isn’t always smooth as glass but the gondola tends to stay in the more calm waters of Pyrmont, Rozelle and Glebe.
The folks at Sydney Gondolas offer some great catered cruises through Nick’s Seafood in Darling Harbour. Options range from a “pre-dinner”, to a “seafood feast”, to fresh desserts.
One of the more unique offerings I’ve seen in the gondola world is the “Harleys and gondolas” program going on at Sydney Gondolas. A one hour Harley ride followed by a cruise on the gondola – this would be a great way to see the area from a different point of reference (no tour-bus here).
I've seen a lot of photos of Sydney, and they always seem to be taken from the water, so if, scratch that, when I get to Australia, I want to see Sydney by gondola.