I have to say, as I traveled down the east coast of Sydney, Australia, this summer, I was disappointed to learn that “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way” did not exist. However, I was glad to learn that at least the East Australian Current was real, although I voyaged by plane and car to get to Australia, rather than floating along the EAC with 200-year-old sea turtles.
Though my image of the highway to Sydney (which may have been somewhat limited to clips from “Finding Nemo”) was shattered, a new one formed and took its place in my mind. The fictitious Wallaby Way was succeeded by the Western Distributor. Cutting a vague “J” from western to northern Sydney, I learned that this multi-lane freeway passes some of the most popular parts of the largest city in Australia, for food and for friends.The Western Distributor starts at the sleek, modern cable-stayed Anzac Bridge and passes by the Sydney Fish Market, self-proclaimed “Australia’s Home of Seafood,” the largest fish market in the southern hemisphere. The air is thick with pelicans and seagulls, mixed with the smell of fried food, saltwater, and fish. Shops along the street display the catch of the day on ice and in tanks, selling a colorful variety of seafood in bulk, from fish, shrimp, and abalone to spanner crabs, slipper lobsters, and Moreton Bay bugs.
The trays in each of the different stalls are layered high with seafood prepared in every way imaginable. You can find an impressive range of marine species deep fried and served with tartar sauce, lemon wedges, or wasabi mayonnaise: grilled octopus skewers, seafood nachos, elaborate sushi rolls, generous portions of sashimi, fresh calamari, intricate seafood platters, fillets steamed with soy sauce, and thoroughly fried seafood, often with cheese, garlic, and butter.
The seating areas in the market provide a comfortable space to enjoy your meal, should you choose to have it fresh while chatting with friends (but if you choose to sit outside on the water, watch out for the hungry seagulls swooping down on your food!). Also watch out for demolition crews; the current markets will soon be cleared, as a new quarter-million-dollar state-of-the-art facility is set to be complete by late 2020.
Past the smell of fried food and fish thins, the road runs just south of Darling Harbour, another fantastic place not only for cuisine, but also for fun outings with friends. On this road you can find the Sydney Wildlife Zoo and the Sydney Aquarium, both recently revamped, which display hundreds of species, many of which are found solely in Australia.
One thing I did learn from my Disney childhood that remained true: It is hard not to like the ocean while in Sydney. Not surprisingly, the Western Distributor will take you directly up on Observatory Hill, which has evolved since the early 19th century from an astronomical observatory to a museum. It offers breathtaking views of the harbor during the day and stellar views of the stars and planets at night, holding both a modern telescope and the oldest working telescope in Australia.
The Western Distributor rises above the city as it ends at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This impressive granite and steel colossus looms across the surprisingly clear, blue harbor waters. While there is a company that can take you to climb the bridge arch, walking across the nearly mile-long pedestrian walkway hundreds of feet above the water proved to be a more immersive experience for me. From the bridge, one has a magnificent view of the grand white sails of another staple symbol of Australia: the Sydney Opera House.
While the Western Distributor is a great road for friends and for food, it doesn’t simply take you to each of Sydney’s tourist attractions. From the most modern elements of the city, to old structures under construction and the roots of the city’s historical heritage, the freeway dives into the spectrum of how the past coexists with the present within a complex, growing city and country. Across its 2.4 miles, the Western Distributor distributes not only traffic, but also history.