What’s the best thing about Sydney? Hmm… it’s a tricky question for sure. Whilst the Bridge and Opera House are up there, I think the magic of the city is harboured somewhere between the two.

For me it’s the sea that makes Sydney special. And with whale watching season underway the ocean should not be ignored during these chilly months. No siree. After a manic long weekend filled with well… not enough water, it was the perfect time to jump on board a whale watching trip and clear the head with some sea air.

The gentle hum of the engine and complimentary tea and biscuits were enough to keep me happy for the time we spent hunting down the whales. Our resident whale expert told us about the humpback whales we were looking for – they were big (40-50 feet), had a unique marking on the underside of their tail and really liked beans on toast.

I was listening… it was just hard to fully concentrate when your eyes are busy turning waves into whales and back into waves again. I needed a better view so I climbed up to the top deck to see if I could be the first to see a whale. “Over there, over there!” Some hussy had beaten me to it.

At 11 o’clock (the radar you use when you spy a hot person, not the actual time) was our first whale. And although we were whale watching, actually seeing a whale came as something of a surprise. Their size and beauty makes them seem like a fictional character who should be chilling out with the Little Mermaid rather than swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

A few minutes later and the sea was bubbling with a salubrious number of whales. Whilst most of them were migrating north (to the warm waters of Hervey Bay) in an orderly fashion, there were a few who were going mental and totally flipping out about the trip.

The energy of these whales reminded me of watching gymnasts at the Olympic Games, but instead of hand-springs, the whales had their own routines. One whale breached, followed up with a head lunge and finished the act with a tale flap. Wowser!

After such a display I wanted to hold up a scoring card to show my appreciation, but I didn’t… because I didn’t have one and it would have been weird. For those of you not down with whale lingo, a breach is when the whale lifts over two thirds of its body out of the water – it is a spectacular sight and something it manages with just two simple flicks of its tail.

Whilst finding whales was not difficult, what proved tricky was catching the rascals on camera. After taking 20,001 photos I was convinced I hadn’t shot anything but blue water. For such big lummoxes, they can sure move fast. It didn’t help that when I was finally gifted the perfect shot I took the photo with the lense cap on. What a doof.

In the end I decided to retire from my photography pursuits early (my hand had started to hurt) and headed down for some more biscuits and tea. Sitting in the warmth of the deck below I watched whales no more than 20 metres away continue their lively display. They knew we were watching them but thankfully they’d decided we were worth a bit of a flirt.

The damage & details: Whales migrate up and down Australia’s east coast from late May to early November. Trips are available with Whale Watching Sydney (www.whalewatchingsydney.net) (if you don’t see a whale you can keep coming back till youdo)

Skywalker: We sent Andrew “Jedi master” Westbrook to walk Sydney’s sky

“If anybody is nervous, they should tell me now,” suggests our trusty guide while lurking on the warm side of the door, 260 metres above street level.

We’re preparing to step on to the walkway that circles the top of Sydney Tower, the city’s highest point.

The question, we’re told, is to prevent a recurrence of a recent situation in which a woman got so scared at being strapped to the outside of a building twice the height of the Harbour Bridge, she froze.

It took an hour to talk her down, as she repeatedly demanded to be rescued by helicopter. Seems fair enough.

No such worries for us though. We’re good to go, ready to follow in Luke and Anakin’s footsteps and become the latest Skywalkers. Just time for final checks.

Sexy, star-spangled jumpsuit? Check. Safety wire and harness? Check. Lightsaber? No. They’re not needed on this Skywalk I’m assured. I’m sceptical, but have to take their word for it.

So I’m busy pondering Jedi mind tricks when the gate suddenly opens, the wind rushes in and all of Sydney is below us.

The view is truly spectacular, with everything from Bondi Junction to the Blue Mountains in sight.

We are literally on top of the city, clinging to the top of a tower supported by so many cables that, if unwound, would stretch to Auckland and beyond.

While a resident falcon nestles in an alcove above us, we start the 40-minute 360° walk around the tower.

Icy winds do their best to topple us as we lean out over the edge and look straight down on the pavement below, confident that we’re securely attached.

We let off blood-curdling screams and hear them bounce around the streets.

A highlight is creeping on to one of the two glass-floored viewing platforms, looking down a quarter of a kilometre between our feet, and then manically jumping up and down to make the platform shake disconcertingly, before heading back inside and back down to reality.

The damage & details: www.sydneytower.com.au

Waterworld: Mary van der Honing flipped out in the Aquarium

We’d be prepared to stake the TNT editor’s life on the fact you have either already been to the Barrier Reef, or are intending to. But you don’t need to head all the way to Cairns to get a taste of the reefy delights, because they’re here in all their colourful glory at Sydney Aquarium.

The aquarium ranks as one of the best in the world, and don’t make the mistake of thinking the representatives of the Barrier Reef are all you’ll find swimming around here. Australia has an incredibly rich marine ecosystem and all of it is celebrated here. Its not all about the fish either, because as you wander around you’ll encounter platypi, frogs, incredibly cute fairy penguins, a not so cute saltwater croc and seals.

The seal display is highly recommended as is the underwater tunnel system used to view the scarily extensive shark collection.

The damage & details: www.sydneyaquarium.com.au

Shark! Amy Richardson went diving with grey nurse sharks

I love aquariums, they’re fantastic to walk around, so why not just leave it there?

The recklessness of my decision to dive with sharks is reinforced as we enter Oceanworld Manly and our lovely instructor Katie explains the sharks are in fact 20 per cent larger than they seem through the thick reinforced glass. Brilliant!

The tank contains several grey nurse sharks, which I’m assured are harmless. They come in L, XL, and XXL – the biggest a terrifying 3.7m long. There’s a couple of ornate wobbegongs (whatever the hell they are) and some manta rays – the largest of which would spill over the sides of a queen-size bed.

We watch the safety video (with helpful Jaws soundtrack – how reassuring) and run through the dive signals (paying particular attention to the “get me the hell out of here” signal). After a quick session in the practice pool, we head through into the tank.

Everything goes dark and people start pointing frantically above my head, I look upwards with some trepidation to see the underside of a gigantic manta ray. My eyes nearly pop out. This is very surreal.

I’m tingling with excitement and wonder, when suddenly a very fast, very knobbly orange thing whizzes past me, far too close for comfort.

I’m momentarily stunned, until I realize it must be Brutus, the over-friendly wobbegong Katie warned us about. Then I see it. A massive bloody shark. There’s nothing between it and me, except a bit of water. I’m not sure I’m happy about this.

Regaining my composure I look up to see Katie grinning wickedly and pointing at my bulging eyes. As we pose for photos I realise that although I’m anxious, I’m grinning my head off.

Despite having to duck to avoid getting stroked by a manta ray and contort myself to evade the ever-circling wobbegong, I can’t keep the smile off my face.

The damage & details: www.sharkdive.oceanworld.com.au

In Da House: After visiting the Opera House Damian Hall should be avoided at parties

A space ship. The main stage at the Glastonbury Festival. Plates drying in a rack. Sydney’s famous Opera House looks like all sorts of things.

Designed by Danish architectural wiz Jørn Utzon, the Opera House was originally estimated to take four years to build and cost $7 million. Seven years, and tens of millions later, the government put pressure on Utzon to get it finished quickly and cheaply.

Yet he was unwilling to compromise and left the project, and the country, in a big sulk. Aussie architects finished off the building’s interior and it opened in 1973, $95 million over budget and 10 years late. But hell, wasn’t it worth it? Everyone cheered. Well, except Utzon, who never saw it.

Our tour took us into the tidy Studio, where Coldplay have warbled, to the Eucalyptus-panelled Play House and the sloping, narrow Opera Theatre.

I was left with a new appreciation of one of the world’s most recognisable objects. Plus they fattened me up with enough facts to make me a social hazard at parties: did you know the building is encased in 1,056,000 ceramic self-cleaning tiles from Sweden? And 15,000 lightbulbs are changed annually. Wait, where are you going…?

The damage & details: www.sydneyoperahouse.com