Energetic, vibrant, classy, chic... from its sleek towering skyscrapers at the heart of the city to its fabulous and fashionable beaches, Sydney is one of the most amazing cities in the world
While we visited Sydney during the Christmas break, it is appealing as an all-year round destination.
Sydney might be one of the most isolated cities in the world, but it has its finger firmly on the pulse of current trends, in its food culture and is also very much in evidence in the tasteful boutique hotels and eateries that are springing up around this magnetic city. Even if you just have a few days in Sydney, you can see the best bits that will make wonderful memories. Here is my guide on how to get the best out of your trip.
The best place to start is above this sprawling city. Walk over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and view the cityscape from the other side of the bay. If heights are your thing, book a climb. You need deep pockets, as it is expensive, and the standard climb takes up to four hours. But do as we did, and book the express climb. It takes less time, there are fewer climbers, and more guides which all helps to speed up the process. This costs about AUD 200 each. A word of advice, leave the camera and other valuables at home, you will be able to purchase the professional photos. Also, everyone, even teenagers will be breathalysed for safety purposes. Best not to over indulge for at least 24 hours before your climb. You will not be allowed to climb if you are over the limit. (5 Cumberland St., The Rocks; Ph: 8274 7777, www.bridgeclimb.com)
For equally amazing views that sweep across from the harbour bridge out towards the picturesque suburbs and beaches, take a lift up to the top of the Sydney Tower (Centrepoint Podium Level, 100 Market Street, Ph: 9333 9222; www.sydneytower.com.au). You don’t fully appreciate the expanse of the city until you are 10,000 ft above this sprawling metropolis and have uninterrupted 360 degree views. Tickets cost about AUD 58.
Sand and surf
One of the best things about Sydney is that you are never more than about 20 minutes away from a beach. Bondi might be the most recognised beach in Sydney, if not Australia, however my personal favourite is the laidback resort of Manly. Easily reached by the famous Manly ferry in just 25 minutes (hop on at Quay Wharf), which is an enjoyable experience in its own right, this seaside spot is a world away from the lively CBD. Find a quiet spot on the golden sand, chill out and catch some sun, or stroll along the promenade. The ultimate in relaxation. Ferry tickets cost about AUD 12 return.
Coogee Beach is a sweeping suburban beach, just south of Bondi beach. One of the greatest coastal walks is from this beachside resort to Bondi, along rugged cliffs, gentle pathways meander through tranquil residential areas and across tiny inlets. This takes about an hour but you will be rewarded with uninterrupted spectacular views of the sparkling Tasman sea along the way. Beach bars line the promenade, and the popular Coogee Bay Hotel is one of the best for a beer, or lunch. It offers fare from juicy steak sandwiches to beer-battered fish and chips, all from a reasonable AUD 15.
Get here: from Circular Quay Stand C, take any bus to Bondi Junction, then change to 313 or 314
About mid-way between the beaches of Coogee and Bondi, you will find the lesser known Bronte Beach. Avoid the far end of this beach, near the sea-pools and built-in BBQs, which can get busy with locals, mainly families, and stay around the near end of the beach which is usually sparsely populated. The current however can be rough and unpredictable, and not always safe for surfing, but nonetheless a nice spot to get away from it all.
Get here: from Circular Quay Stand E, take any bus to Bondi Junction then any of 313, 314, 372, 373, 374, or alternatively take the beach walk from either Bondi, or Coogee beaches.
The streets around Martin Place are a Mecca for shoppers. Window-shop at up market Tiffanys, drool over Ralph Lauren, and browse in the impressive department stores such as David Jones, Myers. Streets are lined with easily familiar high-street stores French Connection to Australian branded Witchery, you won’t be disappointed. Wander off the main streets, and you will discover specialty shops and unique boutiques guaranteed to impress.
A must is a stroll around Sydney’s heart of nightlife, the energetic trendy area known as The Rocks. Sit, stroll or sip a cool beer under the view of the vast Harbour Bridge, or people-watch the glam crowds hanging out in the hot-spots along the Quay. Refresh on George Street with cold beers and live bands at The Mercantile Hotel; or wander up into Cumberland Street for uber-boutique brews at The Australian or sip a glass of Pinot while checking out some of Sydney's best views from the rooftop bar at the Glenmore Hotel.
Where to stay
The opulent Westin (No.1 Martin Place, Sydney) is super-central right in the heart of the city. Expansive luxurious bathrooms, with remote controlled blinds separate the bath from the rest of the room. This was a great touch of luxury and amused my son for hours! The hotel bar was very expensive, and we did not even have a drink there, but the hotel is literally surrounded by great lively bars, and popular restaurants, and yet all the main sights are within 10 minutes' walk. The hotel can be expensive, but look out for offers. (We booked in advance and got a deal for AUD 200 per night, and that was during peak season).
The Establishment (252 George Street, Sydney) is an elegant boutique hotel with an intimate feel, but right in the heart of the city. There are lovely luxurious touches from the complimentary Bulgari toiletries to the Bose stereo systems. Rooms are appointed in cool blacks, greys and aubergine velvets which creates a great space for chilling out. Room rates start at about AUD 300 per night.
Where to eat
For a treat, book a table at the classy Rockpool (107 George Street, The Rocks, Sydney, Ph: 9252 1888, www.rockpool.com) which oozes charm, style and sophistication. It offers a fantastic array of seafood and wood-fired grilled dishes such as charcoal roast squid and pork belly or the seafood stew with spicy mussel and saffron broth. Expect to pay from around AUD 100 upwards per person - but worth every penny! You don’t have as deep a wallet to eat at the quirky Chinta Ria (201 Sussex St., Roof Terrace, Cockle Bay Wharf, Sydney, Ph: 9264 3211, www.chintaria.com) where you can take in the amazing views while feasting on fragrant spicy dishes. About AUD 50 per person. For a noisy but lively ambience, it's hard to beat Alio Restaurant and Bar (5 Baptist St., Surrey Hills, Sydney, Ph: 8394 9368, www.alio.com.au). Home-cooked, slow-roasted meats, simple pasta dishes are served up in this family institution that has a bistro-like, but cosy décor. Average mains from AUD 30.