Even if you’ve done Sydney numerous times, I’ve stumbled upon some hidden gems that are just too good to keep to myself. My love affair with the city has spanned 20 years
Things to Do/See
My all-time favourite is a trip in a seaplane, taking off from Rose Bay. The fact that it seats just 5 passengers (and a pilot unless you’re particularly brave) means that everyone has amazing views throughout. Flying up along the Northern Beaches and coming back down over the opera house and bridge will leave you open-mouthed and speechless, especially on a clear day. If you have a special, romantic occasion, then why not go for the package deal which includes the Jonas restaurant in Whale Beach, which will give you plenty of reasons to close that mouth again and savour the wonderful tastes and another great view. www.seaplanes.com.au, (Seaplane Base, Lyne Park, Rose Bay +61 2 9388 1978).
During November, Bondi plays host to the Sculpture Walk, which takes place on the coastal path to Bronte. The sculptures only enhance what is already a beautiful walk. www.sculpturebythesea.com (+ 61 2 8399 0233). The boardwalks have now been extended, so if you have the time, it’s worth continuing the walk along the coast from Bronte to Coogee.
For the Active
If you fancy keeping fit whilst away, here are some great opportunities: a biathlon takes place from Andrew Boy Charlton Pool (1C Mrs Macquaries Road, The Domain, 2000 + 61 2 9358 6686) in the Domain every Thursday night between mid October and March. It’s a 4km run and a 300m swim. The run takes you past Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, which has breathtaking views of Harbour. As you run from the pool past the chair with the water on your right you are transfixed by the opera house and bridge in the background, spurring you on the uphill run to the turning point by the entrance gates. The return 2km is all downhill and with the pool swim to finish off it’s a refreshing welcome! www.andersonevents.com.au (1300 132 921).
If you happen to be staying in the eastern suburbs, then either a personal training session or bootcamp with the Eastside Crew is a must. The sessions take place at Bronte Beach at 6am on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Working out by the sea is an amazing way to wake up and, depending on the time of year, you get to see some fabulous sunrises. www.eastsidecrew.com.au (0401 292928).
For the swimming enthusiasts, Icebergs at Bondi www.icebergs.com.au (One Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026 + 61 2 9365 9000) offers a great outdoor salt pool. Even if you are not staying in the area, it’s worth making the trip. They have changing facilities, so you could always follow an afternoon swim (or snooze by the pool) with a refreshing cocktail or peach bellini upstairs afterwards.
Places to Eat – Breakfast
The Sydneysiders love a breakfast out. One of my favourites is Bills. Tucked away in Darlinghurst, Bill Grainger’s understated restaurant is so popular that there’s usually a queue outside. But the delicious breakfast is worth waiting for, especially the signature scrambled eggs and sweetcorn fritters. Definitely not for those watching their waistlines! The perfect preparation for a great day out in Sydney. www.bills.com.au (433 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst NSW, 2010, + 61 2 9360 9631).
For those staying near Mosman, Bathers Pavilion in Balmoral Beach is verging on compulsory. Situated on the water's edge in the quaint tranquil bay of Balmoral Beach, the restaurant sits at one side of the Pavilion with its sister café on the other. It makes for a perfect breakfast and brunch venue. www.batherspavilion.com.au (4 The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach + 61 2 9969 5050).
Places to Eat – Dinner
Over the years I have tried numerous places, but Café Sydney still remains firmly at the top of my list. It ticks all the boxes for fine dining. Located on the rooftop of Customs House, which is right at circular quay, the outdoor terrace boasts spectacular views of the harbour and the cocktail lounge is a great relaxing environment to start the evening off. www.cafesydney.com.au (Fifth floor, Customs House, 31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay, NSW 2000 + 61 2 9251 8683).
If you are looking for something with a more cosy feel off the beaten track and like spicy food then Jimmy Liks is worth a visit. Located in the leafy streets of Potts Points it's not a restaurant you would tend to stumble upon. With a huge array of Asian inspired cocktails to kick off the night you can’t help but get settled in and enjoy. www.jimmyliks.com (186-188 Victoria Street, Potts Point, NSW 2011 + 6 12 8354 1400).
Places to Drink
Even if you aren’t staying at the Shangri La Hotel their Blu Horizon Bar is a must. At a dizzy 36 floors up, you can just imagine how good the view is. Just remember there is a dress code there of smart casual. (176 Cumberland Street, The Rocks, Sydney).
For those of you who prefer to be at ground level and outside then the Opera Bar is perfect. Located below the iconic Opera House the bar is on the harbour and serves consistently good drinks and, for those hot nights, it’s great to be outside and feel the breeze off the water. www.operabar.com.au ( Lower Concourse Level, Sydney Opera House + 61 2 9247 1666).
In the height of the summer, Sydney has some fabulous outdoor cinema. The screen near to Mrs Macquaries point has the harbour as the backdrop. Tickets sell out fast, so if you know you are going to be in Sydney in January and February book well in advance (www.stgeorgeopenair.com.au). Alternatively, there is a moonlight cinema in Centennial Park which runs until the middle of March. It’s a great way to spend an evening – outdoors with a picnic and a good movie (www.moonlight.com.au).
Paddington Market on Oxford Street takes place most Saturdays and is well worth a visit. They sell everything from clothes to children's wooden toys and handmade chocolates. Both locals and tourists love it. www.paddingtonmarkets.com.au
Located in the historic Rocks district not only does the Shangri La have a great central location from which to base yourself but offers some stunning accommodation. With 563 guest rooms it has versatility to both the leisure and corporate traveller (176 Cumberland Street, The Rocks, Sydney).
For the more discerning traveller looking for a small contemporary boutique hotel – look no further than Ravesis. Just set back from Bondi Beach the 180 degree bi folding windows attract a crowd of ‘want to be seen’ during the day and in the evenings is packed to a maximum. The cocktail bar offers surprisingly good cocktails and with views over the famous surf the hotel has a relaxed feel but with all the elegance you would expect from a boutique hotel(corner of Campbell pde and Hall Street, Bondi Beach).