With cold drinks, warm sandy beaches and a progressive, multicultural food scene, you’re bound to experience Australian hospitality at its best, says Imogen Lepere
Why go Ask what Australia’s capital is and don’t be surprised to hear the erroneous name of New South Wales’ biggest city. While Canberra was chosen based on its geographic location, Sydney is where the crowds flock to. Defined by its Pacific coastline and encircled by national parks, Sydney combines a seductive mix of nature and cosmopolitanism. At Christmas, temperatures sit at a comfortable 25C and the beaches are packed with throngs of people in Santa hats. Come New Year’s Eve, head to the harbour, where some 3million people gather to see the iconic bridge silhouetted against a night sky sparkling with fireworks.
What to do Wake up early, don your walking shoes and follow the spectacular 6km cliff path from Coogee to Bondi beaches. Glamorous joggers will outflank you but take it slow and discover Waverley Cemetery waverleycemetery.com one of the oldest and most interesting in Australia. Join the surfers in any of Bronte’s seafront cafés for coffee and bacon and eggs, then carry on to Bondi Beach, where you can swim in the ocean or try Icebergs saltwater pool icebergs.com which is topped up by sea spray. For peaceful views of the harbour, head to the Royal Botanic Gardens rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au (entry is free), a tranquil smudge of green in the central business district. A short walk away you’ll find Sydney Opera House sydneyoperahouse.com the brainchild of Danish architect Jørn Utzon. In December, expect festive favourites such as Coppelia from The Australian Ballet and Carols In The Domain carolsinthedomain.com the biggest carols concert in Australia. Catch the ferry transportnsw.info from buzzing Circular Quay to Manly Beach or hire kayaks from the Point Piper Kayak Centre kayakhire.com.au and drink up scenes of the inimitable Harbour Bridge from the inky water.
Where to stay For a city with 236 days of sunshine a year, Sydney has a surprising dearth of rooftop pools, which makes The Old Clare Hotel’s 00 61 2 8277 8277, theoldclarehotel.com even more desirable. Sip craft beer while watching the sunset then dine downstairs at Kensington Street Social, Jason Atherton’s Aussie outpost 00 61 2 8277 8533, kensingtonstreetsocial.com before bedding down in the industrial chic rooms. We love hotels with wit and QT Hotel 00 61 2 8262 0000, qthotelsandresorts.com has it in spades. Housed in the old Gowings and State Theatre buildings, its interior design combines gothic and art deco influences with fantastically quirky results. Been seduced by the sunkissed beach-bum lifestyle? Dive Hotel 00 61 2 9665 5538, divehotel.com.au is a relaxed haven overlooking Coogee’s ochre sands. With just 16 rooms, it feels more like a guesthouse than hotel and the friendly poodle, sunny garden and easygoing hosts make it easy to fantasise that you actually live there.
Where to eat and drink At Tetsuya’s 00 61 2 9267 2900, tetsuyas.com you can expect an exquisite menu of Australian and Japanese flavours. Owner Tetsuya Wakuda is the first internationally based chef to be recognised as a Master of Cuisine by the Japanese government and his restaurant holds three hats, the Australian equivalent of Michelin stars. There is one set menu that changes each day but you’ll eat dishes such as spanner crab with black radish and yuzu. Merivale restaurant group 00 61 2 9240 3000, merivale.com.au specialises in funky venues serving world-class food. For succulent rotisserie meat followed by cool cocktails, try The Paddington and don’t miss the Wagyu beef and truffle dim sum at Mr Wong’s. If you’re after a lazy Sunday brunch and an excellent watermelon and lime frappé, try Bill’s at Bondi 00 61 2 8412 0700, bills.com.au where you can rub shoulders with salt-covered locals fresh off the beach.
Time running out? Spend an afternoon exploring The Rocks therocks.com where you’ll find a historic jumble of pubs, independent galleries and craft markets.
Trip tip The suburb of Cabramatta is the city’s Vietnamese food capital. Try Papaya Kitchen 00 61 2 9728 3181, Pho Tau Bay 00 61 2 9726 4583 and Bau Truong 00 61 2 9727 4492.
Currency is the Australian dollar. Time is nine hours ahead of GMT. Flight time is approximately 14 hours from Dubai. The cost to carbon-offset is $34.19. For more details visit climatecare.org
Emirates flies daily from Dubai to Sydney every day. emirates.com
Qantas flies daily from Dubai to Sydney every day qantas.com
Destination NSW has plenty of information and inspiration for trips to Sydney and New South Wales. destinationnsw.com.au
Down Under: Travels in a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson (Transworld Publishers Ltd, $11.25) follows the author on a hilarious journey through Australia.