When to go
Sydney thrives in summer, so any time from December through to March is especially lovely.
PlanesSydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport (www.sydneyairport.com.au), 10 kilometres south of the city, is Australia’s busiest. International and domestic terminals are a four-kilometre bus or train ride apart.
BoatsRegular ferries depart from Circular Quay (www.sydneyferries.info), with popular routes including Taronga Zoo and Manly on the North Shore, Rose Bay and Watsons Bay in the Eastern Suburbs, and Darling Harbour and Parramatta to the west. There’s a ferry information office at Wharf 4.
TrainsCentral Station is Sydney’s main rail terminus, with a network of inner-city, intercity and country destinations (www.cityrail.info).
AutomobilesWalking around Sydney is a pleasure, and it’s compact enough that you shouldn’t need a car. If you’re planning a trip out of town though, it’s worth having your own wheels. Hire a car at the airport, which has desks for all major companies.
TaxisThese are plentiful in Sydney and easily hailed in the street, but if you need to call one try Silver Service Cabs (13 31 00) or Premier Cabs (13 10 17). Drivers don’t expect tips but often need directions – so it’s best to have an idea of where you are going beforehand.
When you come to Sydney you must take the Manly Ferry across the harbour and admire the city’s dazzling sights, including the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. For an insider secret, follow the coastal track at the southern end of Manly beach to Shelly Beach, part of a protected marine reserve popular with snorkellers and divers. You should also spend an afternoon at Bondi Beach and enjoy a sundowner at Icebergs.
Glittering Sydney is all about laid-back coastal life, and QT Sydney hotel – with its quirky bar and day spa – is ideal for unwinding. Take the Manly Ferry from Circular Quay out to Layne’s pine-fringed home beach Manly for swims or surf classes. Order delicious pizza on the Wharf at Hugos Manly, followed by Adriano Zumbo’s famous macaroons (Shop 1a, 40 East Esplanade). Merivale is launching a hot new Latin American restaurant on the wharf this November, too. Iconic Bondi Beach boasts sociable sunbathing and surf. Refuel on seasonal produce at Sean’s Panaroma (270 Campbell Parade) or swing by Pompei’s (126 Roscoe Street) for artisan gelato. The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk is jaw-dropping, and you can take dips at Clovelly or Bronte along the way; look out for artworks during spring’s Sculpture by the Sea. Finally, fly home from Sydney to the UK with Emirates.
I love the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s got an amazing location in Sydney’s historic Rocks quarter, unrivalled views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, a gorgeous rooftop café, and dynamic exhibitions alongside a world-class collection of modern art. The MCA will be one of the major venues for next year’s Biennale of Sydney, alongside the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Cockatoo Island.
SPEND a lazy Saturday morning nibbling creamy cheese or just-baked cakes at Bondi Beach’s weekly farmers’ market, at Bondi Beach Public School, Campbell Parade. Treat yourselves to a just-flipped burger and a freshly squeezed fruit juice and work your way around the various stalls, which tout their wares between 9am and 1pm.
SAVE time for horse riding in Centennial Park: there are five riding schools to choose from; all ages and levels of experience are catered for and all the kit – riding boots, helmets and other equipment – is provided. Swap dry land for water with a boat trip to Manly, where you can sun yourself on the beach or have a long lunch plus a bottle or two of top-notch wine at elegant Whitewater.
SPLASH OUT on potent cocktails and a flick at Golden Age Cinema and Bar, the pearl of the heritage-listed Paramount Pictures Building, in scenic Surry Hills (nicknamed the ‘Hollywood Quarter’, back in the golden days). Match the venue’s art-deco dapperness with your best flapper dress or shiniest spats; toast Hollywood heroes and heroines with a classic tipple (make ours a Golden Negroni or Charlie Chaplin, please).
INVEST in Sydney’s burgeoning craft-beer scene with a trip to a boutique brewery in arty Newtown. Young Henrys Brewing Company and its very gluggable hop ale is a good place to start; sip your way through the brews in the cellar door (open 10am–7pm, Monday–Saturday; 12pm–7pm, Sunday) and take a bottle or two back home with you. Explore Newtown’s array of cafés, quirky boutiques and characterful drinking dens while you’re in the ’hood. If wine is more your thing, check out The Morrison, where you’ll pick up a free bottle of wine with dinner when you pay with your Citi card.
…having dinner at Sydney restaurant Sea Treasure at 46 Willoughby Road in Crows Nest on the Lower North Shore. Go for pipis (clams) in XO sauce, Peking duck with pancakes, san choy bow made from the rest of that duck, then salt-and-pepper mud crab or steamed coral trout with soy and ginger. They have a good wine list that’s great value for money, too.
Noosa, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is a must-see destination with its mild temperatures in and out of the water – even in Australia’s winter – and its crystal-clear ocean. There is loads to do, too, from surfing the waves to stand-up paddle boarding on the river, and hikes and running trails through the National Park.
I also love Cable Beach in Broome – you can witness a spectacular sunset over the ocean while riding on a camel along the sand. It’s a wonderful experience and truly unique to Western Australia. Mr & Mrs Smith favourite Pinctada Cable Beach has a spa and smart dining just a stroll from the sea; for camel treks, try Ships of the Desert. While in Broome, visit Matso’s brewery and sample their desert lime and wild ginger cider.
Definitely visit Heide Museum of Modern Art, a private estate turned public museum in Melbourne, to get a window into the artistic life of the city in the 1940s and 50s. The philanthropy of the Reed family, mixed with lots of romance and intrigue in the lives of Australia’s most famous artists – including Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd and Albert Tucker – is fascinating. Nolan painted his famous Ned Kelly series of 26 paintings in the dining room at Heide.
I’d also recommend Melbourne for its brilliant museums, art galleries and thriving commercial gallery scene. Highlights include the twin sites of the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Australian photography at Monash Gallery of Art and the Ian Potter Museum of Art.
In Sydney, spend a morning cruising the Danks Street galleries, shops and restaurants, including fabulous Utopia Art Sydney, which concentrates on indigenous art. It’s a lively cultural hub with plenty to see, buy and taste. Order a great cup of coffee and sit outside a streetside café in the sun or grab a glass of wine and tapas at Mojo by Luke Mangan.
An obvious box to tick is the lively metropolis of Sydney, with its fantastic food, nightlife and exciting mix of people. For an insider’s tip, Cape Tribulation, in Far North Queensland, was wonderful, with beautiful jungle and beaches. Thanks to its offshore reefs poor old British explorer James Cook ran aground near here in the 18th century and gave it its negative name… unlike him, my family and I had an amazing time on holiday in a private farm in the rainforest. Just fly into Cairns and drive north, calling in at Port Douglas, or check out the Great Barrier Reef.
Serviced by Emirates from the UK, Sydney makes a breathtaking first stop, surrounded by sparkling water, beaches and natural wonders. You can see native Australian animals at harbour-hugging Taronga Zoo, a scenic ferry ride from Circular Quay. Leave half a day to spy kangaroos, koalas and echidnas; more if you’re besotted. To encounter sharks and rays, head to Sydney Aquarium. Design-led 1888 Hotel is a stroll away in Pyrmont. For wild creature sightings, check out flying foxes (fruitbats) and ibis in the Royal Botanic Gardens or snorkel at sealife-rich Clovelly Beach.