The sparkling harbour. The breathtaking blue waters that surround it. The unspoilt beaches that draw crowds from near and far. The cutting-edge restaurants with adventurous chefs to deliver menus unlike others. All that (and more) with a generous dash of sun kissed weather makes Australia's largest city and the capital of new South Wales an unforgettable destination. Come summertime and even more - Destination NSW predicts an estimate of 10 million visitors - flock to the pulsating city. Read on for our recommendations on where to stay, the must-sees, and must-eats.
WHERE TO STAY
Akin to an exclusive harbourside residence, Park Hyatt Sydney remains one of the classic accommodation choices, especially with its waterfront location between the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge; luxurious suites with contemporary interiors such as floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to private balconies, Eames furniture and open-plan marble bathrooms; and a restaurant and bar that's easily one of the city's favourite spots to dine at.
With a similar coveted location, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney in The Rocks is another established favourite with a welcoming grand marble lobby, an outdoor hotel pool that's the largest in Sydney and a spa that's one of the city's best, and rooms with views of the harbour.
Closer to the city centre in the swanky neighbourhood of Chippendale is The Old Clare Hotel that has a backstory as interesting as it is Instagram-worthy. A case of two becomes one - a pub and a brewery building in its past - the boutique design hotel also combines lifestyle and luxury with its unique design and bespoke handcrafted items, a semi-industrial feel with sleek, modern elements, and one of the best rooftop bars in the city as well as three unique restaurants which include the inspired work of Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton.
WHERE TO SIGHTSEE AND WHAT TO DO
As a cosmopolitan city with an ambitious spirit backed by a rich culture and natural beauty, you'll never run out of things to see and do in Sydney. Within the city centre itself, the usual suspects include the iconic Sydney Opera House (take a tour or watch a show but definitely wine and dine at its Bennelong restaurant by celebrated Australian chef Peter Gilmore) and Harbour Bridge (climb to the top of it!) (note: it'll take you about three and a half hours).
Bondi Beach is an absolute must - even if it's overrun with camera-toting tourists. The good news, however, is that the waves are not as packed and the beach has a highly regarded Let's Go Surfing school that offers a two-hour Bondi Surf Experience for all skill levels. If you prefer to stay grounded, walk the famous Bondi to Coogee coastal trail. It's a photogenic six-kilometre walking track that will take you past sights such as the Bondi Icebergs pool, aboriginal rock carvings at Marks Park and stops where you can even swim along the way. At the end of walk, you'll be treated to lunch with a beautiful 270 degree view at seaside eatery Coogee Pavilion.
For other sights of nature, Taronga Zoo is fun for both kids and adults, and just a 12-minute harbour ferry ride from Circular Quay. It's more than just an animal sanctuary (with views of the Sydney Opera House, to boot!). There's the treetop Wild Ropes - more than 60 high rope challenges over four courses - and the Roar & Snore experience where you'll get to stay overnight at the zoo in luxury safari-style tents.
There are sprinkles of museums around the city like the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Justice & Police Museum, and the Australian Museum; but one calls itself 'the best kept secret in Sydney' - the Brett Whiteley Studio. The studio has been left in the state it was found when the artist died of a drug overdose in 1992 and so it's littered with unfinished canvases, brushes and paints, and the walls are donned with graffiti, quotes and images. And if you have the time, the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is worth a stroll.
WHERE TO EAT
Apart from dining inside the Sydney Opera House itself at Bennelong as mentioned above, waterside dining is an essential experience while in Sydney. Aria is as close as you can get to enjoy dinner with sweeping views over the Harbour and Matthew Moran's menu of modern Australian haute cuisine is the perfect accompaniment.
While LuMi Bar & Dining doesn't exactly offer a view, the restaurant and its inventive Italian fare with a Japanese twist is still a cosy and delicious contender. Over at Bondi Beach, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar is an A-list restaurant by Maurice Terzini that has seen the likes of film stars such as Jack Nicholson, Nicole Kidman and Geoffrey Rush.
Fred's is one of Paddington's newest restaurant and arrived after much anticipation. Head chef Danielle Alvarez has a megawatt CV to match her talents but patrons have let the food speak for themselves. The menu here is mostly marked by top-notch Australian ingredients cooked with care over a wood-fired hearth and oven, and the ambiance is akin to a home away from home.