Our eight main cities and the five best ways to explore them
01. Soak up Sydney Harbour
The landmark views from Quay restaurant (quay.com.au) are postcards come to life, while an afternoon watching seaplanes take off from Catalina (catalinarosebay.com.au) will make you forget that anything exists beyond leisure and lunching. But to really immerse yourself in one of the world’s most famous waterways, spend time on it, not just beside it, with a ferry ride to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Cockatoo Island (cockatooisland.gov.au). Take a self-guided audio tour to learn about the remains of convict barracks, World War II shipyards and the children’s reform school. Stay overnight in one of the comfortable tents, which come with bedding, toiletries and access to shared bathrooms, or a refurbished Federation-era house, and wake to a view that rivals any from the city’s top hotels.
02. Go out for Sunday brunch
The scrambled eggs and avocado toast at Bills (bills.com.au) triggered Sydney’s brunch obsession in the 1990s. Then The Grounds of Alexandria (thegrounds.com.au), with its onsite farm and rambling gardens, made breakfast feel like you’re having a weekend away. Sydney’s appetite for brunch continues to be sated by new tastes. Cornersmith (cornersmith.com.au) in Marrickville teaches you to embrace pickles and relish on pretty much everything, while Saint Peter (saintpeter.com.au) in Paddington makes a strong case for eating oysters, octopus and prawns before noon.
03. SPEND A DAY AT THE BEACH
The crowds are a constant reminder that Bondi is the city’s signature beach and you might know nearby Tamarama as Glamarama, named for its impossibly stylish regulars. True beach bums make the drive north, where life is more low-key. Whale Beach is the pick of the peninsula, with its pristine sand, ocean pool and barefoot vibe. Dry off and have a sausage sanger at the Whale Beach Deli (whalebeachdeli.com.au).
04. Meander around a morning market
If you don’t have a favourite weekend market then you’re simply not a Sydneysider. For art, head to The Rocks Markets (therocks.com) and for unique threads it’s all about Bondi (bondimarkets. com.au). Locals into food flock to markets such as Carriageworks (carriageworks. com.au) at Eveleigh, which hosts cooking demonstrations and pop-ups by top chefs including The Bridge Room’s Ross Lusted and Lankan Filling Station’s O Tama Carey. Or head to Orange Grove Market at Orange Grove Public School in Leichhardt (organicfoodmarkets.com.au), where you’ll find one of Sydney’s best bacon and egg rolls.
Follow the foreshore
The spectacular Bondi to Bronte path is a favourite way for locals to clock up the numbers on their step apps. But the four-hour, 10-kilometre Harbour Bridge to Taronga Zoo walk that weaves between the harbour shore, parklands and suburban footpaths – from the Bridge’s base in Milsons Point to the Zoo’s wharf and beyond – is a road less travelled full of scenic surprises. Have a stickybeak at Kirribilli House where the prime minister lives, admire the tropical Lex and Ruby Graham Garden and pack your cossie for a dip in Maccallum Seawater Pool, a lesser-known harbourside swimming spot.
Combine the twin Sydney passions of eating and sand-dwelling at Whale Beach