Destination Guide to Sydneyby Heidi Mortlock
Thanks to its iconic harbor and bounty of beaches, Sydney, Australia is one showstopper of a city. Especially familiar with its innumerable charms is Sydneysider Heidi Mortlock. As a travel and lifestyle journalist with a background in fashion marketing (e.g. Giorgio Armani), her taste in hotels, restaurants and shops is spot on. From Bondi Icebergs to bay walks, she pools together some of her all-time favorites in the New South Wales capital.
Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney
Located in the historic Rocks district, the Shangri-La captures the panoramic views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge like no other hotel in the city. As you’d expect, the harbor views extend to all 565 guest rooms, their award-winning restaurant Altitude and cocktail saloon, Blu Bar on 36. Drawing inspiration from ancient Asian wellness philosophies, their spa CHI offers an alluring treatment menu alongside well-appointed rooms with their own bath tubs, private bathrooms and city views.
The Langham, Sydney
The Langham is an indulgent choice for a stay in Sydney’s city center. The rooms are larger than most and many come with unrivaled Juliette balconies. Their restaurant, Kitchens on Kent, brings unexpectedly tasty benefits—turns out good things ensue when fine dining meets a live-cooking buffet. On weekdays, Twilight Happy Hour is from 4pm to 7pm at The Observatory Bar. Here, they serve up best-in-class cocktails in an intimate space designed specifically for those looking the sidestep the rush of the city. There’s also an opulent spa and it’s the only hotel in the city with a tennis court.
Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
Sophisticated and filled with French contemporary design, the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour has several drawcards. Inspired by the Mediterranean, the infinity pool on the rooftop looks out over the city skyline, and there’s also an epic guests-only pool bar. For fine wine, cocktails, skillful mixologists and floor-to-ceiling glass windows with unrivaled views of the harbor, the Champagne Bar is perfect for pre-dinner drinks as the sun goes down.
EAT & DRINK
Chester White is a retro ‘50s diner with a country and blues kick. Think red stools in front of a white-tiled bar, with cowboy boots hanging from hooks. Throw in a splash of Italian pastaria and some simple Spanish cured meats and you’ve got a fantastic little laneway eatery that oozes with passion—for the produce, service and wine. It’s set in one of the city’s oldest and most vibrant neighborhoods, Potts Point.
Perched on Balmain’s Darling Street, quaint café Ciao Thyme is a great spot for lunch. The food is delightful, a good playlist is almost a sure thing and the suburb is packed with historic architecture and streetscapes of charming old weatherboard cottages. It’s just a ferry ride over from the CBD’s Circular Quay to Balmain East and a short walk up the road.
A Sydney institution, Bondi Icebergs is definitely worthy of a drink. Looking directly out over the oceanfront lap pool with Bondi Beach as the backdrop, it’s iconic Sydney at her best. Book ahead to dine at the two chef-hatted restaurant, or head to their just-opened Icebergs Terrace, a summer pop-up bar with the same views at a sliver of the price.
Aussie’s are big on breakfast. North of the Harbour Bridge there’s a trio of excellent beachside brekkie cafes called The Boathouse and they’re found in the suburbs of Palm Beach, Shelly Beach and Balmoral. In true, relaxed beachside manner, order off a menu on the blackboard, take a number at the counter and commence your pursuit for a table—ideally one on the waterfront. The food is fresh and delicious. Breakfast at any of these venues is a personal favorite.
The embodiment of a wellness café, Orchard St has two elixir bars in Bondi and Paddington where they serve cold-press juices and organic coffees alongside tasty vegan treats. The spaces also sell the loveliest collection of lifestyle products.
Meaning “to the table” in Italian, A Tavola is a staple on the Sydney restaurant circuit. The simplicity and honesty of this food is what sets it apart. Head chef and owner Eugenio Maiale has emulated his experience growing up around the family kitchen table and mother’s traditional cooking. Dine at the 10-meter long communal table and expect an unchanging menu.
The epitome of the Australian coastal lifestyle, Assembly Label is all about minimal, relaxed designs. Their collections are basic but faultless when it comes to achieving a casual and clean look. They also sell a persuasive range of accessories and homewares.
Sitting on a vibrant intersection that connects each corner of Bondi, Commune Bondi brings a community of artisans and conscious consumers together via fashion, furniture and homewares. Expect a variety of handmade and sustainable products including clothing, tableware, ceramics, candles and books.
Known for their loose-covered linen sofas, MCM House is a mecca for furniture, lighting, textiles and accessories. The classic and contemporary interiors are luxurious but not overdesigned. It certainly warrants a visit, even if just to window shop.
More reminiscent of a warm, welcoming home than a bricks-and-mortar store, In Bed sells arguably the best bedding in Sydney, alongside an exquisite collection of clothing, bath, kitchen and home textiles. Earthy and classic, the detailing and colors that inspire the products are what make them unique.
Bronte Ocean Pool
A guide to Sydney would be lacking if it didn’t include visiting the ocean pools, a unique feature of the New South Wales coastline. Rise with the sun and head down to Bronte for what might be the most magnificent start to the day you’ll ever have. Bring your cossie (aka swimming costume) to join the locals for an early morning swim and then head up to one of the beachside cafes for a good Australian coffee and some breakfast.
Once an old railway workshop that built carriages for Sydney’s expanding rail network, Carriageworks is now a cultural precinct that features an annual program of theatre, dance, music and visual arts. On Saturdays, they host Sydney’s premier fresh food and produce market which is an experience in its own right.
White Rabbit Gallery
Once a Rolls-Royce service depot in the 1940s, the White Rabbit Gallery is an exhibition space showcasing one of the world’s most significant collections of Chinese contemporary art, including more than 2000 works by almost 700 artists. Visit late afternoon and afterward make your way to Chippendale’s ever-buzzing Kensington Street to Spice Alley—here you’ll find a laneway filled with multiple Asian eateries under a ceiling of lanterns.
Rose Bay to Watsons Bay Walk
Sydney’s natural beauty is by far the city’s greatest attraction—the beaches, bushland and harborside nature walks. The foreshore walk from Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay flaunts this beauty. Make a day of it and stop along the way at some of the best bay beaches in Sydney, including Milk Beach, Nielsen Park, Parsley Bay and Kutti Beach. At the end, enjoy a well-deserved drink at the Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel or wander up the hill for some fresh-out-of-the-oven bread at The Grumpy Baker.