HIT THE HARBOUR
Without doubt, one of the most beautiful things about Sydney is the harbour that wraps around the city. We packed a simple picnic and spent one glorious day on a friend’s boat, cruising around and stopping in small, quiet coves for a swim – the water is so amazingly clean. You can hire chartered boats for a few hours or the entire day.
SHOP LIKE A LOCAL
I managed to convince my husband to hold off on buying me a Christmas present until we reached Sydney, and for good reason. Some of my most beloved summer staples come from down under, which is no surprise given the long hot summers and mild winters. First stop was Zimmermann, where I quickly found something to put under the tree. Other brands to love: high-street stores Seed Heritage and Sportsgirl, as well as The Paradise Catcher for monogrammed baskets and Irving & Powell for go-anywhere, utilitarian shirts.
FOOD WITH A VIEW
I’m Italian, so I know good food, and the meals I ate in Sydney were some of the best culinary experiences of my life. For outstanding Sardinian food, head to Pilu at Freshwater. Ask for a table with ocean views. For a great city experience, Mr Wong serves the tastiest Chinese food I’ve ever had in an opulent, warehouse-style setting. For lunch, The Boathouse Palm Beach offers fresh salads, fish and chips and sharing platters, while Bondi Icebergs, with sweeping coastal views, serves delicious food to a stylish crowd. And if you manage to get away for a romantic date night, Rockpool Bar & Grill has mouthwatering seafood and steak alongside great cocktails.
While the coastline is a highlight, it would be a mistake to overlook the utterly beautiful, golden countryside (or ‘bush’ if you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about) in Australia. We rented a beautiful old house on the outskirts of Orange, a sprawling, bustling country town with great food and shops, but surrounded by those sweeping, wide-open spaces that just make you feel so serene.
I wasn’t expecting to find perhaps one of my favourite homeware stores ever, tucked away in a country town. But that’s exactly what I found with The Sonic, a gorgeous interiors concept store in a large, lofty space in Orange. I fell in love with new Australian brands, like Kip & Coe and Langdon Ltd, and (as regular readers will know, I cannot resist ceramics), I snuck some marbled kitchen containers with wooden lids into my suitcase.
HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR’S EVE
I don’t know about you, but I always find New Year’s Eve a little tedious to arrange. But in Sydney it was a breeze. The Harbour Bridge fireworks are a must-see and, fortunately, there’s a 9pm session for families. We bought tickets to watch them from the stands in the North Sydney Olympic Pool. The view is from the rear of the bridge, but they were still amazing. The only catch is that you need someone on the ground to physically line up and buy the tickets. We also ordered a gourmet picnic hamper with the tickets, which cost about 80 Australian dollars and sorted dinner for four adults. We turned up at about 7pm, the girls had a swim, and then we watched the fireworks at 9pm. It was a night I will never, ever forget.
FIND A SECRET BEACH
The bustling Sydney beaches are so much fun, lined with cafés and heaving with people, but there’s another side to the Aussie beach life that we discovered on this trip. A much slower, quieter, simpler and more relaxed life. We rented a house at Seal Rocks, a small town about three hours north of Sydney. It had a pristine, white sand beach and a beautiful lighthouse. It was just so blissful.
AND FOR THE LITTLE ONES
While I love shopping for me, I think I enjoy finding gorgeous things for my girls even more. And Australia did not disappoint. There are some wonderful kids’ brands: Printebebe has the dreamiest girls’ clothing in the most beautiful printed cottons; Seed Heritage is brilliant for everyday staples and fun accessories; while Country Road Kids has smart tailored pieces.
It was around this time last year, as I was feeling a little blue about summer ending, that the stars aligned. I’d been dreaming of a trip to visit my best friend in Australia for years. There was an airline sale. So we booked tickets bound for Sydney at Christmas. And it was one of the best (travel) decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did it give us something to look forward to, but it was a brilliant family holiday. If you have similar aspirations, here’s my highlight reel. Just writing these words makes me want to book the trip all over again.
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