For a man who literally creates the built environment, architect David Parsons sure loves wide open spaces. A keen yachtsman and the co-founder of Emerald City Kickball (aka soccer baseball), he’s never happier than when he’s sailing on, swimming in or biking around Sydney’s dazzling harbour.

And while Parsons – who’s one of 45 Rainbow Champions for WorldPride – would list the Friends of the Emerald International Kickball Tournament (21 to 22 February) as his number one Sydney WorldPride must-do experience, a close second “would be to visit a harbour beach”, he says, “places like Murray Rose Pool [in Double Bay] and Parsley Bay [in Vaucluse], which is a stunning place to sit and watch people or jump in the water” and clothing-optional Obelisk in Mosman “if you’re feeling a bit cheeky”.

David Parsons

Many hidden harbour beaches are accessible from the Hermitage Foreshore Track in Vaucluse (“I usually pick up a picnic lunch from Chargrill Charlie’s on New South Head Road in Rose Bay”) and the longer, more arduous but no less spectacular Spit to Manly Walk, “stopping at Forty Baskets Beach for a quick dip”.

Seeing the harbour from Sydney is a thrill that never gets old; seeing Sydney from the harbour is quite another. A budget way to do that is to take a ferry to Watsons Bay or Manly for lunch; an adventurous way is on a kayak, which you can hire at the Spit Bridge, Mosman, or Rose Bay; and a luxe way is by chartering a yacht, says Parsons, “to explore further into places like Cobblers Beach [also clothing optional], Middle Harbour and Balmoral, where the houses are absolutely beautiful”.

Before you hand back the keys to the yacht (or return the kayak), Parsons suggests checking out the harbour islands. “Cockatoo Island has some heritage cottages you can stay at and, this summer, the Sunset Sessions with live music” or “venture out to Shark Island or Clark Island or a picnic”.

Local tip: people who live in the city’s eastern suburbs joke that they don’t go “OTB”, shorthand for “over the [Sydney Harbour] bridge” to the leafy Lower North Shore.

But Parsons has no such reservations, particularly when it’s by bicycle. “The bike lane is on the western side of the bridge”, which “affords you more of the sunset and the afternoon light”. Other options on the north side? A rollercoaster ride at iconic Luna Park at one end of the spectrum and a meditative stroll through Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden – “one of my favourite little hidden gems” – at the other.

On a larger scale, it’s hard to miss the 30-hectare Royal Botanic Garden, which sits harbourside in the CBD. “The succulent garden tucked up at the back is a favourite of mine and very, very beautiful,” says Parsons, who also loves the smaller McKell Park at Darling Point.

Having been on, in and around the harbour, Parsons’s final suggestion is to take off from it – on a seaplane to finedining institutions Berowra Waters Inn or Cottage Point Inn. “I’ve done it a couple of times for special occasions. It’s a really beautiful way to experience a meal.”

SEE ALSO: Courtney Acts’ Favourite Spots in the Harbour City

Luna Park

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Image credit: Kristoffer Paulsen

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