If Sydney has a heartbeat, it’s pumping at a million beats a minute – art, boutique shopping, then must-do brunch, lunch and dinner to cram into a day before hitting a hot new bar. But be cool. Downtime is also a Sydney specialty. Here’s where to tap out and hit refresh.

If you have an hour: get green

Mrs Macquarie's Chair

Hushed green-spaces come with knockout views in this fair city. Locals and trophy-photo hunters alike find calm at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, inside the Royal Botanic Garden. Grab an ice-cream (there’s often a van at the top of the hill), overlook the bridge, harbour and Sydney Opera House, then stroll back through tropical rainforest. The Calyx, the gardens’ food and exhibition hub, reopens 1 October.

If you have half a day: go snorkelling

Malabar Beach Ocean Pool

Need some Vitamin Sea? A little saltwater therapy cures all stress. If Eastern Suburbs beaches such as Bondi and Coogee feel crowded, shoot a touch further south. You can soak up summer-holiday vibes at Maroubra Beach – one end is backed by park and the whole beach is a National Surfing Reserve. Malabar Beach, one bay around, is a secret snorkelling spot brimming with stingray, octopi and pretty fish.

If you have one day: take a bushwalk

National parks fringe the greater Sydney area and are astonishingly close to the CBD. Find peace upon a canoe and heritage walk at Lane Cove National Park, 30 minutes north of the city, or take a day-trip up to the Blue Mountains. A network of walking and hiking tracks take in lung-filling mountain air and the quiet of huge, bush-covered valleys. 

If you have a night: sleep in a sanctuary

Book a room at West Hotel

Smack on the entertainment scene near Barangaroo, West Hotel Sydney is a botanical-themed haven of calm. The open-air atrium “jungle” brims with lush foliage and bathes in all-day sunshine, quiet rooms lock out the city below and eco-friendly amenities make a soak sublime. Taste seasonal NSW produce and botanical cocktails at Solander bar. 

If you have a whole weekend: sail away

Hire a self-skippered yacht or learn to sail over a couple of days. There are many sail-and-sleep charter companies and sailing schools to guide you around secluded swim spots and bush-lined coves. Drop anchor, sink wine under the open sky and sleep upon a gentle tide. You don’t even have to leave Sydney Harbour.

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