Come away with fresh energy and focus. Shake off the humdrum of everyday life and remind your tastebuds how to fire. What else could you want from a holiday?
Whether you’ve got a week to go deep or just a few days, these Sydney experiences will make you feel recharged.
Refresh your mind with inspiring art
Taking over spaces around Barangaroo, Walsh Bay and The Rocks and in venues like the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, titled rīvus (12 March - 13 June), wants you to think about water, waterways and the ecologies they sustain in a whole new way.
Prepare to be challenged across 90 different projects, some experienced through self-guided walks, communal meals. Prepare to be challenged. “People will hear the sounds of ecosystems long gone, witness contemporary rituals of environmental mourning, ‘plant’ a digital seed with their body that will result in actual reforestation and listen to migratory birds as they move from branch to branch,” says the biennale’s Artistic Director José Roca. Water will never just look like stuff to swim in again.
If you prefer your performances traditional but with a twist, Opera Australia is hosting two unique Phantom of the Opera performances this year. In autumn, Handa Opera (from 25 March) will present its take on the theatre classic on the water at Mrs Macquaries Point, with the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge and city skyline in the background. It will be the first time this opera has appeared on an overwater stage. Cameron Mackintosh’s stunning production, which has floored critics worldwide, will be staged inside the Sydney Opera House from August.
Remember the joy of community
Who says big cities aren’t friendly? Introducing the Inner West, a quintessential Sydney neighbourhood known for its blend of urban edginess and good old-fashioned community. To explore some of its most welcoming corners, start with a proper Mexican brunch from the family-run Maiz Mexican Street Food in eclectic Newtown. Owner Juan Carlos Negrete Lopez recommends the tacos divorciados filled with black beans, eggs and tomatillo salsa: “It’s one of the oldest corn preparations in Mexico,” he says.
Afterwards, stroll up the street past fashion shops and collectibles to Sydney Park to check out the wildlife and wetlands before following the good-time vibes on a brewery crawl. Marrickville Springs on the rooftop of Philter Brewery is our pick. Grab a seat at a drag show at the iconic Imperial in Erskineville to end the night on a high.
Reset your body on an urban wellness retreat
A decent treatment might fix the kinks that ail you. But a really good one at these spas can make you feel all is right in your body and the world.
At the dimly-lit and hypnotically serene The Darling Spa at Darling At The Star, first let the jacuzzi and Moroccan-style hammam chamber melt you down. Then have the new Vital Energy package which finishes off invigorating foot and hand treatments with a glow-giving facial.
In the upmarket café country of Double Bay, Wonder Sydney has the vibe of a haven but takes results very seriously. The signature facial here incorporates medical-grade Osmosis cosmetics and light therapy while the Lightness of Being lymphatic drainage treatment promises that you’ll walk in, but float out.
The Crown Spa Sydney, inside the glossiest hotel in town, has a Celebration package that chases a blissful one-hour massage with a La Prairie Skin Caviar facial. Before or after the treatment, you could spend hours drifting between the steam room, vitality tub and Swiss shower in the spa’s slick Aqua Retreat.
Surprise your tastebuds
These eateries aren’t just new on the scene; they’re here to give your palate a whole new perspective. Think you know what vegan tastes like or that fermentation is all about kombucha? Buckle up…
Flave is a plant-based Bondi diner that plates up mind-bendingly meat-like burgers, meatballs and curries using the skills executive chef Scott Findlay developed as a personal chef for Paul McCartney. “We’re not into militant messaging about food being vegan or vegetarian or whatever. The most important thing is flavour,” he says. The spicy slow-braised rendang “beef” dish, called Hot Dang, will get even the most committed meat-lovers thinking about plant-protein anew.
Over in the Inner West, the self-proclaimed “weird and wonderful” watering hole and restaurant Odd Culture is an experiment in fermentation – its intriguing European-meets-Asian menu raises the stakes with garum sauces, preserves and other delicious potions made from produce you never knew could be pickled. Chicken pâté with fish sauce caramel is a revelation! Wild yeast beers, including some from local brewery Wildflower, complete the experience.
Had Sydney’s famous seafood before? Now try the stunning 11-course counter experience at Japanese restaurant Bay Nine Omakase on the waterfront at The Rocks. Interacting with you while preparing seafood sourced that day, the chef makes the meal feel like a personal journey, ending with a procession of nine handmade nigiri made with everything from bluefin toro to John Dory.
And for a wild cocktail ride, grab a stool at the CBD’s Dean & Nancy on 22 are shaken and stirred with gamified tricks. Order the Double or Nothing which comes with a set of dice: roll doubles for a free glass of bubbles.
Feel reset on a flash getaway
The Hawkesbury River is just over an hour’s drive from the Sydney CBD (take the new Northconnex Tunnel), yet its quiet inlets and wild bush surrounds make you feel like you’re in a different world. For a full-service, forget-everything getaway, the luxurious Marramarra Lodge will set you up in a spacious safari tent with sun-dappled views to the river through the she-oaks. All meals and some activities are included – it’s worth picking a package that includes a luxe champagne and oyster river cruise to give you the full picture of the region.
For a self-catered stay, the three-bedroom Amaroo Cottage is beyond charming. If you’re coming with a group, grab first dibs on the absolute-waterfront bed in the separate boathouse beside the jetty. The Hawkesbury’s waterways are dotted with gorgeous places to eat, which you can reach by water taxi or your own boat. Top of the list is Berowra Waters Inn, which has recently recruited award-winning pastry chef Lauren Eldridge, who has worked alongside internationally renowned chefs Guy Savoy, Massimo Botura and Mark Best.