Australia’s harbour city is an amazing place to visit year round. If you’ve got a spare 48 hours in Sydney for business or pleasure we’ve got the lowdown on the best places to stay, eat and play.
Luxury harbour views abound
Some of the best luxury accommodation in Sydney can be found facing Sydney Harbour itself, and overlooking such famous landmarks as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the iconic white sails of the Opera House.
Hotels chains such as Four Seasons, Langham, Shangri-la and Hyatt all have properties within the Rocks and Millers Point precinct. The Park Hyatt sits right in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge, while many of the suites and rooms look directly out over the harbour towards the Opera House. One can easily lose an afternoon watching the fleet of commuter ferries bustle back and forth across the emerald water.
The Langham Hotel on Kent St has recently undergone a full restoration and offers the weary traveller a full service luxury experience. The hotel’s Observatory suite overlooks Observatory Hill and the CBD Skyline and you’ll be kept in understated opulence during your stay. Head downstairs to the Kent Street Kitchen for inspired European cuisine, Jazz and all round luxury ambience.
Go in search of the best craft beer
Sydney is awash with craft labels and many have found a home in the CBD. Perfect for a business lunch or an after work beverage, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Head to the Red Oak Boutique Beer Cafe on York St. A true microbrewery, you’ll find at least 20 in-house beers to choose from including Australian, German, Belgian, English and American varieties. In accompaniment, the all day menu dishes out relaxed modern Australian pub grub and focuses on using beer as an ingredient. The decor’s a bit kitsch – lots of heavy wooden furniture and foliage wallpaper – however in this case it suits the venue.
At 5 years young, The Local Taphouse the southern end of Darlinghurst is another great venue for locally produced hoppy fun bubbles and better than average pub food. The main bar features an impressive, gleaming brass bank of 20 taps which looks like it holds the bar shelves up. Unlike the Red Oak, many of the beers on tap come from local and regional brewers: current draughts include Nail Brewing Co’s keg-only release Summer’s Best, Temple Brewing Co’s Bicycle beer blonde ale (not that we’d endorse jumping on a bike after a few) and Batch Brewing Co’s Nectorious B.I.G sour ale… what a name.
Taking a client out for lunch? For a bit of fun order the Craft Beer Can Chicken with chipolte spice rub, charred corn and red cabbage slaw. Once a backyard phenomenon attempted by only the most committed barbequers (with high clearance inside their barbeque), the chicken is wonderfully moist while the yeast and malt from the beer reacts with the skin to make it extra crispy.
Our pick of historic venues include the Lord Nelson at Kent St’s northern end, try their signature pale ale Three Sheets, or walk down Windmill St to the Hero of Waterloo.
The Hero’s a great place to combine good beer with a trip into Sydney’s historical past. Built in 1843 using convict labour, you can still see chisel marks on sandstone blocks making up the walls; the dark wooden floor is worn smooth from generations of weary feet in search of a cold pint. Stone-drunk sailors once found themselves whisked through an underground tunnel to the harbour and shanghaied into service aboard waiting ships… while rum was smuggled in the other direction.
Dine at Sydney’s top restaurants
Sydney-ites, as they’re known, are obsessed with food and while there is an abundance of quality dining within and around the CBD, some stand out as exemplary.
Rockpool, the longest-standing jewel in seminal Australian chef Neil Perry’s culinary empire, turns twenty-six this year yet remains one of the best fine dining experiences in Sydney. For that important business lunch, you can bet to impress. The food philosophy is modern Australian; all the hallmarks of haute French preparation and technique combined with quality produce and subtle nods to Chinese-influenced flavours.
Also by Neil Perry, Spice Temple is a homage to the fire and flavours of regional Chinese cuisine. The food is imaginative, varied and of the highest quality. For a quick(ish) lunchtime bite try the Yum Cha menu or sample from the range of mains; dishes are designed to be shared.
The Fish drowned in heaven facing chillies and Sichuan peppercorns stands out; fish is cooked to delicate perfection in a rich, clear and slightly gelatinous broth, covered by successive layers of Sichuan peppercorns, the deep red of heaven-facing chillies and long dried red chillies to finish. Left to its own devices, the peppers and chillies slowly infuse the broth with a deep heat. Your waiter will scoop the layers of chillies off so you can get to the delicate broth and fish beneath; the Sichuan peppercorns cause a tingling, buzzing and slightly numbing sensation on the tongue that enlivens the palate and makes every bite exciting.
The Apollo in shady, upmarket Potts Point offers robust yet finely tuned modern Greek fare. Best for value is the whole table – ordered Full Greek. You’ll enjoy working your way through the Saganaki cheese served with honey and oregano – the oregano adds earthiness and the honey sweetness to the decadently rich, grilled and melted wedge of Saganaki, served still sizzling in a cast iron pan.
The slowly oven-baked lamb shoulder, rustically served with lemon and yogurt, comes in a plate of it’s own juices. The zest of lemon, salt, garlic and whatever else Jonathan Barthelmess and his team add to make it taste so good are concentrated in the juice so you’ll dip each forkful of the tender, melting lamb in for a good dousing.
Run the Royal Botanic Gardens
Don the running shoes for some fresh morning air and a view-laden circuit of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Start from the Eastern end of Circular Quay and head towards then around the back of the Opera House; enter the gardens via the Opera House gate.
At this point you can choose to lose yourself in the gardens’ meandering pathways and inhale the verdant sights and smells of Australian flora, maybe even see the on- again, off-again resident marsupial flying Foxes, or take a roughly six kilometre runners route. Follow the sweeping curve of pathway around Farm Cove to Mrs Macquaries Point; the path takes you around the point where you’re treated to fantastic harbour views of Watson’s Bay, the Australian Navy’s Garden Bay docks and Woolloomooloo popular Finger Wharf.
Take the stairs at the Woolloomooloo gate and up to Art Gallery Rd, turn left and pass the Art Gallery of NSW on your left. Keep going until you see Hospital Rd and hang a right, then follow Hospital Rd; you’ll run behind the NSW Houses of Parliament and The NSW State Library.
The hard work done, cool down with a gravity-friendly jog down Macquarie St and ta-da, you’re back at the start.
Head to the beach
No stay in Sydney would be complete without taking a dip at one its famous beaches.
While most will tell you to go to Bondi, if you’re staying in the CBD and keen on efficiency it’s far easier (and more picturesque) to catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach.
The voyage takes about a half hour and during that time you’ll see Sydney Harbour from the water. The harbour’s topography is one of crowded hills of luxury housing and bluff, almost wild crags interspersed with bay after bay. It’s stunning and truly there’s nothing like it anywhere else on Earth.
Along the journey you’ll pass parallel to the Heads – the two kilometre wide entrance to the harbour – and feel the swell coming in from the vast Pacific Ocean lift the ferry as you pass by. The ferry deposits you on Manly’s harbour-side; from there it’s a short walk along a pedestrian concourse to Manly Beach.
As ever with our Lunch Guides we seek to fill in the gaps allowed between the hectic schedule that is business travel. Sydney is a city with many layers so if you do have more time it’s also worth checking out the wealth of cultural, music, art and live sports that happen almost weekly in and around the CBD. Enjoy your time in the harbour city!