G’day Mate! Hello from the land Down Under. It’s time to feel more alive and sizzling in sunny Sydney. With so much to do as a tourist, Sydney and New South Wales are always open to exploration. Discover soft-sand beaches filled with adrenaline-packed adventures, combined with some of the freshest, flavourful, craft food at some of the finest restaurants. Here’s one continent that must be on your bucket list in 2023. Australia checks all the boxes that an avid traveller looks forward to indulging in.
This is such an exciting time for those with wanderlust. With more flights introduced to welcome international visitors, there couldn’t be a better time than now to travel to Australia. Qantas Airways recently introduced its direct flight connecting Bangalore to Sydney in 11.30 hours flat. I relished my Business Class experience with Qantas Airways and enjoyed the space to relax comfortably in a dedicated cabin, dining on the freshest seasonal ingredients up in the sky along with lounge access and a friendly cabin crew that pampered me to the fullest. I stretched out in my Signature Qantas pyjama set on the Skybed that reclines to a fully-flat luxurious bed. I slept like a happy baby on the cozy bed and woke up fully rested to a steaming cup of morning tea and a sumptuous and healthy breakfast in bed. Voila! Before I knew it, it was time to land in a new continent.
Some of the best vantage points in Sydney are best to explore on foot. With new experiences around every corner – Wildlife, nightlife, wild nights and the good life – there’s always nonstop fun in Sydney. Hidden restaurants down historic laneways, famous icons on Sydney Harbour, golden sands, turquoise oceans, dewy green rainforests and an endless calendar of events to look forward to, Sydney is the place if you want to feel the city’s heartbeat all year round. There couldn’t be a better time for us to fly down here than the summer month of December, with the Christmas festivities and enjoying a tropical holiday season this time around.
Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
One of Sydney’s best located luxury hotels, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney was where we spent two nights, and can vouch for the unforgettable luxury experience that it boasts about, overlooking the stunning Sydney Harbour and surrounded by the city’s icons, shopping and business precincts. After a quick check-in and a mandatory picture of my room with a view, I took a shower and headed down to the Mode Kitchen & Bar for lunch. Striking the perfect balance between a casual bistro and fine dining, Mode Kitchen & Bar embodies great cooking and fresh, delicious flavours, celebrating contemporary Australian cuisine in a beautiful setting. After a good, hearty lunch, we relaxed for a while before the evening activities.
An evening of entertainment awaited us under the stars as we walked towards the King Street Wharf. At the Circular Quay, which is always buzzing with tourists and locals cooling off with a drink, we hopped onto a Ferry for Cockatoo Island. Sydney’s largest harbour island is no stranger to unbelievable sights – donning a world-class art venue and heritage glamping spot to watch the city’s famous fireworks on New Year’s Eve. The summer sun was about to set and it was getting nippy as the artists took to the stage to perform the popular Carmen show. The show left us spellbound as the perennial femme fatale came forth in an electrifying interpretation of the classic opera. We revelled in the story of the dangerously magnetic Carmen as the famous songs of ‘Habanera’ and ‘Toreador’ energised the breezy evening and swept us into Georges Bizet’s dark tale of seduction, devotion, and jealousy. Nights out in the open can get quite chilly, so don’t forget to keep yourself warm and covered in layers even during the summer months.
Lifestyle Charters Breakfast Cruise
We woke up fresh as a flower in the morning and were all set for a short walk to board our private harbour breakfast cruise with Lifestyle Charters to discover the stunning Sydney Harbour. Lifestyle Charters is Sydney Harbour’s popular charter yacht operator, owning and operating two of Sydney’s must-do charter boats, Enigma and Felix. We hopped onto Enigma and decided to take our seats on the upper deck. Very soon our breakfast of freshly cut fruits, juices, tarts, croissants and coffee arrived. Although our hotel rooms came with a view of the Sydney Opera House, one can never get enough of the majestic white beauty. After a scrumptious breakfast, we couldn’t resist clicking pictures of the Sydney Opera House and the Bridge from all the possible angles. This architectural marvel is just so alluring that one has to see it in person to sense the magnitude of its beauty. We let the gentle breeze blow through our hair as we sat back on the Enigma, sailing past the Sydney Harbour across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Garden Island, Point Piper, Clifton Gardens, Bradleys Head, Taronga, Kirribilli House and Luna Park.
We visited The Rocks, the birthplace of modern Sydney, which was a quick three minute walk from our hotel. Discover the area’s rich colonial history as well as its contemporary position as a thriving entertainment precinct right by the spectacular Sydney Harbour. We walked up again to the Sydney Opera House to click more pictures and for a tour inside. We also walked around Circular Quay, one of the first stops on any Sydney schedule owing to its prime location at the harbour. This is the place to take in the majestic iconic structures which overlook the glittering water. As the city’s main ferry terminal, it’s also a great spot to kick off your sightseeing activities. Live the life of your dreams in true Sydney style anytime of the year.
Our lunch was at Nomad, Surry Hills. Nomad sources the best produce from local growers who share the same beliefs and sensibilites as them, with food that is inspired by travels through Spain, Morocco and the Middle East. It was almost Christmas season there, so the restaurant was bustling and packed to the brim with corporates and other groups celebrating, exchanging gifts and making merry.
The Sydney Cricket Ground
With our tummies full and our souls happy, we were now excited to visit the holy grounds where all the legendary players have left their mark – The Sydney Cricket Ground. We enjoyed an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Sydney Cricket Ground and the newly opened Allianz Stadium, more commonly known as the Sydney Football Stadium. Walking around the ground and sitting in the changing rooms of the legendary players was quite a high. The SCG Guided Walking Tour is a must for all cricket lovers who can expect a fascinating journey exploring behind the scenes of the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) precinct and the SCG Museum. The precinct is Sydney’s home of sport where international sporting heroes play cricket, rugby union, rugby league, football/soccer and the Australian Football League. The highlight of the tour was sitting on the seats of Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and other biggies in their changing rooms and listening to all the interesting trivia from our ever enthusiastic tour guide Gail. We also met former Australian cricket player Michael Bevan, regularly dubbed the world’s best limited-overs batsman who shared some of his experiences from his heydays.
If you have some time at hand, do visit The Museum of Contemporary Art. We also visited the Louis Vuitton exhibition that showcased its history and lineage over the years.
The Fish Butchery
Dining at an actual butchery is unheard of, and something that I had frankly never imagined. It took me a little bit of time to come to terms with dining at the same place where fresh fish is sliced right in front of your eyes, but it turned out to be quite a unique experience. With a popular name like celebrity chef Josh Niland behind The Fish Butchery, who was previously a ‘master’ on MasterChef Australia 2021, we had no doubt the food served would be superlative. He makes arguably the best fish and chips in Sydney. During the week it’s closed to the public and operates as the home of fish production for his restaurant. On weekends, it serves up top-notch takeaway, ready to cook meals and expertly prepared fish, alongside a few tables for diners who prefer to eat in. Some of the fish dishes actually looked like meats and could be misleading even to non-vegetarians. The Fish Butchery is truly a haven for pescetarians.
Picture this – white sand, swaying palms and warm, sparkling water. Bondi beach is lined with many laidback cafés and casual pubs. Only a few steps away from the beach is The Depot, where we indulged in a delicious breakfast. While I tucked into an Eggs Benedict and my friend into her Pancakes, we spoke about surfing, diving and beach bumming over good coffee, celebrating flavours and the simplicity of fresh wholesome brekkie. It was a Sunday, so many locals had gathered at the Farmer’s Market alongwith their furry friends to pick up some fresh produce straight from the farms. It’s known for its sweeping white sand crescent and is a long stretch of pristine beauty with great waves and calming yet fun vibes at the beach. Many movies have been shot at this landmark beach in Australia. Bondi beach was right there calling us and we just couldn’t resist taking a stroll as the warm ocean water caressed our feet. This will always be a memorable walk with blue skies above and the sun peeping through the sparse clouds. I wished I could spend a day here, but we had to catch a domestic Qantas flight to Ballina soon after.
Ballina, North Coast Region, NSW
There’s wonder around every corner on the NSW North Coast, stretching from Newcastle all the way to the Queensland border. Like a patch of sand to call your own. Or a national park where the calm hum of nature offers a soothing soundtrack. Or the bend of a tranquil estuary to paddle as the sun rises – or sets. Or glamourous beach towns and tiny hamlets where the dress code is ‘salty hair’.
Tropical Fruit World
A visit to the Tropical Fruit World was about everything fruits and farm fresh. This award-winning tourist attraction, commercial exotic fruit farm and research park, where a collection of more than 500 exotic tropical fruit varieties are grown is seeing over a lakh visitors every year and for good reason. I picked up some macadamia nuts fallen from the trees right below and learnt how to crack them open and crunched on them at this popular regional leisure attraction in the Tweed/Gold Coast area. I also loved the fresh fruit ice cream that was made right before our eyes with fruits that we picked from the many options available in front of us. Can’t get any more refreshing than this, can it? We also rubbed shoulders with a troop of cute kangaroos here at the farm. There’s no Aussie animal more iconic than these kangaroos. One of the moms even had a baby joey in her pouch.
Peppers Salt Resort & Spa Kingscliff
We checked into Peppers Salt Resort & Spa Kingscliff for three nights that afternoon. Surrounded by plunge pools, lagoon pools and tropical foliage, the resort combines Northern NSW seaside-village charm with all the amenities and luxuries. The beautifully decorated hotel rooms and self-contained suites are just a few steps away from the Salt Beach.
Our dinner that evening was at Australia’s most awarded regional restaurant, Fins Restaurant and Bar, served to us by the Internationally renowned travelling celebrity chef Steven Snow. I chose a John Dory this time which exceeded all expectations. I woke up early for a walk on the beach. Although it was drizzling, I loved the short walk coupled with scenic views followed by a quick swim in the pool. After a wonderful breakfast spread at the Season Restaurant at Peppers, we headed out to check out a few boutique stores nearby. All the shopping helped us build up an appetite again.
We arrived at Halcyon House and enjoy a shared four course lunch at Paper Daisy. Located in the beautiful Halcyon House in Cabarita Beach, Paper Daisy is a two-hatted restaurant offering sophisticated simplicity. Executive Chef Jason Barratt produced dishes that were soul satisfying, with a focus on using quality local produce that is sustainably sourced. There was also a vast range of local gins on the menu, but we decided to save those for the gin tasting at the Husk Distillery we were to visit after our lunch.
We drove down for a distillery tour and gin tasting in Tumbulgum, Australia’s only single estate rum distillery and the home of Ink Gin. As Australia’s only ‘farm-to-bottle’ rum distillery, this was quite a unique experience what with the famous Ink Gin. Our distiller made the tour even more interesting as he explained the whole process of crafting gin with juniper and herbs and how the blue or butterfly pea flower when dropped in water changes its colour to indigo and finally a deep purple. Add some gin to it and you have a fun refreshing cocktail. When we added tonic water, we were excited to see it transform into a lovely pink hue.
It felt like we had transported ourselves to Greece for our dinner that evening. Located on the beachfront on Marine Parade, Taverna is a Greek-inspired modern restaurant in white and blue. Had to be. With an ocean view, Taverna is the perfect spot for a long lunch, quiet dinner or beachside cocktail. Sydney serves up a moreish spread of epicurean experiences to lift your tastebuds and Taverna is one of them.
Tweed Escapes Private Breakfast River Cruise
Ballina is not just about sublime natural beauty but also celebrating its rich Indigenous heritage and gastronomy. This was an experience I was looking forward to – a Private breakfast river cruise with a view to remember for a lifetime with Tweed Escapes. We enjoyed a local indigenous group performance, cultural cruise followed by a picnic breakfast. Tweed Escapes provides amazing experiences to naturally beautiful places in the Tweed Valley & Beyond. It gets its name from the Tweed range of mountains that lie on the Western side of Australia in between Sydney and Brisbane, and the Tweed river that flows through it. As we sailed along the Tweed we were in for a treat with some of the most fabulous scenery this side of the world while we tasted delicious local food and enjoyed hand-crafted beverages from locally sourced ingredients. Michael Simmons, the owner, kept us engaged throughout the Tweed river cruise sharing anecdotes and nuggets from the rich history of this place. There can’t be a better way to explore the Tweed from paddock to plate and from rainforest to coast than the multi-award-winning-award winning Tweed Escapes. It was truly an experience that any number of pictures can’t do justice to.
The Farm Byron Bay
The Farm Byron Bay supports the environment and contributes to those wishing to live a healthier lifestyle. Before our personalised tour of The Farm, we sipped on some good coffee. The guided tour of The Farm helped us gain first-hand knowledge of how the farm community works together to live their ethos. We were shown how they aim to grow, feed, educate and give back in everything they do at The Farm.
Raes on Wategos
Byron Bay’s most exclusive boutique hotel, Raes on Wategos, is matched in class by the town’s most upmarket restaurant. Raes Dining Room is helmed by chef Jason Saxby, who does wonders transforming local produce into Mediterranean-inspired dishes in three-course, or full-blown degustation menus. They are lauded for their dishes like the fregola pimped up with Byron Bay shiitake, black garlic, porcini XO and saltbush. As we could tell, the chef was rather fond of native Australian ingredients, and incorporated them with aplomb. The kingfish that I tried was extremely fresh, flavourful and delightfully well prepared. After tasting their signature desserts, we stepped out for some retail therapy and then to the Wategos Beach right there.
Byron Bay Lighthouse
It was the golden hour, which made it the perfect time to visit the Byron Bay Lighthouse. The Byron Bay Lighthouse is iconic of Byron Bay, built high on the headland overlooking the bay. Built in 1901 by Charles Harding, this white picturesque beauty stands on the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. We feasted on magnificent ocean views from this historic lighthouse on the edge of the Australian continent. If you’re here in October or earlier in the year you can also spot dolphins swimming and whirling around in the ocean. The cyan coloured sea and the powder white sand was just too tempting to leave. We just had to sit till way past dusk as we caught up with a live music performance on the lawns while tucking into some juicy yet crispy fish and chips. Since the sun rises really early in Australia and sets in late, we were lucky to feast on great views till almost 8 pm.
We were up at the strike of dawn at Ballina Byron Gateway airport for our Qantas flight back to Sydney.
WildLife Sydney Zoo
If you missed spotting kangaroos or koalas in the wild, then stop by at the Sydney Zoo to get that treasured selfie with some joeys and you won’t be disappointed. Enjoy amazing animal adventures as you walk through iconic Australian habitats and encounter some of the most loved animals that call Australia home. We got a memorable photo experience with koalas when he just woke up from his 20 hours slumber. Yes, koalas sleep for 20 to 22 hours every day. What a life!
Our lunch at Chiswick Woollahra was just the way one should dine on their last day in this haute city. With many ingredients grown inhouse, the menu is alive to the seasons, always ripe with elegant simplicity and perfect for sharing. The natural light-filled space of a contemporary dining room gives way to a casual bar area, large communal table and shaded outdoor seating, perfect for a quick bite or a drink. The fish again was excellent, but the lamb here was a clear winner on our table.
Park Hyatt Sydney
We checked into Park Hyatt Sydney for our last night here. I loved my spacious suite at this intimate residential-style retreat perfectly situated between the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Kick back on the water’s edge at Pier One Sydney Harbour, Park Hyatt Sydney or Four Seasons Sydney, all perfectly positioned on the picturesque waterfront. I wish I had more time to breathe in the dreamy harbour vistas at this elegant property.
The Capitol Theatre
Our last night in Sydney will always be memorable as we watched Moulin Rouge! The Musical at Sydney’s magical and historic Capitol Theatre, which is host to world class musicals, theatre, ballet, concerts and performers. The entire production was worth a standing applause. A true befitting last night in Ausome Australia!
People of Australia
The continent and its people are some of the nicest that I’ve come across on any of my travels. Australians are genuinely happy and there’s always a sense of joie de vivre around everywhere you go. With plenty of options for delicious eats, magical sights and warm and friendly people, Sydney now ranks as one of my Top 5 Picks for Places in the World you must visit.
Plan your Australia visit keeping these dates in mind:
ELEVATE Sydney: 3 Jan – 7 Jan 2023
Sydney Festival: 5 Jan – 29 Jan 2023
HSBC Sydney 7’s: 27 Jan – 29 Jan 2023
Aus SailGP: 18 Feb – 19 Feb 2023
Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour: Madama Butterfly: 24 Mar – 23 Apr 2023
Sydney to Hobart: 26 Jan 2023
Australia Day: 26 Jan 2023
Moulin Rouge! The Musical: Until 28 Jan 2023
Sydney World Pride / Mardi Gras: 17 Feb – 5 Mar 2023
Ed Sheeran: 24-25 Feb 2023
Harry Styles: 3 Mar 2023
Backstreet Boys: 4 Mar 2023
Vivid Sydney: 26 May to 17 Jun
FIFA Women’s World Cup: 20 Jul to 20 Aug 2023
SXSW Sydney: 15 to 22 Oct 2023