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My Sydney Boat
Photograph: My Sydney Boat

The best things to do on holiday in Sydney

Sydney's only a short flight away from Singapore but there a whole new world of adventures to experience

Delfina Utomo
Written by
Delfina Utomo
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Australia has been open for business and with so many destination spots to choose from, making holiday decisions can be hard. While we love Melbourne for its endless road trip ideas and cosmopolitan city life, it's hard not to fall in love with Sydney. So if you love beaches, wildlife, nature, food and slightly sunnier weather – this fun city is where your adventures begin. 

RECOMMENDED: Best roadtrip destinations from Melbourne

DO

Kayak around Lavender Bay
Photograph: Sydney By Kayak

Kayak around Lavender Bay

We know you're on holiday but we promise this is worth getting up mighty early for. Join a group or book a private tour for this spectacular and adventurous paddle. Meet up at the Sydney by Kayak base in Lavender Bay, just west of the Harbour Bridge. Launch from there and paddle into the sunrise. You can paddle under the bridge past the Opera House and explore the bays and beaches of Sydney's north shore with a stop on a beautiful beach in a bushland setting before the return paddle – but you can pretty much choose you what you want to see and where you want to paddle when planning your adventure. 

  • Things to do
  • The Rocks
  • price 3 of 4

Yes, it's the most obvious thing to do in Sydney. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, you have to wear an unflattering grey jumpsuit. But if climbing the fourth-longest single-span steel arch bridge in the world is a should-see for out-of-towners and visiting celebrities (Nicole Kidman, Bruce Springsteen and even Darude of Sandstorm fame have all opted in for the BridgeClimb), then it’s good enough for you.

Each climb starts with a breath test, trying on some jumpsuits for fit, getting hooked up for safety and some practice sessions with the belt and clip. Opt for the Burrawa Climb where an Indigenous storyteller will be your guide and share facts and stories about the Aboriginal culture, languages and more. The climb isn’t as arduous or scary as you’d think: much of it is just like ascending a (not-at-all-steep) staircase, and there are plenty of stops on the way so the guide can offer fascinating gobbets. More so than the height factor, it’s the views that are the real thrill – the silhouette of the Blue Mountains frames the West, and the Pacific Ocean opens up the East. 

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Go on a boat ride to explore Sydney's beaches
Photograph: My Sydney Boat

Go on a boat ride to explore Sydney's beaches

There are a lot of beaches in Sydney. The fact that there's a list out there that ranks the beaches (and Top 50 only) is fascinating enough to someone coming from Singapore. The best part is that each beach is different and you can see it all – by boat. Charter a tour of some of Sydney's prettiest beaches with My Sydney Boat and all you have to do is take off your shoes, settle down at the front of the boat and soak up the sun. 

  • Art
  • Galleries

Opened in 1982 and renovated in 2010, Australia’s national gallery houses important Australian, Indigenous, Pacific, Asian, American and European masterpieces, including Jackson Pollock’s ‘Blue Poles’ and Constantin Brancusi’s ‘Bird in Space’. In 2015 the NGA established a department of contemporary international arts practice, focusing on post-millennial art, particularly moving image, performance and installation.

It's worth the trek to Canberra for the NGA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection – the largest in the world, comprised of over 7500 works, and displayed in a purpose-built wing. In fact the first artwork you encounter as you step into the NGA’s foyer is the Ramingining artists’ ‘Aboriginal Memorial’ (1987-88), an installation featuring 200 hollow log coffins from central Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory. Unveiled in conjunction with the Bicentenary, the work commemorates the deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across 200 years of colonisation.

The NGA also has one of Californian artist James Turrell’s ‘Skyspaces’ as part of its collection: a site-specific built environment situated in the Australian Garden, with a hole in the ceiling from which a ‘screen’ of sky can be seen, and within which the quality and colour of light appears to change throughout the day. Make sure you check the best viewing times before your visit.

The other major ‘must see’ at the NGA is the Sculpture Garden, which features work by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Clement Meadmore, Inge King and more, as well as an installation of Pukamani burial poles (1979–84) from Bathurst and Melville Islands. If you visit Marsh Pond between 12.30 and 2pm, you’ll see Fujiko Nakaya's fog sculpture in eerie operation, sending waves of mist over the 66 bronze heads, emerging from the water, that comprise Indonesian artist Dadang Christanto’s ‘Heads from the North’ memorial (2004).

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  • Things to do
  • Barangaroo

Did you know Barangaroo was a kickass businesswoman? Named for the pioneering second wife of Bennelong (the Eora man who played a key interlocutory role between original inhabitants and the British settlers). According to Rhoda Roberts, director of Indigenous programming and ceremonies, Barangaroo was the first Aboriginal woman to turn a profit from the newly arrived hungry white folks by selling them surplus fish.

Barangaroo Reserve was opened in September 2015 on a site that used to be a vacant wharf. It's a park and entertainment space that runs over a number of levels with panoramic views of Sydney Harbour. There's a space called the Cutaway which is used for indoor events and exhibitions, and there are often food trucks parked outside.

Take a seaplane to an oyster farm
Photograph: Sydney Oyster Farm Tours

Take a seaplane to an oyster farm

Need to take a break from the city? Oyster lovers can take a seaplane to Hawkesbury where you can go on a Sydney Oyster Farm Tour. Meet second and third-generation oyster farmers, visit the oyster leases on the Hawkesbury River, have a picnic on a secluded beach and taste the famous Broken Bay oysters. Bless.

EAT

  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Circular Quay

Call it fate, serendipity or sheer dumb luck, but just as Sydneysiders have finally regained their appetites for dining out, with lockdowns and surges and on-again-off-again restrictions behind us (we hope), the Inner City’s hospitality offering has exploded with a glut of new restaurants vying for our custom. One of the most intriguing trends of this culinary boom is an uptick in a particular breed of hospo entrepreneurism, riffing on the model Justin Hemmes pioneered at Merivale’s Ivy HQ on George Street. These stand-alone hospitality hubs provide a high-end one-stop solution for an evening out, allowing punters to casually drift from a pre-dinner cocktail in one venue to their meal in another, perhaps followed by a nightcap or two, all under one roof. On the fringes of Barangaroo, Shell House has showcased the concept across four venues since opening in 2021, and now Hinchcliff House, at the self-described "urban neighbourhood" of the new Quay Quarter, has followed suit, with four levels of drinking and dining excellence in a respectfully restored 1870s wool warehouse.

The most refined of these four venues (although every space in the building has a sophistication of its own) is Lana, an Italian-ish up-market osteria heroing seasonal seafood with low-waste principles. The interiors offer a masterclass in the power of subtle design and judicious lighting. Exposed beams and raw brickwork speak to the building’s 19th-century heritage, while slender wall sconces and carefully placed downlights offer pools of light amidst the moody shadows between tables. The focal point of the room is a sprawling bar clad in dusky pink marble, gently backlit to draw your gaze, while on the opposite wall, the open kitchens add a disarming undercurrent of action and informality to the vibe. It’s an achingly chic yet cosy ambience; unmistakably luxe but without bragging about it. The service follows suit, with immaculately presented front of house staff that are friendly and navigate through tables that love to chat or would prefer to keep it to a minimum.

Seasonality is key at Lana, and head chef Alex Wong’s menu is constantly shifting, leaning on the best available local produce. So, even though the venue’s soul is Italian, you’ll find plenty of Antipodean and Asian flourishes. 

On paper, this is a set four-course menu for $79 (add beverage pairings including a pre-dinner aperitif for an additional $70), but the reality gives you far more bang for your buck. A palate cleanser of yuzu, lemon myrtle and soda sets your tastebuds on high alert for a quartet of “snacks”. First a pairing of shellfish bites with Japanese inclinations: an Abrolhos scallop sashimi immersed in a persimmon dressing with shiso; and a Spring Bay mussel Catalana with a yuzu kosho mayonnaise and tomato salsa. Hot on their heels are two more canapes that are closer aligned to Italian cuisine: a leek tart and a saltbush hashbrown topped with a crisp crown of Margra lamb culatello.

It’s an inspired way to start the meal – a proud flex of Wong’s virtuosity with taste and texture and an at-a-glance synopsis of the culinary story that is about to unfold. Each mouthful is a precocious leap from salty to sweet, soft to sharp, the first two snacks delivering a fearless wallop of flavour, while the second pair lean into more familiar territory, less extrovert and more reassuring that you’re in skilled yet sensible hands. All of this is scene-setting, placing the diner in exactly the right frame of mind for the meal: ‘Come at me flavour; I trust you chef.’

The first course – an ink tortelli of coral prawn, mascarpone and sea urchin – is a complex creation. The perfect taste of the sea exists in a near-infinitesimal zone between umami and brine, a hint of sweetness, entwined with a quiver of mineral mystery. It’s all too easy for that flavour profile to stumble into the rock pool, taking you to the ocean you’re happy to paddle in but don’t want to find on your plate. This delicately crafted dish dares to push that balance right to the edge of the ocean, stopping just shy of the shore. 

After a sequence of such intricate morsels, the served-to-share main course is a bit of a shock, but not an unwelcome one. The two generous fillets of Murray cod, served on a rich sauce of verjus, salmon caviar and charred cos heart, with a side of butter lettuce and green tomato salad with a black sesame dressing, seems a deliberate change of tack. There’s an unapologetic frankness to this course, no mercurial interplay of surprising elements to explore, just good eating, faultlessly executed. Wong knows when to pull his punches, and while some might assume the main course should be the major coup of the meal, the ease of this dish allows for conversation, for your focus to lift from the calibre of the cooking and engage with your dining partners without disrespecting the kitchen. Even the way it’s served, to share, prompts a social moment.

There’s a whimsical symmetry to the pair of desserts that finish the meal. Once again, Japanese influences are prominent, in a sparkling confection of yuba, white miso and a brittle scrunch of caramelised pineapple, that much like Wong’s snacks, nimbly ducks and weaves through an assault course of bright and muted flavours and textures. To conclude, a final palate cleanser – a slice of piel de sapo, infused with yuzushu and lime sugar. Like the refreshing yuzu beverage that began this odyssey into Wong’s Japanese-Italian fusion, it leaves the mouth cleansed and primed. What for, you may ask? Well, there are three other venues in the building for you to try, after all. 

What else are you going to check out in the new Quay Quarter? Might we recommend Apollonia Bar?

MuMu
  • Restaurants
  • Crows Nest
  • price 2 of 4

While fine dining restaurants bitch and moan about having to put a steak on the menu (and then charge upwards of $60 for it), restaurants devoted purely to the noble bovine are going gangbusters all around town. From established chophouses like Prime to Rockpool Bar and Grill, steak is the new steak.

Chef Craig Macindoe's menu is a mix of little tapas-y things and straight up grill greatest hits. Grilled feta is warmed through and served with lemon, oil and oregano. It really needs some bread or some sort of carb raft to provide some relief from all that rich, creamy cheese, which gets a bit sticky in the mouth after a while. Onion rings are a super cute idea, but they need to re-think their batter if they're going to be served as a tapa - here, they're those crisp floured ones, not the plump American style that you might expect. They'd be a great touch on top of a steak or a chop, say, but don't work as a snack plate.

But if you hit the steak, you're in for a treat. The scotch (sourced from the pastures of Dungog, just outside Newcastle near Scone) is juicy and pink, well seasoned and encrusted with smashed capers and parsley with a nice fat coverage. Ribs, on the other hand, are a bit disappointing. The house-made barbecue sauce lacks the sticky, finger coating richness that make ribs so exciting. And no bib! What's the point of eating a rack of ribs in a steakhouse if they don't embarrassingly bib you?

It's true that it's become incredibly fashionable to serve proteins like steak and fish bereft of sides like they do in Italy, but in most restaurants they're usually offered, even if you have to purchase them separately. Here, it seems they'd rather you appreciated the meat without tainting it with frivolities like greens or salad.

The wine list is a nice mix of Aussie, French and Spanish varietals and there's plenty to like with an even coverage of prices. There's also a bar where you can wait for your table or even just prop up with one of their classic cocktails and some tapas. Word is they're working with Spanish importer Javier Degen to create a jamon bar, too.

And while we're sad as hell they're out of the brown sugar pavlova, we're mollified by the gingerbread ice cream sandwich that sees slices of soft ginger bread sandwiching vanilla ice cream with a scattering of stone fruit. This could be a really solid offering for Crows Nest if the service stepped up a couple of notches and they ironed out the kinks in the menu.

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  • Restaurants
  • Surry Hills
  • price 1 of 4

The queue often stretches around the corner, and there’s only room for a few gluteus maximi at the window tables, but hell, it’s worth it. Bourke Street Bakery deftly blends insane amounts of flour, butter, egg yolks and icing sugar for the best pain au chocolat and pastry snails in the city. The Aroma beans make for supreme coffee too. When the sun’s shining, there’s nothing better than snagging a couple of pork and fennel or lamb and harissa sausage rolls, a loaf of sourdough, a tray of assorted sweetcakes (we love the sugar scrolls and the teeny ginger brulee tarts) and cutting through the rustic back alleys of Surry Hills for a lawn brekkie at Moore Park.

Bourke Street Bakery is also now open in Alexandria, Marrickville, Neutral Bay and Potts Point.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Glebe
  • price 1 of 4

The Friend in Hand should be the subject of a Slim Dusty song. It feels like someone uprooted an outback pub and replanted it in the back streets of Glebe, complete with a public bar decked out in more Australiana tat than you can poke a stick at. There’s the famous cockatoo that sits happily at one end of the bar, but he goes to bed at 6pm so if you are keen for a drink with the pub’s avian mascot make it during lunchtime.
A model train set runs along the back of the bar and out around into the foyer passing the street signs, old public notices, black-and-white photos, newspaper clippings, an impressive collection of foreign currency and some mounted taxidermy heads. Model aeroplanes and a canoe hang from the ceiling and a good chunk of the bar is given to the big glass aquarium where they keep the hermit crabs for Wednesday crab racing. The eclectic hoarded vibe lessens a little in the dining room – called the Fork in Hand – where they have an open gas fireplace and do a tasty chicken parmigiana.
The people in the pub also have character to spare. There are always a few council workers still in high-vis out the front, grizzled locals with tales of the old days and a bartender blithely singing along to Groove Is in the Heart while she pulls your standard domestic beers for the half dozen bikies who roared up to the curb on immaculately polished Harleys. The beers are cheap and super cold, the wine list will get the job done, and they have a comedy night, poetry reading and life drawing to keep things high brow-ish. This is a friend you want to keep around.

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  • Restaurants
  • Sydney

A trip to the Art Gallery of NSW is always a feast for the eyes, but Sydney’s flagship gallery has also offered nourishment of the culinary kind, in the form of its partnership with restaurant group Solotel and chef-restaurateur Matt Moran. That collaboration, Chiswick at the Gallery, closed its doors in January 2021, but this cultured dining room and bar has not remained shuttered for long.

Its new incarnation, also helmed by Moran and operated by the Fresh Collective, is offering Mediterranean-inspired fare five days a week (Wed-Sun), heroing locally sourced produce. Crafted by Matt Moran will start the day with brunch options and light bites, such as buttermilk lemon scones, blueberry and almond crostata and crab sliders, as well as heartier dishes like corn fritters with poached eggs and chorizo, and a croque monsieur with Heidi Farms gruyere. You can wash that down with fresh juices, hot beverages – artisanal teas and single O coffee, naturally – and for those who really want to indulge, Australian sparkling wine.

The lunch menu is an antipasti affair – think grazing platters, Alto olive oil focaccia, La Stella burrata with autumn figs and Sydney rock oysters. If you’re in the mood for a more substantial feed, opt for beef carpaccio with rocket, fennel, radicchio and parmesan or grilled swordfish with sauteed Italian greens and olive dressing, or even a humble and delicious plate of fish and chips. Catering to a broad range of tastes is clearly front of mind in Moran's menu choices. Once the sun is over the yardarm, diners can enjoy a range of cocktails and Champagne, as well as beers, ciders, and non-alcoholic beverages.

The restaurant is also hirable as a function and wedding space, which will include catering options curated by Moran in his capacity as the gallery’s culinary advisor. Set within one of Sydney's most beautiful buildings, with views taking in Sydney Harbour and Wooloomooloo, it'd certainly be no party venue slouch. 

  • Restaurants
  • Greek
  • The Rocks

Celebrated chef Peter Conistis has opened the latest in his series of stunning Greek eateries in the heart of the Rocks. Ploos (which means 'voyage' in Conistis' mother tongue) is joining the line up next to Alpha, Omega and Cosmos, with a menu that is celebrating the regional dishes of the Aegean Sea. 

Clever pairings of octopus and carob as well as a dessert of salty haloumi tart throw together the contrast of savoury with sweet, a fine line that shows the confidence of a veteran chef backed by decades in the business exploring a culinary tradition he clearly lives for.

Unsurprisingly, the Ploos fit-out is as stunning as its sister venues, with marble finishes and gold trimming adjacent to convict-chiselled sandstone walls, all within the heritage-listed Campbell's Store. The Greek diner joins an influx of venues that have taken up residence in this corner of the inner city recently, adding yet more ballast to the case that the Rocks is a dining destination not only for tourists but for discerning locals too. Gin distillery Hickson House opened in the latter months of 2021, and the team behind Alberto's Lounge has taken over the nearly 200-year-old building that housed Phillip Foote, with plans of major renovations slated this year. 

Ploos is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday to Sunday and given the company it keeps, we highly recommend making a booking at the website here.

STAY

  • Hotels
  • Luxury hotels
  • Barangaroo

Having a strong emotional response to a toilet is a first for me. But as the high-tech, fully mechanised robot lavatory in my marble-clad bathroom automatically lifted its motorised lid – as if to say, ‘Well hello there’ with a big, friendly grin – I couldn’t help but let out a little chirp of joy.

Listen carefully and you’ll likely hear similar gasps of glee and sighs of delight during your stay at the almost excessively opulent Crown Towers Resort at Barangaroo. Every lavish inch of this 'six-star hotel' – Sydney’s first – is designed to wow. Not just to impress, not just to satisfy, but to leave your jaw well and truly on the floor. 

As I gingerly place myself down on the seat (already pleasantly warmed to just above body temp) it strikes me that this encounter with a robot toilet might just be the aptest analogy there is for the Crown Towers experience. At first glance, this hotel dazzles with its grand gestures and unapologetic showboating, like installing a $6,000 loo in each of its 349 rooms. However, where it really sets itself apart is in its intimate details – moments of private indulgence (like discovering the aforementioned robot toilet has an automated, high-pressure bidet function) that make you feel like the most pampered person in the whole damn building.

Not unlike the gleaming exterior of the elegantly curved sapphire shard that now dominates Sydney’s skyline, bling is the watchword of the Crown Resort aesthetic. All that glitters may not be gold (although there’s still a lot of it), but it will otherwise likely be silver, chrome or crystal, like the six-storey chandelier atrium in the hotel lobby. Encrusted in no fewer than 396 sparklers, accented with a pulsing LED light show, it punches a hole straight through the building, offering guests on the first six floors a glimpse of the comings and goings below.

First impressions are dizzying, to put it mildly. As you enter Crown’s show-stopping reception, the decor is a riot of textures, materials and finishes, because why limit your choices when money is no object? Parque Arabescato floors; deep pile wool carpet; Chinese marble wall panelling; a decorative hand-blown glass frieze; high-sheen mirrored columns; plush loungers upholstered in velvet: it’s a wrestling match of interior design status symbols that could easily curdle into a tacky, overwhelmed mess. And yet, within the alternate universe of Crown, where too much is never enough, it all somehow feels perfectly reasonable. 

The same is true once you enter your room, although the lobby’s gilded blaze of amber tones is replaced with a more serene palette of silvers and greys. The design cues largely riff on classics but with modernist flair – think white leather button tufted seats with chrome legs; an asymmetrical entertainment unit in a rich, dark wood; and a bevel-edged, mirror-accented beech minibar that would feel just as at home in a ‘60s Vegas penthouse as it would in Kubrick’s vision of 2001. There are certain aspects that loyally stick to the luxury accommodation playbook – the king-sized bed is dressed in crisp, white linens from Italian fashion house Frette, with a thread count in the thousands. And the floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic views of either Darling Harbour or Sydney Cove, including the Harbour Bridge and Opera House – a must-have accoutrement of any luxury hotel situated downtown in the Harbour City.

But underpinning this textbook glamour is an infusion of cutting-edge tech. Wherever possible, the Crown hoteliers have worked in clever conveniences that reveal a deep understanding of the capricious needs of their clientele. The bedside table comes kitted out with controls for the lights, curtains and blinds, which can be set to numerous different moods, there’s a tablet for contacting room service or the concierge services, and the entertainment system, which includes a TV you can watch from the comfort of your soaking tub, features multiple streaming services, terrestrial channels and a vast library of pay-per-view movies. There are USB charging ports strategically placed throughout the suite so that whether you’re stretched out in bed, relaxing on the couch or enjoying a bath, you can still reach the juice. And these are just the perks of the Executive Suite. Should you splash some serious cash on one of the Crown Resort’s exclusive villas on level 26, your room comes with its very own butler, so finding a plug for your charger will be someone else's problem.

The design and the majority of the construction of this hotel took place long before our globalised world became a lot smaller in 2020, and no doubt there must have been (and given the well-chronicled regulatory woes of the Crown Group, likely continues to be) some considerable anxiety about how such an extravagant venue could sustain a functional level of business with international borders sealed until further notice. However, as fate would have it, Crown’s urge to carve out an unparalleled niche in Sydney’s luxury accommodation market has given it a surprising edge on its rivals in these crazy days of staycation tourism.

Boasting 14 dining venues (nine of which are already online with the others due to open in the coming months) including the first Sydney outpost of Japanese fine-diner Nobu, a world-class spa complete infrared sauna and a 37-degree ‘vitality pool’, state-of-the-art fitness facilities including a waterfront yoga terrace, a luxurious lido with an infinity pool and private cabanas, and black-label retail outlets, it's best not to think of Crown as a hotel, but rather a luxury cruise ship, permanently docked in Barangaroo.

Other hotels have tried to pitch staycations as an opportunity to use a fancy hotel room as a home base for exploring the city, but convincing punters to part with their cash, when they have a perfectly good bedroom at home just a few suburbs away, has been a tough sell. At Crown, the pitch is very different. It's not just a handy city-centre bolthole, and you need never set foot outside of Crown Towers during your stay should you choose. Every desire, need, entertainment and whim can be catered to, all within the footprint of 1 Barangaroo Avenue. Why book here when you’re so close to home? Because there is absolutely no way that your house has anything like the level of balls-out luxury and convenience you’ll find here. Including, we’d be willing to wager, a robot toilet.

  • Hotels
  • Luxury hotels
  • Woolloomooloo

For many visitors, Circular Quay and Darling Harbour take top honours in the prime hotel real estate stakes. It’s hard to blame them, of course, but it’s important to consider the downsides (and there are a few): big crowds, tourist attractions at almost every turn and an overload of unreasonably priced eating and drinking possibilities, many of which are mediocre at best.

The Ovolo Woolloomooloo occupies the front half of the heritage-listed Finger Wharf, which means you’ve got waterside wow-factor, knockout vistas and some of Sydney’s best dining at your fingertips. That’s a pretty tempting proposition in and of itself. Plus, you get to stay in the world’s largest wooden building, according to Guinness World Records, which is a big tick for history buffs and fans of heritage-listed architecture.

The sheer scale of the hangar-like structure might overwhelm at first, but the greeting you receive from the reception team when you walk through the door is warm, spirited and genuine. The ’80s rock soundtrack and playful colour palette of pastel pinks, purples and pale greens are equal parts cutesy and clever ways to inject a bit of fun and whimsy to the imposing industrial atmosphere.

If you’ve come here to get away from it all, Netflix and chill – you’re in good hands. It’s worth splurging on a room on the western side of the building because the skyline views are so mesmerising, there’s every chance you won’t even turn on the TV. Our Cityvoo Loft on level five is a nifty split-level room that uses the top floor’s sharply angled roof to its advantage; the high ceiling makes the narrow space feel, well, quite lofty. Downstairs, the L-shaped set of lounges and dining area are the perfect stage for a lazy afternoon or a night in. And with amenities like Apple TV, more than a handful of USB sockets, Bluetooth connectivity and Amazon’s voice-activated assistant Alexa at your beck and call with Spotify at the ready, that’s a very real possibility. 

Level two is the centre of the action for more social butterflies, a condensed collection of comfy lounges and communal hang-out areas that boasts an all-day bakery, pool table and Alibi, the hotel’s acclaimed (and entirely plant-based) eatery and cocktail bar. Booking directly through Ovolo scores you an invitation to a nightly social hour, with drinks and snacks on the house, as well as a better-than-average complimentary buffet breakfast (bonus points for Pepe Saya butter, a couple of hot dishes and two flavours of fruit-infused spring water).

Let’s face it, we’re all suckers for amenities, and this hotel gets them right. Minibar snacks, beer and wine come free of charge, there’s a yoga mat in the closet and even a stool for your feet by the toilet to maximise your posture while you poo. Now that’s what we call VIP treatment. 

Top tip: There’s an indoor pool on the premises, but don’t waste the warm weather months swimming inside. The 50-metre, eight-lane Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool is only a short stroll away and one of Sydney’s most scenic spots for a sunbathe and saltwater dip. Should you prefer to stay dry, keep following the footpath to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, and soak in the stupendous Harbour views instead.

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  • Hotels
  • Luxury hotels
  • Mosman

Staying overnight at Taronga Zoo is nothing new. The Roar and Snore glamping experience – with its after-hours access and spacious tent accommodation, complete with comfy beds, buffet dining and iconic Harbour views – has been attracting visitors for years.

But bunking down under canvas, no matter how glam, isn’t for everyone. For those with top-shelf tastes, Taronga is now taking bold strides into the luxury accommodation market with its purpose-built 62-room Retreat. This complex of sleek, timber-clad lodges encircling a private bushland garden is a remarkably successful fusion of elegant sophistication and sustainable design, where wildlife and the high-life exist side by side.

As soon as you enter the beautifully appointed reception lounge in the N’gurra Lodge, the uncompromising quality guests can expect is clear. After being greeted by friendly reception staff, there’s a chance to enjoy the stunning Sydney panorama on the terrace while you sip on a complimentary glass of rosehip ice tea. As your luggage is spirited away to your room, a member of the concierge team talks you through your overnight stay, which includes access to the zoo, privately guided animal tours, sunset cocktails and dinner at the Retreat’s exclusive fine-dining restaurant, Me-gal. 

Rich with earthy tones, natural fibres, wooden textures and burnished metals, the décor channels rustic charm above overt opulence, although the execution is every bit as refined as a five-star resort. Be it the whimsical flock of illuminated birds suspended above the N’gurra’s cosy fire pit, the asymmetrical slate tiling and grassy, deep-pile rugs, or the leafy ceramics accenting the Retreat’s small yet perfectly formed bar: the natural world is a constant muse, blurring the lines between these crafted interiors and the enclosures beyond.

The accommodations are similarly styled with a soft, natural palette and excellent finishes. However, it’s what lays outside that really makes these rooms unique. Floor-to-ceiling windows open to reveal a glass Juliet-balcony overlooking a habitat full of native fauna and plants. This sanctuary for indigenous species – including bettongs, potoroos, wallabies, echidnas and that most recognisable of Australian critters, the koala – has been developed in collaboration with Cammeraygal elders, the traditional custodians of the land on which Taronga sits. This carefully landscaped bush scene, complete with babbling stream and waterfall, is solely for guests of the Retreat to enjoy, making it by far the most impressive amenity on offer here, and arguably, at any hotel in the city.

Taronga’s talented keepers are on hand to guide you through this tranquil Aussie eden, offering guests up-close encounters with the adorable critters (including a few non-native interlopers, such as George, Taronga’s itinerant peacock). This is no petting zoo, however. The sanctuary tours are intended to broaden the appreciation and knowledge of the guests while revealing the important conservation techniques being employed by Taronga to ensure these animals are preserved for future generations.

In fact, every aspect of the Retreat has been conceived with sustainability in mind, so it can deliver all the accoutrements of luxury hospitality without compromising on its green principles. For the most part, the experience is eco-by-stealth, Taronga's environmental ethics at work beneath the five-star sheen. Take, for example, the Me-Gal restaurant, which offers the highest levels of fine dining with a menu showcasing responsibly sourced, indigenous produce. 

Guests are welcome to remain within the confines of the Retreat for their entire stay, but VIP access to the main zoo attractions outside of regular opening hours is a highlight that shouldn’t be missed. A daybreak tour, departing the Retreat at 6am, lets guests experience Taronga’s animals at one of their most active times of the day (keep-cups full of coffee are provided). A second pre-opening tour at 8:45am, once visitors have fuelled up on Me-Gal’s a la carte breakfast, is an opportunity to meet the keepers who look after the zoo’s exotic residents as they prep habitats for the day ahead. 

Comparing the Taronga Wildlife Retreat to other luxury hotels is perhaps like comparing roos with wallabys: while there are certainly plenty of high-end trappings that make a stay here undeniably luxe, other five-star must-haves, such as a pool, a spa, or comprehensive room service, are missing. The closest similarity to Sydney’s other elite accommodations is the cost: a single night’s stay in a standard bush-facing room will set you back $790. This may sound steep, but the revenue from the Retreat goes into supporting Taronga's vital conservation efforts, and ultimately delivers an experience of nature that is utterly priceless.

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Borders are open and everyone is travelling – it's pure revenge for the two years of pandemic lockdown. If you don't want to join the masses heading for tourist hotspots like Europe, UK, US and South Korea, then here's a little-known archipelago in the South Pacific to put on your travel bucket list. 

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We had the pleasure of travelling to New Caledonia courtesy of the tourism board and its flag carrier this year to get a taste of what it has to offer. No matter what kind of traveller you are – here's what we think are some of the best things to do in New Caledonia. 

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Let's be honest, as Singaporeans, we always want everything to be value-added or worth our money (and more). Want a holiday and more? A trip to Melbourne comes with even more trips you can take. The state of Victoria encompasses mountains, national parks, wineries and surfing beaches – so get out of the city and explore the rest of it. Here are some of our favourite road trip destinations on the Mornington and Bellarine peninsula you can embark on from the city of Melbourne. 

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