This month, globetrotting travel journalist and beach lover Kate McAuley gives us the low-down on her sun-kissed hometown.
Even though I’ve spent the last 20 years living and travelling all over the world, I still call Sydney home. There’s something comforting about coming from a city where the people I meet have either been there and loved it – or haven't yet made the trip down under and are desperate to go. And I’m lucky enough that my work as a freelance travel writer and photographer allows me the luxury of visiting my hometown for a couple of months once a year. When the Northern winter hits, I head south to soak up some sun, swim in the ocean and discover what’s cropped up since I’ve been gone.
Landing in Sydney still remains one of the most thrilling travel experiences - and not just because I’m about to be reunited with my friends and family. After a bone-aching long-haul flight, the excitement of spotting the coat-hanger-like Harbour Bridge and the glowing white sails of the Opera House from the air, pales only in comparison to the overwhelming rush of blue. From the boat-addled harbour to the yellow crusted coastline of my city’s famous beaches - Sydney is a must-visit for anyone with an affinity with the ocean.
Like the majority of my fellow Sydney-siders, my life here revolves around the water and once the jet-lag abates, this is where I gravitate. While Bondi is Sydney’s most well-known beach, I was born in Manly and it’s always my first port of call (pun intended). After a quick dip between the flags, a walk towards the calmer waters of Shelly Beach and a meal at The Boat House is next on the agenda.
Manly is also a great starting point to see the rest of the city. From here you can catch a ferry to Circular Quay - a 30-minute trip that takes you past the harbour’s temperamental mouth, Taronga Zoo (which is worth a visit if you want to get up close and personal with some of our most dangerous critters - as well as some of our friendlier marsupials), and the wealthy northern and eastern suburbs before steering your eyes towards spectacular views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
From Circular Quay, a walk around The Rocks gives a taste of the city’s colonial history. This is also where you can find Quay (Australia’s best restaurant - reserve well in advance) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (insider tip: head to the rooftop bar for a sundowner with a brilliant view).
Of course, not all Sydney life revolves around the coast. Urban junkies might also like to check out the flourishing restaurant and bar scenes in the inner-city suburbs of Paddington, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. And Redfern was a surprise find during a recent visit. Long known as a place you’d only go to if you wanted to put your personal safety at risk, the redevelopment of the old Carriageworks into a multifunctional art space and the arrival of some of the city’s edgier private art galleries have placed it firmly on my list of must-visit places when I’m home.
If, however, you’d prefer to hop back in the water, take a walk across the bridge and drop down into the North Sydney Pool at Milsons Point. And look out for me too. I’ll be doing laps in the fast lane.
Kate McAuley is an Australian-born, London-based travel writer and photographer. Her work appears regularly in online and print publications for the likes of Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Grazia, Time Out and Lodestars Anthology. She has also ghostwritten several memoirs, contributed to travel guides and appears regularly on TV and radio as a food, fashion and travel expert. She is currently working on her first novel.