Things to do in Sydney

It felt like a dream arriving by train into the Emerald city of Sydney. This iconic Australian destination has the perfect balance of city excitement and beach bliss and I couldn’t wait to explore. Thanks to the sunny climate it is easy to discover the neighbourhoods on foot, finding your own hidden gems as you tick off the essential sights.

 old clare hotel

To Stay

Shangri-La Sydney – a brilliant option for short stays in Sydney, this luxurious hotel is located in the historic Rocks district. Marvel at the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from your bedroom window.

Old Clare Hotel – this new boutique hotel is found in the hip and gritty Chippendale area on the redeveloped Kensington Street precinct. The design is effortlessly cool, with 62 bedrooms, three destination restaurants, a bar and a rooftop pool.


To Eat

Master – One of the hottest openings of 2015, this Surry Hills eatery is run by John Javier (former intern at Noma). He creates modern Chinese dishes with flair and finesse. Try the jowl peking pork with pancakes and cucumber, and order a side of special cabbage with fish butter.

Reuben Hills – a hip brunch spot in the trendy Surry Hills area serving delicious coffee and tasty South American recipes.

10 Williams Street – this cute wine bar is a great place to meet friends and enjoy a glass of organic, orange Australian wine. If you are hungry the succinct menu offers a range of tempting Italian dishes and nibbles.

Cho Cho San – a chic and minimalist modern Japanese restaurant with delicious small plates and inventive cocktails. I loved the addictive chicken karaage and the refreshing lychee & pineapple slushie.

Ester – A creative contemporary restaurant in a dressed-down industrial space. Much of the menu is cooked in the wood-fired oven and features some quirky clever recipes by chef Mat Lindsay. The roast duck with burnt honey sauce is a must.

Acme – The name comes from the initials of the four friends who opened up this fantastic little restaurant. Reasonably priced with a great vibe, it was one of my favourite restaurants in Australia. Don’t miss the pig’s head and egg yolk macaroni and the coconut rice cream with white chocolate for dessert.

Edition – There is always a queue for brunch at this Nordic – Japanese fusion café. Enjoy their premium artisanal coffee and the matcha hot cakes with mascarpone and passionfruit.

Farmhouse – It’s almost impossible to get a space at this rustic communal dining experience. With just 20 seats, the intimate restaurant is always full. Try to book in advance for Sunday lunch and let the knowledgeable team feed your stomach and soul with delicious homely fare.

Bourke Street Bakery – this neighbourhood bakery first opened in 2004 and has since expanded all over the city. The unique ginger crème brûlée tart is unmissable.

To Drink

Artificer Speciality Coffee – my favourite coffee stop in Sydney was this minimalist café on Bourke Street. Opened by two talented baristas, the coffee is rich and creamy and the space is Japanese inspired.

Paramount Coffee Project – this joint is serious about good coffee. Located in the foyer of Paramount House, a lovely art deco building… swing by for a delicious American brunch and cup of fine coffee.

Mecca Alexandria – Mecca Coffee started in the centre of town and quickly developed a loyal following. The new branch in Alexandria opened in a former warehouse, and the industrial space has been given a makeover by Smith & Carmody. The coffee is delicious and the menu offers some tempting treats too.

Bulletin Place – this tiny bar is highly regarded on the Sydney cocktail scene. The service is very personal and the drinks are unpretentious but brilliantly creative. We tasted a couple of their seasonal cocktails: the Cherry Navy and the Banana Prescription.

Opera Bar – Sitting in this al fresco bar beneath the iconic opera house is one of the best things to do in the Sydney sunshine.

Baxter Inn – this prohibition whisky bar is almost impossible to find, but it is worth the hunt. Sit at the bar and order an old fashioned (which they have on tap) or a speciality Whiskey Apple made with freshly pressed Granny Smith apples.

Shady Pines – Another prohibition-style favourite, Shady Pines is a fun and fabulous bar decorated with taxidermy and cowboy themed décor. Order a craft cocktail from the list or ask the bartenders to whip you up something bespoke.

The Winery – on warm days there is nothing better than sipping a glass of wine in a sheltered courtyard. This laid back Surry Hills establishment has a reasonable and interesting wine list and is the perfect place to wile away the afternoon.

To See & Do

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia – Housed in a grand art deco building on Sydney Quay, this museum exhibits international and Australian modern art. When we visited a vibrant retrospective of Grayson Perry’s work was on show.

Art Gallery of New South Wales – Nearby to the Botanic Gardens this grand building showcases a permanent collection of 19th and 20th century Australian art as well as regularly rotating temporary shows.

Golden Age Cinema – For special cinematic outings book tickets to the exclusive Golden Age Cinema; a glamorous, boutique screening room in the Paramount Building. The cinema shows classic and cult movies, as well as occasional new releases. Save time for a drink in the cosy bar before or after the film.

Walk to Mrs. Macquarie’s chair – For the best view of Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge this lovely walk along the water is a must. The sandstone chair was carved for the wife of the Governor of New South Wales in 1810.

Royal Botanic Gardens – It is free to visit these beautiful gardens, and when inside it seems impossible that you could be so close to the city centre. Sit by the lake or enjoy the pavilion glasshouses.

White Rabbit – A rare chance to see a collection of 21st century Chinese contemporary art. After you’ve wandered around the free exhibitions grab a bite to eat in the buzzy café and bar.

Walk from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach – Everyone you ask recommends this picturesque walk. It is a 6km walk that takes you past six beaches before reaching the famous Bondi stretch. Reward yourself with a drink at Icebergs, which boasts arguably the best views of the beach. In spring, a sculptural exhibition takes place on part of the coast.

Watsons Bay – Just a short bus journey from the city, this Eastern suburb is a popular escape for locals. Grab a rock melon sorbet on Camp Cove Beach or head to Watson’s Bay Hotel Beach Club for a drink.


To Shop 

The Stables – this Surry Hills boutique offers a range of forward-thinking designers and desirable accessories. At the back, a cute café offers sustenance for hungry shoppers.

Somedays – hidden away up an unmarked staircase, Somedays stocks a range of local and international designers, focusing on Nordic fashion influencers.

Venroy – Gould street in Bondi is a great place to pick up fashionable Australian souvenirs. Venroy was my favourite shop, a local brand that creates authentic and beautiful garments. The pastel swimshorts are super stylish and great value for money.

To Escape

Manly Beach – a 30-minute ferry ride from Sydney Quay, this surfers hang-out has some great venues. Try a burrito at Chica Bonita, coffee at Barefoot or Showbox, and a craft beer at 4 Pines Brewery. To burn off the calories stroll to the remote and calm Shelley Beach.

Blue Mountains – A couple of hours away by train the Blue Mountains is a world heritage region with dramatic scenery and quaint towns. I liked the pretty town of Leura where we had great homemade pizzas at Leura Garage for lunch. For the best views of the Three Sisters walk or take the bus to Echo Point.

Palm Beach – Famous for being the setting of Home & Away this sublime beach is a great getaway from the city. Walk to the Lighthouse for the best views and stop by The Boathouse for a bite to eat.

Hunter Valley – Australia’s most popular wine region offers fine restaurants and beautiful accommodation. Go for a tasting at the idyllic Audrey Wilkinson winery.

Four Seasons Hotel and Spa, Hampshire

I spent less than 24 hours at the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel in Hampshire, but my mini-break here felt like a week long holiday. This restored Georgian manor house an hour outside London is easily the most homely of the Four Seasons I have stayed at, blissfully blending English country living with 21st century modernity.

Driving up the bumpy driveway, the epic building looked like a palace ahead of us… impressive in size but utterly charming in character. Comprising of several different wings, it can be difficult to navigate your way around, although the obliging staff are more than happy to assist, escorting you back to your room, or elsewhere on site. There is an abundance of fun, exciting and indulgent things to do at Four Seasons Hampshire, suitable for all the family. There are a few activities I would particularly recommend:

1.Going for a bike ride round the countryside. Bikes, maps and water bottles are available free of charge from the hotel. The knowledgeable staff will advise you on a route and send you merrily on your way. Despite the freezing wind we loved our ride, spotting lots of amicable animals on our journey and travelling down past a very pretty river. It was idyllic and very invigorating to get some fresh air in my lungs! There are several little pubs to discover but sadly on a Tuesday the local was shut.

2. Returning back after your exercise fresh faced and ravenous, the special afternoon tea is the ideal sustenance. A delicious cake stand of classic English filled sandwiches, warm home baked scones and divine miniature cakes and pastries… a treat for all the senses.

3. If you’d like company the hotel dog is available for walks, just ask at reception. Welcoming one and all, dogs are even allowed to stay at Four Seasons Hampshire, a fact that astounded me. The staff deep clean the carpets after each furry guest ensuring the room is in tip top condition before the next visitors arrive.

We were staying in the amazingly spacious Park Suite. It was magnificent, fit for a queen, with luxurious fabrics, numerous amenities and heavenly views of the expansive grounds. Decorated in muted beige and cream, it had an instantly calming effect; we sat in our grand living room sipping the chilled champagne and munching on chocolate coated strawberries, both left kindly in our room for us.

Down duvets and pillows top the beds, a Nespresso machine for caffeine kicks and silky soft slippers and towelling robes for wrapping up in. You won’t want to leave the room – we delayed our departure to spend more time lazing around, watching the big flatscreen tv and flicking through magazines. The rooms at Four Seasons Hampshire are blessed with glorious light, making the private accommodation the ideal place to work, sit or just relax all day. If you feel like venturing out there are plenty of lovely communal areas like the splendid library to explore.

Our suite had one full marble bathroom and one guest powder room. The main bathroom was spectacular, glistening and shining with a huge bath and rain-shower, a separate toilet and two massive his and her sinks. Sparkling mirrors and super soft towels are also on offer.

The spa alone is reason to visit… a huge luxurious fitness and beauty centre with every facility imaginable. Lavish but lovely with thoughtful touches evident everywhere. I was lucky enough to experience the popular Pure Radiance Facial, the perfect pick-me-up to refresh and add a glow to tired winter worn skin. This hour long treatment is soothing and sensual for the face, using the gorgeous ESPA products, it revitalised me for the week ahead. After my treatment I went for a long swim in the indoor and outdoor hydrotherapy pool before enjoying the sauna and steam rooms. The spa is kitted out with every essential and luxury you could ever need… and I understood quickly how so many can spend the whole day here.

There are various dining options available… the prestigious and smart ‘Seasons’ restaurant, the more relaxed Bistro and Cafe Sante the health conscious lunch choice at the Spa. We tried the Bistro for supper, which was good enough to deserve a separate review! Breakfast the next morning was also served in this large room. We enjoyed an exquisite array of continental treats, tiny pastries and fresh juices, warming roasted coffee, french toast and waffles. We felt completely spoilt by the staff who managed to provide us with everything despite the inconvenient power cut! Needless to say it was all delicious, particularly the homemade options.

After a full and fabulous day of relaxing and refreshing, eating and exercising, it was time to leave Hampshire and our favourite new hotel. Just a short distance from London, but feeling far far away from busy city life, Four Seasons Hampshire is the perfect place for a short getaway.

More information and book here.

Ten Things to do in West Cornwall

1.     Rent a holiday cottage in Trengwainton, National Trust Gardens

2.     Visit Men-an-tol, an ancient Cornish monument

3.     Make a wish at the Clootie Tree

4.     At low tide, stroll the causeway from Marazion to St Michael’s Mount (and take a boat back once the tide has come in)

5.     Scoff an indulgent afternoon Cornish cream tea at the Queen’s Hotel on Penzance pier


6.     Soak up the rays on secluded Perranuthnoe Beach

7.     Meander along the coastal path from Sennen Cove to Land’s End (and back for ice cream and/or a hot drink!)

8.     Spend a relaxing Sunday morning wandering the tiny streets of Mousehole

9.     Enjoy lunch at the Carbis Bay Hotel (complete with magnificent views of the private beach below)

10. Explore St Ives and discover a world of art at the Tate Gallery


I travelled courtesy of First Great Western trains.

All information about First Great Western train fares and timings here.

***My new travel book, CORNWALL by Weekend Journals is available to order here. Use the code TMM10 to get 10% off.***