A new wave of openings adds to the allure of Australia’s most famous beach
What? Just 20 minutes from central Sydney, this is the sassiest, see-and-be-seen stretch of sand in New South Wales with a string of new stuff well worthy of a whole weekend. And, yes, that 50m saltwater pool.
Where to stay Former boarding house turned chic coastal retreat, just-opened bolthole The Baxley is all white walls, stripped timber and turquoise accents, and is a good-value stay to hang your swimmers at the end of the day.
Where to eat Make a day of it: start with breakfast smashed avocado on black quinoa toast at chef Bret Cameron’s new Pacific Club Bondi. Lunch at the newly opened Ode on Bondi Road, which combines a cafe, restaurant and wine bar with a focus on native ingredients. In the evening, snag a seat at Bonnie’s Wine & Food, a cracking enoteca from Maurice Terzini tucked inside Bondi Beach Public Bar.
Oh, and don’t forget Pack the hiking boots: try the epic Bondi to Bronte coastal path or, for the serious trekker, a new, 80km trail now links Bondi to Manly.
Epic beaches and reliable whale-watching make this Sydney’s most trusted R&R seaside escape
What? Twenty-six beaches, no less, plus one of New South Wales’s most dependable coastlines for whale-watching (the season peaks in August but lasts until mid-November).
Where to stay Port Stephens’s shortage of plush, destination digs expired with the recent opening of Bannisters. Eighty coastal-luxe rooms and a spa that Vogue reckons is “worth the trip alone”.
Where to eat UK chef Rick Stein has put his name to a Bannisters ace seafood restaurant. Or there’s Crest Birubi Beach on Anna Bay with spectacular views and, if you’re lucky, glimpses of migrating whales.
Oh, and don’t forget For a sunset with a difference, hitch a ride with a camel. Rides depart Anna Bay and trail through the remote Stockton Sand Dunes.
Lord Howe Island
The ultimate away-from-it-all island is Australia’s answer to the Galapagos – book ahead
What? A two-hour flight from Sydney, this tiny, Robinson Crusoe-remote island in the Tasman Sea is well worth the schlep. A true natural wonder, 75 per cent of the island’s original vegetation remains, its beach and coral reef pristine. “So extraordinary,” said David Attenborough, “it’s almost unbelievable.”
Where to stay With only 400 beds on the island, book well ahead: Arajilla Retreat has 12 suites on Old Settlement Beach, or Capella Lodge sits on the equally remote Lovers Bay in the shadow of the island’s twin volcanic peaks and has just had a $3m refurb.
Where to eat Fresh fish can be delivered to one of the island’s 12 public beach barbecues (care of Fish Lord Howe) but the best restaurant is at Capella Lodge.
Oh, and don’t forget This is one of the world’s finest scuba-diving destinations: Pro Dive offer trips for divers and snorkellers.
The long-unsung Central Coast finally gets its due
What? Only an hour’s drive from Sydney, the oddly untapped Central Coast has seen a series of under-the-radar openings recently that has meant Woy Woy has earned a rep for the uncrowded weekend alternative to Manly and Bondi.
Where to stay No doubt, the ace, just-re-opened Boathouse Hotel in small seaside town Patonga has stylish sea-view rooms with a restaurant that has become one of the region’s go-to hang-outs.
Where to eat Woy Woy has attracted the attention of the Sydney style set, not least because John Singleton (the man behind legendary Bondi institution Icebergs) has opened chic bakehouse Saddles here. But there’s also the new reboot of Woy Woy Fishermen’s Wharf which does no-fuss sustainable seafood on an outdoor deck by the river.
Oh, and don’t forget The 8km coastal walk at nearby Bouddi National Park is another dependable whale-watching spot.
Royal National Park
Remote rambles and wild swimming in Sydney’s southerly paradise playground
What? An hour from Sydney, more than 6,000 hectares of bushland lines a big chunk of New South Wales’s coast that aces pretty much any adventurer’s outdoors itinerary. There’s a 26km clifftop Coast Track walk, canoeing up the Hacking River, or there’s the Figure Eight Rock Pools.
Where to stay NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service manage a handful of cottages, ranging from rustic to ritzy. Check out the cute cabin-esque Weemalah Cottage, or take in the views from Hilltop Cottage.
Where to eat If you’re day tripping, pack a picnic and tuck in on Garie Beach. If you’d rather grab something on the go, the Audley Dance Hall Cafe has you covered.
Oh, and don’t forget You can arrive via ferry from Cronulla to entry-point Bundeena.
The unfairly overlooked capital’s art scene gets a boost from Indonesia
What? The butt of some national jokes, yes, but Australia’s capital has grown a thick skin over the years to evolve into one of the most forward-thinking culture cities in the country. Two massive exhibitions open this summer at the National Gallery of Australia: Monet: Impression Sunrise (until 1 Sept) and Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia (until 27 Oct), the largest collection of the country’s contemporary art ever mounted. Or there’s Swiss artist Urs Fischer’s wax sculpture, a man-shaped candle that will slowly burn until 23 August.
Where to stay At three hours from Sydney, best make a weekend of it: for that, design-forward Ovolo Nishi.
Where to eat Restaurants here rival anything in Sydney: smart but unstuffy Temporada is a safe bet; or, for drinks, Bar Rochford was Gourmet Traveller’s Best Bar in Australia 2018.
Oh, and don’t forget Just out of town, the 8km Gibraltar Peak hike at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is well worth booting up for.
Mist-shrouded vistas and locavore cuisine show there’s more to NSW than seaside
What? This World Heritage region, only an hour inland, is the perfect playground for outdoor adventurers. Think: grand escarpments, secluded swimming holes and bush walks through ancient Eucalyptus forest. Why so “blue”? The fine mist rolling off the trees gives the mountains that iconic slate hue.
Where to stay Mountain lodging gets the luxury treatment at Turon Gates, a stalwart spread across 2,500 hectares of bush and home to six new riverside glamping tents (each with a king-sized bed and wood-burning stove).
Where to eat Slow food and sustainability are buzzwords in Katoomba, where Palette Dining and Le Petit Chalet let locally sourced ingredients shine. And don’t miss fine dining on the veranda at Darley’s; the “undisputed queen of the mountains” says Australian Traveller.
Oh, and don’t forget The Three Sisters lookout at Echo Point is a must. Soaring 1,000m above sea level, this dramatic rock formation, according to Aboriginal legend, represents siblings who were turned to stone.