When I have friends in town… of course we have to hit the beach – and it’s best to do it early, before the heat and crowds descend. Everyone wants to see Bondi and you can jump into the rolling surf or take it easy in one of the sheltered pools at either end of the beach. If anyone’s scared of the surf or has little kids in tow, Nielsen Park, with its shark net and gently lapping waves, is where we head.
Next stop: coffee! My favourite cafe is Glebe’s Sappho Books, which combines my two great loves – second-hand literature and caffeine. It’s also just across the road from Glebe Markets, a Saturday staple.
Swimmers in the spectacular Bondi Baths by Bondi Beach © Travis Drever / Lonely Planet
The best time to be in Sydney is… summer! The city actually empties out in January for the summer school holidays and it’s easier to get around town, visit the beach, or linger at a rooftop bar through the long twilight. And then there are the events – the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, Opera in the Domain, NYE fireworks, Yabun Survival Festival and the amazing Sydney Festival, when everything from big-name visual artists and musicians to trampoline crews and alt-cabaret acts converge on the city.
Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks are always spectacular © aiyoshi597 / Shutterstock
For cheap eats… you can’t go past bánh mì (Vietnamese filled rolls). These little beauties are stuffed to the gills with fresh tasty veggies, hot chillies and lashings of pork or chicken. The postage-stamp-sized Marrickville Pork Roll (236A Illawarra Rd) always has a line down the street for its namesake roll with pork, pâté, mayo, carrots, onions, coriander, cucumber, shallots and chilli ($5). But if you’re vegetarian like me, head to Great Aunty 3 in Enmore where you can get the vegan version for $10.
A typical weekend involves... Going for a run along Cooks River Cycleway before catching up with friends, maybe over the latest edgy exhibition of contemporary Chinese art at White Rabbit, or a relaxed veggie yum cha under the shady trees at Bodhi. In the evening it’s time to head out for some fun. My local is Gasoline Pony, but in summer I like to head to Moonlight Cinema or catch a band as well as a film at Golden Age.
Sydney Local Monique watching the sun set over Bondi Beach © Monique Perrin / Lonely Planet
The best place to go on a date is... Opera Bar. Because few things can top the view from this place, nestled right under the wings of the Opera House. But for bleeding-edge cool the current address to impress is Barangaroo with its swathe of new chef-driven eateries. Try 12-Micron for the dessert degustation. The newest opening is Barangaroo House headed by ex-Noma chef Cory Campbell, an impressive ‘fun dining’ experience in a building that looks like three stacked bowls, topped by elegant table-service bar Smoke.
One thing I hate about Sydney is… the traffic. It’s a constant frustration and the gripe of every local, unless of course they’ve recently been to Manila. The worst times are at peak hour, and on Saturday. The solution is to break out of car culture and take the reasonably efficient public transport system, or one of the recent plethora of bike-share bikes, to get around.
Sydney gets colourful at night for the annual winter Vivid Festival © Krzysztof Dydynski / Lonely Planet
When I’m up for a big night out… I’m usually at a warehouse party somewhere in the Inner West. Linked through Facebook, these are hands-on affairs based on principles of sharing and reciprocity, with local DJs, performers and often elaborate themed decor. People go wild with their costumes – most Sydneysiders I know have a dress-up box that would make any five-year-old proud.
When I want to get out of the city… I go camping. Sydney is ringed by beautiful national parks with fantastic bushwalking, empty beaches, Aboriginal rock art, hidden swimming holes and native wildlife. Great places to visit are Royal National Park, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains. One of my favourites in the latter is Euroka camp ground, just outside the city, where you’re guaranteed to encounter wallabies at sunset.
Less than an hour from central Sydney and you're relaxing Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park © shells1 / Getty Images
I know I’m a Sydneysider because… in the last seven days I have swum in the ocean, seen a friend’s band play at a pub, hosted a barbecue, been bitten by a mosquito, heard a kookaburra sing, eaten a mango, tried a locally brewed, cucumber-flavoured craft beer and earnestly discussed where the hell I can find a park in Bondi.
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