Travel Black Book: CEO Series

Travel Black Book: Magical Sydney

The cosmopolitan city has a gorgeous harbour and fantastic surf beaches - a triple win for Stephanie Dickson

WHO: Ms Stephanie Dickson, 29, founder and chief executive of Green is the New Black, an eco-consciousness festival.

Favourite destination: Sydney. It is where I was born, where I grew up periodically and the place that has the most spectacular city beaches I've seen. What makes it so special is that you get a cosmopolitan city with the breathtaking harbour and fantastic surf beaches - a triple win. I go back at least twice a year.

SEE

When people think of Sydney, they often think of its famous harbour, specifically the harbour bridge and the Sydney Opera House (www.sydneyoperahouse.com).

The opera house is a Unesco World Heritage site and, in addition to being a centre of arts, culture and award-winning performances, an eco-friendly structure.

The building is lit by LED lights and is temperature-controlled by a system that circulates cold sea water from the harbour through 35km of pipes to power both the heating and air-conditioning in the building.

At its feet, the outdoor Opera Bar (operabar.com.au) is the ideal spot to watch the sunset, with the best views of the harbour bridge.

But there are many other gorgeous areas to explore.​

  • WHO: Ms Stephanie Dickson, 29, founder and Chief Executive of Green Is The New Black, an eco-consciousness festival. The Australian has lived in Singapore for ten years now. ST PHOTO: ERWIN TAN

  • GETTING THERE

  • There are at least eight direct flights a day between Singapore and Sydney on Singapore Airlines, Qantas, British Airways and Scoot.

  • TIPS

    • Concrete Playground (concreteplayground.com) is a go-to guide to find out what is hot and happening and random fun things taking place around the city.

    • Go to the beaches as much as possible and eat delicious Sydney breakfast every day.

    • Be street-smart and aware of your belongings, but remember that Australians are welcoming and friendly, so you can always ask directions or tips from them.

Take a ferry from the central business district across the harbour to Manly in the northern beaches region of Sydney.

Manly is a beautiful, laid-back neighbourhood known for its long golden sand beach, a favourite of local surfers. It also offers a lovely 15-minute coastal walk to Shelly Beach. If you continue a little farther to the headland, you will have amazing views of the stretch of Manly and the northern beaches. Views from the ferry there and on the way back are also incredible and, sometimes, you can even see dolphins along the way.

There is a lovely energy and bustle to Paddington, another of my favourite Sydney neighbourhoods. It is a gorgeous inner-city suburb full of stylish Australian boutiques, lively cafes and super-cute little streets of Victorian architecture.

EAT

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and Aussies do it best. We are early risers and active and it is common to meet for breakfast or brunch, which is often healthy, fresh and delicious.

If you walk to Shelly Beach at Manly, stop at The Boathouse (www.theboathousesb.com.au/menus), a rustic beach-side restaurant which has great breakfast, including gluten-free and vegan options.

For a wholly organic cafe, check out Bondi Wholefoods (www.bondiwholefoods.com.au), with outlets in North Bondi Beach and Surry Hills. The menu includes items such as organic open-range eggs on toast and vegan, wheat-free pancakes with a white cacao sauce.

Head to Watsons Bay and Sydney's most photogenic venue, the Watsons Bay Hotel's beach club (watsonsbayhotel.com.au/beach-club), for the best fish and chips, fresh seafood and a sunny seaside atmosphere. The best way to get there is by ferry.

If you are en route to the airport, but want to squeeze in one more delicious meal, make a pit stop at The Grounds of Alexandria (thegrounds.com.au) in the city's western Alexandria suburb.

Located in a former 1920s industrial precinct, the cafe is complemented by a coffee roastery, research and education facility as well as a sustainable garden that produces a variety of vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers.

For an enticing cocktail experience, head to award-winning Eau De Vie (eaudevie.com.au/Sydney) in the city's lively Darlinghurst neighbourhood. Tucked in the back of the Kirketon Hotel, this atmospheric speakeasy specialises in theatrical cocktails and is one of the best bars in Sydney.

PLAY

The Finders Keepers markets (www.thefinderskeepers.com/sydney-markets) are excellent if you want to discover the best of Australia's independent brands in art, design and food. Since their launch in 2008, they have become Australia's largest and leading design markets, featuring more than 200 independent stalls from across the country.

The markets are held biannually in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, and annually in Adelaide. The next one in Sydney will take place from Dec 8 to 10.

There are many beautiful coastal walks in and around Sydney, which are one of my favourite ways to explore the city. The Bondi to Bronte walk, which connects two of the city's most famous beaches, is one of the most popular walking trails. The easy 2.5km walk starts near the iconic Bondi Icebergs Club (icebergs.com.au), where you can watch the waves crash against the seaside lap pool, before heading south atop the sandstone cliffs past Mackenzies Bay and Tamarama Beach, with panoramic views of the South Pacific Ocean and whale-and dolphin-spotting, if you're lucky.

For the best views of the city, I recommend the Harbour Bridge Climb (www.bridgeclimb.com). The climb is led by an experienced guide who will take you on 11/2-to 31/2-hour tours.

At A$258 (S$274) to A$393 an adult and A$178 to A$283 a child, it is not cheap, but the 360-degree views from the top of the bridge at 134m above sea level, right in the heart of Sydney Harbour, are spectacular.

SHOP

The Darley Store (thedarleystore.com.au) in Manly is an excellent boutique that specialises in local and sustainable fashion, accessory and homeware brands.

Citizen Wolf (www.citizenwolf.com) in Darlinghurst specialises in bespoke T-shirts, which are made from certified organic cotton milled in Melbourne. Customers can pick the style and fabric and receive their custom T-shirts in 14 days. Prices range from A$89 to A$129, depending on the fabric.

For quality swimwear, head to her. (au.herthelabel.com) in Surry Hills. The Sydney-based swimwear label uses 100 per cent recycled post-consumer polyester and nylon to create minimalistic designs.

If you want a special souvenir, go to Aquabumps (www.aquabumps.com). Photographer Eugene Tan gets up every morning at the crack of dawn to capture the magical moments with the sea before the bustle of the day starts. He has coffee books and prints for sale through his website and, as an Australian living overseas, I love staying connected to the beach through his daily newsletter of freshly taken shots.

STAY

For budget-friendly accommodation, Sydney Harbour YHA (www.yha.com.au/hostels/nsw/sydney-surrounds/sydney-harbour) is the only backpacker hostel in the city's historic harbour precinct with panoramic views of Sydney Harbour. Shared rooms start at A$48 a night and private rooms are at A$178 a night, including Wi-Fi and a fully equipped kitchen.

If you want a hotel, I recommend the Radisson Blu (www.radissonblu.com/en/plazahotel-sydney), a five-star hotel in the heart of Sydney. Committed to upholding environmental consciousness, it has made changes in procedure that have allowed the hotel to save six Olympic-sized swimming pools' worth of water, reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 601 cars off the road and produce enough energy to support 400 average four-person households.

• This is the first in a new Travel Black Book: CEO Series, featuring Singapore-based CEOs and their favourite travel destinations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 01, 2017, with the headline 'Magical Sydney'. Print Edition | Subscribe