Updated February 10, 2015—We asked Jorge Sousa, Chef Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions he could find—not just his own, but also those of the other local connoisseurs, including some he works with every day at the Hotel. Sydney is known for its beautiful harbour, its iconic Opera House, the historic and cultural attractions of The Rocks district, and the city’s love affair with the beach and surfing.
In the centre of the Pacific Rim, Sydney is one of the world’s great food cities. The Sydney Fish Market is the world’s second-largest outside of Japan, and besides selling 50 tonnes of seafood daily, it also has everything from off-the-boat fresh sushi to wharf-side dining. It also offers seafood classes and behind-the-scenes tours. The Rocks Foodies Market on Fridays and The Rocks Markets on weekends are just a quick stroll from the Hotel, and are a melting pot of food, fashion and fun. David Jones is Sydney’s answer to London’s Harrods, complete with massive food halls in the Market Street flagship featuring numerous dining options, endless gourmet fare and a vast Aussie wine selection.
Scale New Heights
New Zealand gave us bungee jumping, but Sydney invented the BridgeClimb, a harnessed excursion above and across the landmark Harbour Bridge. In just 15 years it has become the city’s runaway favourite attraction, a must that has seen more than 3 million climbers, up to 100 years old, scale the bridge’s catwalks and ladders and inner workings. There are two versions of the 3.5-hour tour, and if you’re short on time, there is the Express Climb, designed for smaller groups to give all the thrills in two hours and fifteen minutes. Just a short walk from the hotel, you can time your climb to take place during the day or at night, twilight or dawn.
Wine Country Escape
Australia has leapt onto the world stage with its fine wines, especially with its Shiraz, and the nation’s oldest production region is just two hours away in the gorgeous Hunter Valley. This is a favourite escape for Sydneysiders, and an easy day excursion for visitors as well. Door-to-door tours begin with early-morning hotel pick-up and return in time for dinner; they include lunch and private visits to several wineries, cheese tastings and a chance for gift shopping. High-end small group tours and private charters are readily available seven days a week.
For more than five generations, the Doyle family has been proudly serving Australian seafood at Doyles (pictured) in Watsons Bay. In a country obsessed with fish, Doyles is one of Australia’s oldest seafood restaurants. Since Sydney is all about its harbour, surrounding beaches and views, enjoy an ultra-scenic, round-trip seaplane flight to Palm Beach with Sydney Seaplanes. Waterfront dining is a beloved beach town activity around Sydney, and other top options include Bathers’ Pavilion at Balmoral Beach, Garfish in Manly and Manta at Woolloomooloo. For something a little more local with a little less view, some of our regular guests’ favourites include the contemporary Australian Selah, located a short walk from Circular Quay, and Fish at the Rocks, tucked out of the spotlight and right across from the historic Lord Nelson Brewery, one of Sydney’s oldest pubs.
Dining in Sydney
Step into the sleek, contemporary Pei Modern bistro. Made from the freshest local produce, each dish is cooked in the restaurant’s wood-fire oven and grill. Try the salmon tail cooked on the bone, or the casarecce, chicken dumplings and Reggiano, a favourite of Executive Chef Mark Best. Just off the Hotel’s lobby and overlooking George and Alfred Streets at Circular Quay is the artisanal bar GRAIN, where the emphasis on seasonal local ingredients continues. Choose from a selection of locally brewed beers and a largely organic and biodynamic wine list. Or let the expert team of mixologists put a contemporary twist on your favourite cocktail.
Australia and surfing are an almost cliché coupling, but for good reason: Sydney is surrounded by nearly 40 beaches and beach towns. The most famous is Bondi, and the beach itself may be overrun with camera-toting tourists, but the waves are not. Bondi’s highly regarded Let’s Go Surfing school caters to visitors and offers a two-hour Bondi Surf Experience taste test for true never-ever surf novices, 365 days a year.
Become an Opera Fan
People with no interest whatsoever in opera often take in their very first performance here, thanks to one of the world’s most iconic buildings, the Sydney Opera House. It is also home to the national ballet and Sydney’s Dance and Theatre companies, but if you cannot find a show that suits your fancy, at least take the hour-long tour offered every day. If you cannot make that, have a bite to eat or a drink at the gorgeous waterfront Opera Kitchen and Opera Bar, nicknamed “The Best Beer Garden in the World,” though it is more an outdoor cocktail lounge.
Buy an Opal
These radiant stones contain a near-cosmic array of swirled colours and are totally unique—really a hardened gel, a combination of minerals and as much as one-fifth water. Australia is home to 97 percent of the world’s opals, including the finest, and Sydney is the best place to buy jewellery-quality opals. Ask the Concierge for current recommendations on the most reputable shops.