Collette Dinnigan’s Sydney: ‘City life and natural beauty all rolled into one’

30th November , 2015

Collette Dinnigan’s Sydney: ‘City life and natural beauty all rolled into one’

I’ve lived in Sydney for 20 years, and still love it. We moved this year to Watsons Bay, which has great views over the ocean to the city. Australians are so emotionally connected to the water and beaches, which is reflected in our lifestyle: we always gravitate to the coast, especially in Sydney. Places like Western and South Australia have gorgeous beaches, but they don’t have the weather we do. Here, everyone can get to the beach all the time: Bobondindi, Tamarama, Bronte…

Our area is near a little fisherman’s village called Camp Cove. In spite of the fact that it’s just a 15-minute ferry ride from the heart of Sydney’s Central Business District , it’s still quite quaint, with beautiful walks to the lighthouse, ferries coming and going, waves crashing up on to cliffs, and a gorgeous little newly-renovated hotel, Watson’s Bay (, which is a lovely place to stop for champagne and oysters. From our house, you can see the Opera House and the sunset right behind Sydney Harbour Bridge. There aren’t many cities with that combination of city life and natural beauty all rolled into one.

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If I could choose anything to do in Sydney, my perfect day would probably involve a driver and a helicopter or sea plane (, so I could lunch at Palm Beach, which is about 20 minutes’ flight up the coast. If I didn’t have that luxury, I’d do something fun like go to the farmer’s market at the Carriageworks (, which is a former industrial area that’s now home to a great weekend market. It’s where Kylie Kwong sells her dumplings, and you can find great flowers, coffee, and little farmers’ stalls packed with home-produced goods.

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On my perfect day I would also definitely do a walk – the Bronte to Bondi trail, stopping to admire the artworks at Sculpture by the Sea ( I’d have lunch at Icebergs (, which is a good Italian, with crashing waves below, or Seans (, which serves very good fresh organic food. Then perhaps I’d go to Camp Cove, walk around the lighthouse and get a ferry over to the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia ( at Circular Quay, or the Powerhouse Museum (powerhouse, which is exhibiting my work until August next year. It’s a great museum if you have kids.

If I fancied a bit of shopping, I’d go to Double Bay. The area around Transvaal Avenue now has lots of cute cafés and designer clothes stores, as well as bars for a quick drink. Or I might go to Woollahra for Parterre (, a lovely homeware shop with a café, followed by Chiswick Restaurant (, which sells paddock-to-plate food in a great garden setting, or, if I was with a meat-eater, maybe Victor Churchill (, a butcher who serves fantastic local wagyu beef on big blocks.

Image Credit Bondi beach, Sydney

When it comes to eating out in Sydney, we’re spoilt. I love my restaurants! Ones I go to all the time are the sensational modern Asian restaurant Billy Kwong ( in Surry Hills; Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar & Grill (, for seafood, beef and great salads; Fratelli Paradiso ( for casual Italian; and for fine dining in a relaxed warehouse, Koskela Kitchen ( For a relaxed post-shopping drink, I might pop into 10 William Street (, which is noisy and Italian and fun, for arancini balls with mozzarella and prosciutto, and wines by the glass. Or I might go to Potts Point, which is like the Soho of Sydney, filled with little clubs and bars. As well as a new Greek restaurant, the Apollo (, there’s Josephine Perry’s new restaurant, Missy French (, which is very elegant and chic.

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Not that I think only about food… We have some great culture in the city too. Other than the Opera House (, which everyone knows about, the Australian Ballet ( always gives good performances, as does the Australian Chamber Orchestra (, which is often housed in the beautiful old City Recital Hall ( The annual Sydney Festival ( showcases great performers all over the place. Then there are galleries: the Art Gallery New South Wales (, near the Botanic Gardens, so you can combine it with a stroll; or the White Rabbit (, a good Asian gallery near the Carriageworks.

If you want to escape urban life and get into the country, that’s easy too. A few years ago, no one thought of driving three hours from Sydney for the weekend. But now it’s really popular. My husband surfs a lot and at weekends we go to our house in Milton on the south coast, where the waves are famous. Five minutes’ walk away, Rick Stein has opened a restaurant at Bannisters (, for which I’ve just designed the penthouse, and there’s a great organic restaurant, St Isidore ( Plus, there’s a fantastic brunch place, Milk Haus (, where the weirdest-sounding things turn out to be delicious: spicy porridge with fried egg, or a nasi goreng-style dish with quinoa. Sometimes in winter we go to Berrimer in the Southern Highlands, where, other than mountains to climb, there’s a bookshop, Berkelouw’s (, which serves scrumptious food.

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Actually, even if you are in the city, you can find plenty of places in which to escape and take in great views, or just to chill out. The city centre used to be windy and hollow and empty over the weekend, when the stockbrokers weren’t there, but in the past five years it has opened up with little bars and restaurants that have made it quite lively. The fish market, too, is a great place to go now. Everything is straight off the boat, so you can buy a dozen oysters and some wine and sit on the dockside and enjoy them.

Image Credit An artwork at the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition on Bondi beach

There are also great views from the Sydney Tower Eye (, although you wouldn’t go there for the food), and the Museum of Contemporary Art ( which is right on the foreshore, or the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (

Having said how much I love the city, one of the nicest things sometimes is to escape it. The prettiest way out is the road from Stanwell Park to Wollongong ( You pass through pretty little towns, then huge cliffs that drop to the sea, and across an architectural bridge into the Australian bush, with mountains on one side and raw countryside on the other: quintessential Australia, all in one drive.

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