Family Travels

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Sydney in winter — minus the kids

Sydney in winter - minus the kids

With the kids away for the weekend, our Family Travels blogger Deborah Dickson-Smith gets a rare chance to explore her own city, partner in tow, for a bit of choose-your-own-adventure fun.

Even though it's mid-winter, we decide on a marine theme. Sydney is surrounded by water after all and we're a family of water babies anyway.

For some reason this particular Sydney mid-winter is unseasonably sunny and mild — ironic considering we've just had the wettest, coldest summer on record. Climate change? Really?

We start our adventure harbourside, staying at the Sebel Pier One, which is almost directly underneath the Harbour Bridge with sweeping views of Walsh Bay, Luna Park and the Opera House.

It's a glorious afternoon followed by a glorious sunset — the Harbour is sparkling so we rug up and embark on a romantic stroll along the water's edge.

This part of Sydney has transformed in recent years. It's now buzzing with restaurants and cafes lining a foreshore littered with indulgent looking yachts outside their truly-waterfront apartments.

Dinner is a short cab ride away at Flying Fish in Pyrmont — a selection of delicately presented seafood dishes, almost too beautiful to eat. I lie, actually — I'm starving by the time we arrive so I gobble it down so quickly I almost forget to take a photo of it first to share here.

Saturday morning, after a pleasant lie-in, we head across town to Botany Bay to a shore dive site we've been meaning to try for a while: Bare Island. You may remember it from its starring role in Mission Impossible II.

Like a lot of Sydney's islands (and indeed, all the headlands with the most scenic views), it's an old military site. A fort. I find them all rather fascinating and a little bit mystical. None of them are pretty — just cement blocks with tunnels shooting off to mysterious-fenced-off destinations.

But underneath this one, we're told by the locals, is a very pretty reef. The island is reached from the shore via a narrow timber bridge and we enter the water on the more protected western shore.

There is a very pretty sponge garden, lots of bright orange starfish and several curious creatures. But we don't make it all the way round the island to see the alleged reef on the other side. Still — it's an easy, very enjoyable dive.

After a picnic lunch we lounge around the hotel reading Time magazines before strolling along the water's edge in Walsh Bay to a cozy little tapas restaurant for dinner.

It's then an even shorter stroll to the Wharf Theatre for an evening of Histrionics (the play — a German comedy — intriguing).

The bar/restaurant at the Wharf Theatre has changed somewhat since my last visit (which was possibly in the '90s) and it's quite funky. It boasts one of the best views in Sydney (but then Sydney has many best views).

We rise bright and earlyish on Sunday morning for a stroll along Pyrmont's revitalised shore before heading over to Sydney Fish Markets for an afternoon of learning how to cook fish.

Cooking with Sydney's freshest seafood that has been hand-picked by experts is a delight. These classes are fantastic — they really help to build your confidence with seafood. We learn five recipes all up and get to cook with prawns, squid, garfish, salmon and mussels.

The garfish is whole and needs deboning — a fiddly task on such a small fish but now I know it costs half the price when purchased whole, I might try it more often (with my newfound skills). And mussels are so much easier to cook than I imagined. Who'd have thought?

I've now added at least two recipes to my regular repertoire — the marinade/dipping sauce for the prawns is divine.

Skewered: Prawn perfection at the Sydney Seafood School.

So, the weekend ends with a feast fit for royalty, and we try our best to ensure none of it is wasted.

What's on your must-do list for a perfect winter weekend in Sydney?

About Deborah Dickson-Smith

Deborah's first trip with a bub of four months involved a 26-hour flight with no sleep, which is exactly when she realised travelling would never be the same. This has only been further confirmed as her family has grown. She's lived in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Edinburgh, London and is now reasonably settled in Sydney's northern beaches with her three children — who are now all seasoned travellers. Check out her blog at

Related slideshow: Top 10 Australian winter getaway suggestions

Related video: Getaway's top four day trips within two hours of Sydney

User comments
Sydney is a perfect tourist place which has all of the enjoyable locations such as beaches, Restaurants, night clubs, theaters etc. Winter is the best season to visit and you can enjoy the sea rides in average daily temperature. It is will be really and relaxing and enjoyable experience. Efficient public transport, affordable price, best hospitality and great tourist attractions always makes Sydney a tourist friendly city. I have visited Sydney in last year and it was an awesome trip.
My wife and I spent two nights at Pier One, great spot, great everything, thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing.

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