Perhaps it's that hole in the ozone right above the country, or the laid-back surfer culture, because the energy in Sydney is incomparable. Despite not being the capital of Australia, this harbour city is more popular (and accessible) than Canberra and other cities on the east coast. It's also where the pristine white sand stands side-by-side with Victorian architecture.
While the Sydney Harbour Bridge neighbouring the 20th century architectural brilliance of Sydney Opera House is Instagram-worthy, the pulse of the city lies in its chic suburban streets, café culture and hedonistic beaches. It is certainly the furthest away destination in this guide (a jet-lag inducing, non-stop 14-hour flight from the Gulf), but if you want to cool down for the looming summer months, Sydney needs to be on your agenda. Its 17°C afternoons and balmy evenings will put every Indian Ocean archipelago to shame.
The coffee culture
If you think you know your espresso from your piccolo, then Sydney's hipster crowd will make you think otherwise.
The Eastern Suburbs’ coffee aficionados are some of the most bean-educated coffee drinkers anywhere in the world. Some call it pretention, but Sydneysiders call it love for that perfect cup of Java. The brews here are strong, flavoursome and creamy, and are served in sprawling warehouses and espresso bars dressed to the nines in industrial, retro accessories.
Start the coffee crawl at Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills where a cappuccino is served with a side of crispy and buttery croissant. Then head to Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville, which has a more modest approach to the classic brew. The espresso bar is placed in front of the famed in-house roastery and the waft of the fresh beans is what drives the bearded crowd through its doors. Bread & Circus in Alexandria serves coffee from Padre in Melbourne, but with agave nectar and freshly
And finally, end this caffeinated hike in Brewtown Newtown, which is known to notoriously play around with the rules of the brew and serve high-quality cups of flat white and long black. Except to fork out a minimum of $7 (Dhs20/QR20) for a cup of coffee in this part of the world. Pretention comes with a cost, you see.
Sydney's version of a staycation is taking a long hike along the coast of the city. Being a metropolitan city with world-class beaches (and lots of hidden bays that can be exclusive to you if find them before anyone else on a Saturday morning), getting a workout with a view is Sydney’s worst kept secret. While most visitors might find joy in aimlessly loitering around the Opera House (which you must do, but only for a few hours), there is nothing more Australian than putting on those hiking boots and going on the hunt for a secluded bay.
If you're just after some killer views and a relatively easy coastal hike, then Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach is a popular choice. Get yourself a supergreen smoothie from The Health Emporium on Bondi Road and then start walking along the coast from Bondi down south towards Bronte. We recommend doing this pre-breakfast to steer clear of the tourist rush that comes midday. If going incognito is more your style, the Hermitage Foreshore Track is where you'll find your purpose. Start at Nielsen Park in Vaucluse, and leisurely stroll along for 1.5km through the grounds of the historic Strickland House before ending in Rose Bay. Carry bathers to take a dip at Shark Beach or Hermit Bay.
Where to stay
The Old Clare Hotel
Only a year old, the sophisticated and contemporary attitude of this hotel makes Chippendale look cool. Everything in the rooms is locally sourced, including the vintage furniture, tote bags to take for a shopping trip, and specialised amenity sets from Triumph & Disaster. The hotel is also home to British chef Jason Atherton's first Australian outpost Kensington Street Social.
The Langham Sydney
This harbour-facing city hotel will add a dose of luxury to your Southern Hemisphere adventures. The bespoke furniture and dreamy colour palette will surely impress, and it also hosts an elite art collection curated by Sotheby's to please its arty guests.
There is a daily non-stop Emirates flight that leaves from Dubai International Airport to Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney. If travelling from Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways also flies daily from the capital of the UAE to Sydney. There are non-stop services from Doha with Qatar Airways. You’re looking at a flight time of around 14 hours.
Akin to other cities across Australia, Sydney is a destination for exploring on foot. This glittering playground of sun-blazed beaches has all the main attractions within walkable distance. It also has top-quality public transport services. Buses and trains run until midnight, and there's also Uber and public taxis for after hours. If you want a break from the city to explore the Blue Mountains and the iconic Three Sisters rock formation, there's a daily train service that will take you right up to Katoomba station for $35 (Dhs100/Qr100).
If you don’t want to end up in a pet controversy like actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, who had to apologise after they failed to declare their dogs when entering the country properly, please brush up on Australia's strict quarantine laws. You have to declare any product that falls under the food, plant and animal categories to ensure it is inspected for pests and diseases. Visit www.australia.gov.au for more.
Every winter (June-August), more than 45 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises call Australia their home. This time of year marks their annual migration up both the west and east coasts of the country from Antarctica to breed and mate. The east coast of Australia has plenty of whale watching spots at this time of year, and Sydney is no exception. Head down to Icebergs Dining Room on Bondi Beach during sunset and patiently stare out into the ocean. Several humpback whale spouts can be spotted along the coastline of the Eastern Suburbs beaches and the Northern beaches. However, if you want to get really up close and personal with the whales, go on a cruise for two or three hours for around $80 (Dhs210/QR100). Be sure to check the weather conditions before booking on www.whalewatchingsydney.com.au.