Unless you live within the “travel bubble” of Australia and New Zealand, a trip Down Under might not happen anytime soon. But there are ways to evoke the saltwater-soaked, flat-white-fueled lifestyle of a Sydneysider while you’re at home, starting with these tips from locals and those who wish they were locals (ahem, me).
6 a.m. Ride the morning waves at Bondi Beach
First, pop a couple of vitamin D (sunshine in a bottle!) and stick your head out the window for a breath of fresh air (ahhhh). Then, log onto coastalwatch.com, which has a surf cam set up on Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach, now open for socially distanced surfing and swimming. If the waves already look crowded, hop over to smaller Manly Beach to catch a break. Wait, it’s the middle of the night in Sydney—you’ll have the waves to yourself! Round out the experience—and confuse the people you live with—by spritzing your hair with surf spray.
8 a.m. Enjoy an OTT breakfast at Bills
Bills—the eponymous café from art school dropout turned restaurateur, Bill Granger—was credited with launching the avocado toast craze in 1993. Bills have since popped up around the world, but his breakfast remains one of the most classic Sydney meals you can have. Recreate one of his most famous dishes—no, not the avo toast. This is a lockdown! Treat yo’self to ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter using this recipe—don’t skimp on the butter—paired with a pile of fluffy scrambled eggs and a flat white (better than a latte, with less steamed milk) made with Reuben Hills coffee.
Buy now: Reuben Hills house blend espresso, AUD$16.50 (US$11), reubenhills.com.au
Local news to browse with your cup of coffee: Broadsheet is a slickly designed city guide that looks like Wallpaper and reads like Time Out. It makes local news feel relevant to outsiders—like “Here’s What You Can and Can’t Do in Sydney as Lockdown Eases”—and also points you in the direction of Aussie music, art, food, and fashion you need to know about. For now, I’ll be reading the tips from a competitive jigsaw puzzle player so I can finally finish that 1,000-piece beast I bought at the start of quarantine.
Morning soundtrack: Chiaroscuro, the sophomore album from Ocean Alley, a psychedelic-rock band out of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. (I’m a bit obsessed with the track “Confidence” and its hilarious video.) It’ll make your morning feel a little sexier than it should.
9 a.m. Go from pajamas to “double denim”
Thankfully, dressing like a Sydneysider on a Saturday isn’t much of a stretch for people who like wearing denim on denim. Stylist Jeff Lack even went on the record to say “double denim is common in Sydney.” So break out your denim button-down or chambray shirt and favorite pair of jeans, or check out Aussie brand Nobody Denim (worn by Beyoncé) for a new pair. You can also get away with brighter colors in Sydney than you would in, say, Melbourne—think of it as the difference between Los Angeles and New York—so don’t be afraid to layer in that orange T-shirt in your closet.
9:15 a.m. Examine Sydney’s dark side
It’s never too early in the day to start reading something dishy, like Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies (aka the HBO series you saw and the book you haven’t read yet). While the TV show is set in Monterey, California, Moriarty’s novel revolves around the wealthy beachside towns of Sydney, where the parents tend to behave worse than their kids. Murder still ensues.
If you prefer slightly more high-brow intrigue, try Peter Carey’s Booker Prize–winning novel Oscar and Lucinda, written in 1988 but set in 19th-century Australia. Oscar is an Anglican minister with a gambling habit; Lucinda is an Australian heiress who impulsively buys a glass factory. The two meet on a ship bound for New South Wales, where their misfit, risk-filled lives intertwine.
Buy now: Big Little Lies, $15, bookshop.org; Oscar and Lucinda, $16, bookshop.org
Noon. Lunchtime already?
Where does the day go? If you’re still feeling full after the hotcakes-and-eggs breakfast, try something simple from a national food legend. Chef Neil Perry (Rosetta, Rockpool Bar and Grill, Spice Temple) has been posting easy-to-make recipes on his Instagram page during the lockdown—his prawn and noodles salad is worth seeking out on his “Isolation Cook” Story—while also cooking to support the community.
1:30 p.m. Get active. Get cultured. Just get off the couch
The perks of living in Sydney? No matter where you go, you’re close to a beach, a cycling route, or a hike. And then there are the friendly, adventurous locals—and a world-class arts scene. It’s almost not fair. Depending on your preferences, spend your afternoon checking out the best of the region:
Go for a walk around your neighborhood and on each corner, pause and take in the “view” from some of the region’s national parks with Google Street View Trekker. I spent Memorial Day 2018 doing the actual coastal walk in Bouddi National Park and plan to recreate it in 2020.
The 22nd Biennale of Sydney has migrated online this year, and now through June 8, you can check out dozens of artists’ work, including many First Nations creators. Be.collectiveculture put together a very danceable playlist focused on young womxn artists (inclusive of non-cisgender women) from Oceania curated by Eora Nation artist Kilimi (@ihatekilimi). Crank up the volume on your laptop and get grooving.
- If you only (?) have three minutes, learn how to properly do a plié from the artistic director of the Australian Ballet, David McAllister. Don’t feel intimidated: He’s teaching in track pants and sneakers.
4 p.m. Watch a Sumatran tiger sleep
Although the Taronga Zoo is closed right now, the staff has been working hard to keep people connected via Taronga TV. The 24/7 animal live-cams show the habitats of Sumatran tigers, elephants, otters, and my personal favorite, the capybara (a giant rodent!). Since the Aussie animals are mostly asleep when Americans are awake, the next best things are the zookeeper chats about red pandas and white-cheeked gibbons.
4:30 p.m. It’s happy hour—time for a wine tasting
Some people travel to Australia just for the wine. To help travelers going through Aussie wine withdrawal, several wineries in New South Wales’s Hunter Valley, the country’s oldest wine region, are holding virtual wine tastings—and a few even ship globally. Order a Brokenwood bunker pack—six wines, three virtual tastings, and one single-vineyard tasting—or a smaller tasting twin pack for those solo tastings.
Evening soundtrack: The Paramount House Hotel’s Permanent Vacation playlist on Spotify is one you’ll have on repeat. Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, and Tyler, the Creator set the tone.
6 p.m. Dinner is fried rice—you’ll thank us later
Admittedly, today’s meals have been, shall we say, indulgent—so why mess with a good thing? Kylie Kwong is another beloved Sydney chef whose “delicious fried rice” recipe is as good as it gets. “The secret to good fried rice is cooking the eggs first,” she tells Food and Wine. “You scramble the eggs and take them out of the wok. Then you stir-fry onion, bacon, ginger, and all of the aromatics, put in the rice and soy, then lastly the eggs, so you have fluffy eggs throughout the dish.”
Evening: Unwind with a night at the symphony
This day wouldn’t be complete without time spent at Sydney Opera House. Stream a full-length performance by Aussie singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko and the Sydney International Orchestra or browse any of the dance, opera, contemporary music, and kid-friendly programs offered. Here’s the full Sydney Opera House Digital season for when you need a fix beyond this day spent in Oz.