Miles of Style in Sydney
With its iconic harbour and surf beaches, Sydney is usually top of most travellers’ agendas. But it’s the shopping here that sticks in many visitors’ minds. Aussie brands like Aesop skincare (aesop.com), Sally Smith (sallysmith.com.au - great for boho-eccentric knits), sexy swimwear brand Zimmerman (zimmermannwear.com) and super-cool Alice McCall (alicemccall.com) are found around the lively retail hubs of Paddington – look out for the beautiful listed architecture - and Darlinghurst, where many an hour can be happily spent browsing and splashing cash. For a more cultural spend, don’t miss the library-esque Ampersand Books (cafebookstore.com.au), which has a cute tea shop on-site .
Foodie heaven - Margaret River, Western Australia
Award-winning wineries, creative dining and fantastic lodge accommodation make Margaret River the hottest destination in Australia for 2013. The region is just now starting to attract serious international food and wine experts, who come for the wine tastings and boozy lunches at estates like Leeuwin Estate (leeuwinestate.com.au), one of the pioneering vineyards of Margaret River, which is all about fresh, super-local produce and fine wine (Margaret River produces a quarter of Australia’s premium wine exports). Local company Harvest Tours is a great way to tap right into what’s going on in the food scene. Highlighting best local companies who focus on organic and biodynamic food and wine, the guides take visitors to local- produce shops, gourmet chocolate tastings and, of course, plenty of cellar doors. Expect to leave happy and heavier.
Getting Cultural in Melbourne
Sydney may get more attention, but Melbourne is well-known as the cultural capital of Oz. From loud and proud art galleries to tiny studios, specialist bookshops and grand museums, Melbourne has enough for even the most demanding culture vulture. A truly multicultural city, with large pockets of Vietnamese, Lebanese, Turkish, Italian and Greek communities, eating out is never dull, with even simple cafes putting in heaps of effort into their menus and service. Try to tie-in your visit with the brilliant Melbourne International Arts Festival (.melbournefestival.com.au), usually held in October, and if you only have time for a couple of cultural excursions, make them the Heide Museum of Modern Art (heide.com.au), just 20-minutes from the Central Business District (CBD), or the modernist Melbourne Museum (museumvictoria.com.au), for it’s cutting-edge art shows and sheer scale (it’s the largest museum in the southern hemisphere).
Spas and Sunsets, Broome, Western Australia
On an inlet of the Indian Ocean, Broome is all about the contrasting shades of white sand, turquoise skies and red pindan soil. When you’re done with admiring the view, loosen your purse strings at Paspaley (paspaley.com) - which has some of the finest lustrous pearls in the world – and drink in the audacious sunsets, sun-downer in hand, at the chic Cable Beach Club (cablebeachclub.com). Just a minute in its red glow will tell you why Broome was recently voted as having the third best sunsets in the world after Ipanema and Santorini.
There are also an uncanny number of smart spas to choose from to get you beach-ready – try the super-swish Pinctada Day Spa (pinctada.com.au), where you can test treatments based on Australian native botanicals. When the sun has set, pull up a deck-chair at the Sun Picture House (broomemovies.com.au), the oldest operating outdoor picture theatre in the world, and watch a movie al-fresco.
On the Up – Perth
Perth is undergoing a serious revival - fuelled partly by the passions of the city’s first female lord mayor, Lisa Scaffidi. There’s a burgeoning small bars scene as well as a flurry of new hotel openings, including The Terrace (terracehotelperth.com.au) - a five-star, all-suite urban retreat set in a grand heritage building in the heart of the city. Informal walking tours with locally-run Two Feet and a Heartbeat (twofeet.com.au) quickly put visitors fingers firmly on the city’s pulse. Don’t miss the suburbs of Mt. Lawley and Northbridge which have cool cafes, Vietnamese restaurants for cheap-eats and pop-up shops on every corner. Shop for jewellery at Behind the Monkey (behindthemonkey.com), which stocks local designers like Alushia Sanchia (alushia-sanchia.com) and try Future Shelter (futureshelter.com) for small scale produced homewares. Best of all, flying time from the UK is four hours shorter than to Sydney, so less jet-lag.