Summer in Sydney Almost Like a Local

SYDNEY ( TheStreet) -- Trips to Sydney are too often considered complete with the usual visit to the Opera House, lunch in Bondi and climb atop the Harbour Bridge. Beyond lies a subtler, more local Sydney that hits its stride in perfect time for Australian summer.

Some were surprised to see Oprah checking in not to the iconic Park Hyatt Sydney ( H) at the foot of the Harbour Bridge (a hotel frequented by star friends Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and Tom Cruise) but to the Intercontinental Sydney ( IHG), a high-rise erupting from directly behind the original 1851 Treasury Building. The 500-plus rooms are contemporary, with a creamy color palette and large windows framed by cushioned seats. For a more intimate experience, book a Club InterContinental room that provides access to the rootop concierge lounge, which has all-day food and encourages easy small talk with fellow guests.

There's more to Sydney than the Opera House, lunch in Bondi and a climb atop the Harbour Bridge.

Intercontinental Sydney is equidistance to the Sydney Harbor and Sydney Botanical Gardens, home to the St. George Open Air Cinema from Jan. 12 to Feb. 19 -- one of the highlights of the Sydney summer. This year the cinema circuit kicks off with a harborside showing of Burlesque followed by nightly first-run movies such as Black Swan, The Social Network and The Tourist. The onsite Chandon Bar and Good Living Restaurant, sponsored by The Sydney Morning Herald, provide picnic or sit-down meals such as barbecue leg of lamb, beer-battered fish and chips or Wagyu burger with bacon.

Warmer summer days in Sydney are enjoyed outdoors, with morning jogs along the Harbour waterfront, through the Botanical Gardens with its canopy of bats or among the toned bodies jogging the hills between Bondi and Manly. Swimmers should not miss the chance to dive into the saltwater Bondi Baths, part of the Icebergs complex and open to the public -- an iconic waterfront pool filled by crashing waves. Word to anyone who swims on less than a Michael Phelps level: Stay to the right to let faster flippers pass, and don't forget your Speedos. Anything else is mocked by the Aussies.

Less athletic visitors will likely want to stalk shopping streets such as Darlinghurst, where local designers and mass retailers compete in one of the city's prettiest and most popular shopping neighborhoods. It's near here that you'll find Assin, one of Sydney's most fashionable microdepartment stores, selling an assortment of native Australian designers next to the more recognizable Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester and Maison Martin Margiela.

While gourmet mega-restaurants such as Rockpool and Guillaume at Bennelong maintain their foodie pedigree, a series of smaller and more intimate gastro pubs have brought fine dining to street level. Once a scene of fish and chips or mutton pie, the Sydney pub scene has gone upscale, most notably in the city's Paddington district. That's where you'll find Four in Hand, where bistro meets dining hall with surprisingly fancy decor and three-course menus of braised beef stuffed with bone marrow, lamb served two ways with herb gnocchi or suckling pig with roasted peppers.

Over the past years one name has defined Sydney's drinking, dining and clubbing nightlife: The Ivy. Recently, though, smaller venues have started to siphon away the upper-crust crowd. Eau de Vie, in a secret space behind the ever-fashionable Kirketon boutique Hotel, is one. This dark and intimate drinking lounge has copper-toned walls and a Victorian vibe cast from stained-glass Tiffany lamps. The crowd, sipping from heavy crystal glassware, varies between artsy Potts Point locals to burgeoning celebs who once considered the bar a well-guarded secret. The bar remains a terrific find, though, for anyone looking to get to know a real night out in Sydney.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.