Sydney's proximity to absolutely nothing has long been one of its biggest blessings. But that's about to change. As the world skews eastward, reorganizing for the next millennium, the city is moving from a corner of the map to the middle.
With this shift comes a new emphasis on the Australian way of life: think California in its heyday mixed with a sub-tropical Canada. Virtually every facet of Sydney relates back to sun, sea, or sex, saved by a healthy cocktail of Commonwealth reserve and liberalism that makes it all more charming than in-your-face.
Hop from one suburb to the next, Balmoral to Bondi to Elizabeth Bay, and you'll see bankers sneaking in a morning surf before driving to work in their VW convertibles, drag queens aerobicizing on the beach, children on Rollerblades delivering the Sydney Morning Herald to Modernist mansions, aspiring screenwriters taking their coffee black at trendy cafés.
So book a flight now—or wait for the 2000 Olympics, if you must—and sample a slice of the good life before the rest of the world surges in.
Here's the skinny on the suburbs, as Sydneysiders call the city's 600-odd neighborhoods.
Balmoral Beach Best inner-harbor beach (sharks like it too)
Bondi Beach Urban meets aquatic
CBD The Central Business District: tall buildings, tanned bankers
Circular Quay The hub for commuters
Darlinghurst Funky and fabulous
Double Bay Sydney's Beverly Hills; also called Double Pay
Elizabeth Bay Quiet, residential
Kings Cross Sydney's Times Square
Kirribilli A coffee-shop cluster
Manly Ferry destination
Millers Point Faded establishment
Mosman Shopping ops
Newtown Organic university pocket
Potts Point Seedy but sexy
The Rocks Old buildings, tourists
Surry Hills Home to the Melrose Avenue of New South Wales
Tamarama A.k.a. Glamarama beach
Woollahra Old-money mansions
Observatory Hotel 89113 Kent St., Millers Point; 800/237-1236 or 61-2/9256-2222, fax 61-2/9256-2233;
doubles from $320. Just beyond the shadow of the Harbour Bridge, this low-key high-ender is a favorite with Australian filmmakers and Asian industrialists.
Park Hyatt, Sydney 7 Hickson Rd., The Rocks;
800/233-1234 or 61-2/9241-1234, fax 61-2/9256-1555;
doubles from $410. Sydney's most luxe lodging, the Park Hyatt looks like a low-slung motel that just happens to have butler service—and a jaw-dropping Opera House view.
Regent Sydney 199 George St., The Rocks;
800/332-3442 or 61-2/9238-0000, fax 61-2/9251-2851; doubles from $210. The classic luxury option is slated for an overhaul. For a clear line of sight to the Pacific, ask for a room on the 20th floor or higher.
Ritz-Carlton, Double Bay 33 Cross St.,
Double Bay; 800/241-3333 or 61-2/9362-4455,
fax 61-2/9362-4744; doubles from $215. Everything you'd expect (oil paintings, chandeliers, 18th-century antiques) in this bijou branch in tony Double Bay.
Ritz-Carlton, Sydney 93 Macquarie St., Circular
Quay; 800/241-3333 or 61-2/9252-4600, fax 61-2/9247-8672; doubles from $270. A regal setting in an 1889 building at the edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Regents Court 18 Springfield Ave., Potts Point;
61-2/9358-1533, fax 61-2/9358-1833; doubles from $130. Sydney's most design-conscious hotel, with 29 suites and Le Corbusier and Eames furniture.
L'Otel 114 Darlinghurst Rd., Darlinghurst;
61-2/9360-6868, fax 61-2/9331-4536; doubles $70$115. French provincial meets the 1950's. Downstairs, a sleek gallery café lures hipsters.
The Russell 143A George St., The Rocks;
61-2/9241-3543, fax 61-2/9252-1652; doubles from $125, including breakfast. A 29-room Victorian across from Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art.
and one on the beach
Ravesi's 118 Campbell Parade at Hall St., Bondi Beach;
61-2/9365-4422, fax 61-2/9365-1481; doubles from $70. Book early: the 16 rooms at Ravesi's are popular with Japanese surfers and sun-obsessed Scandinavians.
Bennelong Sydney Opera House, East Circular Quay; 61-2/9250-7548; dinner for two $120.
Architect Joern Utzon's Opera House masterpiece. Swivel in swan chairs while you dine on kangaroo and barramundi.
Claude's 10 Oxford St., Woollahra; 61-2/9331-2325; dinner for two $150.
A temple to subtleties worked on Australia's best produce: orange-blossom soufflés, cuttlefish tossed with elder flowers and wasabi-scented fish roe.
Rockpool 107 George St., The Rocks; 61-2/9252-1888;dinner for two $130.
The jewel in the crown of Neil Perry (Australia's Wolfgang Puck, without the frozen pizzas).
Awaba 67 The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach; 61-2/9969-2104; lunch for two $30.
Everything here is cool, from the concrete-and-mirror interior to the eclectic food.
Bathers Pavilion 4 The Esplanade, Balmoral Beach; 61-2/9968-1133; dinner for two $85.
A room that would make Ralph Lauren drool. The best part: savory tarts.
Hugo's 70 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach; 61-2/9300-0900; dinner for two $60.
The team behind Hugo's looks as if they've walked out of a Country Road ad. Fortunately, the food, such as spanner crab linguine with dried cherry tomatoes, is just as attractive.
Sean's Panorama 270 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach; 61-2/9365-4924; dinner for two $70, no credit cards.
Sydney dining at its most unpretentious. If you have only one meal in the city, let it be the pumpkin and arugula spaghettini with lemon, chili, and garlic.
two tastes of asia
Darley Street Thai 2830 Bayswater Rd., Kings Cross; 61-2/9358-6530; dinner for two $105.
Sydney's design guru Iain Halliday provides a vivid arena for David Thompson's Thai banquets.
Tetsuya's 729 Darling St., Rozelle; 61-2/9555-1017; dinner for two $150.
Book six weeks in advance to sample Tetsuya Wakuda's perfectly orchestrated six-course menu.
the freshest fish
Boat House Ferry Rd., Glebe; 61-2/9518-9011; dinner for two $85.
A new gem that sums up Sydney. Most of the fish comes from the market right across Blackwattle Bay.
Raw Bar Warners Ave. at Wairoa Ave., Bondi Beach; 61-2/9365-7200; dinner for two $30.
The name says it all at this simple, open sushi bar, which buzzes every night.
bills 433 Liverpool St., Darlinghurst; 61-2/9360-9631; breakfast for two $16, no credit cards.
Bill Granger's institution, for coconut toast, ricotta pancakes, and the city's best fruit plate, started the much-copied communal trend.
LaMensa 257 Oxford St., Paddington; 61-2/9332-2963.
Paddington's social hub. Stop by for a humble salad or to pick up some of the signature oils and dressings.
Parmalat 320B Victoria St., Darlinghurst; 61-2/9331-2914.
It's less than 10 feet wide, but you can spot Parmalat two blocks away by the crowds of leggy Sydneysiders spilling out onto the pavement.
Spring Espresso Bar 65 Macleay St., Potts Point; 61-2/9331-0190.
A white, bright, glistening box filled with young film, theater, and media talents nursing espressos.
down under wear
On a boutique-dotted stretch, YPV (314 Crown St., Darlinghurst; 61-2/9332-4090) stocks sexy Australian sportswear. Snap up local labels Pigs in Space and Mooks.
Threatening to unseat Richard Tyler as Australia's hottest export, Collette Dinnigan (39 William St., Paddington; 61-2/9360-6691) now shows her lacy women's wear on the Paris runways and is chalking up orders around the world.
Swing by David Jones (6577 Market St.; 61-2/9266-5544), the Bloomingdale's of Sydney, for big-name fashions and a food hall whose offerings rival those at Harrods.
Pick up a Mambo-selected surf-music CD, a custom-built board, and outrageous surf wear at Mambo Friendship Store (17 Oxford St., Paddington; 61-2/9331-8034).
For resin jewelry inspired by the seasons, head to Dinosaur Designs (339 Oxford St., Paddington, 61-2/9361-3776; and 77 Strand Arcade, 61-2/9223-2953).
Makers Mark (Chifley Plaza, 2 Chifley Square, Circular Quay; 61-2/9231-6800) loops lobes, wrists, and necks with an amalgam of modern metals and gems.
get the look
Achieve that Aussie glow with hand-mixed cosmetics from the Look by Napoleon (74 Oxford St., Paddington; 61-2/9331-1417).
mod, mod world
There's no point in coming here to buy a Biedermeier from Bavaria. Chee Soon & Fitzgerald (387 Crown St., Surry Hills; 61-2/9360-1031) carries Op Art fabric, glass, and ceramics.
The shop Form Follows Function (415 Bourke St., Darlinghurst; 61-2/9331-6227) is responsible for many of the mouthwatering interiors that have long made Vogue Living so chic.
bookstoresCross-reference neighboring Ariel (42 Oxford St., Paddington; 61-2/9332-4581) and Berkelouw (19 Oxford St.; 61-2/9360-3200), specialists in art, photography, and design.
En route to the silken sands ofBalmoral Beach, make a pit stop at Kinokuniya (20 Young St., Neutral Bay; 61-2/9953-8855), for the cutting edge in technology and typography.
The Powerhouse Museum (500 Harris St., Ultimo; 61-2/9217-0444) is a pinball machine of ramps and ricocheting exhibits: technology, decorative arts, cultural history.
Contemplative black-clad art students frame the installations at the Museum of Contemporary Art (140 George St., Circular Quay West; 61-2/9252-4033).
At the Australian Museum (6 College St.; 61-2/9320-6000), anthropology is articulated and minerals and insects are made marvelous.
Modern, mid-city, and bite-size, the Museum of Sydney (37 Phillip St.; 61-2/925-5988) takes an innovative, audio-visual approach to showing the foundations of the city. On the site of an 18th-century governors' residence.
Splash around the National Maritime Museum (2 Murray St., Darling Harbour; 61-2/9552-7777) for a glimpse of a nation built on migrations, sea trade, and the love of a long weekend.
Calm parklands surround the sandstone Art Gallery of New South Wales (Art Gallery Rd.; 61-2/9225-1700), an ark of Australian art history.
Find your way to the Hogarth Galleries (7 Walker Lane, Paddington; 61-2/9360-6839), credited with having moved Aboriginal works into the world of fine art in the 1970's.
Nearby, Stills Gallery (16 Elizabeth St., Paddington; 61-2/9331-7775) shows Australian fine art, fashion, and documentary photography.
Martin Browne, of his eponymous galleries in Paddington (13 MacDonald St., 61-2/9360-2051; and 72A Windsor St., 61-2/9361-0111), presents works by Pacific Rim and international artists.
Gitte Weise (94 Oxford St., level 2, Darlinghurst; 61-2/9360-2659) has an alternative eye, and hunts down the offbeat in mixed media.
Glimpse something refined at Rex Irwin Art Dealer (38 Queen St., Woollahra; 61-2/9363-3212): Gwyn Hanssen Pigott's exquisite vessels, Cressida Campbell's woodblock prints.
For jazz and blues in an intimate space, swing by the Basement (29 Reiby Place, Circular Quay; 61-2/9251-2797).
Local and international bands and deejays play pulsating beats at the cavernous Metro (624 George St.; 61-2/9264-2666).
a little ambience
Plumb your way into the cocktail haven of the three-level Burdekin Hotel (2 Oxford St., Darlinghurst; 61-2/9331-3066). Croony lounge CD's spin in the below-ground Dug Out Bar; lesbians gather at the top-floor Lava Bar; pool players congregate at the Cherry Bar, located in between.
Lithe waitresses samba through a sea of suits in the bar at the Hotel CBD (75 York St.; 61-2/9299-8292). Climb the stairs for snacks at Restaurant CBD (open until around 10 p.m.); up another flight for pool tables.
The fashion world finds its late-night way to the Grand Pacific Blue Room (Oxford and South Dowling Sts., Paddington; 61-2/9331-7108) after the restaurant folds at 11 p.m. and a band or deejay takes control.
Under local laws, these places can't serve you drinks unless you intend to eat—so if anyone asks, say yes. You can always "unexpectedly" change your mind.
There's lots of body piercing on view in the circular booths of Café Iguana (15 Kellett St., Kings Cross; 61-2/9357-2609).
Media and advertising executives trade gossip at the bar of the Bayswater Brasserie (32 Bayswater Rd., Kings Cross; 61-2/9357-2177).
Try a glass of Vin Santo at Bel Mondo's Anti Bar (Argyle Department Store, 1824 Argyle St., The Rocks, top floor; 61-2/9241-3700). Use the night entrance on Gloucester Walk, just off Argyle Street.
drink in the view
Horizons Bar at the top of the ANA Hotel (176 Cumberland St., The Rocks; 61-2/9250-6000) is a great spot to watch the sun set. —T.B.
Time Out Guide Sydney (Penguin)—A compact, comprehensive volume with savvy descriptions of accommodations, restaurants, and shops.
Day Trips Around Sydney by Bruce Elder (Seven Hills)—Beaches, parks, and small towns. —Martin Rapp
on the web
Sydney Interactive Visitors Guide —Save the airfare. It's all here: museums, shops, restaurants.
Sydney Party Rave and Club Information (www.cia.com.au/spraci/ index.html)—If you're looking to party all night, this funky site tracks the hottest gigs in town.
Sydney Morning Herald—check out the current listings for local cultural events
Get the listings for current museum exhibits in Sydney.
Fodor's online can get you the essential information that you need about Sydney and help you plan your trip.
The Lonely Planet guide to the city makes a good starting point for researching a visit down under.
The most famous Site in Sydney-- the opera house is online!
Olympics 2000 site can keep Olympic fans up-to-date on the plans for the next games.
A list of the 'best' of Sydney, all suggested by locals, including the best pizza, the best nightclubs, best bookshops, best walks, best beaches. A must.
—Nicole Whitsett with additional reporting by Natalie Filatoff and the T & L website editors
So what are you going to read in that sleek stainless steel café?An obvious choice is the Sydney Morning Herald, for its great home coverage on Thursdays and music and gallery listings in the Friday metro section. Try the local magazines Australian Vogue, Elle, and Marie Claire for style advice (or Oyster, if your taste is more alternative); Vogue Entertaining and Gourmet Traveller for culinary intelligence; Belle for design tips. To plug into the trashier end of Aussie pop culture, pick up a copy of Who, the South Pacific's answer to People. The Bulletin is a good bet for an overview of what's up down under. Or rent a convertible and cruise with the dial turned to Triple J Radio's mix of pop and indie tracks (105.7 FM).