For adrenalin junkies and outdoorsy types, Australia offers every opportunity to tempt fate – from diving with great white sharks to spelunking in the famous Mammoth Cave. But if you’re more of an urban adventurer, stick to Sydney and Melbourne, where people take the good life seriously – whether that means strolling along Bondi Beach in a designer sundress or sipping pricey vintages in a Melbourne wine bar. "We are very relaxed," says Sydney-based designer Camilla Franks. "We have sunshine most of the year here, so I think we can celebrate life with a bit of colour."


The vibe Sleek, suntanned and laid back. Life in Sydney revolves around its world-famous waterfront. "We love the fact that we have the city and the beach in close proximity," says Heidi Middleton, a designer and co-owner of Sydney-based Sass & Bide.

Where to stay

Located near , a historic waterfront district,
The Observatory Hotel feels like a posh private club. Take a dip in the indoor pool, which is famous for its domed ceiling lit with fibre optic stars, or splurge on the 90-minute La Prairie Pure Gold Radiance Treatment facial ($262) at the in-house spa.

Where to shop

Sydney is an eclectic mix of suburbs, each with its own distinct retail scene. With its glass roof and wrought-iron balconies, the 19th-century
Strand Arcade in Sydney’s central business district (or CBD, which is Aussie slang for "downtown") is a charming vestige of the British Empire. It houses upscale boutiques such as
Alex Perry and
Fleur Wood, as well has fashion-forward shops like
The Graduate Store, where emerging designers like Karla Spetic and Michael Lo Sordo get their shot at fame. A 10-minute cab ride from the Strand takes you to the street-chic suburb of Darlinghurst/Surry Hills.

Look for vintage frocks at stores like
Shag and
Penny Arcade. Head south-east on Oxford Street to the trendy Paddington suburb, the site of flagship stores for Aussie cosmetics king
Napoleon Perdis and jean queen
Sass & Bide.

More shopping

On Saturdays, elbow through the crowds at
Paddington Markets, where you’ll find everything from goat’s-milk soap to wispy strapless dresses. Further southeast, the tree-lined streets of the uber-chic suburb of Woollahra are home to haute couture boutiques, including
Lisa Ho and
Akira. To mingle with the glitterati, hop in another cab for a 15-minute ride to Bondi Beach, where you can browse for glam caftans in
Franks’ boutique.

Where to dine and dance

Icebergs Dining Room and Bar

The upscale restaurant – a glass cube jutting out over the water – is as well known for its sleek, chic clientele as for its excellent seafood. Nicole Kidman’s family chose the glittering eatery for her 40th-birthday bash.


Tuck into the weekend breakfast tasting plate for two – corn fritters and eggs Benny are the highlights – before hitting Bondi Beach.

Bistro Lilly

This place boasts a romantic yet unpretentious ambience and superb fusion of French and Asian cuisine.


Restaurant & Bar "The food is unbelievably delicious," says designer Spetic of this Surry Hills hot spot housed in a century-old warehouse. Hipsters nosh on Thai and Asian cuisine at huge communal tables and sip caipiroskas – the house blend of vodka, brown sugar and lime juice – at the bar.

Ruby Rabbit & De Nom
The Rolling Stones opened the top-floor VIP room, De Nom. Paris Hilton rang in New Year’s Eve here. And Franks is the owner’s roommate. This club is the place to see and be seen.