Friday nights I fly to Sydney from Hamilton Island, where I go twice a month to oversee Qualia’s design and plan the social side of this summer’s Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, Australia’s largest offshore keelboat regatta, now in its 32nd year.
I’m an early riser and Saturday morning my husband Troy and I will go to Reuben Hills in Surry Hills, which specialises in coffee from around the world and has a pretty good breakfast menu too. I’ll have avocado on sourdough rye with coriander and lime, and a cappuccino.
We’ll then take a walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens, which is where we got married. It is home to some of Australia’s oldest trees and endangered species and overlooks the harbour so we can watch the sailing, which keeps Troy occupied. He used to captain my grandfather Robert Oatley’s yacht Wild Oats XI and competed in the America’s Cup with Artemis.
Then we’ll do a bit of shopping. I usually pop my head into Hatmaker in Paddington, because its owner Jonathan Howard has a lovely little dog. Jonathan has made hats for Miranda Kerr and the Duchess of Cambridge and creates gorgeous racing millinery. Over on Martin Place, the lofty-ceilinged and marble-pillared Paspaley has to be one of the most luxurious pearl boutiques in Sydney, plus it contains historic family pictures and examples of equipment they used in the 1930s. I am obsessed with pearls and these are the best in the world.
Our final stop is Victor Churchill, probably Australia’s finest butcher, with leather-clad walls, copper refrigerators and big showcases of meat. I’ll buy paté and bread, which we’ll take home for lunch and wash down with Wild Oats rosé.
In the afternoon we’ll go to The Island, a floating beach club in Sydney Harbour, with great music and cocktails. You get there by water taxi from Double Bay and it overlooks the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. I like to watch the sunset, sipping on something from a coconut.
If it’s date night, dinner will be at The Apollo, an Australian-Greek restaurant at Potts Point. It has a New York vibe, with polished concrete, big arched windows and cool pendant lighting. We’ll sit at the bar and people-watch with a G&T, then eat grilled octopus with fennel and olives.
Or we’ll go to Guillaume in Paddington. Chef and owner Guillaume Brahimi has created a fine-dining experience but with a very relaxed, Australian atmosphere. I’ll have lobster risotto when it’s in season – delicious with a glass of Cristal – or royale of peas with truffles and local mud crab.
Sunday breakfast is a coffee and almond- praline croissant at Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills. Once I’ve eaten, I like to head next door to MCM House to look at its beautiful homewares; I buy quite a bit there for Hamilton Island. There is also Ici et Là across the road, which sells seaside furniture made from French canvas.
We’ll spend the rest of the day in Sydney Harbour. With a picnic of seafood and wine, we’ll go out on my father’s boat, a 100ft Trimaran. It’s called MV Andiamo, as my grandfather was forever saying “Quick, let’s go” to my father when he was little. We’ll go to Rose Bay, ideal in an easterly breeze, and watch the Sunday races – the 18ft skiffs and our friend Seve Jarvin, who is world champion, or the Wild Oats XI team out training; they have taken line honours in the Sydney-Hobart Race eight times. If there’s a northerly breeze, we’ll anchor at Castle Rock beach, a secluded idyll. The water is ultra-clear and at times you’ll see fairy penguins or dolphins.
We’ll end the weekend at Icebergs, an Italian restaurant at the southern end of Bondi overlooking the beach and saltwater pool. I’ll have an Aperol spritz, followed by gamberetti, salumi and pasta to share with friends.
For more on the Qualia resort, join Maria Shollenbarger as she island hops in Australia’s Whitsundays, or read Lydia Bell’s Smooth Guide to Sydney, where she finds ravishing natural beauty complemented by forward-thinking chefs and a clutch of idiosyncratic hotels.