Can't get away this summer? Take a staycation – a short break in your home town.
Staycationing is all about appreciating the features of your city. In your everyday life they may have become like wallpaper. But remember, the very same things amaze and enchant visitors who come from all around the world to see them. Taking in your home through holiday eyes not only refreshes your relationship with it, but also refreshes your spirit. And the great thing is, you only need 24 hours to do it in.
Take a staycation in Sydney that is all about the water.
The city is fringed with a lacy network of sparkling, iridescent ocean and harbour pools. Find one of the prettiest nearby the city at Double Bay. Murray Rose Pool is a netted harbourside gem with a café serving frothy cappuccino and a hearty breakfast when you emerge from the water. It's an easy, short bus ride from Circular Quay and there are showers available.
Or you could just walk through the glorious Sydney Botanical Gardens to Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, a more formal swimming pool with lanes and bleachers, but a sunny spot affording a fascinating view of the naval base at Garden Island.
Late morning and lunch
Even if you commute on a ferry, taking one with a tourist's eye, camera at the ready, is to hone in on and appreciate your city's beauty anew.
Anyway, when was the last time you went to Taronga Zoo? It's one of the best of its kind in the world. At Circular Quay, grab a sandwich from Quay Deli (they're cheap and generous with the fillings), jump on the ferry, ride the zoo chair lift to the top, then zig-zag your way down past the collection of animals considered the finest in Australia.
Back in the city, take some time to mooch about The Rocks, poking into the labyrinth of boutiques, specialty stores, galleries, bars, cafes and historic pubs in the atmospheric heritage zone.
If it's the weekend, you'll find artisan market stalls, street food and entertainment burgeoning throughout. During the week, there's a quieter, more local vibe among the atmospheric laneways and colonial sandstone buildings.
For a more in depth visit, take a walking tour and hear about the colourful First Fleet characters who forged the oldest streets in Sydney.
See therocks.com; therockswalkingtours.com.au.
Do sundowners at Opera Bar, on the concourse in the foreground of the Sydney Opera House. The views is unsurpassed – of ferries coming and going from Circular Quay, The Rocks' waterfront, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Luna Park and the iconic sails of the Opera House.
Then take your pick of nearby restaurants with incredible views and menus to match: Quay, Aria and Café Sydney are all in the precinct. With kitchens headed by Peter Gilmore, Matt Moran and James Kidman respectively, this is destination dining indeed.
Take a short cab ride to Surry Hills where Sydney's small bar scene is at its best. Along Foster Street, Foveaux Street and Crown Street there's a critical mass of great watering holes, from dark and intimate wine bars to pumping dance dens.
Where to stay
Holiday Inn Old Sydney is brilliantly positioned right in the middle of The Rocks and a short walk from attractions, shopping and transport. The rooftop pool offers one of the city's best views. 55 George St, The Rocks; (02) 9255 1800, holidayinn.com/oldsydney
Treat your city like an urban playground on a staycation with style.
Take to the Tan Track with the beautiful people, dog walkers and every day exercisers. It's just under four kilometres around King's Domain and the periphery of Melbourne's exquisite Royal Botanic Gardens. Walk it gently to observe the city waking up. You'll pass the Shrine of Remembrance among many other landmarks dotting the leafy landscape and amble up a beautiful stretch of the Yarra River.
Join it just below the National Gallery of Victoria and finish at the same spot.
Back in the city, take the arty Degraves subway to bluestone-cobbled Degraves Street for a quintessential Melbourne laneway coffee at Degraves Espresso, or push on through to Flinders Lane and choose from the many different cafes in the network of arcades, nooks and crannies that characterise this funky enclave.
Take time to explore the boutiques, galleries, vintage and speciality stores that epitomise Melbourne's signature style.
Melbourne is the home of the long lunch, especially if the weather's turned. Catch a tram to Gertrude Street, Fitzroy and take your place at Cutler & Co, Andrew McConnell's fabulous flagship in a refurbished old factory. Split the 1.1-kilo dry aged Angus rib eye.
Or for something lighter, McConnell's Supernormal in the CBD is a buzzy, clever Asian eatery where the lobster roll is not to be missed.
But if lobster isn't your thing with so many great lunch options, you'll find something with your own wow factor in Melbourne's famous restaurant scene.
Melbourne is ringed with stunning parks and places of interest. Walk that lunch off. If in Fitzroy, stroll back to the CBD through East Melbourne, passing by Saint Patrick's Cathedral and the gracious Victorian government buildings on Spring Street.
Or take a walk that reflects your passion. Visit the many spaces of the National Gallery of Victoria and be inspired by the world class collection therein. Or if sport's your thing, do a tour of the mighty MCG. Dedicated gardeners can head into the Royal Botanic Gardens for an organised tour or just to admire and soak up nature. Architecture buffs need only look up – Melbourne's is home to some spectacular examples of Art Deco buildings among many other styles.
If you've had a big lunch, grab a quick bite at one of the many restaurants that offer a pre-theatre menu. Mark Best's Pei Modern has an all-day menu that works for early sittings, while The European on Spring Street caters to its position next to the ornate Princess Theatre.
Grab a show at one of the city's fabulous theatres. From the intimate 1928-built Comedy Theatre to the sumptuous surrounds of the Arts Centre, there's always something great playing, whether it's international artists, homegrown drama or spectacular musical theatre.
Or check the fixture to see if there's a night game on at the MCG or Etihad Stadium. Depending on the season, they host cricket, soccer, AFL and more for your sports-mad city.
You can still find top class live music in intimate venues. Relive your wild youth at Cherry Bar, where you'll likely rub shoulders with visiting international celebrity rock lovers.
Or settle in over a cocktail or two at a cosy laneway bar.
Where to stay
Holiday Inn Melbourne Flinders is near Southern Cross Station and on a number of tramlines taking you all over the city. It's a short walk to the heart of the city's laneway scene and shopping. 575 Flinders Lane; (03) 9629 4111. See holidayinn.com/Melbourne.
This article is bought to you by Holiday Inn