Sydney without the crowds: Why winter is the best time to visit

Travelling in winter is a great way to discover Sydney, as you don't have to battle crowds. And there's so much to do. The weather's also generally pretty mild so it's rarely too cold to get out and about.

You can sit undercover in a ferry and tour the harbour, stopping off at different sites like the Museum of Contemporary Art or Watsons Bay, and bunkering down in one of the many wharf restaurants with water views to watch the weather roll-on by. You can head into the city and get lost in the shops, or wait for the rain to pass in one of the many cafes.

But our biggest tip? Instead of basing yourself in the city centre and fighting the weather in a bid to see everything, why not bunker down in a 'burb and immerse yourself in a local community?

On a recent trip to Sydney, our base was a self-contained Airbnb house, just metres from Sydney's iconic Bondi Beach. You could be forgiven for thinking that Bondi was simply a crowded tourist spot, lacking substance, but it turned out to be a great place to chill out. Beaches are wonderful in blustery weather. And there were plenty of vantage spots to watch the waves crashing.

It was the first time our family had stayed in an Airbnb home and it was perfect – the location and the house. With three kids, aged 5, 7 and 9, we no longer fit in one hotel room and instead find ourselves staying in dodgy places with two adjoining rooms or basic family-style apartments. But we got the space we needed and it felt like home. And instead of being at the mercy of stock-standard travel information, the host gave us some excellent, useful travel tips, that only the locals know about. Such as where to get a decent takeaway coffee: a must for any parent. We were pointed in the direction of Hall Street, a street full of hip restaurants and shops. For breakfast, you are spoiled for choice with the iconic Bills rubbing shoulders with a whole host of delicious competitors, including Brown Sugar and Sprout Café. And the further you wandered away from the beach, the cooler it got. In warmer months, the flock of day-trippers tend to spend most of their time crammed onto the beach and eating in the over-priced touristy food joints on the esplanade. In winter it's quieter, calmer and cosier.

Bondi's back streets are reminiscent of Venice Beach in California. There's this ease of pace which makes you feel like you've travelled to a faraway place.

It's that same relaxed vibe of beach living, especially in winter. Take an icy plunge in the stunning Bondi Icebergs Club pool with the brave longtimer locals, or just grab food from its restaurant, and watch them, with its gorgeous view of the sea. Popping on a warm coat and taking a walk along the trail, looking out over the stormy sea, spotting whales on their annual migration, is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

And then when you need to warm up again, you can head back to your accommodation for a nap or a glass of red. Our temporary home had an industrial kitchen and a huge dining table. The luxury of being able to entertain mates while on holidays is yet another reason to seek out something other than a hotel. A walk may be great, but a long lazy lunch is really the perfect way to spend a rainy day.

WINTER IN BONDI TOP 3

Bondi Ice Rink – July 1-July 17, 10am–9pm daily, Bondi Pavilion, Bondi Beach, $10-$22pp for 45-minute session (free skates), see www.bondiwintermagic.org.au/icerink-2016Ice-skating by the beach. With camel rides. We're serious. Australia's only beachside ice rink is on the Bondi Pavilion forecourt at Bondi Beach – in the winter sunshine or under the night sky.

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Bondi history walks – Sundays in July, 9.45am for 10am start, location revealed on booking, email outdoorevents
@waverley.nsw.gov.au

These two-hour walks around the hidden gems of Bondi Beach, part of the Bondi winter magic program, are led by local historian Sophia Smiley and "Mr Bondi" Lawrie Williams.

Markets – Bondi Beach Public School, Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach

On Saturday (9am-1pm), arrive early for the Farmers markets for loads of seasonal offerings to help cook that long lunch – including homemade jams and chutneys, fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, meats and more – all sold with passion by the people who grew or made them. Then on Sunday (10am-4pm), head to the Bondi Markets for arts, crafts, homewares, jewels and clothes – everything from vintage to designer to baby.

TRIP NOTES

Getting there

Bondi is a 45 minute bus ride from Circular Quay. Catch the 380 or 333 with the destination showing North Bondi, Dover Heights, Watsons Bay or Bondi Beach. Alternatively you can catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay and then a taxi or bus to Bondi. The trip will take about one hour.

Staying there

Our Airbnb accommodation is listed here https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/1961902. It costs $1600 per night and has six bedrooms, five bathrooms and sleeps 14 people.

More information

Head to www.sydney.com

The writer was a guest of Airbnb

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