The five places that changed my life: Australia by Design host Tim Horton

MORRISET, NSW

I'm from a big family – six kids with a few foster kids thrown in. We holidayed simply, and would get out of Five Dock where we lived, to a campsite near Morriset. It was the original Huckleberry Finn life – building grass forts and fishing off a sunken boat in a creek. It was freedom for us city kids, and it says something that I can't remember anything about any of the buildings; 100 per cent of my memories are about being outdoors.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY

The only city in the world to rival Sydney for its remarkable harbour. Like so many architects before me, I backpacked through Turkey in 1994. Istanbul is a place that burns itself into your memory. I caught a ferry up the Bosphorous to the edge of the Black Sea, and climbed an old fort that afforded a panorama across Bulgaria and Romania. The last ferry of the day brought me back – just as the sun was setting over the low domes and sharp minarets of the Blue Mosque. One of the great moments of my life.

NEW YORK, US

We are totally spoilt by having family in Manhattan, and they make it easy for us to spend weeks at a time exploring. We stay in gorgeous West Village – close to the meatpacking district and home to the magnificent Highline which now connects the new Whitney Museum, our favourite Chelsea Markets, and uptown to the new Hudson Yards development. A must each visit is a clam chowder from The Lobster Place in the Chelsea Markets and dinner at the tiny-but-perfectly-formed La Gigot restaurant in Cornelia Street.

CANOWINDRA, NSW

Gaskill Street has to be one of the most striking and desperately pretty main streets anywhere in Central West New South Wales (and there's a few to choose from). It curves out towards the northwest, which means the late afternoon sun strikes the curving row of long, low single-storey shops – many of which have deep verandahs out over a generous footpath.

MILTON, NSW

A few months ago, we were driving back from a stay at Rick Stein's Bannisters, and called in at the truly lovely town of Milton. It was classic south coast weather – cold and grey, threatening rain. Now, you've got to try a bakery in a country town, and the first sign that Milton and I would be friends was the bakery sold neenish tarts. The kids walking the main street and weaving in and out of the shops, the love was sealed when we found one of the Australia's best mid-century modern furniture restorers. Rooms and rooms of exquisite mid-century masterworks – being restored and for sale. Go Milton.

Tim Horton is the registrar of the NSW Architects Registration Board and host of Australia by Design on Network Ten. He is also director of Sydney Architecture Festival, on September 28-October 1. See sydneyarchitecturefestival.org

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