MasterChef star Hayden Quinn’s guide to a Sydney staycation

I grew up in Dee Why in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and as a kid, we would spend most of our weekends at the beach or if it was winter, we’d be playing footy, we didn’t often get to the city.

Casting it back to being a kid, one of my favorite memories was sailing on Sydney Harbour under the bridge with my grandfather. 

We got to do it again recently, I took him to the Sydney Fish Markets, which I love. 

As I got a bit older, I grew to really appreciate the Sydney CBD. I moved to Manly and the ferry is just there; it’s only 17 minutes across the harbor and you buy a cold beer along the way, it’s pretty great! The cool thing about the city, especially for a Northern Beaches boy, is you can get such a diverse range of food and culture and there’s so much fun stuff going on. 

My girlfriend, Jax and I have birthdays in the same month, so every year to celebrate we take a little staycation in the city. Our favorite thing is to go to a restaurant, we generally go to LuMi which is a really cool restaurant in Pyrmont. 

It’s run by a guy called Federico Zanellato, he’s an Italian guy but he’s been trained in Japanese cuisine. It’s this amazing mix of those two techniques and flavors, it’s such an incredible spot. We do that and have a few wines and then the next day we hit Chinatown and have some yum cha for lunch – that’s always a lot of fun. I love going to Chinatown.

I recently went to the Chinese Garden of Friendship, it was the first time for me – it’s just magical. It’s probably the closest thing to international travel we can get at the moment. If you want to transport yourself to China, then this is a beautiful spot to spend some time. 

The mesmerising Chinese Garden of Friendship. Picture: Supplied
The mesmerizing Chinese Garden of Friendship. Picture: Supplied

Another thing I did and loved was an architectural walk of the city with Sydney Architecture Walks. The walk encompassed the whole city from some of the more traditional buildings and then into the modern-day green living skin (vegetation-clad) buildings – it was an incredible walk. 

When you go into the city to work, or to a restaurant, or to a bar, you miss some of these things, it was a nice moment to actually stop and soak up and appreciate some of the architectural beauty in the city.

We also did a tour of The Rocks with Aboriginal Elder, Margret Campbell from Dreamtime SouthernX which just peeled another layer back of Sydney that I thought I knew well but I really didn’t.

Discover The Rocks with Aboriginal Elder, Margret Campbell from Dreamtime SouthernX.
Discover The Rocks with Aboriginal Elder, Margret Campbell from Dreamtime SouthernX.

We learned about how the traditional owners of the land lived and how it all tied into living on Sydney Harbour. The tour was amazing, it was a really impactful day out. We were learning so much, it’s perfect for the whole family.

Another thing I love about the city that laneways around York, Clarence, and Kent Streets (YCK Laneways) there’s little bars popping up there, and great food spots. I feel like that sort of vibe is just something that we associate with either overseas or maybe Melbourne but it’s very much alive in Sydney which is really cool. For me, heading here is a great way to kick off the night and an even better way to finish it up really.

I don’t have a favorite hotel but we stayed at the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour recently which was good, and I’ve stayed at the QT a few times. I love those fun vibey hotels that have a bit of atmosphere no matter the time of year. 

I spend a lot of time in hotels; I like a bit of energy and a bit of love. My girlfriend is keen on checking out the new Crown once we’re out of lockdown.

It doesn't get cooler than the Barber Shop at Barangaroo.
It doesn’t get cooler than the Barber Shop at Barangaroo.

Travel inspires me. For me, travel is about meeting people. 

Food is something that I love and the inspiration I get when talking about food, creating recipes, and coming up with new ideas really comes from the people I meet along the way whether it’s Margret Campbell (from Dreamtime SouthernX) in the city or Mikey Enright from the part barbershop, part award-winning cocktail bar, The Barber Shop at Barangaroo. 

You just meet these people and hear their stories and it just gets you excited about opportunities. 

Taste of Australia with Hayden Quinn is on Network Ten.

This article originally appeared on Escape

About the author


Hi! I’m Ozzie!

Before joining Australia Exploring, I was a writer at Tripadvisor.

I'm looking for the best posts for you about travel adventures in Australia and around the world. This website has the purpose to inspire you to travel… travel more and better. I hope it can help you explore the world a little bit better.

I graduated from the University of Sydney. I live in California with my wife and two children.


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