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Iconic Australia

On top of the world Down Under!

Sian Lloyd reveals why she rates Sydney as her perfect city

Sydney is one of the best cities in the world to fly into. It always makes me smile. You see Sydney Harbour in all its radiance and prepare yourself for a beauty fest. In this perfect city, the sun shines, the water sparkles and superb sights abound. We were treating ourselves to five days there to celebrate my husband Jonathan's birthday, and had splashed out on the Park Hyatt Hotel, perfectly located for the historic Rocks district and busy Circular Quay, and boasting ravishing views of the pearly white Opera House. It was also handy for climbing the Harbour Bridge.

Rooftop terrace and pools at the Park Hyatt

On the big day, clad in the special blue and grey bridge suits, having taken the required breathalyser test and signed the necessary forms, we joined the eager climbers aiming for a 360 degree view of the city. Not only was the climb brilliantly organised, but the views from the 440ft vantage point at the top were astounding. I'd booked Nomad in the Surry Hills for Jonathan's birthday dinner. Think old warehouse with lots of light, chic yet intimate. Also think glossy goat's cheese drizzled with truffle honey, juicy roast pork with cheese and sweet potato gratin, and feather-light doughnuts dipped in rosewater and cardamon custard.

The meal was outstanding. We ended the evening with champagne on our hotel balcony, humming Lou Reed's Perfect Day and drinking in the view of the shimmering Opera House. I wanted to book something extra special for my car-loving husband's birthday gift. So, the next day, a lovingly polished 1964 EH Holden Premier picked us up. Even at the Hyatt, where flash cars are common, this gleaming motor icon caused quite a stir.

We cruised around the boho Redfern district and were charmed by Bronte Beach. We sipped flat whites on a grassy knoll overlooking the rolling waves of Bondi Beach and lunched at Kitchen by Mike, a fab favourite with Sydneysiders.

A must-do is a trip to the Blue Mountains, so named due to the blue haze from sunlight interacting with eucalyptus oil particles in the air.

A two-hour drive from the city brings you to views that blow you away. There are hundreds of uncrowded lookout points, cascading waterfalls, steep ravines and rain forests. The area is steeped in Aboriginal history. We checked into the stylish Lilianfels Resort & Spa, a five-star hotel renowned for fabulous food and adjacent to the awesome rock formation called The Three Sisters.

Lilianfels is also next to Scenic World, with the world's steepest incline railway, a cableway to and from the rain forest floor, and the Scenic Skyway, a glass-bottomed cable car gliding between cliff tops across the stunningly rugged Jamison Valley. We'd been told nearby Leura village was flush with restaurants and coffee houses.

The Three Sisters rock towers

We strolled down the tree-lined main street, popping into quirky boutiques, and picnicked on Leura Bakehouse fresh-from-the-oven pies in the idyllic grounds of the renowned Everglades Gardens. And so to the highlight of our New South Wales adventure. The drive from the Blue Mountains to the Wolgan Valley was scenic and relatively short. We arrived at the One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, where red sandstone rocks towering above this most tranquil of private valleys gleamed in the evening sun, kangaroos and wallabies grazed peacefully, and the beautiful, scattered resort cottages were barely visible. In ours, a double-sided cosy fireplace separated the lounge and bedroom, the shower had a glass star-gazing roof, and we had our own 25ft heated pool.

One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

Mountain bikes are parked outside and hiking and horse riding are included, as are all meals. The dining experience, from breakfast to dinner, was superlative. The spacious spa is private and akin to pampering heaven. If you want some serious spoiling, fantastic bush walking and wildlife spotting, this is the place. The only downside? We booked three nights and wish we'd opted for six.

First published in the Mail on Sunday - September 2015

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