The Rocks in summer: the perfect balance
It’s another hot, humid Sydney weekend, and the unthinkable has happened: you’re kind of over swimming. There’s sand in the headphone jack on your phone, you’ve finished your thick beach read and taken enough “hot dogs or legs?” snaps for a lifetime, and your hair’s starting to feel fried from all the salt, sun and chlorine. But escaping into the air-conditioned chill of the cinema or shopping centre feels like a waste of all that blue sky after being stuck in the office all week. What to do?
You can still enjoy the sunny weather while your swimmers take a break – with a world-class art museum, shopping heaven for skincare obsessives, and colourful spots to catch up with friends away from the jostling crowds of Circular Quay, The Rocks is the perfect place to split the difference between indoors and out on a summer day.
If your feeds have been full of shimmering lights and mysterious patterns lately, you might think you’ve “seen” Pipilotti Rist’s mind-bending, multidimensional multimedia show, Sip My Ocean. Forget your friends’ Insta-versions of the MCA’s latest hit exhibition – Rist’s wildly romantic, cheeky and epic vision has to be experienced up close and very personal.
The newest instalment in the MCA’s gorgeous series of pop-up bars is like having a sunset drink in the balloon cloud from Up – but with an even better soundtrack. One of the best-placed (temporary) drinking holes on the waterfront opens from 4 each day, and on Sundays there’s a series of some of Sydney’s best selectors setting the mood, thanks to a killer lineup of DJs curated by Future Classic, including Le Fruit and triple j’s Andy Garvey.
Craving a paleo muesli – or a Belgian waffle stack with honey bacon and an extra-spicy Bloody Mary? This warm, underrated spot will start your weekend adventure off right with fresh food and house coffee, whether you’re dealing with three different dietary restrictions per person or just a sore head from the night before.
The world’s most exciting skincare company quietly opened a flagship Sydney store in The Rocks last year – an elegant, industrial space that keeps the focus on their cult no-BS products. Here you can browse Deciem’s range of brands from The Ordinary – the astonishingly affordable yet effective brand that’s selling out all over the world – to the hi-tech favourite of spin-immune beauty experts, NIOD.
Frosé schmosé. Grownups drink spritzes, and The Rocks’ resident cocktail specialists The Push put on a ideal summer drink special every Saturday, with classic Aperol, Averna or elderflower spritzes just $12 between midday and 6pm. (If that’s not your thing, on Sundays you can enjoy fruity caipiroskas for the same price all day.)
The summer can be hard on your skin! Book into this serene oasis of self-care to tick off a sneaky grooming errand after brunch, for a facial to rescue your sunscreen-slathered complexion, or for a cooling foot treatment after a day of exploring.
The sun-dappled garden tucked out the back of this cheery, classically French patisserie is one of the city’s best-kept secrets – a sweet spot for an afternoon recharge with a summery Parisienne treat, like a mini mango, coconut and mandarin mousse cake, and a cafe au lait (or an Orangina).
A nature-inspired, scientifically rigorous beauty brand turned Australian icon, Aesop creates an in-store experience that’s hard to walk past. Chat with the friendly staff, try out the cult products, and walk out smelling incredible.
Newly renovated, The Observer’s keeping it fresh with cocktails on tap, from classic spritzes and batched negronis to shrubs – the next big cocktail trend, made in-house with splashes of apple cider vinegar (trust us on this). If you’re feeling less boozy, try an activated charcoal lemonade as you stretch out on the cushions in the new courtyard.
When did your quaint local markets turn into an op-shop rummage of old H&M on bent wire hangers and random fast food? The Rocks Markets are a more carefully curated community experience to discover – whether it’s additive-free chocolate from Cicada, something bright and new for your living room wall by an indie artist, a lush treat from a local natural skincare range, Creamly’s handmade ice cream pops, or just an old-fashioned lemonade to sip down by the water.
With the main markets open 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, you can also find the Rocks Foodie Markets every Friday between 9am and 3pm.