Seaside Adventures in Sydney

By Kate Riley April 5, 2019

G’day friends! I was in Sydney, Australia in January with my brother and we had an amazing time! It was my second visit to this vibrant city and I got to explore some areas I didn’t see my first time around. Sydney is so full of life with so much to do and see and eat and plenty of water views, great beaches, and good eats!

My brother Nate and I haven’t traveled together in over a decade due to family and work obligations, and time had flown by way too fast, so we decided to visit our ex pat Australian cousins but first make a stop in Sydney. The city is spread out around the multiple beaches, bays, and harbors, but it has efficient public transportation, so we found it easy to get around via bus or ferry. Here’s where our three day adventure took us!

Harbour Walk

No visit to Sydney is complete without a stroll around the Circular Quay with views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. At the Quay, you can take any number of ferries around suburbs and beaches of Sydney and the major cruise ships pull up right here.








The iconic Opera House is stunning from every viewpoint by land and water. Designed by a Danish architect who won an international competition, it’s so beautiful in person! Up close the tiles on the sails form a gorgeous geometric repeat.





If you walk around the Opera House, you can head straight to the Royal Botanic Gardens and then straight back to the harbour or into the downtown area. At night the Harbour and Quay comes alive so take a walk around in the evening too. We did not have good food there (it’s a touristy place) but it is a nice stop for a beer or glass of wine along MacQuarrie street on a balmy night where you’ll often find live music and city light views.


Bondi Beach & Bronte Coastal Walk

Bondi Beach is world famous for its surf and Icebergs, a public pool right on the south edge of Bondi Bay. It’s cold but it’s worth the experience! Rent a towel and take a dip, it’s not to miss and one of our favorite highlights!




Stroll up and down the promenade along the parking lot to see the artistic murals. Along the street promenade you’ll find all kinds of surf shops and quick bites, but the best is at the north end of the bay, the Bucket List is a great stop for great appetizers and fish tacos.





Tip! An easy way to get to Bondi and also see the sights of Sydney is to book a 24 hour ticket on the hop-on hop-off bus, you’ll get a feel for the layout of the city and it drops you off and picks you up at Bondi Beach too.


While at Bondi Beach, we walked the seaside path to Bronte that I read about and discovered yet another ocean side pool and took a dip there as well before walking back to Bondi, it’s a beautiful hike along the ocean, I highly recommended it!






While in Sydney, you’ll definitely want to get out on the water and the ferry system makes it easy. From the Circular Quay you’ll get water views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge and can take off for different beaches, bays, and Sydney suburbs.



Manly Beach

Manly is a popular destination, I visited on my first trip to Australia a few years ago. You’ll find charming cafes and shops and gorgeous beaches too! Easily accessible by ferry and worth a day trip!




Rose Bay

Another quick ferry trip, this bay has a few great restaurants and lovely area to stroll, it’s here you can watch the seaplanes take off and land.


Darling Harbour

I visited Darling Harbour on my first visit to Australia, it’s good if you’re traveling with kids, the Aquarium other family friendly activities are there.




The Rocks Neighborhood

My brother and I stayed in the oldest neighborhood in Sydney, The Rocks, a neighborhood full of history with great nightlife. The first convict settlement began here and there are walking tours you can take to learn more, and you can walk under the Harbour Bridge where open markets are often held. From Observatory Hill you’ll find a panoramic view of the city!





The Rocks district is only a 6-7 minute walking distance to downtown and the Circular Quay so it was the perfect location for exploring by day and also enjoying nightlife too!





Our Notable Food & Beverage Stops

The Glenmore is a popular place in The Rocks with restaurant below and rooftop bar above, it has views of the Opera House, be sure to pop in for a bite and a beverage during happy hour!


Republic Hotel & Taylor’s Rooftop – a social scene in downtown with a restaurant and pub on lower levels and relaxing rooftop bar; this is a popular spot for lunch, after work cocktails, and weekend DJs.

Catalina Rose Bay was recommended by a reader, it did not disappoint! Reachable by a quick ferry ride to Rose Bay from the Circular Quay, this restaurant has beautiful water views and uniquely prepared seafood which made for a splurge worthy lunch, plus you can watch the seaplanes take off and land while you dine.

Icebergs Bar – casual yet elegant, a great place to have a glass of wine or beer and watch the surfers on Bondi Beach from a few stories up.

Bucket List – very hip with a colorful eclectic interior, with great appetizers and beers on Bondi Beach.

The Doss House is an underground bar with sandstone walls in The Rocks neighborhood that has a colorful history. If you’re a whiskey fan, it’s a worthwhile stop!

Munich Brauhaus is a ton of fun with a lively beer drinking crowd, an entertaining oompah Bavarian band and really great German style food.


Kansas City Shuffle – find creative and savory concoctions in The Rocks neighborhood, the avocado toast with egg and brisket waffles —> yum! There’s a walk up window or sit down and relax to enjoy their unique breakfasts or an excellent lunch.

Creperie Suzette – a tucked away French bistro in The Rocks, we had such delicious savory breakfast crepes we came back a second day!

Fish at the Rocks – a local favorite, fresh seafood and wine in a boutique setting.


If you’re a first time visitor to Sydney I’d recommend at least three days, preferably four, you’ll want to explore the beaches and bays mentioned and stroll the historic The Rocks neighborhood.

I raise my glass to the Australian people and their welcoming nature! Everywhere we went, bars, hotels, restaurants, the locals were soooo friendly and social and the talk always turned to the comparisons of our two countries. Australia and the USA have many similarities, a few differences, but one thing is true, the more I travel the more I realize that good people are all the same regardless of geography or culture.


I can’t wait to return again someday. :)

What are your favorite places in Sydney?


Minimalist Fireplace Design

By Kate Riley April 2, 2019

We’re closing in the spaces in my client’s home in San Francisco, and as a new addition, I suggested we add an electric fireplace on her blank family room wall. She didn’t want to go through the hassle of adding a gas line, and since modern electric fireboxes mimic the look of a gas fireplaces, and take up just a few inches of wall space, I had her contractor frame one for her.


Traditional wood burning fireplaces or vented gas versions are often designed with a hearth or a mantel which guarantees they’re the focal point (and major heat source) in the room. We modeled my client’s new fireplace after more modern looking versions that are recessed in the wall and lack a mantel altogether.

A shallow floating console below will hide her internet and electrical boxes. Her new electric fireplace is across from her sofa and she intends to hang her flat screen TV above, similar to this style:


graystone builders

Today let’s take a look at other minimalist modern fireplace designs. As previously mentioned, they often lack a hearth or mantel, but I love their contemporary appeal. I like how this framed version allows for a niche inset for a dramatic piece of art above.


stacy cohen design

This fireplace box has the additional trim which frames it nicely and is also paired with large scale artwork.


pierre yovanovich

When wall space allows, adding built in shelving to one or both sides allows for decorative objects and functional storage too. That stone surround is subtle but beautiful!


jane lockhart


And speaking of slab stone installations, how gorgeous are these floor to ceiling installations? Wow.




sources unknown


This design incorporates a dramatic angled large scale stone tile which draws the eye up. Striking!


via jane lockhart

While not an electric fireplace, this plaster fireplace surround is very minimalist in its design, I find it calming yet it still holds the room’s focal point.


via remodelista


I had big plans to build myself a DIY small electric fireplace surround for the winter months at my studio but never got around it, and since spring is near I put it off until next season. I did find some DIY tutorials online, so if you’d like to add the ambiance of an electric fireplace to your home and a moderate amount of heat and only steal a few inches from the wall, bookmark these tutorials!


DIY electric fireplace – Chris Loves Julia


DIY electric fireplace – Kismet House


I’ll share my client’s family room space and new fireplace wall when complete. How about you? Have you installed an electric fireplace in your home? What do you think of them compared to vented gas versions?


Lately on Instagram (@centsationalstyle)