A freelance writer living and loving in the northern beaches of Sydney...travelling, writing, outdoor activities, gardens, and Pilates are a few of my favourite things. Visit me www.potpourritravels.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/potpourritravels/
Published November 28th 2016
The Rocks Precinct, the Historical Heart & Soul of Sydney
History and the Modern-Day meet at The Rocks, Sydney
It's Friday afternoon and I have the pleasure and privilege of perusing the beautiful and unique stores in The Rocks precinct, Sydney. Proudly retailing hand-made, Australian-made, one-off eclectic goods and products, this historic enclave makes shopping a special experience. Charged with energy no matter what time or day you choose to visit, the cobblestone streets and back alleys remind you this is where Sydney was born. Vibrant stores and interesting eateries embrace the modern-day, pulsating heart of our harbour. But scratch the surface, wander the streets, chat to the shop-keepers, and the artisans and craft-makers carry on telling the story of Sydney through their creations of beautiful and bespoke hand-made gifts, jewellery, clothing, artwork, relaxation spas, eateries and accommodation. The few that I had the pleasure of meeting are listed below, but clink on the link at the end of the article for more information on a whole range of retailers.
With a rooftop pool offering views over Sydney harbour, this iconic heritage-listed building is the perfect spot for a celebration. Positioned between the Bridge and the Opera House, its central location is ideal for a stay in the city. All 175 rooms are fitted with contemporary décor, while retaining the character of its illustrious history. The lobby lounge and bar is the perfect place for pre-dinner drinks. Dine in-house at the Playfair Terrace Restaurant, or it's only a short stroll to the activities around the foreshores. For more information click here
If you're travelling or have a special night out coming up, you love individual and easy-to-wear pieces, then pop into Sardis Boutique at 79 George Street. Stocking separates and intimates from 25 of Australia's leading designers, the classic styles and beautiful fabrics are cool, comfortable and versatile enough for any occasion. See more of their range here.
If you like a story behind the clothes you buy - something special, hand-crafted from beautiful natural fibres, Australian-designed, plus family-owned and run, then drop by this unique and flamboyant menswear label at 103 George Street. "Classic should never be boring", says store managers Even and Kim. "Patterns and colours are important, but texture is the most important, that's why we use pure and raw silk in our exclusive designs", they confirm. Founded by Kim's uncle, Joe, the flagship Joe Bananas store in the QVB recently celebrated its 40th birthday. Joe, a Chinese Singaporean immigrant was a trained Geologist working at Tenant Creek before he moved to Sydney. Consequently, he took much of his inspiration from the colourful Australian flora and fauna; jackets the golden tones and texture of Sydney sandstone, or the russet tones of a hot summer's sunset are some examples. Worn by Elton John and Cliff Richard, Joe Bananas' special style is perfect for travel, lightweight and non-crushable. The fabulous fabrics are sensational to wear and stand out from the crowd. To see more of their range click here.
Since their launch in 2013, the Abnormal Beauty Company has gone from strength-to-strength. Due to open their store in The Rocks on 13 December, 2016, and with a portfolio covering more than 50 products, the company focuses on authentic, functional beauty brands of exceptional quality - doing the things that others don't do. For more info click here.
The staff are so friendly and relaxed, do they know something I don't? As I step into the sumptuous and relaxing waiting room at Endota Spa, I find myself taking a deep breath. All of a sudden I want to lie down. Situated at Shop 5, 66 Harrington Street, The Rocks, Endota Spa pride themselves on being down to earth, caring for their clients as well as caring for the environment. Using only natural Australian ingredients and an organic skincare range, the brand gives 1% of their sales back to Bush Heritage Australia to help preserve valuable bushland and wildlife. Founded by two young Australian women, Endota Spa is now the largest day spa network in Australia, with over 100 stores nationwide. Everything they do has a meaning and purpose, from remedial body treatments to results-driven facials, the use of scientifically proven skincare and powerful essential oils. For bookings and products click here.
Stepping into this surreal store, my eyes sweep across the shelves filled with handbags, wallets, planters, and an array of homewares. I don't believe what I'm hearing or seeing. Everything is made of washable paper, I'm informed. Yes, you read that right. Hand-made and heart-finished, the virgin fibre is sourced through cultivation, not deforestation; the paper is stretched and tanned similar to leather products, leaving you with a product that is soft, resilient, and oh-so-light-as-a... well, a piece of paper. The average leather backpack weighs 2 - 3 kgs; the Uashmama one I slip over my shoulder about 600gms. Inspired by Le Sorelle bread bags, a company in Montecatini, Italy, this family-run company has created products that hold their form, can be easily washed over and over again, combining functionality and sustainability. Find them at 03/140 George Street, The Rocks. For their full range, click here.
Need a special gift to say 'sorry', or 'thanks', or 'I love you', or anything else that might be on your mind?, then you've come to the right place. Everything in store has been hand-made, and each piece comes with its own story. And sharing a story adds another dimension to the giving. Allowing you to connect with the makers and expert designers, STILY seek out partnerships with carefully chosen craft-makers to create pieces that you'll find nowhere else. Gift-wrapping is free and the range is constantly changing. Plus, they have their own Random Acts of Kindness project which allows them to give to communities in need, such as bikes in rural Vietnam, and commercial kitchen equipment in post-bushfire Tasmania. Want to know more about these Australian-made, custom-designed products, at 140 George Street, click here.
Sometimes the best part about visiting a museum is browsing the merchandise store afterwards, and the MCA is no exception. There's no better place to get a gift for the artist in your family, or anyone else for that matter. Packed with books, stationery, DVD and audio merchandise, homewares, candles, quirky t-shirts and bags, even scarves and shawls, the MCA also has an extensive range of creative and play learning products for children. With an emphasis on Australian design, the range of products is enthralling. In fact, it's near-on-impossible to leave with nothing under your arm, plus a little extra something for yourself. Gift-wrapping is included and the service-with-a-smile is also no-charge. Pop upstairs and visit the museum while you're at it. Located at 140 George Street, Sydney, for their full range, click here.
The Cherry Blossom Bar, MCA, on Sydney harbour's foreshores
Where's the food and drink? I hear you ask. Well, after all that shopping, browsing, and decision-making I certainly need sustenance. So, with bags full of gifts under-arm, and descending a flight of stairs down to the front of the MCA building, I plonk myself on the stools at The Cherry Blossom Bar. Delightfully positioned right on the harbour foreshores under a canopy of lanterns, I'm immediately relaxed, soaking in the ambience of a sensational summer evening watching the ferries come and go. Sharing a plate of Japanese-inspired edamame, gyoza and bento boxes, and sipping a cocktail or two, life is sensational around our majestic Sydney Harbour. Recently opened on October 28th, The Cherry Blossom Pop-up Bar coincides with Tatsuo Miyajima: Connect With Everything, part of the Sydney International Art Series. Situated at 140 George Street, Sydney, for their menu click here.
So don't wait until you have overseas guests to visit The Rocks precinct. It's right on our doorstep. It's our history. Two hundred years and a million stories later, The Rocks is still growing up, still has stories to tell through the passionate artisans and designers who fill the myriad of shops here. Next time you're in town, come take a look and stop a while. For more information on retail outlets, click here.