A weekend break in Sydney is such a trusty escape-hatch from winter's bite back home.
Hit the water and head over to Manly, which always seems to greet me like a warm blanket. There's a much stronger village vibe here than Bondi - the sort of place where you won't be judged by the sunnies you're wearing. One of my go-to Manly staples is the ocean-hugging walking trail from Manly Beach to Shelley Beach.
The trails on the headland offer sublime coastal panoramas. Shelley Beach is also one of Sydney's most sheltered coves, with the geographical distinction of being one of the few places in the city where you can catch an epic sunrise and equally epic sunset from the sand.
The hospitality scene is awash with possibilities in Manly. One of the district's newest restaurants and wine bars is Good Hope, at 10 Belgrave St. It has fast cultivated a fiendish following for its stunning seasonal share plates and superb selection of Australian wine. If you want to sample one of the area's old faithfuls, The Boathouse on Shelley Beach is a rustic, chic eatery with lip-smacking views.
I rocked on over to Manly with Captain Cook Cruises and their superb harbour hop-on, hop-off service, which encompasses a swag of harbour-hugging ports of call.
If you're an animal lover, check out the Taronga Zoo and Whale Watching Cruise Combo deal, which Captain Cook is offering for the next three months. The package includes a riveting morning at the zoo and transport before whiling away the afternoon on the Captain Cook Whale Watching Cruise, beyond the headlands of Sydney Harbour.
Expert guides deliver an enlightening commentary on the marine life. Dolphins nearly always accompany the cruise, with some pods comprising 100 individuals.
So far this season, over 95 per cent of the cruises have included whale sightings, including humpbacks, southern rights, orcas and minke whales. A highlight are the playful juveniles in their first migration to warmer waters, seemingly working the crowds.
The cruise combo includes a whale guarantee: if you don't spot a whale, you get a free cruise. www.captaincook.com.au
Back on terre firma, The Rocks precinct hooks me in like a tractor-beam.
Alongside the photogenic heritage sights, unlock the secrets of these sandstone buildings and hear the tales about ordinary people doing extraordinary deeds on a Rocks Walking Tour.
The 90 minute tour weaves through hidden narrow alleyways, cobbled lanes and into shady courtyards, prising open all manner of heritage nuggets that could be easily overlooked by the unsuspecting visitor.
The absorbing and entertaining storytelling throws fresh light on The Rocks and you'll come away with a much deeper appreciation for the cradle of Sydney's colonial history.