When sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann founded their luxe swim and resort wear label, Zimmermann, in 1991, they aimed to bring Australian vibes—that effortless, sun-drenched chic—to the global fashion stage. Twenty-five years later, their authentic Aussie fever has officially spread to the world at large: Zimmermann has stand-alone stores across Australia and in the United States, and personalities from Karlie Kloss to Kate Middleton have been spotted wearing the label. For the Sydney native, her mother country is a wellspring of inspiration and her hometown one of the chicest places to be: a cultural and culinary hub meets a natural wonderland (her pick for an essential Sydney souvenir is, not surprisingly, a healthy glow). Below, see Zimmermann’s favorite things to do, places to eat and drink, and boutiques to shop in Sydney.
What neighborhood are you from in Sydney? Where do you live now, and how long have you lived there? I grew up by the beach in the Southern Shire, which is about 45 minutes south of Sydney. For the last six or seven years, I’ve lived in Vaucluse, which is in the Eastern Suburbs—it’s by Sydney Harbour but also close to the city’s surf beaches like Bondi and Tamarama.
What hotel would you recommend for friends visiting town? I often suggest renting an apartment by the beach, like QT Bondi which sits right on Bondi Beach (6 Beach Rd., Bondi Beach; 61-2/8362-3900; qthotelsandresorts.com). If you’re looking to stay in the city, the Park Hyatt has an amazing position and great rooftop pool with lovely views of Sydney Harbour (7 Hickson Rd., The Rocks; 61-2/9256-1234; sydney.park.hyatt.com).
Where is the best place to find your hometown’s signature dish? I don’t know what Sydney’s signature dish would be, but I think the thing that comes to mind for me is that our fresh seafood is second to none. I'm pretty fond of Sydney rock oysters, which are usually on the menu in the nice seaside restaurants in the city, like Catalina in Rose Bay. (Lyne Park, Rose Bay; 61-2/9371-0555; catalinarosebay.com.au)
What is your favorite restaurant to take visitors? There are so many! Bennelong sits inside the Sydney Opera House and has amazing harbor views (Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point; 61-2/9240-8000; bennelong.com.au). It's a nice way for overseas guests to see the tourist sites like the Harbour Bridge, but at the same time have a lovely lunch or dinner. For the iconic Sydney beach scene, I love taking people to Sean’s Panorama at Bondi Beach because of its simple, fresh, and honest Australian food (270 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach; 61-2/9365-4924; seanspanaroma.co).
Where can you find the best cocktails? I love to go down to the Icebergs bar at Sunset and order the Number 8, which is a cocktail with Campari, vodka, and ruby red grapefruit juice. It’s great to sit and stare as the beach starts to clear at the end of the day. It's quite surreal how beautiful it is. (1 Notts Ave., Bondi Beach; 61-2/9365-9000; idrb.com)
Beer list? I don’t drink beer!
Wine list? 121BC is an intimate wine bar tucked away in Surry Hills with a great wine list and good food. (4/50 Holt St., Surry Hills; 61-2/9699-1582; 121bc.com.au)
Where would you choose to splurge on a night out? We would start with dinner and drinks at Quay on the harbor, then head to a show at the Opera House (Overseas Passenger Terminal, Hickson Rd., The Rocks; 61-2/9251-5600; quay.com.au). Or, if we were after a night out that was a little more low-key, the Golden Age arthouse cinema in Surry Hills is the converted Directors lounge from Paramount Pictures (80 Commonwealth St., Surry Hills; 61-2/9211-1556; ourgoldenage.com.au). They have a bar attached with a great cocktail list and wine selection, so we’d grab a bottle of wine, enjoy some fresh herb popcorn, and head in for a movie.
What is your go-to after-hours bar? The Butler in Potts Point is a bit hidden amongst the terraces, but once inside it opens up to an amazing plant-filled outdoor bar with great city views. (123 Victoria St., Potts Point; 61-2/8354-0742; butlersydney.com)
What’s the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon? On a beautiful summer day, we love to walk along the harbor down to Kutti Beach or Camp Cove, dip our toes in or go for a swim, and spend some time at the beach before we drift back home for a barbecue in our garden at home.
What is your Sunday morning routine? I normally go straight to Bondi and get my coffee. I try to read the papers at home, but usually I’m heading off to some far-flung oval around Sydney where my kids are playing a weekend sport. In winter, it’s rugby, and in summer, it’s cricket!
Where is the best brunch? Porch and Parlour overlooks the water at North Bondi. Their Green Breaky Bowl is perfect when you need a little health kick on a late morning. (17-18/110 Ramsgate Ave., North Bondi; 61-2/9300-0111; porchandparlour.com)
Where do you go for the perfect cup of coffee? The Earth Food Store on Gould St. in Bondi has great coffee—and it's right in the heart of Bondi. It's a large organic shop, so you can find a bunch of other goodies too. I visit every morning before work. (81a Gould St, Bondi Beach; 61-2/9365-5098; earthfoodstore.com.au)
What’s your favorite view in town (that tourists might not know about)? It's hard to pick just one. Sydney is very picturesque. Between the ocean and the city, there is a good view almost everywhere you go. I love to take people for a walk along the cliff-tops around Dover Heights and Vaucluse–you can wind your way down until you reach Camp Cove Beach and then head out via the South Head Heritage Trail. The views between Camp Cove and South Head—which is the opening of Sydney Harbour—are amazing. The walk itself is quite raw and full of bushland, as it’s set inside a small national park. When you get to the end, there are amazing views looking back down the Harbour towards the city.
What’s your favorite path or trail to follow on a walk? The Bondi to Bronte walk is an iconic path lining the Eastern Beaches along the coast. It's bustling on a Saturday or Sunday morning, with everyone out for a run or to walk the dog.
What are your favorite off-beat cultural attractions in the city? There are some great galleries popping up around Chippendale just outside the city, such as Kaleidoscope Gallery (30 O'Connor St., Chippendale; 61-2/8399-3979; chippendalecreative.com) or the Wellington St. Projects (19-25 Wellington St., Chippendale; wellingtonstprojects.com). It's becoming quite a creative playground. Another favorite is Sculptures By the Sea (302/61 Marlborough St., Surry Hills; 61-2/8399-0233; sculpturebythesea.com), which takes place in our Spring (around October). It’s a huge outdoor exhibit that lines the coast from Bondi to Bronte with sculptures from over 100 artists.
What’s your favorite shop, store, or boutique? The Intersection in Paddington is a little street shopping spot with a great selection of Aussie designers and international brands (theintersectionpaddington.com.au). A touch outside the city, in Rosebery, is Koskela (1/85 Dunning Ave., Rosebery; 61-2/9280-0999; koskela.com.au). They carry beautiful Australian-made furniture and homewares that make for great travel gifts.
What’s the ultimate souvenir from your town—something you can only get there—that you recommend people bring back with them? Nothing says you've been to Australia like a healthy glow! Other than that, I’d suggest bringing home a new swimsuit. Make sure you buy it well before you leave Sydney, because you’ll live in it while you’re here.
What’s the city's best-kept local secret? The secret for me is in the experience itself. When you have time to spend on the rocks (like at Tamarama, North Bondi, or Clovelly) with the locals and jump in for a swim on a warm, buzzy summer’s day—nothing really beats it. If you go in the surf, you'll need to be a strong swimmer, but it's a unique Australian experience.