Travel

Joie de vivre down under style: around Sydney in the BMW i3

The nascent creative scene in and around Sydney is enjoying huge international success but at the same time remains still firmly rooted in Australian culture. We take a road trip in the new BMW i3 to meet some of the people behind this spirit of adventure - such as designer Poppy Lissiman, chef Mitch Orr or fashion entrepreneur Patrick Johnson. And we stop for a refreshing break at the most stunning ocean pools on Australia's east coast.

Photos
Craig Wall
Words
Mitchell Oakley Smith

Dressed in shorts, in a finely appointed workroom in Sydney’s well-to-do eastern suburb of Paddington, I’m overseeing the making of a perfect suit by Patrick Johnson. He shows me to a couch, where we run through the types of fabrics and shapes I’m looking for, the tailor gently guiding me towards what he knows will suit me best. Johnson is probably the best bespoke tailor in Australia. I’m on the road in shorts and trainers in a BMW  i3. Johnson himself is wearing a suit, but with a 
polo shirt and canvas kicks nonetheless. His style is impeccable, if a little surprising for a master tailor. My phone tells me that the mid-morning weather outside is flirting with the high twenties, certain to be one of the first spring days to breach the 30 mark. It’s a perfect day for a drive to check out the city’s most refreshing spots. Johnson has also packed his bathing things and is talking about going for a swim in the ocean during lunch. Yes, this is a long way from Savile Row.

Heading south from Sydney. Every bay is a world in its own right. The distances between the ocean baths are ideal for today’s new electric mobility.

Heading south from Sydney. Every bay is a world in its own right. The distances between the ocean baths are ideal for today’s new electric mobility.

Since establishing his eponymous made-to-order suiting business in 2010, Johnson has developed a reputation for crafting what are the lightest suits in the world. It’s not just the incredibly fine weaves of the Australian merino wool he uses, but the entire style of the jackets and trousers – free of lining, with no stiffly padded shoulders, and designed to cloak the body like a second skin, the suits are representative of a broader approach that Sydneysiders apply to everything. That is, find out how to do something right, and then adapt it to suit how you live. It might be hot outside, but Johnson’s suits are cool enough to wear all day long. “There’s this great pioneering spirit that exists in Australia,” says the tailor. “A sense of giving anything a crack, and at its best, Sydney embraces that ideal because we’re so far from the rest of the world. Our distance has spawned this great sense of discovery and creativity.” This rings true for Johnson’s two-pieces, but also for the landscape of the city in which he began his business. Defined by a rugged coastline where bushland meets the Pacific Ocean with sweeping cliff faces and white-sand beaches in between, Sydney cultivates its outdoor lifestyle in a plethora of ocean baths. Some are no more than concrete-filled gaps in the rocks, while others are perfectly finished art deco style swimming pools. Many of the ocean baths are decades old, and they are all replenished daily with fresh seawater from the Pacific Ocean thanks to the ebb and flow of the tides. There are some 100 of them scattered across the eastern seaboard of the state, and nearly half of those are in Sydney. The fact that swimming in the ocean is as much a way of life in Sydney as catching the subway in New York is the result of necessity more than anything else. On a regular spring or summer day, the temperature can top 30, often 40, degrees Celsius, and the only way to cool off is with a dip in the ocean.

Melting pot of talent

Young jewellery and accessories designer Poppy Lissiman is a perfect example. While the biggest market for her label is the United States, being based in Sydney affords Lissiman a beach-centric lifestyle with the cosmopolitan spin of the city. “It’s the internationalism that is so special about Sydney,” says the designer, who recently moved here from Perth. “Being based in Sydney brings with it so many opportunities because it’s a real melting pot of talent.” Lissiman bridges the gap between pop culture and high fashion, and her bright, vibrant designs reflect her zest for life and the spirit of innovative streetwear. At times they appear larger than life, even comic book-like, and while they are always colourful, they are never boring. Like so many Australians, Lissiman is a keen swimmer and is delighted to get the chance to discover Sydney’s pools for herself.

Australia in general and the east coast cities in particular are currently projecting a new image, and of course this applies above all to Sydney. For decades, foreigners envisaged Australia as a sun-drenched southern island – a place where bush meets city meets surf in the most idyllic of landscapes – and while that still rings true, the products of people such as Johnson and Lissiman have helped build on that understanding.

“A sense of giving anything a crack, and at its best, Sydney embraces that ideal because we’re so far from the rest of the world.”

Patrick Johnson

Kiama’s local peak is Saddleback Mountain, which offers the best views of the ocean.

Kiama’s local peak is Saddleback Mountain, which offers the best views of the ocean.

Swimming in the ocean is as much a way of life in Sydney as catching the subway is in New York. It's more a necessity than anything else: on a regular summer day, the temperature can hit 40 degrees Celsius, and the only way to cool off is with a dip in the ocean.

Swimming in the ocean is as much a way of life in Sydney as catching the subway is in New York. It's more a necessity than anything else: on a regular summer day, the temperature can hit 40 degrees Celsius, and the only way to cool off is with a dip in the ocean.

The diversity of Sydney's cuisine

I drive for about 15 minutes in the direction of Bondi Beach. It’s almost lunchtime, but the new battery in the i3 is still showing almost a full charge. On the way to the ocean we pass through Hyde Park (less than an eighth of the size of its London namesake) and Kings Cross (once home to Sydney’s red light district, but now gentrified) and find ourselves at ACME, the acclaimed restaurant of local chef Mitch Orr, who has added his own unique flavours to what was already a fusion-driven culinary landscape in the city. Here, dishes such as the macaroni with pig’s head and egg yolk are most popular – twists on classic pasta combinations that reflect the cultural diversity of Sydney’s dining scene, with its mix of European, Asian and, increasingly, Indigenous Australian traditions. “The restaurant scene reflects our lifestyle with a push towards more casual, buzzy places,” says Orr, who opened ACME in 2014 following several years spent at Massimo Bottura’s famed Italian establishment Osteria Francescana in Modena. “Our style of dining is fun, loud, interactive and designed for sharing,” Orr adds.

Deep blue waters

The biggest problem with a road trip to Sydney’s most captivating ocean baths is that there are so many interesting things to see and do on the way. Before taking the coastal drive to Bondi Beach, we wind down through some of the most elite of the eastern suburbs (Darling Point, Point Piper and Double Bay among them) to experience first a different kind of ocean pool altogether: those in Sydney Harbour. As a result of the increasingly clean water, they are a real alternative to the bathing resorts situated further outside the city. We stop at Murray Rose Pool (referred to by locals as Redleaf). On any day here, you’ll find retired bathers doing laps, children goading each other off of the boardwalk and into the inky waters, and bronzed teens sunning themselves on the buoyant pontoons. Hundreds of fish dart around our feet in ankle-deep water. Further along towards South Head (the entrance of the harbour) is Parsley Bay, a netted inlet shaded by fig trees and a footbridge, where brides pose for wedding photographs while swimmers delight in the crisp, deep waters below. And then I glide along the Campbell Parade coast road, running parallel to famed Bondi Beach, on my way to the best vantage point for the Pacific: Bondi Icebergs, an ocean pool that juts out from the rock platforms, making it a local landmark for more than a century. Dedicated members of the Bondi Icebergs Club must commit to its winter swimming programme, and while Australian waters certainly aren’t the coldest in the world, you can see how the pool gained its name after the club officially formed in 1929. Icebergs, too, kicks off Sydney’s eastern raft of ocean baths, running the gamut from the polished brilliance at Bondi, to the tidal Wylie’s Baths at the south of Coogee Beach with its stilt-raised viewing points, to the often choppy waters of Mahon Pool further south at Maroubra Beach.

The ocean is one of those universal pleasures

Atop the ocean baths on the cliff face of the headland of Bronte, I find artist Bart Celestino. Here, in the same spot, the photographer takes his large format prints of the aqueous rolling waves beneath. “The tourists are often amazed,” says Celestino, “that every beach has its own identity, and the water and sand change colour in every bay along the coast.” Although Celestino’s works 
document the ocean free of context – they’re cropped so as to show none of the natural landscape beyond the water – there’s a sense of place to them nonetheless. “Looking at the water is one of those universally pleasurable things that invokes all these different feelings in people, but there’s something special about it in Sydney. After all, where else can you be in the ocean in the morning, duck back for a swim during lunch, and then have 
a surf before dinner.”

Dusk at Kiama: we’ll drive the 180 kilometres 
back to Sydney some other time.

Dusk at Kiama: we’ll drive the 180 kilometres 
back to Sydney some other time.

Model facts

BMW i3 (94 Ah)

Output kW

125

Torque Nm

250

Range in everyday use km

up to 300

CO2 emissions (combined) g/km


13.1–12.6

04/20/2017