Hello, LGB readers. I’m Tiffany. TODAY is the day I publicly express my love for hometown Sydney, Australia for the first time – this really excites me! How so? Also an Aussie travel blogger (nice to meet you!), I’m teaming up with the awesome Phoebe Lee to give you guys a fresh insider guide to what Sydneysiders actually love doing around town.
Oh, Sydney. Sapphire seas, the clink of glasses and balmy afternoons immediately spring to mind. But the ever-flourishing sexy city has so much more for visitors to discover in its varying villages. Passionately living here my entire life means I would know a thing or two about hidden and everyday gems in this little bright patch of Earth. Travellers rejoice, as I’ve created this ultimate list (with the help of others Sydney born and bred) to inspire you in experiencing vibrant Sydney just like the locals. No tourist traps, promise.
Here we go! How many of these AMAZING 91 activities can you tick off?
The new classics
- Jog over The Cahill Expressway in the evening that gives you a less seen view of Sydney’s dazzling harbour.
- Chill at Barangaroo’s new grassy harbourside hill fringed with lush vegetation and wraparound views from Anzac Bridge to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
- To spoil yourself, meander up to the nearby opulent rooftop lounge of pastel pinks and creams, Henry Deane, atop heritage building Hotel Palisade. Never disappoints.
- You know what also never disappoints? Sokyo at The Star.
- Make like a sunbathing seal at European-esque Gordon’s Bay sporting a rocky coastline hugging turquoise waters. Absolutely ridic during Summer.
- With a mate, wander as far as possible through the rocks at North Bondi. When satisfied with seclusion, plop yourselves down and just take the landscape all in.
- A healthy Israeli-Mediterranean feed at Shuk in North Bondi’s back streets is almost a good enough sole reason to travel out this way.
- For upmarket indulgence, relish a hot evening at the revived industrial-chic Old Clare rooftop pool with a Camomile Highball in one hand. Divine.
- Another new kid on the block is the intimate Asian-inspired Junk Lounge at Cruise Bar. With front row seats to passing boats, sip on a memorable Aloe Geisha as groovy DJs spin between Thursday-Sunday. A “this is Sydney” moment without the hefty price tag.
Let’s get arty!
- Around the corner is the quaint cobble-stoned lanes of The Rocks. Wander, just wander. (Psst, don’t miss the Friday Foodie Market)
- Along the way, you’ll pass the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s not a tourist trap, walk in! Then finish off thought-provoking discoveries with a glass of wine on their rooftop.
- For indie showcases, White Rabbit Gallery still feels like an unknown delight.
- Another great modern art space is Carriageworks, Eveleigh.
- Eveleigh’s also home to seasonal, homemade produce at its authentic farmers’ market. Smell, touch, taste, gather!
- Say hi to Kevin Bacon the pudgy pig (ha, geddit?) at The Grounds of Alexandria where they serve the prettiest plates of palatable produce.
- For street brunch, the Saturday Bondi Farmers Markets is hard to beat. A colourful fresh flowers bouquet for your lover, maybe?
- In the same place on Sundays, you can pick up a (actually) cool souvenir at their more retail-focused market.
- Look for Wendy’s Secret Garden in Lavendar Bay. Wendy, wife of an artist, devoted this entire dramatic garden to her passing husband in 1992.
- Savour a top-shelf local beer tasting at independent Archie Rose Distilling Co. in their uber-cool industrial dining space.
- This needs to be followed by a slice of strawberry watermelon cake at neighbouring Black Star Pastry.
- A noteworthy wine (and incredible Italian food) at old-world European glamourous Bambini Trust while you people watch across central Hyde Park can be fun too.
Fun times ahead…
- Summer tunes, coconut cocktails and pizza (say no more) at The Island Bar, Cockatoo Island on a Sunday while watching the sun slip into the sea should be in the cards.
- You could glamp there too!
- Experience an underground warehouse or isolated beach party. Whether you like it or not, this scene very much happens in Sydney. Usually kept quiet, it’s best to ask around. But hey, if you stumble across one, join in or have fun watching it unravel.
- Love gritty small bars? Papa Gede’s with their “Try Before You Die” classics still somehow feels like a great neighbourhood bar, although smack centre in the CBD. We love you, Gede’s!
- Love live jazz? Venue 505 hands down, like sitting in a mate’s lounge room.
- Love to laugh? Happy Endings Comedy Club, Potts Point.
- Want to meet some locals? A Friday night at The Beresford attracts a fun crowd of fireball-shots-drinking after work peeps followed by dancing upstairs.
- For a young, hip crowd, the last Sunday of every month brings One Day Sundays at the Vic, Enmore. What starts as a chilled afternoon of basketball turns into beats and beer with a slow-cooked spit while graffiti artists do their thing.
- Teeeeeequila! Hot dogs and cheeky margaritas at vibey El Loco at The Slip Inn is always a good idea.
- So is the juicy fried chicken bucket (yup, BUCKET) at The Soda Factory. So bad, but so good.
- Partake in a falafel fiesta at long-standing Lebanese restaurant Abdul’s, Surry Hills.
- $3 Taco Tuesdays at Norfolk Hotel. Nuff said.
- Don’t want the night to end? Top it all off with vodka fresh green apples at dark, sometimes chaotic Frankie’s over loud 80s rock’n’roll. The pizza won’t be the best you’ve ever had but who cares at this hour?
- A 3am feed at Golden Century, a Chinatown institute donning white-cloaked banquet tables yet has all characters coming through the door, is a local guilty pleasure. Order anything and everything.
- On the topic of guilty (just live!) late-night feeds, say yes to stuffing your face with a crispy pork crackle roll at Mr Crackles on Oxford Street, an ah… eccentric strip at this time of day.
- Late night ice-cream at RivaReno, Surry Hills. Talk to me when you’ve found a better fragola gelato.
- Don’t even get me started on Messina, just 5 minutes down the road.
- (Actually, just walk down Crown Street one evening with nothing but a will to let the night take you wherever.)
- Or a midnight warm chocolate cake at Maisy’s 24-hour café in Neutral Bay.
- How about the decadent, sticky date pudding at Eurobay, Brighton Le Sands. 20 minutes is what stands between you and Heaven. Afterwards, catch the city lights across the water during a breezy beach stroll.
- The Good Times Artisan Ice Cream in Potts Point though… Trying to pick a flavour in itself is exhausting fun.
- Want more? Buffet high tea at InterContinental’s sandstone atrium, The Cortile.
The active life!
- Food coma? Work all the above off with stand-up paddle boarding in the tranquil Rose Bay followed by lunch at TIDE Café.
- Or canoeing to Clarke Island.
- Trek Diamond Bay before moving over to the picturesque grounds of the Vaucluse House Tearoom for a blissful brunch.
- Grab the ol’ fish and chips from Bottom of the Harbour in gorgeous Balmoral, North Sydney.
- Then walk over to the white soft sands of (almost) secret hideaway Chinamans Beach where you can lie down and dream about the surrounding million-dollar cliff-side homes and luxury yachts.
- A real secret? A lengthy bush trek (partly why it’s never crowded) takes you to tiny Hermit Bay, Vaucluse, where you and your mates can tie your inflatables to the buoys and banter in water under the sun. I didn’t tell you.
- Snorkel at Shelly Beach, Manly then recharge at the newest addition of popular The Boathouse. A spoon of their hearty porridge feels like a big, warm hug from Grandpa.
- Trek from Bradleys Head to end at the rewarding Chowder Bay.
- Get your cardio on at the 7km Bay Run that circles a serene lake with peeping views of the Sydney skyline. Park near the Drummoyne Swimming Club so on completion, you may reward yourself with a refreshing dip or shopping at Birkenhead Point Outlet Centre across the road – whichever motivates you more, I guess.
- Wake early to stroll over the Anzac Bridge, journeying around Glebe Foreshore Parks (bonus: cute dogs. Cute dogs everywhere, my friend) and end at the Sydney Fish Markets.
- If manipulative seagulls (no really, they group up and plan attacks on you) aren’t your thing, stop over at local joint (which used to be a local pub) The Revolver and devour a better than your average eggs benny while sipping out of Victorian ware.
- Spend a lazy Saturday afternoon walking down Oxford Street in hip, affluent Paddington (think men in suits walking dogs), stumbling into high street fashion and art galleries housed in terraces on leafy side streets. Especially beautiful in Autumn.
- A small tight-knit community vibe is found in Rozelle, where a visit to the Saturday markets followed by an escapade down the Balmain strip is a humble treat. The favourite? There ain’t no average paninis at Bertoni.
- You can’t go past the legendary Pasticceria Papa in delightful Italian neighbourhood Haberfield. The baked ricotta cheesecake is… I can’t even.
- Diarise the iconic Palm Beach Market on the 4th Sunday of every month, pronto.
- A little more hipster scene is the Saturday Glebe Markets. Rummage through seemingly endless collections of oversized vintage jackets as jazz musicians play in the courtyard.
- The Glebe Point Road strip is just underrated, explore it now.
- But Chippendale is the new hot spot sprouting food and art gems left, right and centre.
- Hardcore op-shopping in quirky Newtown energised with a sugar hit from Newtown Brewtown’s melts-in-your-mouth cronuts will be one of your favourite days in Sydney, promise.
- Then have a break at the solemn Memorial Cemetery Rest Park underneath a shady overgrown tree.
- Munch on the meanest sandwich from City Edge, Surry Hills. Weekday lunchtimes see people line up out onto the street.
- Conquer an udon affair at retro Japanese canteen Menya Mappen.
- With some mates, venture on a Vietnamese food expedition to Cabramatta. One word: FEAST. Tip: order one dish to share at each restaurant so you can go food hopping.
- Or you could just go to Cabramatta for the best yum cha in all of Sydney, really. Check out Iron Chef, Vinh Phat or Fortune8.
- To satisfy Asian cuisine cravings closer to the CBD, Jumbo Thai, Haymarket brings in crowds for its flavourful, generous servings.
Mind, body and spirit
- Try yoga at “the original Bondi yoga school” Dharma Shala Bondi Yoga School.
- There’s even yoga by donation at Barefoot Yoga, Paddington – such a wonderful initiative!
- Take in a sunrise at Tamarama Beach while watching the um, quite bloody handsome, surfers catch waves. It’s therapeutic. I mean the ocean.
- Snuggle up with hot tea and a buddy over as the sun rises at North Head. It’s also whale watching season in Winter.
- Contemplate over a sunset at North Curl Curl Beach atop a coastal cliff reached by a short nature trail. If lucky, a kaleidoscope of butterflies will come out of the bush and flutter around you in a theatrical manner. Unreal.
Road trips less than 2 hours
- Day trips? Sydney’s all over it. Canoe at Audley Boat Sheds, Royal National Park.
- On the way, stopover at Bilpin Fruit Bowl for delectable homemade sweet pies.
- Also at RNP is the great cliff jump at the very special Wattamolla Beach. In Summer, the nature playground enclosed by forests gets hellava busy with inflatable parties and families.
- Have a picnic at Stanwell Park Beach while watching hang-gliders from above.
- Then scurry down to Scarborough Hotel for beer over sweeping ocean vistas.
- A little closer is the Mermaid Pools, a swimming hole where there’s no other way to get in but to jump 10 metres.
- Down a meat pie in bakery-abundant Goulburn, especially at The Big Merino. Don’t ask, it’s just what some of us do (if you ever run out of things to do, okay?).
- Or drive down a mountainous valley to end at Megalong Valley Tea Rooms, The Blue Mountains for a homemade apple pie. Are you just comin’ here for a freakin’ pie? Yes, yes you are. (The scenic drive is nice too)
- And if you’re around town, schedule some time to experience Christmas in July (hello group bonding over log fires in cute country homes) at Yulefest, The Blue Mountains.
- Ride a bike through the Royal Botanic Gardens and end with a picnic at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to see the same as what pops up when you Google Image search “Sydney”.
- In town for Vivid during Winter? We make it a thing to see it too.
- Between January and February, film, fine food and wine, and postcard views are combined at the St George Open Air Cinema. Good times ahead!
- And certainly Sculptures By The Sea, Bondi.
- OK, well, of course, I have to whack this one in. THE Bondi to Coogee walk (or to Bronte, if your legs have had enough). Get on it.
- But what you probably didn’t know was that along the way, during low tide in the warmer months MacKenzie’s Bay looks like a series of small glistening rock pools that are filled with huddled-up locals with a drink in one hand. Pack an esky and join in!
- Yes, catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly.
- The fireworks at Darling Harbour is rather neat. Touristy? Yes. Excessive? Maybe. But some of us can’t help but feel it’s a celebratory reminder that Sydney really is an awesome place to be.
- My favourite local experience of all? Looking into Sydney while sitting on a hill near Pirrama Park, Pyrmont (still quietly filled with mostly residents) as the setting sun reflects a golden hue onto skyscrapers, followed by a lavender sky. Like seeing it for the first time, every time.
And there you have it! I hope you enjoy Sydney just as much as I (or we) do. How many local activities can you tick off? Any other Sydney secrets to add to this list? I’d love to hear from you. Say hello via Instagram or Facebook. You can also check out my Australian travel blog Tales of Ardour, where I continue the fun in documenting my world explorations as a mindful traveller.
With gratitude, Tiffany
Tiffany Tran writes Australian travel blog Tales of Ardour, documenting world explorations as a mindful traveller. Savouring life at every moment, she inspires people to explore deeply all that’s beautiful, confusing and challenging to raise a collective consciousness. When she’s not contemplating over culture shocks from India and Africa, the passionate human indulges in a severe love affair with hometown Sydney, where she remembers how to sit like a lady again with a Negroni in one hand. A nomadic bohemian at heart, living in a whimsical eco-friendly treehouse fit with an outdoor bathtub is certainly in her cards. I mean, wouldn’t you? Say hello on Instagram and Facebook! E: firstname.lastname@example.org