Sydney, Like a Local

An insider’s guide to my favourite city in the world.

One of my favorite parts of a nomadic life is the traveler’s tales – Spilt secretes and sloshed truths over Chai, Sangria or Sake. 

I often ask: what is your favourite city that you visited in Australia?

More often than not, I don’t get the answer that I was looking for.

I have heard Sydney described as the blonde counterpart to Melbourne’s brunette. Sydney is known as the flashy one – Beautiful but with not much going on below the surface. Melbourne is seen as darker, cooler, deeper – The artsy type. The interesting one.

I disagree.

I beg young people to travel… Come back and you’re going to see your country differently, you’re going to see your president differently, no matter who it is. Music, culture, food, water… And the light bulb goes on.”

– Henry Rollins

From faraway, your minds eye sees home like a vintage photograph – light leaked, overexposed – everything is softened as the flaws fade with the colour. Upon homecoming, you see it in a new light. Once the lightbulb goes on, it seems harsher. The flaws are brought into sharp focus. What was once light becomes dark – a landscape in negative.

When I returned to Sydney I saw that it can be a difficult city to navigate. If you’re out of the loop, it is hard to know where to go. I think that’s what makes it such a tricky city for tourists but such a wonderful place to live.

Sydney is one of those places where a little local wisdom is key.

So what follows is an experiment in superlatives. A guide to seeing Sydney like a local. My list, of course, is probably very different to any other Sydneysider’s favourite things. I guess that, in itself, is one of my favourite things about Sydney. Hereafter, a whole lot more of my favourites

The Coogee to Bondi Walk

The Coogee to Bondi Walk

Best of the Best: The Coogee <—> Bondi Walk. Six kilometers of breath-taking coastline, people watching, rock pools and beaches.

Best Brew With a View:

  • The Island Bar at Cockatoo Island. Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO world heritage site dead-bang in the middle of Sydney harbor.
  • The Glenmore Hotel, the Rocks. Incredible views over the harbor from a rooftop bar in Sydney’s historic district.
  • The Royal Hotel at Five Ways, Paddington. The rooftop bar has a surprising, and spectacular view over the city.
  • The Rooftop Bar at the Coogee Pavilion. This is a brand new bar that opened just last week but promises to be the bar of the moment on sydney’s fickle scene. Incredible situation overlooking Coogee beach.

Best Secret Beach:

  • Gordon’s Bay. A marine park squeezed between it’s more famous counterparts at Coogee and Clovelly. Here you will find the most incredible snorkeling and the perfect shade of blue. Exhibit A: The photo at the top of this page. 
  • Redleaf beach, Double Bay. A picturesque harbour beach.

Best Galleries (All Free!)

  • The Museum of Modern Art at Circular Quay
  • The Art Gallery of N.S.W in the Botanic Gardens
  • The White Rabbit Gallery near Central Station. Indie little Gallery featuring contemporary Chinese art.

Best Picnic Spots

  • The Botanical Gardens
  • Coogee Beach
  • Nielsen Park, Vaucluse
Redleaf Beach

Redleaf Beach

Best Way to Get Around:

By boat! If you can’t commandeer a sailboat, the ferry is a fantastic option. Top ferry destinations include the tourists favourites – Taronga Zoo and Manly – along with local hotspots like Watson’s bay (for fish and chips) and Cockatoo Island.

Best Cheap Eat:

Up the end of Victoria Street, Kings Cross, is a little dumpling place next to a pizza shop. If you smile nicely, you can sit in-between the two and order from both menus. Perfection.

Best $$$ Eat

My favorite is the Spice Temple in the CBD.

Best for Summer Fun

  • The Sydney Festival. On from the 7th of January to the 26th. There are events on every day. Take a look at the website.
  • 20/20 Cricket at the SCG
  • Moonlight cinemas everywhere. Just have a google.
Overlooking Bondi Beach

Overlooking Bondi Beach

Tourist Traps to avoid.

Try not to spend too much time on George Street, around Central station or going out in Kings Cross.

Best For Culture

  • The Sydney Theatre Company
  • Anything in the Opera House
  • The Sydney Festival

Best Shopping

  • Vintage shops on Crown Street, Surry Hills
  • Australian Designers on Oxford Street, Paddington
  • Markets (See Below)

Best Markets

  • Glebe for cheap, handmade clothing, accessories and trinkets. On every Saturday
  • Eveleigh Farmers Market in Redfern for fresh, local food and people watching. On every Saturday
  • Kiribbili Market for designer labels and vintage. Incredible views over the harbour.

Best Brunch

  • The Grounds at Alexandria
The Grounds at Alexandria

The Grounds at Alexandria

If you have any suggestions, questions or discoveries, feel free to let me know in the comments.

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