Seeing a Different Side of Sydney’s Most Popular Sights

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When you think of Sydney, there are a lot of obvious tourist-friendly activities that come immediately to mind, but when you want to have a unique experience, it’s important to go beyond the obvious and see the city from a different perspective.

Whether you are visiting for a week, a fortnight, or a longer stretch of time, you don’t have to play tourist. Here’s how to experience Sydney as if you lived there yourself.

sydney harbour sunset

See the icons, then go deeper

Every tourist knows that the main attractions in Sydney are to be found in and around Circular Quay.

The Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Royal Botanical Gardens, and much more can all be accessed from this transport hub.

But don’t just settle for a selfie in front of the Opera House or the stereotypical ferry ride across to Manly.

Want to see the Opera House with a cocktail in hand? Consider checking out Opera Bar and taking in the glittering lights by night.

Rather than settling for a short ride on the Manly Ferry, why not take a Sydney whale-watching cruise or an evening cocktail cruise?

Don’t content yourself with shopping in The Rocks when you could take a spooky Rocks Ghost Tour.

Shopping is also king here, with huge malls focusing on designer gear or local indie brands depending on which area you hit. The landmarks will all be in view, but you’ll be doing what the locals do in their vicinity.

It pays to find accommodation nearby if you want to be part of the action for the duration of your stay.

Head to Taronga Zoo

Even locals are impressed by the wide range of attractions at Taronga Zoo. While your highlight as a tourist is sure to be the koalas, kangaroos, and other endemic species, locals are more impressed by the animals that come from far and wide.

Taronga is home to animals from all around the world, so make sure that you dedicate as much time to the giraffes and elephants as you do to the marsupials. You’ll want to spend a whole day here, so plan accordingly. Consider packing a lunchbox with supplies bought at a local store rather than buying food on site.

For those with a little extra spending money, you can even spend the night at the zoo for a truly unique view of Sydney Harbour after dark.

the rocks sydney

Hang Out in The Rocks

The Rocks is a historic area which is full of great architecture, but the past isn’t the whole story. These days it’s a happening place to be, with a lot of bars and restaurants that are busy well into the night.

You can also enjoy a market here on the weekends which is perfect for picking up street food, clothing, and local crafts. The locals know a bargain when they see one – don’t be taken in by the tourist trap stalls.

You can come back here night after night, and there are lots of chances to pick up souvenirs that don’t have to be tacky. The best tip from the locals is to head down early on Fridays to ensure that you can grab the best fresh fruit and veg to eat later on.

Another highlight in The Rocks? Fantastic bars such as Hart’s Pub and The Australian Hotel, who blend local beers with delicious fusion food.

bondi beach

Learn to surf in Sydney

Where do the locals go to hang out at the weekends? When the sun is out, there’s only one answer: the beach.

While Bondi Beach is world famous as a place to go for surfing, sunbathing, and generally larking around on the sand – there are plenty of options beyond Bondi.

If you’re looking to learn to surf in Sydney, there are plenty of beaches where you’ll find patient instructors and less crowds.

Looking to enjoy a romantic picnic on the beach? Why not try Shelly Beach near Manly?

Snorkeling and scuba diving are also an option at a number of Sydney beaches, with Freshwater being an especially good spot for snorkeling,

Picnic in The Royal Botanic Gardens

Last but not least is a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens. The large glasshouses here are home to beautiful and exotic gardens, created with plants from all around the world. You will discover delights around every single corner here. Bring a picnic, take a stroll hand in hand with a loved one, and sit down at lunchtime to enjoy some locally-sourced food. This is a much more relaxed place to visit than the other hectic tourist spots, and you will see why the natives love it so much.

No matter what you do during your stay in Sydney, there’s one thing you can’t skip: indie coffee shops and restaurants, which the city is littered with. Don’t research ahead – simply take a walk around the neighbourhood and see what eateries catch your eye!

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  • Ooh, me love Pad Thai too! We got a couple of weeks in Sydney and hopefully we get to find a kickass Thai resto as well.

    • Chris Walker-Bush

      I can definitely give you a couple of recommendations 🙂

      Or if you guys like, we could all go and check out a new one as part of my search!

  • Alice

    In The Mood For Thai – Parramatta!

  • House Thai northeast street food — on Elizabeth St, near the intersection with Campbell St, and just between Big Hostel and a pub. Everything I’ve had there is good (went with my parents and then again with Adam) and the BTS (“better than sex”) dessert is a yummy brioche, pandan ice cream, and sauce.

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