Know Your Sydney Suburbs, Part One

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Credit has to go to my former room-mate, Stephanie for the idea for this article. After having lived in Sydney for two years and barely scraping the surface of the diverse city, I wanted a way to point people in the direction of its lesser known highlights. Steph suggested I put together a run-down of the different regions/suburbs and highlight what made them special.

While it’s true there’s no shortage of accommodation in Sydney at its heart, these fringe areas are not without their own charms. And you’ll often find cheaper accommodation there as well.

Know Your Sydney Suburbs

The Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Opera House. Bondi Beach. Darling Harbour. The Blue Mountains.

While it’s true that the majority of visitors to Sydney come to see the above Sydney  icons, to say Sydney begins and ends with them is to grossly short change yourself.

Sydney is Australia’s largest and most diverse city, and a short drive  can take  you from a bustling modern metropolis to an idyllic garden suburb with a brief stop for lunch in one of the many ethnic clusterings  in which Vietnamese, Greek, Italian, Lebanese, Portuguese, Chinese, and Korean communities have added a little of their culture to a Sydney suburb.

Knowing your Sydney suburbs can turn your visit to Australia’s premier city from a  memorable tour of popular tourist spots to a truly unforgettable cultural experience featuring everything from sports to delicious food to arts & crafts to stunning natural scenery.  The sprawling city  offers  far more than just a few crowded tourist traps.

Sydney CBD

The most recognizable  part of Sydney is almost certainly its bustling CBD (Central Business District) where  skyscrapers soar  overhead while buskers  wow crowds down below.

Located close to the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Darling Harbour, and some of Sydney’s  best shopping – the CBD is the thriving heart of Australia’s most modern city.

In the CBD you’ll find no shortage of places to eat or shop. From upmarket boutiques in the gorgeous Queen Victoria Building (known to locals as thee QVB)  or The Strand, to outlets  and retailers in Pitt Street Mall: the areas around train stations such as Town Hall, Wynyard, St James, and Martin Place are ideal places to buy new clothes or tacky souvenirs.

Darling Harbour at night
Darling Harbour by night. One of my favourite places in Sydney.

Looking for a bite to eat? Sydney’s diverse cultural make-up is represented in the wealth of options  available to diners in the heart  of Sydney. McDonalds and its greasy neighbours are represented, of course, but you’ll also find traditional Thai food right next to dingy Greek diners and crowded Japanese sushi bars.

Just around the corner from Darling Harbour is Sydney’s Chinatown district, where a dizzying array of sights and smells assault the senses. You’re transported from a modern city to an Asian wonderland where street vendors, karaoke bars,, and countless Chinese restaurants and noodle bars are at your fingertips.

The heart of Sydney  is also the  heart of its night life. Trendy nightclubs, old-fashioned Aussie pubs, and a  growing number of gastropubs and wine bars offer a  fantastic selection for those wanting a drink or a  night out. Nearby districts such as King’s Cross and Oxford Street cater to those with more specialised tastes. King”s Cross is an adult  playground of night clubs and strip clubs, while Oxford Street proudly caters to Sydney’s LGBT community.

Sydney’s CBD is certainly the first place most visitors to Sydney should experience, but it’s certainly not the last. Let’s move on.

The Inner West

A place I was proud  to (briefly) call home, Sydney’s inner west is an area alive with art, music, and a delightful melting pot of cultures that makes it a Mecca for foodies.

Large Greek, Vietnamese, and Portuguese populations in suburbs such as Marrickville, Dulwich Hill, and Petersham contribute to an aromatic and appetising selection of foods. Mouth-watering Greek gyros, Vietnamese pho, and spicy Portuguese  chicken mingle with countless Japanese, Thai, and Italian eateries to offer near limitless selection.

Although my personal favourite is the delightfully warm, Cornersmith in Marrickville. Well worth a look.

Cornersmith in Marrickville
Enjoying an organic ginger ale and a bad-ass Ploughman’s at Cornersmith in early 2012

It’s true that the inner west does not boast the must see attractions that other regions do. There are no theme parks or notable museums, but the region’s art and music scene make it a must see for those who want to see Sydney from a different angle.

With  universities nearby providing no shortage of would-be  Bohemians, the night life in Newtown – in particular – is  amongst Sydney’s best. Live music, cabaret and burlesque performances, and stand up comedy add to the usual selection of bars and pubs..

Northern Beaches

There are those who swear by Bondi and  its neighbouring beaches, but to me, the beaches  of Manly and its surrounds will always stand out as the best in Sydney. Beaches  like Manly, Freshwater, and Shelly are as beautiful as they are different from one another.

Shelly Beach, Manly
Shelly Beach in Manly is one of my favourite beaches in the world.

A picturesque ferry ride from Sydney’s Circular Quay, Manly is more than just beaches. An emerging micro-brewing culture, stunning national parks, and a  number  of tourist attractions make Manly a well-known but often  under-appreciated  stop on a Sydney trek.

Food and drink on Manly’s ‘Courso’ are typical of Australian beach fare with steaks, seafood, and ice cream reigning supreme.  If you are keen for a drop of beer, 4 Pines Brewery is the  pick in my  opinion.

Manly’s aquarium and beaches are a big lure for travelers young and old alike. Everything from surf lessons to scuba diving to stand up paddle boarding to simple sunbathing is on offer along the golden Northern Beaches.

Your Say

Part #1 is complete and I’ll have part #2 up within the next few weeks as I highlight The Shire, North Sydney, and the sprawling mass that is Western Sydney. What should I include when I write them up?

Is there a region I’ve overlooked? Or a feature from one of the above regions I’ve missed?

Where do you think is the best place to look for accommodation in Sydney?

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