My Five Favourite Spots in Sydney

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centrepoint tower sydney
Got to love that Sydney skyline.

It’s been a long while now since I’ve was lucky enough to call Australia’s greatest city (that’s Sydney, you sneaky Melbourne dwellers) home, but one of my favourite bonuses to my traveling lifestyle is that I regularly get to pass through the Harbour City on my way in or out of the country.

As I prepare for the Great US Road Trip at the end of next week, I’ve already started contemplating what I’d like to get up to when I touch down in Sydney again in early March.

I recently created the Definitive Aussie Bucket List of 95 things any visitor to Australia should consider checking out, and in doing so I had to exclude some of my favourite Sydney spots.

Never fear! I’ve highlighted them for you here.

My Favourite Spots in Sydney

#5 – The Inner West

While I have a deathly allergy to hipsters (I had a beard before it was cool, dammit!), it’s hard not to love the chilled out vibe of the Inner West. With its boutique coffee houses, only slightly pretentious cafes, and abundance of bars – the Inner West is more than just patchouli smelling King Street in Newtown.

With an ethnically diverse population, the Inner West is heaven for those wanting to find foreign foods that aren’t Chinese, Thai, and Indian (not that all three aren’t available in spades). Marrickville’s Vietnamese bakeries do amazing banh mi (pork rolls), Dulwich Hill has its own Little Portugal, there’s Polish in Ashfield, Turkish in Balmain, and passable Mexican to be found in Newtown.

cornersmith hipster marrickville
Being tragically hipster at Cornersmith in Marrickville.

Has that not got you salivating, check out Urbanist’s 50 Best Restaurants of the Inner West (and Beyond).

There’s also no shortage of fun bars and pubs in the area, with TimeOut recently listing the best Inner West bars.

My personal favourites? Batch Brewing Company and The Henson.

Batch might look like just another warehouse in a fairly industrial stretch of road, but step inside and you’re surrounded by fantastic beers. The Henson, on the other hand, has a truly orgasmic food menu of which the highlight is a softshell crab burger with Sriracha coleslaw and Old Bay mayonnaise.

I die.

#4 – Darling Harbour

I know it’s touristy as all hell, but there’s just something about Darling Harbour that has always felt like home for me.

Maybe it’s the fact it’s where I rang in one of the most life-changing years of my life beneath a sky afire.

Maybe it’s because it was where I brought my (ex) girlfriend on her first day in Australia as we started our new lives together.

Maybe it’s because it’s where I spent my last day in Australia before setting off on my first trip abroad?

family photo harbour bridge
Looking insanely awkward in my pre-travel days. Transition lanses, Chris? Really??

Whether you’re here to dine out at some of Sydney’s best restaurants, checking out tourist traps like the Sydney Aquarium, taking some time to explore the Chinese Gardens, or make like in the movies and try out the roulette tables at The Star – there’s something for all walks of life.

Whatever it is, there’s something about the chaos of competing sound systems, squawking seagulls, and shouting tourists that is just very zen for me.

#3 – Hyde Park

It’s hardly an undiscovered gem, but I’ve always loved Sydney’s Hyde Park.

Not quite as grand as New York’s Central Park, Hyde Park is nonetheless an island of tranquillity at the heart of Australia’s busiest city. The bubbling fountains, murmuring trees, and even the distant honking of traffic combine to at once take you away from the hustle and bustle of the city and remind you that you’re still very much a part of it.

Transformed each year into an Asian street market for the Night Noodle Markets, Hyde Park becomes one of the best places in Sydney to sample cuisine from all across Asia, but for most of the year it’s a quiet escape for people snatching an hour’s respite from the rat race.

night noodle markets sydney hyde park
EAT ALL OF THE THINGS!

#2 – The Royal National Park

It’s a bit of a hike to get all the way down to the Royal National Park. You’re looking at a decent length train ride down to Cronulla before taking a ferry across to sleepy Bundeena.

It’s totally worth the commute though, and you’ll be hard-pressed to believe that this slice of paradise exists so close to a city of over 4 million.

One of the world’s oldest national parks, the ‘Nasho’ or ‘The Royal’ is a haven for hikers and kayakers. It was in this last capacity that I visited in 2010, and spent one blissful hour out on an isolated island enjoying a sun-dappled nap after a picnic lunch.

Kayaking in Bundeena
Kayaking in Bundeena in 2010. You wouldn’t believe it was winter!

Whether you’re in Sydney for a week or a year, it would be criminal to overlook the Royal National Park.

#1 – Shelly Beach

I’ve said before that I think Bondi is grossly overrated, and I’ll restate that here.

Is it a nice beach? Sure.

Is it worthy of the huge numbers that flock to it every year? Not on your life!

My personal pick for the best beach in Sydney is a bit out of left field, as you’re not going to find great surf or ideal sunbathing conditions at Shelly Beach.

shelly beach sydney northern beaches
How’s the serenity?

What you will find is a sheltered cove perfect for snorkelling, scuba diving, or for kids to paddle about it.

Up from the sand is a shady lawn perfect for barbeques and a little touch football. It’s just a great spot for mates to hang out or for a family to catch up.

For those wanting a more traditional stretch of beach, it’s a short but scenic walk to nearby Manly Beach – another beach that leaves Bondi for dead. In fact, nearly any of the Northern Beaches trumps Bondi in my eyes.

———-

As you can see, there’s a lot more to Sydney than the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I know I’ve included some touristy spots on here, but this wasn’t designed to highlight hidden gems – it’s just a little exercise in self-indulgence.

With so many cool hotels in Sydney to choose from, why not plan your Sydney escape this weekend?

Looking for more Sydney inspiration? Check out my Top 10 Must See Sights in Sydney.

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10 comments

  1. I recently moved to Sydney for work,with my husband, staying in the Inner West. The city its just amazing, we are still exploring. I catch the ferry to work- i find it a relaxing way to travel! So much to still see and do- we have enjoyed going down to China Town in Darling Harbour which offer an endless selection of Chinese restaurants, I am yet to head to Shelley beach, but we have experienced Australia Day at Neilson Park Vaucluse, eastern suburbs- great picnic areas.

    • I’m a big fan of the Inner West. Although I only had the pleasure of calling Marrickville home for 8-9 months, I spent a lot of my Sydney life hanging out in the area due to all of my friends being in the area. Such a fun part of the city, and the Vietnamese Pork Rolls are to die for.

  2. We moved to Redfern from North Carolina back in Dec 2014, and we love it. We are still exploring, but can’t believe how much more there is to this city than you can imagine as an outsider. A couple items in your list are on our growing by list of faves, allthough, we have yet to make it to Nash or too far into the inner west. Looking forward to the ethnic foods you mentioned, but need to know where is this passable Mexican food you speak of?

    Great post!

    • Passable is high praise, but Mad Mex is the closest to edible Mexican I’ve found in Australia. It’s nothing on the real thing (or even the various interpretations I ate during my recent five week trip across the US) – but at least they’re aware of the vital important of rice and beans to a good burrito.

  3. Great list! I agree with Shelley Beach – in particular later in the day you can see some amazing wildlife here. When you snorkel here you can even here the clicking sounds of the dolphins – or is it the whales! Pretty amazing for a city beach. Plus, now you can have lunch at the Boathouse which is always nice and fresh.

    • Despite having spent a few days on Shelley, I’ve actually never snorkeled or scuba dived there. It’s definitely on my to do list for my next visit.

      The Boathouse is a fairly nearly addition, yeah? I don’t recall there being food there last time I visited. We’d do a Coles run, grab a few BBQ chickens and rolls, and make our own meals haha.

    • Most of my family feel the same way about Sydney. The city saved me at a pretty rough time in my life on two separate occasions, so it’ll always have a place in my heart.

      Let me know what you get up to or if you’d like some more tips!

  4. While I never want to live there, there’s something I love about Sydney – just going there for a weekend and wandering is so nice. I think it’s the combination of parks and water.

    • There’s something just magical about the Harbour, don’t you think? I could sit and stare out at it for hours.

      I didn’t mind living there by any stretch. I couldn’t live at the heart of it all, but living in the northern suburbs was nice. Loved my late night jogs through the empty streets of North Sydney and Crows Nest.

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