Living in Sydney isn’t just about visiting the Sydney Opera House or arguing over whether Bondi or Manly beach is better. Head to some of Sydney’s more unique spots to soak up the sun, seek shelter in a tropical oasis and have a feast at one of the city’s coolest food spots with our guide to the best hidden gems in Sydney.
1. Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout
Skip the queues at the uber-popular Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb and head over to the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. Scale the 200 steps to the Pylon Lookout, 87 metres above sea level, and enjoy pretty much the same bird’s-eye views over Sydney Harbour, for a fraction of the price. Stop off at the three exhibits inside the tower as you climb to learn about the construction of the bridge, one of Australia’s best-known landmarks.
2. Wendy’s Secret Garden
When her husband died, grief-stricken Wendy Whiteley channeled all her energy into regenerating an overgrown, disused railway land in Lavender Bay. She transformed the space from an abandoned rubbish tip into a stunning hidden garden oasis. Native and exotic plants flourish side by side here, and trees cast patches of shade over the winding pathways. Take a walk through the many hidden nooks around the garden, where statues, fountains and busts share the meditative space with visitors.
3. The Forgotten Songs
This is one for your Instagram feed. Tucked away on Angel Place, 50 elegant metal birdcages of all shapes and sizes are suspended above the alleyway. Each cage represents a different native bird species which lived in the area before European settlers arrived, and whose calls and songs are played from above. Though only designed as a temporary piece of art, this enchanting installation was so popular that it’s since become permanent.
4. Maccallum Pool
Everyone knows about the sea pool at the famous Bondi Beach, but Sydney is home to some other lesser-known swimming spots. Head to Cremorne Point and take a dip in the turquoise waters of the Maccallum Pool. Overlooking the harbour itself, shaded by leafy trees and surrounded by a picket fence and timber deck (ideal for sunbathing), this exclusive-feeling pool is as scenic as it is secluded.
Foodies: do not skip a visit to Tramsheds. Over in Glebe, Tramsheds is a converted old tram depot now bursting with modern and innovative restaurants and cafes, each teasing diners with local produce and artisan eats. There’s so much choice, just one trip to Tramsheds won’t be enough! Watch out for events including wine tastings, trivia nights and cookery classes.
6. Shark Island
Part of Sydney Harbour National Park, tiny and beautiful Shark Island sits right in the heart of, yup you’ve guessed it: Sydney Harbour. This pocket-sized natural gem is just a short boat trip (or kayak journey, if you’re up for it) from the mainland and offers city-dwellers unique barbecue pitches, sandy beaches and spectacular coves to swim in – all with views across the famous harbor itself.
7. Collins Flat Beach
For a quiet stretch of sand that you don’t have to take a boat to, head to Collins Flat Beach not far from popular Manly Beach. This hidden, picture-perfect patch is sheltered by trees and rock pools and boasts a gentle natural harbor ideal for a crowd-free swim. Just a little further around the coast, you’ll also find the equally pretty Store Beach, Quarantine Beach and Little Manly Beach.
8. Glebe Markets
Every Saturday, shoppers revel in the diversity of unique vintage clothing, hand-made and upcycled crafts and bespoke jewelry on offer. And even if you don’t find something to purchase, Glebe Markets is a great place to explore and soak up the atmosphere at the weekend, tuck into some local street food and enjoy live music.
9. The Barber Shop Cocktail Bar
This place is a firm favorite with locals who know its secret. A place for trendy haircuts and fresh shaves by day, The Barber Shop is a totally hipster watering hole by night. The hidden cocktail bar behind the salon hosts over 700 different gins and an array of craft beers – perfect for an evening with friends.
10. Royal National Park
Spanning over 16 thousand hectares to the south of the city, the Royal National Park protects a beautiful stretch of coastline and inland bush, and is loved by surfers and picnickers alike. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a day or two, this spot’s for you. Between May and October join a tour boat or climb up to the top of the sandstone cliffs and watch for whales as they migrate through Sydney’s warm waters.