One Local’s Hot Tips On What to Do In/Around Sydney, For The Visiting Traveller
So I’m off for a little O/S jaunt later in the year and have been trying to scope out where exactly is worth travelling to on my desired continent. I’m trying to keep it macro; where to pass through as so much how to fill my days, but it is nice to have some hot tips up your sleeve, especially once you hit the big-smoke. In times like these I’m always left thinking how I wish I could connect with a like-minded native and work off their suggested itinerary (in fact I believe I read of such a website??) From that, I pondered how many souls have come through my beloved hometown of Sydney and missed what I believe are key experiences. I really do love Sydney. It most definitely has it’s downs (live music issues; salary-man central; housing affordability issues) but it’s undoubtedly shaped who I am, from the music I play to the activities I do outside of my music-making. Even the way I talk…brah. Loving it also means exploring it. I’ve spent countless time trying to expand my knowledge of the city and it’s surroundings. I kinda pride myself on it. So, armed with a working URL, a keyboard and the best part of my consciousness, I thought it time to share that knowledge and pen a list of what a 20-something local musician, with a focus on nature, the arts, grub (food and beverages) and big fat love of his home city, would recommend doing on a tight budget, when visiting our supermodel city, Sydney. If your circle generously overlaps mine in a venn diagram then I suggest you read on. :
Buy a longie*, plant yourself down at Tarpeian Hill and watch the sun set over the Opera House and Harbour Bridge
Let it be known this is my top tip. Now, you could do the Bridge Walk. Or watch a concert in the Opera House (actually do that). OR you could save the cash, buy a *long-neck of beer (750ml) down at the Circular Quay bottle shop, cop a nice patch of grass on Tarpien Hill and experience both wondrous pieces of architecture in a single, magnificent view….during sunset even. Did I say with a longie? Glorious. I’m in the know on this one thanks to uni being a stones throw way and one person’s creative and frugal thinking. It’s otherwise a well kept secret. No point asking where Tarpeian Way is because no one will know. That’s one for google maps.
? Hot tips: If you’re here in June, do it while Vivid Festival and see some cool light installations and a festival buzz. Also, best to do it in the week- Sydney CBD is a dead space during the weekend, might be hard to find a longie.
Hit up the Royal National Park
For my money, Sydney’s best offerings (or Australia’s for that matter) are outside the CBD and in it’s inner-city and Greater-Sydney regions: Sydney’s big backyard. And our number one backyard (we got a few) is the Royal National Park. Within the RNP, the crown jewel of activities is the well-known ‘Coastal Track’ which runs along the Park’s entire east coast border. It’s a 26km jaunt that although billed as a multi-day hike can be done in a day by the reasonably fit. If you have the time, a over-night camp at Era is to be relished.
The Coastal Walk is a Royal.N.P best-of, featuring such natural beauts as Eagle Rock, the beaches and steep cliffs of Wattamala, Wedding Cake rock, Era and Garie beach, the sea shacks, and the jungle loop (p.s. all these can be done as individual walks) Admittedly for the short stay traveller without a car, it’s a bit of a logistical pain- but not impossible. You can catch the regional train to Otford (about an hour and a bit from the city) then finish in Bundeena and catch a ferry back to Cronulla, which has a train that travels to the city. Or maybe the other way round? If 26km isn’t your thing (I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds!) you can walk a section of the track. By far, my favourite section of the coastal is the Burning Palms walk, also known as the Jungle Loop. Very aesthetically pleasing with a drop-dead mesmerising opening onto a ridge that rises above the Burning Palms beach and present the southern coastline in all its glory. You definitely need wheels for this one though. Take the Garie Beach turn off inside the R.N.P and do a very-quick right onto an unsealed road which leads to Garrawarra Farm carpark. There’s a sick look out at the top of the jungle climb to boot.Check out photos of it https://trektrotwanderer.com/2017/05/21/burning-palms-beach-nsw/
? Hot tip: Don’t worry about figure 8 pool, it’s a cool walk along the rocks to it but the pool itself it’s surprisingly unspectacular (and now busy too).
Check out the cafe scene/do the millennial ritual: buy a specialty coffee + and cafe breaky and perch away in a trendy cafe
So maybe you’ve heard Melbourne is the caffeinated centre of the third wave/specialty coffee world hey? Yeah maybe.
[Wait, quick Q. What’s third wave/specialty coffee? A. Think coffee being talked and drunk like fine wine. Nosing. Fruits. Length. Body. Natural processes. Varietals. Plus an awareness of the beans source. Yeah, deep.]
Well, let me tell you something- Sydney’s right up there too ok. In fact, if you haven’t already heard, the whole of Australia is deep into this specialty coffee thing. But it’s not just the coffee that’s done a bit differently here, it’s also the cafes themselves. Think remarkable fit outs spanning the entire of spectrum from hyper-kitsch to bare-bone minimalism. Also food menus resembling a fine dining restaurant in ingredients, presentation, concept and (unfortunately) pricing. Love it or loath it, cafe culture has seeped into our national metropolitan identity- so much so it’s a employed as ammunition by elder generations in the argument of housing (un)affordability. (http://www.news.com.au/finance/real-estate/buying/tim-gurner-responds-to-backlash-to-4-coffee-and-smashed-avocado-comments/news-story/3f1dab7c3c19a7ac5d126039a5803caf). In all honesty, cafe grub IS expensive. I rarely buy it.
But also, case in point to it’s presence in our society, right? As a visitor you should see what it’s all about. What exactly is a smashed avocado on toast? What exactly is a natural processed coffee?…
Here are two fairly comprehensive lists to work off to try find the answers to those questions and more
And here are my personal picks, depending on which part of town you find yourself:
If you’re in the CITY check out: Mecca (or Soma), Cross Eatery or Gumption (coffee only) depending where in the city you are
If you’re in SURRY HILLS check out: Artificer (coffee only but crazy fit out), Neighbourhood (coffee only) or Paramount Coffee Project (good food and fit out) Single O, Rueben Hills (both long running institutions)…it’s pretty endless in Surry…
If you’re in the MARRICKVILLE check out: Two Chaps or Cornersmith.
If you’re in MANLY check out Showbox
? Scolding hot tip would be, after you organise your day’s itinerary check in with above published lists to see if one of those cafes are near by. Chances are if you’re travelling to a hub such as the CBD or inner-city, you won’t be too far from a stellar joint.
? Also, for the uninitiated, I would highly recommend trying your coffee black. Either a long black- an espresso on hot water or my preference, a filter coffee. The classic flat white is probably worth a try too.
? Oh! Also, I’ve heard the Grounds of Alexandra – a place I’m sure you will come across in most tourist lists- has opened up a new establishment in the city…in some old underground tram carriages? Looks cool. Could be worth checking out.
Eat Asian food
Much like how tacos have been lovingly adopted by the West Coast, asian food has now long been an integral part of Australia’s culinary fabric. Being a big ass, developed island situated in the Oceanic region means many have migrated from neighbouring asian nations and many of those people open shop fronts. And many of those shop fronts serve traditional food from their hometown. Lucky us!Here are some recommendations:
-Like Vietnamese but won’t get there this trip? If you’e in Sydny for an extended time and have a car then definitely do a Cabramatta day-trip for an incredible pho. Check out the blogs for the best restaurants. Closer to Sydney, Marrickville holds it weight in quality Vietnamese fare. Marrickville Pork Rolls is an absolute institution. PHD just down the road serves quality pho too (although Cabra is king)). I actually like Old Thanh Huong better but hey, pho-semantics.
-Ramen-lover? Hit Haymarket/CBD (My Jap friend swears by ‘Gumshara‘). I do too. It’s intense though. There are a good couple of ramen joints round the city. For a new age twist, Rising Sun Workshop (cafe) in Newtown does a breakfast ramen. Dat fussiiiooonn.
-Laksa lover? be sure to cop a bowl of Laska at the dodgy looking Chinese/Malay on Hunter St right in the CBD.? It closes early! like 7… (then sink an expensive but delicious beer and shoot some pinball at Frankies bar, next door) Ooo! ? heaps hot tip about Frankies. After 9 they open up the backbar. Go down the stairs and through the doors past the pizza-bar, into the grungy dark room. Then, walk through the door on the right side of the stage (side closest to the bar). Walk down a min-flight of stairs and violà/walah you’re in the secret bath. Two booths and tinnie only bar. Sickkkkkk.
-Cheap as chips Chinese grub? If you’re on the central/haymarket side of George St hit up Chinese Noodle House on Quay St. Try the special eggplant dumplings for something deliciously different. This is like the no.1 cheap eats for students. In fact, chances are you’ll spot me there.
-Yamcha! There’s lots around. Try Marigold if you’re in the city.
-Want some expensive contemporary asian fare? Try Mr Wong’s.
-Thai: So much thai in Aus. Could nearly be the national cuisine. A bit tricker to find thai gems but they are still very much there. No place to recommend except maybe Boon Cafe. A thai cafe inside a thai grocer, Boon threads the line of traditional and new age pretty well.
? Hot Tip: If you’re feeling a specific asian cuisine just google ‘best … in Sydney’ and you’ll be pointed in the right direction, I’m sure. Let the likes so Timeout, Broadsheet etc lead you on this one.
Go road trip the NSW South Coast/Grand Pacific Drive
Man, I fucking love the south coast of NSW- easily my favourite part of the world. It’s Aussie as. Partly in how it imbues the full force of the land’s natural beauty with it’s cliffs, beaches, forests, hills, reefs, caves, inlets, bays, lagoons, and how it’s been mostly left untouched bar a couple of sleepy, coastal towns.
If time allows a jaunt down south is well worth it. From Sydney, head south on the Princes Highway out of Sydney and take the Stanny (Stanwell Park) turn off and descend through lush coastal forest which soon meets with the coast aka bliss town. Roll through the Coal Coast (used to be/is still a big coal producing area) and follow the coastal road which will take you over the beaut Sea Cliff Bridge (pictured). Pass throughAusty, Sandon Point, Bulli, , Thirroul, Wonoona (maybe not quite in that order?). Basically, the Brown tourist-road signs are your friends. It’ll mellow for a moment then you’ll hit the (relatively) big smoke that is Wollongong. I dig the ‘Gong. It melds the south coast ‘lax with the Sydney buzz nicely.
Should add, if you’re a surfer and have a board, on this trip you’ll have passed a good dozen beach break options (as well as a reef or two) on that strip. I guarantee one will be working no matter the conditions, all with a fraction of the city crowds. Could be worth doing lunch in Wollongong or at least cop some black liquid gold (coffee) at either Sifters or Opus Coffee Brewers (the former is an outdoor session so if the sun is out try there- the other is one of the freshest cafe fitouts I’ve seen.) Both great cafes.If you don’t end up travelling any further but want to sleep on the beach, I highly recommend at Coledale Camping Ground, which is half way back up the above coastal drive (just before the sea cliff bridge in fact). If time and taste allows continue past Wollongong…
Although the Coal Coast is exceptional, the real South Coast is a different beast again.
For those continuing south, stop at Kiama if quaint towns are your thing. It’s most famous attraction, the blowhole, is ok. My hot? tip as you continue to drive south is to take the Geringong/Gerroa exit off the Princes Highway when it shows itself 15-20 mins or so after Kiama. It’s a beautiful little detour that features a triple blow right in the feels. The first blow being when you come over the Gerroa hill and see Seven Mile Beach far below. Doosh! The second is as you roll down the hill next to the grass hills and golf course. Doosh again! The third is as you drive parallel to the beach, through the natural tunnel created by the coastal forest canopy. Doosh doosh doosh! Man, that detour still makes me feel all fussy.
If you take the detour you’ll pass Two Figs winery, which sits upon a fill overlooking the Shoalhaven river. Bring your own lunch and buy a bottle of wine (by no means Aus’ best but worth the view). Continuing on, from either Gerroa or Berry you’ll pass through the industrial and grey Nowra (about two and a bit hours south of Sydney). There’s nothing to see here but it is the southern gateway to unrelenting beauty so so don’t think too badly of it. Once you pass through Nowra oh boy you’ve entered a magical zone. The highway winds quite a bit inland at this point, but each and every eastern turn off leads to a special coastal place. It’s about a half-hour trip from highway to high-water so it’s not so much about seeing every place but picking one and soaking up the vibe. The Jervis Bay turn off has a lot to offer vistors. There you have a strong cross-section of interesting locations and attractions. I’ve camped at Cave Beach, which sits inside the Boodoree National Park and is ridiculously beautiful. I know there are some other camping options around the bay. There’s load to do round there including walks, snorkelling, and a multitude of beach including the clear water of Hymans. If you end up at Caves beware of domesticated wildlife. They will dig into your tent and steal your bread.
If you want to mellow out and catch some waves like many Sydney-siders do, consider renting an airbnb in Mollymook. Or Narrawallee. Or Calala. Or Culburra. So many places…
Be with your own kind/smell the gentrification in Marrickville
Cafes. Pub feeds. Breweries. Pho and Bah Mi’s (!). Live jazz and blues. Sunday markets. Huge Indoor climbing gym. That’s Marrickville. Once a Greek and Vietnamese immigrant heavy neighbourhood, M-ville is pretty obviously riding the wave of gentrification these days. M’ville is where lots of things are at and frankly, where it’s at. I spend most of my days there and you should too (or at least, half a day). Think reinvented old skool corner pubs, good vietnamese fare, breweries (although I wont necessarily vouch for them) and most importantly good coffee with the likes of Sample Pro Shop and Cornersmith. Refer to tip 3&4 above for suggest establishments. Also, here is a v handy guide with most of the ? tips https://www.broadsheet.com.au/sydney/guides/guide-marrickville
Check out King St, Newtown +the lesser walked Enmore Rd, Enmore
Easiest way to describe Newton is Sydney’s Williamsburg. You know, whatever mainstream ‘cool’ is today…institutional cool. Get it?
?Some hot tips are: Get in early and camp on a outdoor table at the Courthouse.Drink a canned Martini at Continental Deli. Eat at some cheap thai place (so many thai places) Not sure if Mary’s is still the burger-place of the moment but well worth a visit if its not dinner time or a weekend (too busy). Grungy vibe. Mushroom burger gets a big thumbs up as well as their funky minimal intervention wine list. (y) If you’re not from a part of the world were everything closes at 12am then head to the Marlbrough Hotel, although beware, it can get a bit trashy after midnight…
?For those not in the know the state gov threw down some curfew laws to mitigate drunken acts of violence that were happening too frequently around the city. Once you exit a venue at 1:30am you done mate. No getting back in. The youngens aren’t into it and have migrated to Newtown, which sits outside the lock-out radius. So Newy’s a little wack at the moment. But hey, it still houses great establishments, some funky people and much potential for good times. Well worth the walk.
Eat some pub grub
…Because you’re in Australia and before there were cafes there were pubs. Could be inner-city pub like Shakespeare or an out of town local establishment. Just gotta do it. If meat is your thing ‘Schnity’ [Schnitzel] is a classic choice. These day’s in the city have gone a bit fancy but once you get out of the schnity you’ll likely cop something more no frills.?Hot tip: Must accompany grub with relevant Beer (see list below)
? Number one choice feed in any regional/rural/small town is the pub. That will be your best pub experience. The one at Leura has a nice fireplace…
Visit Blue Mountains/Leura
The Bizarre and beautiful Yellow Deli Cafe. Hikes. Leura. Even Katoomba nearly brings me to tears with it’s foggy charm. If visiting around or during the winters months, I find the places glows.If you’re into outdoor rock climbing, this a great place for that. Also a heap of hikes. My favourite website for hikes are http://www.wildwalks.com/bushwalking-and-hiking-in-nsw/blue-mountains-katoomba/ and this one is also pretty comprehensive https://www.bluemts.com.au/info/thingstodo/bushwalks/. Federal Pass is the famous ‘heaps of stairs’ walk that wraps round the rock faces and has stunning vistas across the national park. It’s 6/7kms and is graded as difficult. There are other epic day hikes great that go to the forest floor too.
EDIT: In fact I just returned from a mighty beauty half day hike in the bluey region- specifically Wentworth falls (10mins before Katoomba). I think they call the route Wentworth Pass loop. Basically land in Jamison look out then take the ‘National Pass’ route along the cliff. Then you can descend with some steep ass steps and ladders towards the forest floor, passing a bunch of waterfalls and diving under and in between interesting rock formations. There you meet lush vegetation as you roughly follow the cliff and start to ascend. There are a couple of different paths back, depending on your preference of view or energy expenditure. Going the long way took us 3hrs? Could definitely stop for lunch under one of the cliffs and enjoy the view across the valley. I’m not usually a fan of highly marked walks but this had such variety of scenery and interesting routes I was sold. Some solid ascending and descending so recommended for people who enjoying getting pumped.
?Yellow Deli Cafe is a cafe run by this …ah…wait let me quote wikipedia for this- ‘international confederation of religious communities’. Some may call it a cult (I do, sorry guys). Best you google it and make your own mind up. Nonetheless, they hand built this incredibly warmly wood fit-out that could be right out of a LOTR movie or Narnia. There’s a little wooden loft you can be seated in and a homely fireplace that warms even the most sinned soul.As a functioning cafe they are also great. Don’ think they’ve raised their prices since ’99. Soups, a great veggie sandwich. They are really into the Buy a 10 pack of the green bars, I promise you’ll dig. Hot? is must but it gets busy early so get in earlier. Plus you definitely want a table inside- even if it means waiting in the colder for longer. ALSO, it’s not open Saturdays so don’t make that mistake like I have too many times to count.
P.s An acquaintance recalled a great little moment the other day of being perched at the three sisters look out many years ago and over-hearing an irate Irish man rhetorically asking is wife why they bothered to come all the way from Ireland and then the extra mile from Sydney to see see these three pieces of shit. Moral is: Don’t just come for the day/the three sisters.
Go see an inner city beach that isn’t Bondi
So in this blog I’m always going on about music, but my second love is surfing and the beach. Beaches are a quintessential part of Sydney’s culture. It’s partly what defines us from our latitudinal neighbours Melbourne and Brisbane.
Yes, Bondi is a inner city beach. In fact, you should go visit it…but a heads up: it’s become so developed and over run with a mix tourists and people with more money than sense, it has totally lost it’s beach culture, in my opinion. Plus, as all Sydney coastal folks will tell you…it’s not even an aesthetically pleasing beach. Want some beach beauty? Jaunt a little further up or down the coast. Going North, you could stop at Manly and have done ok, but oh boy they get extra beautiful just a bit above there: Palm Beach/Avalon/Narrabeen. Bus only up there though. Or come south to my local, Cronulla for a far less touristy vibe than Manly with the same beachy esplanade and culture. Plus cronulla sits at the end of the blue train line! Grab a surfing lesson even!
…11-20 rapid fire extras…
…Ok, so that’s 10 tips, which is a nice arbitrarily round number, amiright? There so much more to say but only so much time and finger dexterity on offer. So below are some rapid fire hot tips?…
- ? Entertain yourself. Go to Venue 505 (my fav bar in town. The house bands are awesome btw). Golden Age Cinema (boutique tiny cinema/bar). Lazybones (Kistchy, Marrickville venue).
- ? Go to The Dock. The most interesting bar in Sydney. Then Bar hop Redfern. The most interesting collection of bars in Sydney. Bearded Tit anyone?
- ? Fermented grape your thing? Hit the Hunter Valley. Or if you’re more of a chiller hit Bowral. Have a picnic in Bowral with your wine. OMG Bowral, so quaint, so beautiful :,). Ps James Halliday is the omnipotent wine figure round these parts, for better or worse, so check out his site for some tips if your a vino-head.
- ? If you’re up round Hunter Valley you could also go north east to the coast and check out Seal Rocks or some beautiful part of the central coast. Being a southern suburbs boy I’ve always jaunted south of town but north is definitely not lacking in natural beauty either!
- ? Yeah yeah, do the Coogee to Bronte walk. Swim in Bronte.
- ? If you’re into galleries definitely check out MCA. Also worth a mention is White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale and Gaffa in the city as well as Brett Whitley’s studio turned museum in Surry Hills (open Thurs-Sun)
- ? Bar hop Surry Hills. Yeah, Surry is hip and has cool bars. I dunno, there are cool bars all over the world though. But if that’s your thing, Oxford St side offers some gems with Bitter Phew (my fav bar/best beer bar in Syd) Shady Pines (top speakeasy/great freshly squeezed apple w/ rum/whiskey) as well as bar-of-the-moment, Dead Ringer, who I’ve heard concoct some quality cocktails, if that’s your thing too. Not mine personally. Consult below for more info…
- In fact, if you’re going to hit some bars in the city go to Frankies (who I rolled out some ?’s for above) and then check out Palmer and Co. purely for it’s absolute commitment to the prohibition aesthetic. Yeah Baxter’s Inn is cool but it’s so busy. Maybe try check it out early on a weekday.
- If you’re prepared to splash a bit of cash (80auds/head maybe??), eat at Huberts. Timeout restaurant of the year but well deserved. Boooootiful french restaurant deep down in a CBD basement. Incredible fit out. Why am I such a sucker for beauty???//
With the above?’s, the following sites are in narrowing things down. Broadsheet, Timeout, The Urban List, Concrete-Playground and GoodFood (Sydney Morning Herald’s food subsidary) are all quality urban directories.
Hope this guide helps someone! Feel free to message me if you have any questions.