Gorgeous Sydney. If you’re reading this, you’re lucky enough to be visiting (or thinking about visiting) Sydney, Australia’s most populous city. Being a city, Sydney has all the excitement that a bustling city has to offer but at the same time the beach suburbs give Sydney its unrivaled laid back Aussie charm. The main tourist attractions like the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge will amaze you, but be sure to experience Sydney like a Sydneysider too.
Here’s a few of those activities that will give you a true taste of life as a Sydneysider.
Snorkeling in Manly
I saw my first shark snorkeling off the rocks in Sydney’s beach suburb Manly. I ripped off my goggles, threw them to my boyfriend, squealing at him to look at the funny creature. Later, I found out it was a wobbegong, a rather docile bottom floor dwelling shark. Anyways, Manly is gorgeous. The area is a protected marine park with abundant sea life making it the perfect place for a swim or snorkel. As a popular surf spot, there’s plenty of board rentals in town too.
How to get here: From Circular Quay jump on the city’s Famous Manly Ferry; 30 min
Cost: $7 each way with the opal card (max $15 for all day travel)
Tip: Rather than renting a snorkel, buy one for $6 at the local Salvation Army.
Ferry Hopping Cruise
For the cheapest cruise of the city, buy a single pass ferry ticket (or tap on with your Opal) and hop on a ferry. When you arrive at the next port, don’t put your ticket in the machine, simply wait for the next ferry to who knows where and hop on. Locals tout this is the cheapest cruise of Sydney. When you’ve had a decent tour, insert your ticket or tap off to complete your round. This is a great way to get a feel for Sydney as the ferry will likely take you around the stunning Neutral Bay, Darling Harbour, and Cockatoo Island.
How to get here: Start at Circular Quay
Cost: $7 for one way ticket; $15 for all day travel in Sydney with the Opal Card
Newtown is the hippie-ster part of town. The main road is lined with all these funky shops, quite reminiscent to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. From novelty book shops, Newtown’s art house cinema, organic cosmetics to hand-picked thrift stores (or op shops as the Ozzies call them), it’s window shopping heaven. I have just two recommendations for your day in Newtown: the art house cinema/dinner deal at Newtown North Indian Diner and extreme gelato at N2 Extreme Gelato. For $24, Newtown North Indian Diner offers a ticket at the art house cinema, Dendy, plus an awesome plate of Indian. Given that a standard movie ticket is $18, this is a nice little deal. Afterwards try out N2 extreme gelato, where they use liquid nitrogen to freeze your gelato on the spot. They always change their flavours but to give an idea, I tried their Ferrero gelato, which had a frozen hazelnut chocolate shell surrounding the gelato.
Bondi and Rozelle Markets
There’s no shortage of shopping in Sydney but there’s something special about the Bondi Market and the Rozelle Collector’s Market. The Bondi market is in the trendy beach suburb Bondi and while it is small, it has a unique mix of organic food, sustainable products and culture. Expect to find Sydney’s best pho, bamboo iPhone cases, handmade leather journals from India, crystal necklaces from Bali and cold pressed juices. Rozelle market on Sunday is great for second hand clothes and bric-a-brac.
Sydney’s gastronomy will please any appetite. Almost any cafe will offer a spectacular brunch menu with poached eggs, haloumi, shakshoukas and acai bowls. Below are a few restaurants that stood out during my time in Sydney and are local favourites.
Mamasan Restaurant, Bondi, Asian fusion
Miss Chu, Bondi and Manly, Asian fusion
Eat More Green, Bondi and Manly, Asian fusion
Orchard Street, Paddington and Bondi, juice and detox health bar
Newtown North Indian Diner, Newtown, Indian
Kazbah, Darling Harbour, Arabic
Take a Class
There’s nothing quite like immersing yourself and being welcomed by a foreign community. Take a class! Yoga, dance, fitness, art…it’s a nice way to get to know some locals.
Museum of Contemporary Art
Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art is free of charge on most floors. The gallery fuses Australian and Aboriginal contemporaries. Make it to the rooftop cafe on a weekend night for live music, a drink and stunning views of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour.
Kayak to Sydney Harbour National Park
Rent a kayak from the Manly Harbour and paddle to Store Beach, which is a part of Sydney Harbour’s National Park. It is only accessible by boat, unless you’re as keen as us who climbed over the rocks and waded through water from Little Manly Point. Compared to other beaches in Sydney, this area is rather isolated and you can find a cove all to yourself. Maybe if you’re lucky you’ll spot one of the adorable ferry penguins who nest in this area.
Australians and BBQs are quite synonymous. If you are traveling, grab a fish and take it to one of those free park BBQs and grill it up.
Cliff Jumping in Vaucluse
At Nielson’s park in Vaucluse, take the trail from Neilson’s Beach and continue to Milk Beach. Diverge off the path towards the cliffs. Use common sense. The cliff is a great hangout with a view of the majestic harbour. Some of my best moments in Sydney were spent with friends here during the beautiful summer months.
The Royal Botanic Garden is a gorgeous little oasis right alongside the Sydney CBD. Take a picnic, have a walk and meet some wild yellow crested cockatoos.