Sydney truly is one of the best cities in the world, with long, balmy summers and mild winters, photographic rock pools and beaches, trendy cafe’s and restaurants and some of the friendliest people on earth – if Australia is ‘God’s country’, Sydney is the pearly gate.
I never thought I would find myself as a Sydney local but if I could choose to be a local in any city in the world, this would be it (apart from Cape Town). I love everything about living here, from my daily commute via ferry past the opera house, to the water views and beaches on my door step – Sydney gets the balance of work, life and play right (for the most part). Here are some top tips and recommendations to help visitors explore and enjoy this city as much as I do and I’ll keep adding as I go.
Sydney airport is located close to the CBD so it is fairly easy to get into the city once you arrive. We usually get a taxi/Uber which is probably the easiest mode of transport if you have luggage and aren’t going into the CBD directly. Another fast and convenient way to reach the city and Eastern suburbs is via train (the Airport Link) – to use the train you will need to purchase an Opal card from the station or WHS (and load with credit/value) or use your debit/credit card. Public transport trains, buses, ferries and now the light rail all operate using the Opal card so it would be good to get one on arrival however, more and more services are allowing wireless bank cards too. Note, you have to tap on and tap off of each transport mode at the designated Opal card reader when you travel and arrive at your destination, the system then automatically deducts the fare. On Sundays, public transport is capped at $2 so a great day for exploring and venturing further afield.
For more info on the Opal and transport, visit here
Places to stay
These hotels all come highly recommended but whenever we’ve stayed in Sydney we’ve used Airbnb
- Little Albion Guest House, Surry Hills
- Ovolo, Woolloomooloo or Darling Harbour
- Old Clare Hotel, Chippendale
- Vibe Hotel, Rushcutters Bay
- Mr Wong, CBD for modern Asian
- Ms G’s, Potts Point for modern Asian
- Chester White, Potts Point – walk ins only
- The Apollo, Potts Point for modern Greek
- The Butler, Potts Point for great food and cocktails
- Pasta Emilia, Surry Hills for all things pasta
- VaCanza pizza, Surry Hills for the best pizza outside of Italy
- Chin Chin, Surry Hills for Australian with a South-East Asian injection
- Madame Nhu, Surry Hills, low key cafe with the best pho
- Three Blue Ducks, Bronte for modern Australian and a great brunch
- Totti’s, Bondi for casual Italian in a great setting
- Gelato Messina
- The Depot, North Bondi for brunch
- Bangkok Bites, Bondi for the best Thai
- Watson’s Bay hotel, Watson’s Bay for a weekend lunch (try the fish and chips)
- 10 William street, Paddington for intimate Italian
- The Paddington, Paddington for great pub food
- Fred’s, Paddington for farm to table
- Bloom at Mosman for delicious breakfast
- Queen Chow, Manly for Hong Kong inspired street food
- Sunset Sabi, Manly for modern Japanese, a definite favourite
- Chica Bonita, Manly for the best Mexican
- Hugos, Manly for italian in an iconic setting at the ferry wharf
- The Wharf hotel, Manly for casual pub grub and seafood
- The Newport, Newport
- The Skiff Club, Manly for great food and water views
- The Boathouse Palm Beach, love the Balmoral and Manly ones too
- Merivale group has a large portfolio of trendy eateries and bars – a visit to any of them is a safe bet!
- Lobo plantation, CBD for a Caribbean themed bar serving great rum cocktails
- Hotel Palisade, Millers Point for rooftop drinks
- Maybe Sammy, The Rocks for cocktails
- Palmer and Co, The Rocks for 1920s themed cocktail bar (a favourite)
- Endeavor Tap Rooms, The Rocks for craft beer and cider
- The Squire’s Landing, The Rocks for beers in a great setting
- Opera bar, Sydney Opera House for an iconic setting
- All hands Brewery, Barangaroo
- Blu Bar on 36, Shangri-La, CBD for drinks with a view
- Bondi Icebergs Club and bistro, Bondi for relaxed drinks overlooking iconic Icebergs pool on Bondi beach
- Vue Bar, Bondi for trendy cocktails on the beach front
- Mrs Sippy, Double Bay
- Slims Rooftop, Darlinghurst for a rooftop bar overlooking Hyde Park
- The Light Brigade, Woollahra for a historic art deco pub
- Young Henry’s, Newtown for craft beers on tap
- Love, Tilly Devine, Darlinghurst for drinks in a cosy setting
- Dear Saint Eloise, Potts Point for wine
- Four Pines Brewing Company Brewpub, Manly for local beers
- The Greenhouse rooftop bar, Manly for another great rooftop setting
- In Situ, Manly for a local cocktail bar
- Grounds of the city, CBD or try the original Grounds of Alexandria
- The Bower, Manly for coffee with a view (our favourite coffee spot in the world)
- Rollers bakehouse, Manly for creative pastries
- Porch & Parlour, Bondi
- Museum of Contemporary Art Café, CBD for great views of the opera house and harbour
- Sonoma coffee, Manly for a flat white to go
- Four Frogs creperie, Mosman for delicious crepes
Things to do
- Enjoy one of Sydney’s many beaches, our favourites include Tamarama, Freshwater and some of the inner harbour beaches like Cuttie beach and Fairlight.
- Explore the Royal Botanic Gardens; take a walk along the waters edge to Mrs Macquarie’s chair and back through the gardens.
- Visit the weekly farmer’s market at Carriage Works, Eveleigh on Saturdays
- Check what’s on at Newtown’s Enmore theatre, one of the best music venues I’ve ever been to.
- Catch a ferry to Manly (you’ll get the best view of the Opera House from the water) and walk to Shelly beach. Manly has lovely weekender markets too.
- Visit Balmoral beach, Mosman and have a coffee or bite at one of the many cafes
- Walk the Hermitage trail from Rose Bay to Watson’s bay lighthouse – highlights include Parsley Bay and secret Cuttie Beach.
- An absolute must is the Bondi to Coogee walk, an urban coastal walk of roughly 6km. Enjoy lunch at Coogee Pavilion and then catch a bus back to Bondi.
- Bondi is home to many cafes and shops so take your time exploring. It’s definitely worth popping into Aquabumps, a local beach/surf photographer. Take in the famous Iceberg’s swimming club and soak up the views with a coffee or drink at Crabbe Hole café/Iceberg’s club & bistro
- Catch a free walking tour of the rocks – some great facts and history to uncover. I recommend this to anyone visiting Sydney.
- Catch a show at the Sydney Opera house, you can check what’s on here and for the full experience, dine at Bennelong with their pre-theatre dinner.
- Take a drive up the Northern beaches and soak up the views. From Freshwater to Palm beach there are ample places to stop for a browse, bite to eat or drink. At Palm beach you can take a walk up to the lighthouse for great views. Recommended lunch spots include, Boat House Palm Beach or the Newport in Newport.
- Explore Paddington’s boutiques on William Street and surrounds. Check out Five Ways, a junction of streets at the heart of Paddington and grab a spot to have a coffee/drink.
- Visit Darling Harbour.
- Explore the boutiques of Queen Victoria building for beautiful architecture and a feel for the city’s CBD
- If you visit in Jan/Feb, catch a film at Sydney’s open air cinema on the harbour front.
- Enjoy yoga by the sea at one of the many classes around Sydney’s coastal suburbs.
- While away a few hours in designer Double Bay. Browse/shop along Knox, Cross and Bay streets and brunch at popular spots like the Redleaf Pool Café or Little Jean.
- Go whale watching with Manly Ocean Adventures – highly recommend this experience
- Catch an Australian football league (AFL) game for a dose of sport spectating
For more inspiration visit
- Broadsheet Sydney – my personal favourite blog to follow
- 36 hours in Sydney, New York Times
- Sitchu, Sydney – your secret guide
- Conde Nast Traveller
If Paris is a city of lights, Sydney is the city of fireworks. – Baz Luhrman