I had the good fortune to live in Sydney from 2010 – 2014 and made sure I made the most of my time there. If there was a night noodle market, an outdoor movie, or a new restaurant, you betcha I tried it out. In the last few years, I’ve had to travel to Sydney every couple months or so for work, so I was still able to visit my favourite haunts frequently. This is a list that covers some of the popular tourist spots and the neighbourhoods in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. I had to save the F&B recommendations for another post as this was already becoming long!
Things to do:
The Sydney Harbour and the coastline both North and South are amazing, so try to get to a couple beaches and get in a couple walks, if you can. Check out a few of my favourite walk/run routes here, but at a minimum, I would suggest:
- Bondi to Coogee walk
- Ferry to Manly and back
- Harbour Bridge to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
Weekend markets are always fun too:
The markets are a good place to find some crafts or souvenirs to take home. You can combine a visit to the market with a stroll around the suburb. Sydney is a collection of small suburbs and some of them are great places to hang out. Section below gives a brief synopsis of each.
Bondi – full of surfers, yogis, and beautiful people who look like they should be modelling the latest swimwear, Bondi is awesome for people watching, eating, and chilling out with a sundowner. Wake up early and go for brunch or a walk and spend some time browsing the boutiques along Gould Street or Hall Street.
Paddington – leafy, quiet, full of character terrace houses, this was one of the neighbourhoods I lived in. I love Paddington for it’s windy streets and tucked away cafes and boutiques. Five Ways is a mini-centre with a few bars and cafes surrounding it. It’s a 5-way intersection (Glenmore and Goodhope are the two big streets), the 389 bus stops along there, and is good for a meal if you’re staying around the area. Oxford street, which runs from the CBD all the way to Bondi Junction, used to be full of trendy Australian designer boutiques (the kind where you pay $150 for a plain white t-shirt), but sadly I saw a dramatic decline over the years; as eCommerce took off, these retail shops were slowly shuttered and replaced by a mishmash of pop-ups or other random stores. The section of Oxford between about Boundary and Ormond is still worth a stroll.
Moore Park and Centennial Park are along the southern edge of Paddington (South of Oxford Road and Moore Park Road) and they are great for a morning jog. Allianz Stadium and the Sydney Cricket Grounds are located here too. In the summer there is an outdoor cinema (Moonlight Cinema) held at Centennial Park.
Elizabeth Bay and Darlinghurst – lots of bars and restaurants are these two areas. Kings Cross used to be the party centre, but since Sydney introduced some lock out rules a few years ago, the area has declined and gone quiet. I like to walk down Victoria Street from Oxford heading North, ending up at Elizabeth Bay. You’ll pass by many shops including Gelato Messina (so good!).
Surry Hills – tops for eating and bar hopping, the main drag is Crown Street. I’ve spent many weekends along Crown street, eating, window shopping, or having a beer. Favourite bars include: The Clock Hotel & The Winery. A more extensive list of my favourite places to drink and eat can be found here.
Manly – like Bondi but a bit more local. The beach is the main attraction. The ferry ride from Circular Quay to Manly is a must for a visitor!
Harbour Bridge – you can drive, take the train, or walk across it, or if you’ve got the budget, pay to climb over it. You can also walk half way and pay to go up one of the pylons for a cheaper alternative to similar views.
Opera House – so iconic. If you take the ferry or do any of the suggested walks, you’ll see this structure from several different angles. What surprised me the first time was that up-close, the Opera House is actually not white; the tiles are slightly yellowish. If you manage to time your visit for a show or talk at the Opera House, that would definitely be an optimal way to see it. They also do tours. Right beside/in-front of the Opera House is another must —
Opera Bar. On a hot day, having a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Fifty Lashes Pale Ale served with a big bowl of wedges and sweet chilli & sour cream, with views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in sight is one of the best feelings in the world.
Take the ferry. As mentioned the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly is a must-do. You’ll pass the front of the Opera House from the water side, sail right by the opening of the Harbour, and cruise into Manly Ferry Wharf. Another fun route is the Ferry to Watson’s Bay. You can then do the Watson’s Bay walk and have some fish and chips at Doyle’s.
Visit the Zoo. Not usually a fan of zoos, I did visit the Taronga Zoo once. This definitely has to be the zoo with the best views. My favourite was the giraffe pen. They are such funny looking animals and the giraffes at Taronga have million dollar views of Sydney Harbour!
Slightly further from the Sydney, you can do day or weekend trips to the Hunter Valley and the Blue Mountains.
The Hunter Valley can be accessed via car or by booking a day-trip through a tour operator. If you don’t want to be drinking and driving, I’d suggest the latter. The Hunter is known for their Shiraz and most wineries will have a variety of wines, both red and white, to offer for tasting. Feel free to buy whatever you like!
The Blue Mountains are West of Sydney, can be reached via public transport, car, or tour operator. I’ve only done day-trips here and there are some trails you can take if you’re keen on hiking. Many people book short weekends away around the Blue Mountains too.