You may have been born into this wonderful city or perhaps you moved yourself in search of sun and sea. Beyond the Harbour Bridge showing visitors, friends and newbies Sydney, can be tricky. Do you really want to give up your hidden gems?
Well we’re putting it out there, here are the local gems that are certainly not your tourist mainstays. Skip the Bondi to Coogee and take on these adventures instead, you may even stumble upon something better.
It’d be rude to not start with a few delightful rooftop bars to stroll into in Sydney. Slims has been recently renovated and has a havana vibe that will go down well with all your buddies. Nice little Japanese-inspired menu too for some nibbles.
The soothing sounds of jazz have never sounded better than bouncing around these walls. Venue 505 is an authentic lil’ slice of another time, saxophones were built to play at this venue, to this crowd. Hat and vest optional.
A pub crawl around Surry Hills isn’t complete without a little hole in the wall. The booze list is extensive and the bartenders knowledgeable but be prepared to fight for a seat. Our recommendation is whiskey.
One of the best spirit bars you’ll find in Sydney, and if you don’t like the vast array of rums available – it’s worth going purely for the theatrics. It’s truly an experience at Lobo, with live fire-works at the bar a regular occurrence. Grab their signature Old Grogam spiced-rum delight, to get the full Lobo experience.
From the gang that brought you Nutella Milkshakes and waffle fries, Hattrick is offering that keeps on giving. This time they’ve upped their game and spike the drinks menu a little. Beans, bites and booze; everything you’ve ever wanted in one space. Their Snickers Bar is the sweet treat you never knew you needed (and of course it’s MUCH more than just any old chocolate bar).
A stroll down Chinatown is mandatory after gorging yourself on Yum Cha. But next time you walk it off stop by and test the emperors puffs. Little golden custard filled pockets, an absolute treasure. Come early and be prepared to wait, the line is almost always long (but worth it.)
Don’t let the wait at The Grounds ruin your weekend brunch plans, round the corner is a real gem. Tasty, organic, charming and homely, Cooh is a delightful substitute. Jen Hawkins frequents this one so you know it’s hip.
Ultimo plays home to a lot of great coffee but Local Mbassy serves up a top notch breakfast offering too. Red velvet pancakes are our pick for a decadent brekky. You won’t be able to resist the need to Instagram the beauty of it.
Swing out to the inner west, and you’ll find an Asian treasure chest with the best Vietnamese food in the city. Not even kidding. VN is the epitome of Asian street food, both in look and feel. With milk crates and low seats that spread out of the shopfront and literally onto the footpath, it’s an authentic feel. It’s constantly packed though, so get in early. The menu is traditional and super cheap, try the duck rice paper roll.
If you want something a bit more bougie, this Camperdown farm-to-table eatery has your named written in the soil. It’s a very modern menu, and is a great spot for either a weekend brunch, midweek dinner or anytime lunch. You’ll walk past some of their pastures literally as you walk into the restaurant – so you know the produce is legit. Bit more pricey, but worth it.
Play & Shop
The inner west is a hub of flavours, none fresher than those sold at Addison Rd Markets in Marrickville. Take a basket and do you weekly shop here instead, you will quite literally taste the difference.
Honestly, it’d almost be rude to not have one fab, sneaky, karaoke spot for your fun late night adventures. It’s usually only about $10 per person, per hour, featuring way OTT fluro pink booths and blue light up seats. I mean it’s everything you want from an eccentric karaoke night out, and has the perfect Japanese-bar styled menu to keep you hydrated and well fed.
For the organisation aficionados or general lovers of stationary, Amazing Paper is your kind of place. Books bound in delightful prints, paper pressed in every shape colour and size. Time to start scrapbooking again!
Flemington Flower Markets
The early wakeup call (4am) and the drive out are worth the effort when visiting the flower markets. You’ll be rewarded with every blossoming petal you’ve ever imagined at bargain prices. No seriously, bargain your way for a bunch of peonies for less than $30.
A curated tip of odd bits and scrap finds, Reverse Garbage is a makers and DIY heaven. It’s the Antiques Roadshow of clutter, you’ll find some absolute trash alongside some real treasures. Stock up for your next project or be inspired for another.
Ivor Rowe Pool
On the shores near Coogee this little rock pool pops up with the tide. Be careful and research the tide times, washed away to sea isn’t worth that Insta money shot.
A beach where no one actually lays on the beach, instead the boardwalk is the venue of choice. Dip and sun-bake at a leisurely pace, surrounded by harbour views, delightful.
Snorkel, walk, swim or explore. Bare Island is a little slice of heaven. It’s name may be a little lacklustre but the views are anything but.
Maccallum Pool, Cremorne Point
Catch the ferry, wander down and at the bottom freshen up with a swim. The best view to bob your head up to? Quite possibly, this side of the bridge doesn’t disappoint.
Murray Rose Pool
Not a waves person? Enjoy the still waters of Murray Rose Pool, before the weather gets cooler. Extra points if you manage to wrangle a spot on the floating deck, we’ll be impressed.
Dudley Page Reserve
A NYE hotspot but the views are almost as good day in and day out. Pack a picnic, plan a walk, whatever you please, just make sure to pause and take in the city from an all new perspective.
Winding around the laneways of Chinatown and you see a row of blue cupids. Neon lights strung high and delightful art covers the walls. Picture perfect really.
The walk from Bradley’s Head to Chowder Bay has it all. Lush bush, secret beaches and views abound. The stroll will take an hour or two, but bring your swimmers and dive in afterwards.
Balmain’s been hiding this picnic perfection from outsiders for years now. So pack your rug, your snacks and set up camp for the day.
Has any local Sydney sider ever climbed the bridge? I certainly don’t know many. But if you’re down to see the city from new heights, the pylons are an alternative. For $10 you can do a much more modest climb and get a pic at the top. No ugly grey jumpsuits either.
Parks & Lush Vibes
Auburn Botanic Gardens
Western Sydney often cops the brunt of hate but Auburn’s Botanic Gardens prove there’s some real beauty in it. Japanese themed spaces and cherry blossoms abundant. Just steer clear of the swans.
A waterside stroll down to a small patch of grass, your home for the afternoon. It’s about as close to the water you can physically get without owning a yacht, so soak it up.
Paddington Reservoir Gardens
Walking along Oxford St and you almost wouldn’t know it’s here. But the gardens are open to the public and it’s lush surrounds make it perfect for a pit stop. Read, sip or eat, but be sure to settle in.
Wendy’s Secret Garden
Wendy’s secret garden is just that, or at least it was. Tucked away in Lavender Bay, it offers peeks of the harbour and whimsical garden surrounds. Picnic perfect!
Image source: Supplied, Lobo Plantation Facebook, VN Street Foods Facebook, Carriageworks Facebook, Slims Rooftop Facebook, Venue 505 Facebook, Emperor’s Puffs Facebook, Auburn Botanic Gardens Website.