The large sprawling cosmopolitan city of Sydney lures in millions to its culture seeped neighbourhoods, enchanting harbour, pristine beaches, and a buzzing food and entertainment scene. Whether you come to Sydney for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months, you’ll struggle to explore everything this magnificent city has to offer.
The locals rave about the Sydney’s vibrant lifestyle, the glitz and glamour of nightlife and entertainment perfectly contrasted by the natural backdrop of national parks and a picturesque coastline. Sydney has it all, but if you stick to the touristy areas, you’ll barely scratch the surface of what makes Sydney one of the greatest cities on earth.
So go beyond Sydney’s major sights and attractions and follow the locals’ tips for visiting Australia’s largest city.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Walk the Famous Bondi to Coogee Walk
This 6 km walk along Sydney’s beautiful coastline is a favourite with locals and visitors. It features stunning views, great beaches, national parks, cliffs, bays and rock pools. The walk takes about 2 hours to complete, but with all the photo ops and activities along the way, it can easily be a full day adventure.
Experience the Diversity of Sydney Harbour Bays on a Walk from Split to Manly
Another great walking track located in the Northern part of the city. The Split to Manly walk is 10 km, taking minimum of 3 hours to complete. There are a variety of things to see and do along the way, from swimming to whale watching, and learning about Sydney’s rich colonial history.
Visit the Cockatoo Island
Head to the island for a day, or choose to stay overnight and take in the islands maritime or convict history. Explore the abandoned shipyards, WWII structures that date back to mid 1800’s when the island operated as a convict penal establishment. Plus there are music events, art exhibits, historic walks, and plenty of outdoor activities to choose from.
Discover Bare Island
An island made popular by the Bare Island Fort, opened only on Sundays. But this col little island offers much more than just a visit to the fort. There is a 12km bush walk that takes you completely around the headland. It’s also a popular places for fishing and snorkelling/scuba diving. In fact, the water surrounding Bare Island Fort is one of the most popular scuba diving sites in NSW.
Relax and Take in the Views on Balmoral Beach
Touted as one of Sydney’s best beaches, Balmoral Beach is a favourite with the locals, known for the stretch of white sandy, calm sheltered waters, and great activities. Spend a day catching the rays, paddle boarding, or simply sit and relax on Rocky Point watching the ferries in the harbour.
Get Away From the Crowds at Whale Beach
Adored by the locals, this is a beautiful little beach with lots of space, great surfing, markets, shops, and more. It’s ways away form the city, but so worth the trip!
Outsmart the Tourists on Bondi
I know, I know, you can’t not check out Bondi, while you are in Sydney. So here is a great local tip to avoiding the crowds. Head up to the North Bondi grassy knoll for a patch of grass, a wonderful views, and maybe even few drinks up on the hill. Keep it cool and you can usually get away with some beers in the sun on the typically “no alcohol allowed” Bondi Beach.
Immerse Yourself in Sydney’s Multicultural Food Scene
Here are just a few notable local favourites that are unlikely to make it into the fancy guidebooks.
Best Dumplings at Chinese Noodle House in Haymarket
Haymarket is home to Chinatown so there’s plenty of Asian options to choose from in the area, but Chinese Noodle ouse is arguably the best dumpling place in Sydney. Ridiculously cheap, super quick service, BYO. Get the fried dumplings and braised eggplant.
Best Yum Cha at the Marigold in Haymarket
One of the bigger and better Yum Cha places in Sydney, the Marigold has been a fixture in Sydney’s food scene for over 30 years. Come for lunch, sip some tea with a wide assortment of savoury and sweet dim sum.
Thai Infusion at Ms G’s in Potts Point
Great spot for amazing Asian inspired dishes. Behind the neon pink door are four levels of dining, communal tables and a veggie garden courtyard. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so put your name down on the waiting list and head up to Kings Kross Hotel for some drinks while you wait.
Great Mexican at El Loco in Surry Hills
Cool Mexican bar with a laid back vibe and super cheap tacos. On Friday’s and Saturday’s the place offers tacos, tequilas and table dancing.
Burgers and Beers at Mary’s in Newtown
A good neighbourhood bar and a great burger joint. They have great beers, live music and a great atmosphere.
Best Gelato at Messina
Locals claim Messina is home to the best gelato in Australia! It’s cheap, offers amazing flavours, and a fully customizable menu.
Local Produce at Bondi Food Markets in North Bondi
Opened only on Saturdays from 9am until 1pm, this is a place to find great local produce, food and entertainment. The markets offer quintessential Sydney experience, and a relaxing and pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning in Sydney.
Let the Days Roll Into Nights at the Local Hot Spots
Prime Location and Great Vibe at the Bucket List Bar
Good looking crowd combined with a perfect Bondi Beach location, a great vibe and some good tunes, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a perfect afternoon/evening in Sydney.
Catch a Sunset at Pavilion in Coogee
Kick up your feet, grab a cocktail and join one of the best Sunday Sessions in town at the Coogee Pavilion.
Catch the Games at The Golden Sheaf in Double Bay
The lively atmosphere at this amazing old yet modern pub in Double Bay is just one of the reasons to pay it a visit. Locally known as one of the best spots to catch the NRL, AFL and especially Rugby Union games. It’s always a good time!
Best Views of Sydney at the Glenmore Hotel at the Rocks
The rooftop bar at the Glenmore Hotel offers 180 degree views of Sydney Harbour and CBD, a great cocktail menu and a good atmosphere. Opened all year round.
Baxter’s Inn – A Hidden Whiskey Bar in the City
You wouldn’t even know that it was there, Baxter’s Inn is proper speakeasy whiskey bar right in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. It’s small, it’s cool, with a classic vibe and a dash of quirky. If you love whiskey, you’ll love this place!
Rum is the Spirit of Choice at the Lobo Plantation
This French Caribbean inspired bar has recently won the People’s Choice 2014 Bar Award. The cocktails are not cheap, but the chilled out atmosphere, ambient music, and a dark lit Havana like decor is all too alluring to resist.
Hinky Dinks – Sydney’s Cutest Afterdark Hangout
Don’t be fooled by the checkered floors and 50s diner like decor, when it comes to cocktails, this funky little bar on Darlinghurst Road can definitely deliver. The locals call it one of the best cocktail bars in town!
Get Cultured with Music, Cinema and Other Entertainment
S.A.S.H Sundays in Darling Harbour
Overlooking the Darling Harbour, SASH brings proper house music and fun to Sydney every Sunday afternoon. Partying on Friday and Saturday nights is sooo last year!
AGWA Boat Cruises – Sydney Harbour (House Music)
If you are visiting in the summer, check out these amazing cruises, departing from King St Wharf. These parties happen about 3-5 times during the summer (Nov – March), run from 3-10pm and always feature quality international DJs.
Catch a Flick at St George Open Air Cinema
St. George Open Air Cinema is another Sydney summer tradition. Each summer more than 60 000 Sydneysiders and visitors flock to the Sydney Harbour for good food, fine wine and the best new film screenings agains the backdrop of Sydney’s city skyline. Tickets normally sell out within a few hours so get in if you get a chance.
It doesn’t have t be a special celebration to enjoy fireworks in Sydney. Every Saturday at 9pm crowds gather to enjoy one of the many restaurants in Darling Harbour while watching the sky light up the harbour.
Huge thanks to a few of my wonderful friends from Sydney for helping contribute to this amazing list of locals’ tips for visiting Sydney. No matter how many times I visited this fantastic city, I would’ve never gathered enough experience to write a post like this on my own!