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In such a vibrant city that’s constantly on the move - whether it’s the locals heading for a surf after work or the city itself evolving - it can seem like an impossible task to keep up to date with what the locals are up to! But there are some activities in Sydney that never change, and have been loved by the locals for decades, and will be for decades more to come. So check out our guide to the best local things to do in Sydney, and see the city from a new angle.
By Bethany Kinner
Or Coogee to Bondi- the choice is yours! Whichever direction you chose you won't be disappointed with this easy and free outdoor activity. This popular scenic coastal walk offers stunning ocean views along the entirety of its 6km path and it takes just 2-3 hours to complete. There are ample pit stops along the way for coffee, water, and of course beaches! Don’t pass up the chance to swim at the rock pools in Coogee, which are set a few km away from the main beach itself. And if you’re an early riser, you can’t beat the sunrise over Bondi. Dawn is also the perfect time of day to take in this world-famous beach without heaps of tourists wandering into your frame or onto your towel.
This cozy beach neighbourhood lies in the city’s southern reaches and takes about an hour to reach via train. If the time and distance alone aren’t enough to differentiate it from the rest of the city, the slower pace and extra positive vibes which warmly meet you at the train station are. Cronulla is a family friendly beach which boasts calm waters and a curved 200 metre sandy beach. It's also happily lacking the too crowded vibe of Sydney’s more centrally located beaches. Make the journey down extra worth it by going for a Chinese massage, shop for used books, or visit a local museum or art gallery during your stay. There's endless options for a relaxed and fun day in Cronulla even if you’re not a surfer or beach addict!
This national park is a quintessential getaway for Sydneysiders. It’s an ideal spot to go hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing. We suggest you take the scenic 2-hour train ride from Sydney’s Central Station to the gateway of the park, Katoomba. From there you can navigate the bush with or with out a guide, or stick closer to the quaint mountain towns for a bit of antiquing and cafe hopping. Also, consider going on a Sunday when Sydney’s entire public transportation network can be traveled limitlessly for $2.60 max!
If you’re looking for funky, edgy, and unique you must give this inner west neighbourhood a visit. Fill your belly with a diverse array of cuisines, including those lovingly prepared by refugees at Lentils As Anything, a pay as you feel establishment that is weaved deeply into community outreach. Navigate through tiny lane ways discovering wall after wall of masterful street art. Pick up a new to you piece from one of the many op-shops lining King Street, the lifeline of this hip ‘hood. Locals of Newtown live and play there to escape the demanding pressures of the 9-5 city hustle. IN Newtown, you'll find yourself amongst some of the city’s most genuine, friendly, open-minded bunch.
If you're lucky enough to visit Sydney between late May and mid-June you'll get to see the city reimagined as VIVID takes over. A festival of lights, music and ideas, and is the perfect way to kick-off the winter season. Start off your experience at the festival’s epicentre in Circular Quay where you'll see lights and animations projected right onto the Opera House and watch a film shown outdoors next to the Contemporary Art Museum. Enter a world of augmented reality in King’s Cross discovering hidden art pieces and the history behind them. Or set time aside to expand your knowledge at one of over 200 speaking engagements with all of the hot topics like tech, culture and design covered. VIVID also has an impressive lineup of musical acts. You can attend shows of both Aussie and international acts in intimate bars or iconic music halls throughout the city. This dynamic three-week festival is one no one wants to miss.
Keen for a one-stop mix of everything? Balmain might just be exactly what you’re looking for. This trendy harbour neighbourhood is deeply entrenched in history and is currently home to some of the city’s most famous creatives. Here you can dine in one of the Sydney’s oldest pubs or take wheatgrass shots after your Pilates class. You can keep on trend with a service in one of the upscale hair salons or sit along the waterfront at sunset for a fiery spectacle. Whether you want to go all out or pinch your pennies, Balmain is a wonderful spot to kick back and enjoy an enchanting blend of the old and new.
Circular Quay is home to these iconic landmarks, but we think you should skip the endless crowds and get your selfie from better lesser-known viewpoints. First, do start from Circular Quay, but hop directly onto a ferry to Manly beach which moves slow enough for you to take quality photos from the Sydney Harbour itself. Once back in the harbour, take the long route through the Royal Botanic Gardens up to the lookout at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. From there you see the opera house in the foreground framed perfectly by the bridge behind. And for another different angle, step back in time and visit the long-established amusement park in Milsons Point called Luna Park, which can be reached on foot by walking over the Harbour Bridge. You get a view from the north here with the option to make a day of it playing games, eating too much food, and testing your nerves on the carnival rides.
Sure dim sum (we call it yum cha here in Australia) is a Cantonese institution, but Australia is fortunate enough to be home to a very multicultural population. And with that diversity comes excellent food from around the globe. Mr Wong is a two-level CBD restaurant serving up a brilliant yum cha feast in an elaborate French colonial setting. Dinning here is truly a 5-senses experience and is no wonder that reservations are always recommended. And for those plant-based eaters and their companions, definitely try the entirely vegan yum cha spread at Bodhi. This magical restaurant is set deep within Hyde Park. You dine here in a nature-filled ambiance so serene you forget that you are steps away from the city centre. You can’t go wrong with either establishment and the best thing is that you’re just scratching the surface of Sydney’s blissful international food scene with these two.
The coastal area to the north of the city is aptly called the northern beaches, and its locals will testify that this string of beaches are the city’s best. Far enough away to ward off hoards of people, but can still be accessed by public transport if you’ve got some time and patience. Otherwise, rent a scooter for the day and be your own guide! The short, yet sometimes steep bush walk from Palm Beach up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse offers breathtaking 360 degree views from the headland where the lighthouse sits. From this perch you can test your luck with whale watching, which is possible here during the winter months and into early spring. No matter what time of year you visit, make sure to experience that quintessential Aussie beach bum lifestyle up in the northern beaches.
Locals live for a good market. Swing by Glebe for its eclectic Saturday market which is brimming with secondhand wares, artwork, home goods, and live music. And don’t forget to grab your share of tacky souvenirs from the centrally located Paddy’s Market every Wednesday-Sunday. Paddy’s also has a vibrant farmers market where you can grab some serious deals towards the end of the day every Sunday. From Marrickville’s Vegan Market and Potts Point’s Organic Market to the fashionista’s haven at Paddington Markets, there really is something out there for everyone.
Photo: City of Sydney
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