Smile, you’re in Sydney – and spoilt for choice. Here’s our tried-and-tested edit of 25 must-dos for locals and visitors alike
This is, hands down, the first item you’ll want to cross off your list – even on a cold day. Sydney has many ocean walks that have earned it serious bragging rights; this is its most famous with locals and tourists alike. Most go the standard Bondi-to-Bronte route, but the path through Waverley Cemetery to Coogee is actually the best bit. (Look at it this way: your calves will thank you later.) Dress warmly, breathe in the fresh, salty beachside air and expect nothing but stunning views that will leave your mouth agape. Bondi to Coogee
It’s only available one day a week, but breakfast at one of the city’s best new restaurants is so good it should be a daily happening. It’s also about the only place in town where the food and the coffee are on equal footing. And that, sports fans, is reason enough to get out of bed on a Sunday. Woollahra.
Not only is the lovingly restored former Paramount screening room a gloriously intimate place to see a film – they mostly screen throwbacks and arthouse fare, and boast just 56 seats – but it’s also a very chic bar. Get in for Tuesday night showings at ‘golden age prices’, meaning you pay what admission cost in the year of the film’s release. Seeing a Marx Brothers movie? Prepare to pony up a whopping five cents, pal. Surry Hills.
In a nod to our colonial past, Sydney is a bit obsessed with tea, towers of tiny sandwiches and buttery treats in the early afternoon. You can try a ceremony at Gunners Barracks or the Observatory, but our absolute fave is in the Tea Room at the QVB: high ceilings, gold-rimmed crockery and scones so light and fluffy they nearly float into your mouth. Sydney.
Winter in Sydney means team-coloured scarves and steaming-hot meat pies at ‘the footy’. If you’re after some very local flavour, try a Rugby League match at the Sydney Football Stadium (go the Bunnies!); if it’s a scrum you’re after, the NSW Waratahs are the boys you should be watching; and if you want to get amongst some serious crowd fanaticism, cheer on the red and the white as local AFL team the Sydney Swans take to the field at the SCG. Moore Park.
Most tourists are content to hop off a bus at Echo Point – where you’ll find the best views of spectacular rock formation the Three Sisters – take a squiz and a snapshot and hop back on. We say go further: the Jamison Valley has a bunch of great walks, from the challenging day-long trek to the ‘Ruined Castle’ on top of Botting’s lookout in the middle of the valley to lighter jaunts along the clifftops near Echo Point. You can even retrace Darwin’s steps along the Jamison Creek to Wentworth Falls. Blue Mountains.
The rock’n’roll pedigree of the Young Henrys brewers can be seen in their beards and tatts, while their skill with hops, barley, water and yeast can be tasted in their range of core brews – real ale, natural lager, hop ale and cloudy cider (well, that one’s made with apples – but you get our drift). If you want insight into Sydney’s love of craft beer, pull up a stool at this backstreet brewery in Newtown and prepare to do some serious beer curls. Found a favourite? You can purchase a growler (that’s a 1.89L bottle) to take away with you. Newtown.
New York can keep its Lincoln Centre. London, the West End is all yours. Here in Sydney, we like our theatre by the Harbour. The Sydney Theatre Company’s headquarters at Pier 4 in Walsh Bay is home to two great theatres – and it’s a quick walk to the larger Sydney Theatre just down the road. Plus, it’s home to venerable hotspot the Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf. Is there any better night out than a world-quality Sydney Theatre Company production followed by world-class nibbles and booze with world-exclusive views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge? That’s a rhetorical question, peeps. Walsh Bay.
There’s only one place you need to be right now, and that’s face-first in a focaccia con porchetta. The outrageous sandwich is a hot, fatty, rich and juicy pile of chopped-up roast pork straight from the rotisserie, laid with crisp cos lettuce leaves and grilled eggplant, all smooshed between pieces of pizza bread. Bondi.
Really want to see Sydney? Make time for this three-day luxury walking adventure across the beautiful harbour coastline just north of the bridge. The tour kicks off at Taronga Zoo’s Roar’n’Snore, a much-loved overnight glamping adventure that lets you meet koalas, feed giraffes and wake up to one of the city’s most coveted views. The next day brings a beautiful, 15-kilometre guided trek through the bays and beaches of the lower north shore, ending at Manly. From here you’ll hop in a boat, which takes you to the historical Quarantine Station, where you’ll be wined and dined before your final night’s stay. Mosman to Manly
Sydney’s sprawling answer to Hyde and Central is best viewed from the top of a beast, we say. Centennial Parklands Equestrian Centre offers guided horse rides through the park with a professional instructor. Boots, helmets, equipment – and horse – are all provided. Centennial Park.
The historic Cleveland Street Theatre sat vacant for too long, but thanks to comedy crew the Chaser, it’s been reborn as a venue for all manner of performing arts, from live music shows to comedy nights and storytelling events. The monthly Erotic Fan Fiction readings are especially popular – and gleefully lewd. Redfern.
It’s a celebration of period music, fashion, dancing, classic cars and more, with demonstrations, stalls and performers aplenty. So if you’ve been looking for that perfect drape for the next sock hop, or just want to get some mad jive on, this is the event for you. And Rose Seidler House – built by famed Modernist architect Harry Seidler for his mother – is a must-see. Wahroonga.
They have locations in Marrickville, Potts Point and Neutral Bay, but the original corner spot in Surry Hills is still a must for those looking for quality baked goods. Then again, their pies are universally excellent across all locations – chunky beef, flaky pastry, happy tum. Surry Hills.
It started as an illegal bar in a condemned building, and though it’s now in safer and more legal surrounds, the dedicated jazz room maintains a cultish vibe. There’s quality entertainment all week long, so don your beret and swing by. Surry Hills.
This buzzy Newtown bar is a must-visit for many reasons – and top of the list is the burger. It has the right mix of meat in the patty (two parts chuck to one each of brisket and rump), cheese melted so it’s almost a sauce and a soft bun that melds into the meat. Get it with ‘trash-can bacon’, literally smoked in an (unused) bin. Newtown.
Every Tuesday night, this well-loved Surry Hills Italian restaurant celebrates a different ingredient. It’s four courses with optional wine and could be anything: onions, olive oil, blood oranges, pork, chilli, polenta, cherries or tomatoes. Bring on the almonds and parmesan. Sydney.
You know that pointy building they built on Bennelong Point for your Instagram photos? There’s actually a reason they decided to call it the Opera House. National production outfit Opera Australia regularly puts on some of the most daring, inventive productions you’re likely to see. This winter, catch Verdi’s Otello (Jul 5-Aug 2) featuring New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill in the lead. And check the company’s website for the season’s other events. Sydney.
The Mondrian-esque, super-modern extension to the MCA was a controversial choice: slick and glassy meets Ye Olde Sandstone. Yet somehow it works. And the new interior space has been a blessing to Australia’s leading contemporary art gallery, giving its team more space to showcase some of the world’s most envelope-pushing work. From July 24 you can catch the first local exhibition of French artist Annette Messager’s playful/disturbing work. The Rocks.
Oprah’s done it. So has Bill Gates. Nicole Kidman, too. There’s just something about being atop the ‘Coathanger’ in a whippy Southerly that adds to the frontiersman appeal (along with those awesome blue jumpsuits). If you’re going to do BridgeClimb, be sure to reserve some time: from start to finish, you’ll be there for three hours or so – but the view from the top is worth every second it takes to get there. The Rocks.
The Imperial is a rite of passage for every queer boy and girl in the city. There’s a seven-night-a-week entertainment roster with everything from drag shows in the back room to club nights in the basement arena and random encounters in the front bar. Plus it’s a part of cinema history, having featured in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. So you’d be mad not to pop in for a gawk and a few drinks. Erskineville.
Classic indoor bowling – you know, Grease 2-style! – tends to get over-shadowed by (slightly) more civilised outdoor games of lawn bowls in Sydney. But did we mention it’s free? That’s right: you can drink, enjoy live music and laugh at your friends’ gutter balls without charge. (OK, the booze will cost you.) Bored of bowling? Kick on at the bar upstairs over pool, pinball and more pints. Surry Hills.
Sydney’s best chocolate shop is a haven of hand-crafted chocolate, bags of honeycomb (covered in chocolate) and all manner of other sweet treats. Take a full wallet: it may not be cheap, but the quality is excellent, and everything’s made in-store. Darlinghurst.
We’re big fans of House of Yoga, an airy second-floor studio with huge windows facing leafy Redfern Park. They’ve got a great variety of classes tailored for newcomers and old pros alike, but nothing beats their anti-gravity sessions. You’ll get cosy in a silk hammock before being led through a series of twists, turns, flips and bends that will leave you both energised and punchy. We dare you not to smile the whole way through. Redfern.
The skies above Bondi become dotted by eye-catching kites of all kinds at this family-friendly event: animals, flowers, cartoon characters, and more. There are also international food stalls, puppet shows, art exhibitions and free dance workshops. This is Sydney’s most colourful spring festival, and a great way to welcome the arrival of longer, warmer days. Bondi.