In a city as big as Sydney, it would take a lifetime to track down all its hidden treasures, from secret beaches to underground rivers. Fortunately, we have done the hard work for you. Explore these under-the-radar gems and you will discover a very different side to the city you love.
Enjoy a foreign feast
We know you love to feast on foreign flavours – whether that is shakshouka for breakfast or cari chat curry for dinner – but how many of Sydney’s ethnic food hubs have you actually explored? Head to Epping for a Korean feast, Auburn for Turkish treats, or Haberfield for Italian eats, and you will be dazzled by the sheer number of restaurants, bakeries and food stalls on offer. One of our favourites is the trip to Cabramatta to fill up on Vietnamese delights, washed down with icy fresh sugar cane juice. Bring your shopping bag: it is also a great place to pick up cheap groceries.
Chill out on a deserted beach
On a sunny Saturday, it can be almost impossible find a place to stretch your towel on some of Sydney’s best-loved beaches. Fortunately there are plenty of lesser-known places around town where you can cool off away from the crowd. In the eastern suburbs, for instance, in-the-know locals love compact Milk Beach, only accessible on foot or by boat. Other secret beaches worth a visit include the bush-fringed Bungan Beach near Newport on the northern beaches, and the freshwater beaches along Manly Dam, a very different place to take a dip.
Duck into a distillery
Spirits play a significant role in Sydney’s history – remember the Rum Rebellion? – so it is a bit surprising to learn that central Sydney has just one distillery. Fortunately, Alexandria’s Archie Rose – the first distillery to open in the city in more than 160 years – covers a lot of ground, producing vodka and rye as well as a gin flavoured with native ingredients such as lemon myrtle, blood lime and river mint. Sign up for a tour of the distillery or just settle into one of the cosy wooden booths, inspired by whisky barrels, to savour a drop or two.
Get steamy with your best friends
Don’t just opt for a quick pamper session, throw a pampering party for your nearest and dearest at Sydney’s most glamorous wellness spot, The Darling Spa at The Darling Hotel. Its indulgent Darling Socialites program starts with a glass of champagne and allows you time to catch up during a steam session, before each of you gets to enjoy 60 minutes worth of treatments including massages and facials. Wrap up the experience with some chill-out time by the pool and an overnight stay at The Darling Hotel offers even more five-star spoiling.
Get your garden fix
A walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens is a much-loved weekend ritual for many Sydneysiders, but Sydney has plenty of other spectacular parks. One of our favourites is the magnificent Auburn Botanic Gardens, stretching across nine hectares. There are plenty of different areas to explore, including a sunken rose garden, a Japanese garden and a rainforest garden. Children will love the fauna reserve, home to wallabies, kangaroos and emus. The gardens are particularly stunning in autumn and in August, when the cherry blossom trees burst into bloom.
Splash along an underground river
In the early years of the Sydney colony, the Tank Stream was the settlement’s source of fresh water. The stream still flows today, albeit hidden beneath the city streets. The only way to see it for yourself is on twice-yearly tours organised by Sydney Living Museums, open to those aged 12 and above. Not keen to head underground? You can still follow the path of the Tank Stream through the CBD – it is marked by angled glass markers in the pavement. (Look around Pitt Street, Bridge Street and Hunter Street.)
Let your cares drift away
Sure, you could spend a morning sailing on the harbour; but why not make a weekend of it? Charter a houseboat through Middle Harbour Houseboats and you can enjoy the ultimate harbour experience. Wake up to the water views that would make a millionaire jealous, and then spend the day exploring the harbour’s hidden bays and coves. In the evening, rustle up a meal to be enjoyed on deck as the sun slowly sets. It doesn’t get more tranquil than this.
See Sydney through indigenous eyes
Stroll through the city centre and you will see plenty of monuments dedicated to historic heroes such as Captain Cook and Governor Macquarie. The stories of the area’s first inhabitants, however, are harder to access. If you are keen to get a new perspective on the city and learn more about the history of the local indigenous people, sign up for The Rocks Dreaming Aboriginal Heritage Tour, led by a local elder. Heading to Barangaroo? Then download the free Barangaroo Ngangamay app, which reveals stories linked to the site.
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