A Wannabe Sydney-sider’s Guide to ‘The Harbour City’

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Sydney is one of my favourite cities; partly because I lived there for 4 years and like to pretend that I am actually Australian, but also because every time I visit I discover something new. Sydney is much more than just its famous icons, although even these can be revisited time and again and seen from a different angle. Take the Harbour Bridge; you can walk it, climb it, go under it on a ferry and it is always impressive. Sydney always has more to offer, from its relaxed coffee culture atmosphere, to water sports at some of the best beaches. Here are the top sights I would recommend seeing in Sydney if you get the opportunity:

1.       Taronga Zoo

I’m a bit of a sucker for cute animals and Australia has plenty to offer. Taronga Zoo is one of the best zoo’s I have visited and houses a particularly good enclosure that you can walk through, with wallabies and kangaroos hopping around. If you are lucky you may meet a particularly curious one and if they come up to you, you are allowed to stroke them.  The zoo also shows off the more unusual and unique animals of Australia, from echidnas to emus to wallabies, which can all be easily found in one section of the zoo. Koalas are also on display, but if you want to give them a cuddle you will have to head to the Koala Park Sanctuary in West Pennant Hills. It’s a bit of a trek from central Sydney though and Taronga Zoo has a lot more to offer.

2.       Bondi

A famous tourist destination but not just for its beach; the surrounding area also has a lot to offer. Start your day out further down the coast at either Coogee or Bronte beaches and take the coastal walk up to Bondi. The walk is very busy on weekends with joggers and families but in our Summer (July), you may be able to see the humpback whales that migrate along the Eastern Coast of Australia. The walk is beautifully scenic and not very arduous so perfect for a stroll. Definitely check out the famous beach but don’t miss Bondi Markets, which is on every Sunday and full of bargains from individual designers. It’s a quirky little market found in the playground of Bondi Beach Public School and is great for a quick browse.

3. South of the City Centre

Getting up close and personal at Taronga Zoo. South of the City Centre

There is much more to Sydney than the CBD and the harbour, with the suburbs to the south providing individual boutiques, quirky shops and delicious restaurants. Newtown is the more youthful hub of Sydney, found just past Sydney Uni. It definitely has a more youthful vibe and is full of live music venues, coffee shops, unique restaurants and shops selling anything and everything.  It’s backbone is Kings Street and even if you are not in the mood for a purchase, I recommend having a wander around and getting a feel for the area and all it has to offer.

Further East are the suburbs of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, which are easily reached by taking a wander down Oxford Street. Turning off from Oxford Street is Crown Street which takes you into the heart of Surry Hills and is home to lots of vintage shops. It’s a bit of a hipster area, which you may either love or hate, but it is full of great restaurants, bars and as is the pattern throughout Sydney’s suburbs, coffee shops. The Darlinghurst area is a little less bohemian but is home to Shady Pines Saloon, a bar so alternative that it’s front windows are covered by a white curtain and it looks like a deserted building. Don’t be daunted by the exterior though, push open the door and you realise why it’s called a saloon, full of dark wood and stuffed animals. They do some unique, if pricey, cocktails and all in all it’s a great place to visit for a glimpse into the world of hidden venues that Sydney has to offer.

4.       Beaches

Of course, a trip to sunny Sydney would not be complete without a trip to the beach, and with so many to choose from it’s easy to miss out on some of the smaller beaches and coves in favour of the popular tourist spots. I would recommend Manly Beach, a little more on the tourist trail than others but still a great long beach with surfing lessons available and kayaks for hire by the ferry terminal. In addition, Shelly Beach can be found just round the corner where you can get some excellent fish and chips.
Fish and chip-wise however, my favourite will always be Bottom of the Harbour which you can find at Balmoral Beach on the North Shore. Complete with a jetty to jump off and an island to wander about on as well as the particularly good Bathers’ Pavilion (actually a restaurant), Balmoral is well worth the visit!
If you are after some really luxurious beaches,

think white sand that stretches off into the distance

then head to the northern beaches. They are a bit of a trek to get to without a car but definitely worth the extra hassle to get there. Palm Beach is particularly beautiful and is Sydney’s most northern beach. From the jetty it is possible to take a ferry to ‘The Basin’, a camping area of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, which is well worth a visit. Other particularly good northern beaches include Whale Beach and Dee Why Beach, the latter of which also has a number of rock pool areas to explore and wander through.

Even if you don’t get round to doing all these things on your visit, I guarantee you will fall in love with Sydney for its laid back atmosphere, the people that you meet, the amazing food and spectacular scenery.  There is always more on offer and it is a youthful and vibrant city that is great for students. I thoroughly recommend a visit if you get the chance!

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