Traveling down under!
What a dream! Right?
Strolling through Sydney Bay …
Climbing over the Harbour Bridge…
The Botanical Garden…
Unmissable, for sure.
However, as you can imagine, these tourist hot spots attract many visitors from all around the world.
But what if I told you that Sydney hides a myriad of wonderful places that as Nomad@50 I am 100% convinced you will not want to miss?
Would you want to hear more?
In these spaces, you’ll be able to breathe the crisp air of this spectacular city (where I have lived for over two decades now), mingle with the locals and discover the true essence of Sydney.
Are you joining me?
7 hidden gems you can’t miss when traveling to Sydney!
Wendy’s Secret Garden, Lavender Bay
Get lost in the winding little lush alleys of this wonderful space and enjoy the wonderful views of Sydney Harbour from its many secluded rest areas.
The garden pays homage to Wendy Whiteley, wife of the legendary Australian artist Brett Whiteley. Tormented by the death of their only daughter, Wendy turned the old abandoned paths next to the famous Luna Park into this wonderful space away from the busiest tourist areas in Sydney Harbour.
If you visit Luna Park, continue towards the end of the attractions and follow the path that borders the harbour. Keep an eye out for a small tunnel that represents the entrance to the garden but beware because it’s not very well marked (after all, it’s a secret garden!).
Angel Place, Martin Place, Sídney CBD
A narrow staircase starts from Martin Place – right in the centre of the city – and it will take you to this hidden alley.
Few tourists and, in fact few locals, know the existence of this lane and the 50 empty cages that float over it.
The exhibition “Forgotten Songs” refers to the birds that flew over the Australian continent before European colonisation and are now extinct or threatened with the danger of extinction.
The installation explores how Sydney’s fauna has evolved and adapted to coexist with greater urbanisation, inviting us to contemplate the city’s past, its underlying landscape and the sustainability problems associated with greater urban development.
A short distance away, in George St’s Chinatown, you’ll find Jason Wing’s “In Between Two Worlds”.
During the day, it’s just an unpretentious alley animated by wall and floor murals with Chinese and aboriginal motifs.
At night, the illuminated figures of the “spirit” suspended from the sky will tell you about the wind, water, fire and earth, elements which in both Chinese and aboriginal culture have their own spirits.
Just 4 km away from the centre of the city of Sydney, you’ll discover an oasis of 360 hectares, built on the Gadigal tribe’s traditional land.
Centennial Park was opened on January 26, 1888 (Australia Day) to commemorate the first 100 years of European settlement in Australia.
While today Centennial Parklands is one of the local’s favourite go-to places to practice sports, it still reminds us of the impact that colonisation had on the native inhabitants of the Australian continent.
The “Grand Drive” is the main circular road through the park.
It is 3.8 kilometres long and was part of the marathon route of the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is divided into five concentric circles: the outer one is used for cycling or skating, the fourth and largest for car driving, the third for car parking and to house the park’s imposing mature trees, the second is a paved road to walk and run, and the last one is a dirt track for horse riding.
The park is now easily accessible from George St. in the city centre, thanks to the construction of a new tram transport system that will leave you only a few meters away.
As I imagine how much you like to enjoy some peace and tranquillity in your travels – at least occasionally! – I’m sure you will love having a picnic in Centennial Parklands and watching how locals make the most of this beautiful space.
The largest island in Sydney Harbour, Cockatoo Island is a former prison to the unfortunate souls who landed in the Australian penal colony in the 19th century and a shipyard where Australian and allied naval ships were maintained during World War II.
It functioned as a shipyard until the nineties, and today many of the old buildings from both convict and industrial periods are still standing.
I’m sure you’ll love the industrial retro style of the island, but you’ll probably be expecting a Bond villain to unexpectedly appear at any time among the island’s tunnels and ruins!
The journey to the island is one of its best attractions.
Take the ferry to Cockatoo Island from Circular Quay and savour the incomparable views of Sydney Bay.
And if you want to spend the night on the island, you can stay in tents or in simple wooden cabins with stunning views to the harbour.
Foundation Park, The Rocks
One of the best-kept secrets right smacked in the middle of the highly visited area of The Rocks, the first colonial settlement in Sydney Bay.
When everyone is focused on the little stalls in the market and their many souvenirs, discretely lose yourself along the cobbled alleys of The Rocks and when you find the little gem that is Foundation Park imagine how the first settlers lived on Playfair Street.
In Foundation Park you’ll find the ruins of 8 houses built on a sandstone cliff between 1874 and 1878, at different levels. It was hard times and The Rocks area was so densely populated that the colonists built their homes on any piece of land, however small it was – 3m x 3m, in this case.
The foundations of the houses and the plot of compact land on which they sat were destroyed in 1940 to became a park in 1972: Foundation Park.
A park that very few people know – not even the locals!
And that will definitely give you a break while touring this historic (but very touristy) enclave under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Strickland House and Nielsen Park
I imagine you are!
So, I thoroughly recommend this wonderful route that very few tourists know about.
It starts in the city’s CBD – in Hyde Park to be precise – and it takes you along the coast with spectacular views to Strickland House, Nielsen Park, and if you are brave enough, even the gorgeous Watson’s Bay lighthouse.
I’m talking about 8.5 km of significant slopes through some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city of Sydney, with their many cafés and shops…
Charming little ports with luxury boats…
Coves and beaches…
But you’ll always have one constant – the stunning views to Sydney Harbor under the deep blue sky we are lucky to be able to enjoy down under.
If you’ve seen the movie Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, you may recognise Strickland House at the end of your route as this imposing old hospital was home to the movie’s protagonists.
It’s a property of great historical value because it remains intact and it perfectly reflects how senior officers lived back in 1850.
In addition to the beautiful white colonial structure, you will love its extensive gardens, an example of the lush vegetation that British settlers found when they arrived in Australia.
A few meters from Strickland House, Nielsen Park – a charming enclave with its own beach frequented by families in Sydney’s eastern neighborhoods.
Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse, Palm Beach
Are you giving yourself plenty of time to explore Sydney?
Do you intend to calmly discover the city?
Then, I suggest you head down to the Wynyard bus station, in Kent St, in the heart of the city, and look for one of the yellow double-decker buses (BLine) that will take you to Palm Beach.
Just one thing – bear in mind you’re going to need at least half a day or even one day to enjoy this outing to its fullest.
Plus, you know…Distances in Australia!
I’m talking about approximately an hour by city bus (the L90).
But, in an hour, you will have the chance to discover some of the most attractive areas and beaches of this vibrant city.
Once in Palm Beach, take your time exploring this charming peninsula, bathing on its beaches, and watching the locals enjoy this privileged region of the planet from any of their cafés.
In Palm Beach you can also climb the path to the Barrenjoey lighthouse, a 20-30 minutes uphill walk. And if you are lucky and visit during whale season, you may even get some glimpses of these stunning creatures right from the top!
By the way, remember that to use public transport in Sydney you have to buy the Opal card on any 7/11. You cannot pay on the bus itself.