All over the world, people have heard of Sydney, Australia’s iconic Opera House. Balancing on the edge of the most beautiful harbour in the world, its iconic white “sails” glisten in the sun and form a backdrop for stunning views from the equally celebrated Harbour Bridge.
Sydney is brimming with famous tourist attractions, from cuddling koalas at Taronga Park Zoo to sunning yourself on the world famous Bondi Beach. But there is more to Sydney than a quick glance at your travel guide will have you believe. Think you can’t get off the beaten trail in Sydney? Want to uncover some unique Sydney experiences enjoyed by just a handful of travelers? Try some of these.
1. Drive just 45 minutes out of the city center and you will find yourself surrounded by luscious bushland on the beautiful Hawkesbury River. Here you can dine in an award winning restaurant that is accessible only by river. The Berowa Waters Inn offers fine dining in stunning natural surrounds, with a unique degustation menu and private ferry service to deliver you to safe and dry to its door.
2. Sydney’s earliest houses were built right on the harbour at the southern end of the Harbour Bridge in an area known as The Rocks. These 19th century sandstone buildings now house a lively bar, dining and shopping scene, but have a long history of mystery and intrigue. Join a Sydney Ghost Tour for a spooky night (or day) out to learn about hauntings and hangings from Sydney’s dark past.
3. In summertime, thousands of Sydney-siders enjoy free opera and concerts in the Domain parklands right in the heart of the city. But few know about that under the Domain is the world’s 3rd longest moving walkway or travelator! Covering a distance of over 205 meters, this quirky attraction will be sure to give you something different to talk about at your next dinner party.
4. One of Sydney’s newest-old attractions is the Paddington Reservoir Garden. Part of the old Botany Swamps pumping station, the reservoir helped provide water to parts of Sydney from 1866 to 1899. Now a landscape of stone arches, iron and brickwork, the chambers have been converted into a sunken garden and public space in the heart of this thriving inner city suburb, already a key destination for foodies and shopaholics.
5. Take a ferry ride across the harbour to stylish Double Bay for a swim in the exclusive Redleaf Pool. Not actually a pool at all, Redleaf is a fully enclosed section of Shillings Beach, and the closest beach to the city where you can take a swim. Why struggle with the hoardes on Bondi when you can have this little cove all to yourself?
6. Another hidden gem on the sparkling harbour in east Sydney is Nielsen Park near Vaucluse. A fantastic spot for a picnic or to take the kids for a swim. Neilsen Park boasts glorious views back across the harbour to the city and is an ideal spot to watch the sun go down and much less crowded than nearby and better-known Watsons Bay.
7. Climbing famous bridges is now topping bucket-lists around the globe and Sydney’s Harbour Bridge is no exception. But you don’t need to dress like a pest inspector and huff and puff your way to the top to enjoy world-class views of the harbour. Instead try sipping on your cocktail in the glamorous surrounds in a Sydney hotel at Shangri-La’s Blu Bar on 36 Enjoy uninterrupted views of the harbour and famous landmarks without breaking a sweat.
8. Soak up Sydney’s historical past while dining on fine cuisine at the Scarlett Restaurant. This original boutique hotel in the heart of Sydney’s Rocks district was built in the 1800s on the site of Sydney’s first tent hospital. The original 19th century sandstone and exposed brick walls form a striking feature, offset by stunning modern architecture, making for a unique dining experience.
9. Sydney’s rich heritage is not limited to the southern side of the harbour. Head to the lower north shore for a swim in the Maccullum Pool in Cremorne Point, built in the 1920s and lovingly restored in the mid 1980s. Although the pool is quite narrow, it boasts stunning views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and is a great spot to enjoy some laps.
10. Finally, take in a tour of fascinating Garden Island, so named as it was originally Sydney’s food bowl in the early days of settlement. Garden Island has played a pivotal part in Australia’s naval defence since 1788 and is now home to the Royal Australian Navy’s east fleet base. The northern part of the island is open to the public. Just catch a ferry from Circular Quay for a great day trip for history buffs and children alike.
Make sure your trip to Sydney doesn’t turn into a cliché of visiting the big icons only. Take the time to fit in some of these unique experiences for a richer and uniquely memorable encounter with this world-famous city.
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