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Travel Guides / Australia

A guide to Sydney’s coolest neighbourhoods

Beachy vibes to offbeat cool, find your ideal hangout in Sydney with a little help from Victoria.

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Like a lot of you reading this (or maybe soon to be you) I set off from England and flew halfway across the world with Sydney as my destination. Despite having done a bit of research beforehand, I had so much more to learn about where to go. So here's me helping a fellow traveller out.

My first time visiting Sydney was in 2019, I was on a working holiday visa and this visit was a lot more ‘holiday’ and not so much work. Fast forward to October of 2022 - I came back out to Sydney with the hope of working an amazing job and meeting some great people. This is exactly what I managed to do. So having kicked around in Sydney for a while now, I've done my fair share of exploring, and wanted to let you in on some classic and quirkier spots in and around Sydney that are a must-visit for when you get here.

Bondi

We may as well kick things off with one of the most iconic and popular spots for locals and travellers alike – Bondi. The promised land... and the place everyone wants to see when they first arrive whether it’s for the beautiful beach (and goers too), brunch and acai bowls, or the buzzy vibe, Bondi has something for everyone.

Weekend plans | Take a stroll on Hall Street and take your pick of the many cute cafes for brekkie and boutiques to max your budget in (eek). Then head to the beach for a swim and people-watch before cooling off with one of the best ice creams you’ll ever taste from Anita’s! You might even want to take a surf lesson or head off on a Sydney rite of passage - the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach. Stop off at Bronte Beach café for lunch or take a dip in the rock pools all while soaking up the incredible sea views. If you want a night out, Ravesisi is a popular spot with a killer sea view on the second balcony.

Side note: If you’ve seen Bondi rescue you mightttt know that the swell and rip tides can get a little hectic, swim between the flags or double-check with a local to see if it’s a good day for a swim or surf if you’re not sure.

CBD

Now I’m definitely more of a beach girl than a city girl but Sydney CBD is still pretty special. You’ll find some cool pockets to explore, amazing restaurants to try and even a regular firework show on Saturdays at Darling Harbour.

Weekend plans | Venture down to the busy Circular Quay where you’ll have the most incredible views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, have a pinch-me moment at the Opera Bar while enjoying some bar snacks and an epic view. Head to round to the left of Circular Quay and you’ll find The Rocks area with cobbled streets, old cottages all filled with unique stores, places to eat and drink and a weekly market of crafts and food. Go right from the Opera House and you’ll be in the Botanic Gardens which is a great spot to hang out or get in some steps amongst nature with a constant view of the Harbour. Finish off the day down in Darling Harbour at one of the many gorgeous waterfront restaurants to eat at or if it’s a special occasion book a spot right up the top of Westfield Tower for sweeping views of Sydney.

Manly

Manly is probably my fave place to go to on a sunny day in Sydney. Take the ferry over from Watsons Bay or Circular Quay and arrive at one of the most beautiful places in Sydney (IMHO). With multiple beaches, good surf, juice bars, laidback healthy cafes, ice cream shops and surfy-beach boutiques scattered along the busy streets.

Weekend plans | Check out the Manly markets and grab some picnic food to take to the beach. Take a short walk along the paved walkway down the coast to Shelly Beach (past the surf club), rent some snorkels and go for a swim in the crystal-clear waters. Enjoy your market eats out on the sand and watch the surfers, kayakers and swimmers go by.

Paddington

A trendy neighbourhood just outside of the CBD which is a fashion lover’s mecca with lots of independent boutiques, some of the best food you’ll ever have, outdoor markets and art galleries.

Weekend plans | Head over to Paddington markets and have a wander to see all the stalls set up, then you can walk on over to the Village Inn for a bite to eat if you fancy some real good pub food (a local fave here) and then venture over to the Paddington Intersection to see some gorgeous fashion boutiques.

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Victoria smiles in a grassy field at camp

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Victoria Whitehouse

Originally from Birmingham in the UK, Victoria got the travel bug good after spending her first summer at camp in Pennsylvania back in 2018. Since then she’s travelled a whole lot, lived abroad in Australia and Bali, gone to summer camp again (many, many times) and is really living her best life. Where you’ll find her: at the beach for sunrise.

“Manly is probably my fave place to go to on a sunny day in Sydney."

Surry Hills

The best spot to get social due to its many bars and bustling restaurants often in converted warehouses nestled between eclectic houses on leafy streets. There’s a great monthly market that attracts lots of locals so check the schedule before visiting to see if it’s on.

Weekend plans | Grab a coffee and brunch at Paramount Coffee Project then head to Crown Street for a vintage shop hop before working your way down the smaller leafy streets to see what hidden gems you can find. For art lovers check out the Brett Whitely Studio for some Aussie contemporary works. Hungry from all that walking? Enjoy Mexican flavours with a live DJ at buzzy El Loco or head to Keg & Brew for good pub vibes. Finish the night off with a boogie on Oxford Street, the gay capital of Sydney, or catch a movie at Golden Age Cinema.

Newtown

A bohemian vibe that’s popular with students bringing with it cool thrift shops, art galleries, great pubs, quirky music venues, big parks and like a lot of Australian neighbourhoods – heaps of good food spots to try.

Weekend plans | It all goes down on King Street so spend the day working your way along this big stretch that eventually meets up with Enmore Road (our next hood on the list). Check out the street art, book shops, offbeat boutiques as you walk along and on a Saturday, you’ll find yet another local market to enjoy. Grab pizza to go from Bella Brutta or a vegan version at Gigi Pizzeria and head to local favourite Camperdown Memorial Park for a lounge and people-watch in the sun. Room for dessert? Head to Comeco Foods and treat yourself to a sourdough doughnut (that’s gluten-free and vegan too). If drinks are on the cards The Courthouse, otherwise known as ‘The Courty’ is always a good time.

Enmore

Recently named the 17th coolest hood in the world, Enmore is an exciting mix of yummy food from all over the world, live music and a party vibe for those wanting to kick on til the early hours.

Weekend plans | Have a lazy start to the day and head out for an early dinner at Colombo a delicious Sri Lankan restaurant or for cheaper eats hit up Faheem Fast Food all on vibrant Enmore Road. Head to a music or comedy show at the impressive Art Deco Enmore Theatre and grab a quirky-flavoured gelato to round things off at the Cow and Moon. The Warren Hotel’s garden is another great place to catch up with mates and enjoy a meal.

Jervis Bay

Road trip? Located about 2 hours out of Sydney so you’ll need to hire a car for this one, but this place will not disappoint. *Some of the whitest beaches you’ll ever see, the cutest seaside town and if you’re lucky you might be able to see some bioluminescent algae at the beach (glows in the water).

Weekend plans | Head to Hyams Beach early in the morning to see the most beautiful sunrise, venture back towards The 5 Little Pigs for an amazing breakfast just up from Huskisson Beach and spend the day exploring the coastal areas in and around Jervis Bay. Head to the Huskisson Hotel for a delicious dinner with a sweeping view of the stunning beach there.

If you’re thinking you need better neighbours, head to our Work Australia page for more on working Down Under.

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Victoria smiles in a grassy field at camp

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Victoria Whitehouse

Originally from Birmingham in the UK, Victoria got the travel bug good after spending her first summer at camp in Pennsylvania back in 2018. Since then she’s travelled a whole lot, lived abroad in Australia and Bali, gone to summer camp again (many, many times) and is really living her best life. Where you’ll find her: at the beach for sunrise.

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