26 Things No One Tells You About Sydney

June 8, 2015

Sydney is a vibrant wealth of cultures, beaches and attractions which anyone could spend days and days exploring. We know you probably already plan on visiting the Sydney Opera House (if only to get your picture taken with it in the background!) but where else is there to see once you’ve climbed along Sydney Harbour Bridge and bathed at Bondi beach?

If you plan to ditch the guided tour then here’s how to make sure you don’t miss the city’s hidden gems, with ideas of what to see aside from the iconic tourist hotspots!


Nature and Wildlife

If you think of Australia the mental image you’ll probably have with include kangaroos, kolas and crocs! Taronga Zoo is a great place to visit them and has the added bonus of giving you a great view of Sydney harbour.

Top Tip: Make sure to skip Wild Life Sydney Zoo though – as despite being smaller it’s just as busy and has fewer and far less impressive animals.

If you have an aversion to zoos, (or an aversion to the price of the tickets…) then you could try and catch some local Australian wildlife outdoors. Parakeets and other birds, butterflies and small land mammals can be found in some of Sydney’s parks if you’re lucky (and have pretty good eye sight!) Check out the Botanical Gardens or The China Gardens for a relaxed picnic. If torn between the two, note that the Botanical Gardens is free!

Just be careful! When we say catch the local wildlife we mean the cute kind! You’ll want to avoid some of the scarier critters…

creepy crawly spider

Sydney Harbour was once famed for having toxic waters but times have changed long since then. With dolphins, whales, sharks and turtles all said to have returned to the bay, the clean-up of the waterways is a definite success.

If you’re a fan of spotting marine wildlife then go to the water’s edge to have a look, or turn up and hop on one of the many boat tours available.

Humpback whale and Sydney skyline

If viewing it from afar isn’t enough for you then a hands on experience of some of this marine life will beat the queues for Sydney Aquarium! Try visiting the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary and Shark Dive Xtreme.

It gives you the chance to dive with rays, sharks and sea turtles as well as giving you an introduction to scuba diving.

scuba diving with sharks

Top Tip: It might be a bit of a wrench for you to walk past a koala and not take it home with you but be warned that the Australians are quite fond of them and your cruise staff wouldn’t be too happy about it either!

Unfortunately you can no longer legally hold a koala for a photo opportunity in Sydney but cuddly versions are available for you to take home from the gift shop.

The Way Around

Travelling around Sydney can itself be a great way to spend the day. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try kayaking around Rose Bay? Or you could even take a Speed Boat tour around Sydney Harbour and jet around as if you’re James Bond. (Although be warned that the latter will get you soaked and in need of a change of clothes – as will kayaking depending on your skill level!)

Kayaking in Sydney

If you’re feeling really extravagant then why not explore in style and take the Harley Davidson Bike Tour? Although you’re only able to ride in the sidecar – you still get a great exploration of the bustling city (assuming your pride can take it).

Crossing the Sydney harbour bridge is a favourite activity for many tourists – but did you know you can also bungee jump off the side of it? This one is probably only best for those with a head for heights!

If a more traditional method of transport appeals to you then the harbour ferries are a quick and easy way to get around or you can hire a bicycle for the day for around $20.

Top Tip: One of the best ways to get around the huge grounds of the Olympic Park is by bicycle, so once you’ve hired some wheels it’s the perfect place to visit.

sydney olympic park


The Beaches

Bondi is famous for its stunning sands and is one of Australia’s favourite beaches. Consequently, it’s also the busiest! But there are plenty of other great beaches around Sydney that often get overlooked.

If you’re a Home and Away fan (and we won’t hold it against you if you are) then check out Palm Beach where it is filmed. Only an hour’s bus ride from Sydney, you might get lucky and see some live action taking place! If not you can still enjoy the surf and the walk up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse.

Home and Away set

Shelly beach is great for snorkelling and is conveniently right in the city centre whilst Watsons Bay has some of the best fish and chips in Sydney and has calmer waves than Bondi.

Often referred to as ‘the other side of the bridge,’ Manly beach is a quieter area of Sydney that offers a relaxed afternoon. It’s easily accessible via ferry and has beaches, scenic walks and great cafes and bars. The Wharf Bar in particular serves some tasty food with equally good views!

Top Tip: If you’re worried about the threat of jellyfish in the sea then be (somewhat) comforted to know that you are more likely caught in a bad current than attacked by a jelly. Be careful and wear a t-shirt if worried – and avoid swimming too far out!

Happy Diver

Top, Top Tip: If you do get stung by a jellyfish and there’s no hunky lifeguards around to provide first aid then watch out for any friends or family members that have seen ‘that’ episode of Friends – You know the one we mean, where Chandler tries to help Monica…

This myth was busted by the Scientific American back in 2007 but still persists as ‘fact’ on a lot of guides on the internet! If someone does try this method you should let them know that urine may actually aggravate a jellyfish sting rather than helping it… You have been warned!

 Jellyfish on the beach


The Markets

Like most cities, Sydney has a vast array of shops and shopping complexes but if you’re bored of Pitt Street Mall or Westfield and want a shopping experience with more character why not try visiting some local markets?

The city boasts all kinds of stalls, from Brewery Yard markets on Broadway with great local tipples to the Chinatown night markets. There’s farmers markets at Bondi to sample food, vintage clothing to buy at Rozelle markets and Redwaters market exclusively sells environmentally friendly goods for the environmentally conscious amongst you.

Market stalls

Whilst the fish market probably isn’t worth a visit (unless you really like the smell of fish!) – the Rock ‘n Roll Alternative Market held at Sydney University. With everything from a record fair, to vintage vehicle display, live music, bars and food – it’s definitely not one to miss!

Top Tip: Some of these markets are only on once a week, so check which ones will be available before you set out.


Culture Hot Spots

The Rocks, as it’s known, is a traditional tourist hotspot to soak up a bit of culture in the oldest part of Sydney with markets, cafes and independent shops. However, why not explore the spooky side to the area steeped in a history of hangings and hauntings by going on a ghost tour of The Rocks instead? (which you can book here!) Or if you’re not brave enough you could grab a bite in Pancakes On The Rocks, which serves some of the best crepes in the area.

Sydney also boasts plenty of art galleries and museums; The Australian Museum, The Maritime Museum and the Art Gallery of New South Wales to name a few good ones.

If you’re looking for something a little more quirky, try the White Rabbit Gallery which showcases contemporary Chinese Art and free film screenings in an old converted warehouse.

Looking for a museum with a difference? Then release your inner Indiana Jones by visiting the Nicholson Museum for a vast collection of mummified bodies and antiquities.

Top Tip: If you take a trip to the Art Gallery of N.S.W, grab a ‘Tiger Pie’ from Harry’s Café De Wheels round the corner afterwards. (Disclaimer: It’s not real tiger meat – just mashed potato, mushy peas and gravy – but it’s still delicious!)


With so many great spots to enjoy in Sydney, it’s definitely worth stepping away from the main tourist trail. Just grab your sun cream and your hat and enjoy the delights that Australia has to offer!

Have you been to Sydney before? What did you get up to and what would you recommend?

Let us know in the comments below…