A couple of weeks ago, my friend Alaina asked me to write a guest travel guide on her blog, So Alaina. I wrote about some of my favorite places in Sydney, a city I’m majorly in love with. I wanted to put my post below, in case you’re headed Down Under anytime soon!
Full disclosure before we get started: I’m properly obsessed with Sydney. Since the minute I stepped foot in the city, I felt connected. I always judge a city by whether or not I think I’d like to live there, and the answer for Sydney is a resounding YES.
Before my first visit I’d met a sweet new friend who’d recently moved from Brisbane down to Sydney and she drew me a hilariously not-to-scale map of her favorite spots, so I can’t take complete credit for some of these gems, but I took her local recs and ran with it. So, here we go!
Mooberry Dessert & Breakfast Bar – I don’t even know where to start with Mooberry. They do froyo with toppings like a champ, but they also offer warm waffles with toppings and sugary churros. And you can get it all with a side of free wifi. I like their Neutral Bay location, with a little outdoor space and 3 seating levels to choose from.
Sel et Poivre – It might feel weird to indulge in French food in Sydney, but Sel et Poivre does excellent food by any standards. The best place to post up is outside and people watch on Darlinghurst’s Victoria Street. It’s also BYOB, which definitely ups the cool factor.
Gelato Messina – When you’re finished at Sel et Poivre, walk down Victoria Street for dessert at Gelato Messina. Jeremy calls this Club Gelato, because their flavors are so popular, they need a velvet rope out front. Prepare your taste buds because there are 35 staple flavors and 5 new ones every week (which to me is a pretty good reason to have a daily visit). Follow them on Instagram for #icecreaminspo.
Coogee Pavilion – Coffee and wifi, the two most magical words in the English language. You’ll see people working on their laptops, people grabbing a coffee with friends, or having a delightful meal from one of the three restaurants. But the smartest of us head upstairs to the most gorgeous terrace you’ve ever seen in your life, overlooking the golden sands of Coogee.
Ladurée – This may be the most personal entry on this list, as I have a habit of visiting this famous pastry shop as often as I can, but I included it because it’s in the posh neighborhood of Woollahra. Stuffed with art galleries and New Orleans-esque homes, this is one of my favorite hoods to take a quiet stroll down tree lined streets (while eating my Ladurée macarons, of course).
Doyle’s On The Wharf – While the fancier outpost of Doyle’s sits nearby, it’s more casual sister, Doyle’s On The Wharf, serves deliciously crispy fish and chips packaged to enjoy right by the water at Watson’s Bay. To work it off, walk the surrounding paths and stare over the breathtaking cliffs on one side and into a unique view of downtown from the other side.
Black Pony Cafe – Head down to this hip Coogee Beach spot for baked zucchini flowers stuffed with cream cheese. Enough said.
Beach/Cliff Walk – Walking the cliff path from the famous Bondi Beach all the way to Coogee Beach is a legendary Sydney activity. Of course, you can’t come to Sydney without enjoying a stroll on Bondi, including Pinterest darling, the Bondi Icebergs swim club. The walk takes you over the cliffs and around bays, scenic outlooks, and oh yeah, some of the world’s BEST beaches. You’ll pass by Tamarama (my fave!), Bronte (famous for its incredible rock bath, Bogey Hole), the narrow but beautiful Clovelly, and down to Coogee. If you’ve got time, keep going to Maroubra and watch the surfers. This walk is hands down my favorite activity in Sydney. Without stops (but you’re gonna wanna stop), the walk from Bondi to Coogee takes about 2 hours. If you want to go all the way to Maroubra as well, add another hour and a half or so.
Royal Botanic Gardens – I love botanic gardens in general, but I really love the cactus garden nestled inside the massive Royal Botanic Gardens. Lush hills, tree lined paths, colorful flower beds, and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, the best spot in the city to watch the sunset.
Ferries – Being a harbor city, it’s only logical that Sydney would be home to dozens of ferry routes. My favorite is probably the route from Circular Quay to Manly Bay, an adorable coastal town. There’s also a population of little penguins (aptly named since they’re the smallest of the penguin breeds) that roam the Manly Beach area from May – February just waiting for you to squeal with delight upon spotting one of them.
Taronga Zoo – Celebrating its 100th birthday and full of animals you just won’t see anywhere else on the planet, Taronga Zoo is somewhere not to miss. Plus, who could resist seeing koala bears and giraffes with an envy-inducing piece of real estate.
The Rocks – Location, location, location. It doesn’t get much better than The Rocks, the historic heart of Sydney. Tons of restaurants (casual and upscale), shops, and markets with possibly the best backdrop – the glittering Sydney Harbor.
Sydney Observatory – At the Observatory, you can learn about constellations like the easily identified Southern Cross, about which Crosby, Stills, and Nash waxed poetic. Plus, if you’re plagued by jet lag, one of the most calming places to watch the sunrise is the Observatory grounds.
Museum of Contemporary Art – Stunning in all regards, from the art deco building to the rooftop restaurant and of course, the art. Have a drink on the rooftop and revel in the seriously fantastic views of the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House.
Oxford Street – This is where the Australian designers set up shop. We started at Victoria Street and worked our way north up Oxford Street. Pop into each and every shop, make friends with the owners, and don’t pay full price (smart advice from my Aussie friends).
Westfield Bondi Beach – There are Westfields everywhere, and there’s one in Sydney CBD, but the Bondi Beach location was my favorite. It had a couple shops I recognized, but most of them were uniquely Australian (or at the very least, non-US). It also has a large David Jones, which is a Nordstrom-esque department store. Very large, very pretty, very easy to get lost in the cosmetics.
The Rocks Markets – I mentioned The Rocks area earlier, but the markets deserve a spot of their own. The open air, perfectly located markets are open Saturday and Sunday, but Friday is the Queen Bee. The Friday Foodie Market is open from 9am – 3pm and an excellent way to gain 5lbs in one day.
“Downtown” Manly Beach – Once you’ve taken the scenic ferry ride over to Manly Bay, try shopping the “downtown”, a boardwalk type area with little restaurants and shops. Grab a coffee and a mince pie and boutique shop your little heart out. This is where I found my new favorite sunglass brand, Quay Australia.
Queen Victoria Building – I included this one mainly for the window shopping. The building is gorgeous and I loved nothing more than sitting in a little cafe near the center and people watching. I also took an obnoxiously large number of “detail” photos of the building’s interior.
Paddington Markets – I loved these markets. There were so many booths, with a ton of them selling Aussie made products. My husband picked up a bracelet made of kangaroo leather, and I got several gorgeous tassel necklaces. The markets are only open on Saturday from 10am and you need to bring cash.
If you can get out of town a bit, rent a car (oh, the thrill of driving on the “wrong” side!) or take a bus to Blue Mountains National Park and bask in the incredible scenery, like the high-rising Three Sisters. The park also has an abundance of eucalyptus trees, waterfalls, and swimming holes.
You can’t go to Australia and not try to scout some kangaroos. Per my Sydney resident friend, the best places to see the roos are large stretches of open land where they can lounge in the sun, like a golf course. One of the best days of my life was the day I was driving and out of nowhere, I spotted what had to be about 400 kangaroos lounging in a polo field off the side of the road.
If you’re a breakfast fanatic like I am, you’ll want to follow Breakfast In Sydney on Instagram. They’ll tag their location for you and generally succeed in making your mouth water with every pic.
And finally, I wrote this post about my experience using public transportation around Sydney and some tips on how to utilize the services.
See my other posts on Australia here.