In the first year or so that I lived in Sydney, I tackled most of the must-do tourist agenda items that you’ll find in guide books. In the ensuing years, I’ve managed a lot more locally known destinations, and found our own favorite neighborhood spots (may I humbly suggest this post called Post-Tourist where I suggest a few things you can do in Sydney once you’ve done all the biggies).
Lately, I’ve been considering how many neighborhood gems and undiscovered (by me, anyway) destinations there are in the area. There are places practically in my own backyard that I haven’t explored, as well as those spots that people are always recommending to you, and you’d love to get to “one day.” The Sydney area has over 600 suburbs (for my American friends, the term “suburb” here means more like a “neighborhood” than what we’d consider a “suburb.”), and each one must have at least one great little spot to explore. So, I started compiling a list of places I’ve been meaning to go, and also recruited my friends to suggest their favorite lesser-known Sydney spots. From there, I have whittled it down and compiled my list of 10 Undiscovered (By Me) Sydney Gems. My intention is to visit as many of these as I can this year, and report back to you about my findings. This might become an annual tradition, as I’m certain there’s no way to ever run out of local finds.
1. Fort Denison
Located smack in the middle of Sydney Harbour, a stone’s throw from the Opera House, Fort Denison is not exactly “undiscovered,” considering that many thousands of people pass it every single day. However, I don’t know many people who have actually visited Fort Denison. Owned by the National Parks, you can go there to and take a tour. There is also a nice restaurant.
2. The Grounds of Alexandria
The Grounds is a very popular restaurant known for their fabulous breakfast-brunch-lunch fare, amazing coffee, and beautiful grounds (coffee and garden grounds … get it?). There is nothing on the aforementioned list of which I am not in favor.
Update: Read about our afternoon at The Grounds of Alexandria.
Speaking of coffee… in my own neighborhood, Dose is rumored to be one of the best cups of coffee around. I’ve stalked their menu, as well, and it looks amazing. I’ve gone past a couple of times, but never gone in, as it always looks insanely packed, and a little unmanageable with my pram. One of these days, I’ll round up some friends and my courage. Anything for a great cup of coffee.
4. The Incinerator Art Space
…aaaaand, speaking of things in my own neighborhood.. I walk by The Incinerator and its beautiful building at least three times per week, and get coffee from the upstairs cafe maybe once a week (“once a week” is what I tell Partner-in-Crime, anyway), but downstairs – and sometimes outside in fabulous installations – is an art gallery, which I’m yet to visit.
5. Wendy’s Secret Garden
My friend A has long been telling me about Wendy’s Secret Garden, which she stumbled on while out exploring one day. Tucked away in Lavendar Bay, Wendy’s Secret Garden really is an “undiscovered gem” … I mean, the word “secret” is in the name!
Update: Secret unlocked! You can read about my picnic at Wendy’s Secret Garden.
There once was a baked ricotta cheesecake, and that baked ricotta cheesecake has loomed large in my memory ever since my friend Mimi served it for dessert at her place one night several years ago. And, I don’t even like cheesecake. It came from a bakery in Haberfield, a neighborhood with a strong Italian influence, and several Italian shops that sound to be well worth visiting, if just for the cheesecake, alone.
Update: I got my cheesecake fix and more in Haberfield.
7. The Coal Loader
A friend stumbled on The Coal Loader while out walking one day, and suggested it for my list. It’s a former industrial site transformed into a sustainability center and garden, which might be a great spot for a picnic. She had me at “they have chickens,” which I know Hushpuppy will love.
Update: The Coal Loader is cool. Read about it here.
8. Clovelly Beach
Tourists to Sydney might get the impression that Bondi is the only beach around, but that’s so far from true. Being situated on the ocean, there are seemingly endless beautiful beaches to explore. Clovelly is a little beach situated on an inlet, and is meant to be a terrific spot for snorkeling.
Update: Clovelly – discovered!
9. Callan Park
Another lovely spot on the water, a friend who used to live in the neighborhood suggested Callan Park. It’s supposed to have good views of Iron Cove, and also a number of historic buildings, including a former mental hospital.
Update: Full of mysteries and with great views, we had fun exploring Callan Park.
Yet another friend suggested this Balmain restaurant for Korean food. I looked up the reviews for Ma.Ba.Sa., saw the numerous raves for their bibimbap, and immediately decided it needed to go on this list. Mmm.
I have my marching orders for the next few months, and am very much looking forward to discovering some new sights, experiences, and tastes. Sydneysiders, please do add your undiscovered gems in the comments. I know it’s an endless list.