23 Hidden Gems in Sydney

Are you visiting Sydney for the second, third or fourth time? You’ve likely ticked off all those “must-do” activities and sights and now you’re looking for more to do. Here are some hidden gems in Sydney to keep you busy.

For the last three years, I have been spending a good amount of time in Sydney so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to find some of the lesser-known attractions and things to do.

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Here are some of the beautiful hidden places and secret spots in Sydney.

Wendy’s Secret Garden

The trunk of a large morton bay fig tree

A lush and tranquil haven in Lavender Bay, Wendy’s Secret Garden is a labour of love created by Wendy Whiteley in memory of her late husband, artist Brett Whiteley.

This hidden gem boasts meandering pathways, a rich tapestry of plants, and awe-inspiring harbour views. It’s the perfect spot to unwind, read a book, or simply soak in the natural beauty.

I like to rest there a while after walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge before returning on a train to the CBD.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk

Embark on a journey to the iconic Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, another of the Sydney hidden gems.

The trail winds through lush vegetation and rewards you with sweeping coastal views. The lighthouse’s stark white against the blue skies makes for a stunning photo opportunity.

Palm Beach is also the filming location for the popular TV series “Home and Away”, so look out the stars during your visit.

The Rocks Markets

A street lined by market stalls

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of The Rocks Markets. They run on the weekends in the narrow streets of The Rocks historical area.

The cobblestone streets come alive with local artisans, designers, and delicious street food. From handcrafted jewelry to unique leather goods, this market is a treasure trove of creativity.

Bronte Beach

Bondi Beach and Manly are likely two beaches you see on all those must-do in Sydney lists. They are great, you should go there, but they can also be crowded and a little chaotic.

Once you have been to them, you may prefer to visit some of the other beaches.

For a more serene beach experience, Bronte is a hidden gem nestled between Bondi and Coogee. Enjoy a swim in the sheltered rock pool or take a leisurely stroll along the cliffside path while gazing at the ocean vistas.

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Royal National Park

Rockpools in the shape of a figure eight

The Royal National Park, a pristine wilderness just outside Sydney’s heart, invites you to explore its lush landscapes, scenic coastal trails, and secluded beaches.

Lose yourself in nature as you hike, picnic, and discover hidden treasures within this natural haven.

Some of the most famous landmarks are the Figure 8 Pools and Wedding Cake Rock some of the most beautiful hidden places in Sydney.

Museum of Sydney

Step into the past at the Museum of Sydney, where interactive exhibits and multimedia displays shed light on the city’s evolution from its Aboriginal heritage to a bustling modern metropolis.

The museum’s contemporary design seamlessly blends with historic remnants.

In general, Sydney has some great museums and galleries that often don’t get the attention they deserve. Try adding some of these to your itinerary:

  • Australian Museum
  • Hyde Park Barracks
  • Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Powerhouse Museum
  • White Rabbit Gallery
  • Australian National Maritime Museum
  • Art Gallery of NSW (the new second building is fabulous!)
  • Sydney Jewish Museum

Milk Beach

A small beach on Sydney Harbour with a view towards the opera house and harbour bridge

Nestled between Nielsen Park and Parsley Bay, Milk Beach offers a quiet escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

With its sandy shores and unparalleled views of Sydney’s skyline, it has great sunset views over the city and is an ideal spot for a relaxed picnic.

Reach Milk Beach by following the coastal pathway, or by navigating your way through the mansions of the surrounding suburb of Vaucluse, home to many of Sydney’s rich and famous.

Paddington Reservoir Gardens

Step into a fusion of history and tranquillity at Paddington Reservoir Gardens.

Originally built in the 1860s as a water reservoir, Paddington Reservoir served as a crucial water supply source for Sydney’s growing population.

Over time, it underwent various transformations, from a storage facility to a car park, before being revitalised as the serene urban garden it is today.

The preservation of the reservoir’s original brick, iron, and sandstone structures lends an air of industrial romance to the gardens.

Visitors can explore the sunken garden’s upper and lower levels, where arches and columns stand as reminders of the site’s rich history.

Brett Whiteley Studio

The messy interior of an artists's studio

I mentioned the Wendy Whitely gardens, but you can also visit the studios of her famous husband in the backstreets of Surrey Hills. It’s only a small gallery, but well worth a visit if you are nearby.

This artistic enclave offers an intimate look into the creative process of one of Australia’s most celebrated artists.

The studio showcases Whiteley’s works, personal artifacts, and even the recreated environment in which he worked.

Sydney Olympic Park

Head out to Sydney Olympic Park, where the echoes of international sporting glory still resonate.

This sprawling urban playground is more than a testament to athleticism – it’s a vibrant hub of entertainment, nature, and culture.

From the iconic Olympic Cauldron to the mangrove boardwalks and thriving wetlands, this multifaceted gem offers a diverse array of experiences that cater to every taste.

Whether you’re cycling along scenic paths, exploring wildlife, or attending events, Sydney Olympic Park is a testament to the city’s memories of the 2000 games and love for celebration.

Newtown Street Art Walk

A mural on a wall of a cartoon woman with geometric patterns

Jump on a train and head to the inner suburb of Newtown, best known as a bohemian neighbourhood filled with vintage stores, hip bars and every possible kind of eatery, including some great vegan places.

It’s also home to a thriving street art community, along with the neighbouring suburb of St Peters.

Take a walk through Newtown’s alleys to spot the street art, each piece a canvas that tells stories of creativity, culture, and community. You can see murals from well-known, up-and-coming, and local artists.

Cockatoo Island

Steeped in history, Cockatoo Island is a location in the middle of the harbour that offers a glimpse into Australia’s maritime heritage.

Explore its convict past, traverse through underground tunnels, and be captivated by the island’s industrial remnants.

The annual Biennale of Sydney also transforms the island with remarkable contemporary art installations, or you can visit, like I did, to see an event like an outdoor opera.

Bundeena Maianbar Art Trail

A sculpture of a girl sitting on a pedestal near the sea

Catch the train to Cronulla and a short ferry ride to the town of Bundeena, right on the edge of Royal National Park.

Spend the day meandering through Bundeena and neighbouring Maianbar, coastal villages that boast a thriving art scene.

Explore local artists’ studios, witness their creative process, and perhaps even take home a unique piece of art.

If you need more to do in the area, there are some lovely beaches here, good cafes and plenty of hiking in the national park. A visit makes a perfect relaxed day out.

Pylon Lookout

Everyone knows about the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, but did you realise there is another way to get similar views without the price tag?

For a budget-friendly alternative to the BridgeClimb, ascend the pylon on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Enjoy panoramic views of the Sydney Opera House, harbour, and city skyline from a unique vantage point.

It’s not just about the views, there is a small museum here too where you can learn about the history of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and its construction.

Cadman’s Cottage

A neat two-story stone cottage

In your previous visits to Sydney, you have probably walked past Cadman’s Cottage without even glancing at it.

Cadman’s Cottage is the oldest residential building in Australia. Located in The Rocks, right near Circular Quay and the Museum of Contemporary Art, this sandstone cottage offers insights into early Sydney and its maritime heritage.

You can take a look around outside yourself, or to delve further into Australia’s colonial history, look out for one of the free tours they run.

Sydney Fish Market

Rise early for an authentic experience at the Sydney Fish Market, the largest market of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Wander through the bustling markets and see over 100 different seafood species on sale, before eating at one of the restaurants.

To see the daily auction, sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour. You will witness the energetic bidding for the freshest catch of the day, and afterwards, treat yourself to the freshest seafood breakfast.

There’s a seafood school here too if you want to book in for a class and learn how to prepare delicious dishes, like Spanish Paella and Singapore Chilli Crab.

Shelly Beach

A view across the sand of a small beach towards the ocean with buildings in the distance

Escape to Shelly Beach, a secluded cove perfect for snorkelling and swimming. The calm waters are teeming with marine life, and the surrounding bushland adds to the natural charm.

Even if you don’t want to swim, a stroll from Manly Beach around the bay to Shelly Beach is a good way to spend some time.

Lane Cove National Park

It’s not often that you can find a national park right in a city of millions of people, but just over the harbour in Sydney, you can do just that.

Just a stone’s throw from the city, Lane Cove National Park offers a peaceful retreat into nature. Explore bushwalks, hire a kayak, or enjoy a serene picnic by the river.

Centennial Parklands

A large white bird with a long black beak sitting on a fence in front of a lake

Escape the urban bustle and embrace nature’s tranquillity within the vast expanse of Centennial Parklands.

This sprawling oasis offers lush lawns, serene ponds, and shaded pathways for picnics, leisurely strolls, and peaceful moments amidst the city’s green heart.

I love walking in the parklands when in Sydney, but you can also hire a bike here too. It’s hard to believe that the city centre is only a couple of kilometres away.

Look out for the kookaburras, fruit bats and movie stars! Yes, this is often used as a filming location for big-name movies, like “Thor: Love and Thunder”.

Fort Denison

Embark on a short ferry journey to the enchanting Fort Denison, an island steeped in history and intrigue.

As you step onto its shores, you’ll be transported back in time to an era of military significance. Wander through the fort’s meticulously preserved gun emplacements, where cannons once stood as guardians of the harbour.

Immerse yourself in the stories that unfold through exhibits, detailing the island’s past as a defence post, penal site, and even a weather station.

Sydney Observatory Night Tours

An old stone building with a dome and a clock tower

The centre of a city is not the most obvious choice for stargazing, but you can do just that here in Sydney.

Check out the cosmos on guided night tours at Sydney Observatory. Peer through telescopes, guided by passionate astronomers, and unlock the mysteries of stars, planets, and beyond in an experience that’s both educational and awe-inspiring.

Marrickville Organic Food and Farmers Market

Immerse yourself in a vibrant community of sustainability at this bustling market, where fresh organic produce and artisanal goods converge in a celebration of local life and flavours.

From aromatic coffee to handmade crafts, it’s an authentic window into Sydney’s thriving sustainable culture.

Vivid Sydney Festival

Sydney opera house with pink patterns projected onto it. It is at night and there are blue lasers shooting into the sky

Okay, so this is not the biggest hidden gem in Sydney, but there are still a lot of people who have not heard about this fabulous festival.

Experience the city transformed into a dazzling wonderland during the Vivid Sydney Festival in May each year.

This annual extravaganza of light, music, and ideas bathes Sydney’s iconic landmarks in a kaleidoscope of colours, creating a mesmerising tapestry of art and innovation that’s not to be missed.

If you’re in Sydney before a cruise, take a look at the best hotels near Sydney Cruise terminal.

Before you go, read these New South Wales posts next
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TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS

Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs

Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.

Hire a rental carRentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.

Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.

Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.

Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.

Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.

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