Atlas Blogbanner Explore sydney

Explore Sydney Like a Local - in 3 days

So you are heading to my stomping grounds? Even though I am biased, Sydney genuine is one of the best cities in the world. And if you are heading over here I got you covered. Here’s how to navigate and soak up the essence of Sydney in three days, with recommendations to help you savour local spots, steer clear of tourist traps, and explore in style.

Day 1: Iconic Landmarks with a Local Twist

Morning: Coastal Walk from Bondi to Coogee

Start your day with the quintessential Sydney experience— the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. This 6 km trail offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, stunning cliffs, and pristine beaches. Instead of heading straight to Bondi Beach, consider starting at the quieter Bronte Beach to enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere before joining the crowds at Bondi. But honestly, if you have more in you, I HIGHLY recommend walking from Malabar or Maroubra to Bondi. You’ll be passing by some wonderful cafes and nature reserves.

Tip: Stop for a coffee at Three Blue Ducks in Bronte or indulge in a smoothie bowl at Bondi Wholefoods to fuel your walk.

Afternoon: Surry Hills & Redfern Exploration

Wander through Surry Hills, a neighbourhood known for its creative vibe, vintage shops, and excellent coffee culture. Duck into Single O for a flat white, and peruse local boutiques along Crown Street. Head into Redfern for a peek at cutting-edge street art and enjoy lunch at The Grounds of Alexandria, where you can savour farm-to-table cuisine in a lush, industrial setting.

Tip: Avoid the tourist-heavy central business district for lunch and instead explore these eclectic neighbourhoods for a more authentic taste of Sydney life.

Evening: Dinner and Drinks at Barangaroo

Barangaroo, a revitalised waterfront precinct, is perfect for an evening out. Enjoy dinner at Barangaroo House, where you can choose from a sophisticated menu while enjoying stunning harbour views. Cap off the night with cocktails at Smoke Bar, located on the rooftop.

Tip: Book in advance, as Barangaroo’s popularity can make it challenging to snag a table on short notice.

Day 2: Hidden Gems and Culinary Delights

Morning: Discover Newtown's Eclectic Charm

Start your second day in Newtown, a bohemian enclave renowned for its street art, quirky shops, and diverse food scene. Grab breakfast at Brewtown Newtown, famous for its inventive cronut. Stroll down King Street to explore second-hand bookstores and unique boutiques.

Tip: Don’t miss Mary’s for a legendary burger if you’re in the mood for something hearty later.

Afternoon: Secret Beaches and Bushwalks

Escape the city buzz with a visit to Shelly Beach in Manly, a local favourite for snorkelling and a peaceful atmosphere. Alternatively, hike the Spit Bridge to Manly track, which offers stunning harbour views and secluded spots like Reef Beach.

Tip: Pack a picnic and enjoy a relaxed lunch by the water. The track is less crowded than other famous trails, providing a serene break from city life.

Evening: Culinary Adventure in Chinatown

Sydney’s Chinatown, located in Haymarket, offers a culinary journey through Asian cuisines. Dine at Golden Century Seafood Restaurant for a traditional Cantonese feast, or try Mamak for Malaysian street food. The evening market offers a vibrant scene with street performances and vendors selling everything from dumplings to dragon’s beard candy.

Tip: Skip the touristy Darling Harbour eateries and head here for an authentic dining experience.

Day 3: Culture, Nature, and Nightlife

Morning: Explore the Royal Botanic Garden and Art Gallery

Begin your final day with a peaceful stroll through the Royal Botanic Garden, where you can enjoy lush landscapes and views of the Sydney Opera House. Visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales for a dose of culture, featuring impressive collections of Australian and Asian art.

Tip: Join a free guided tour of the gardens to discover the rich history and unique flora of the area.

Afternoon: Ferry Ride to Watsons Bay

Take a scenic ferry ride to Watsons Bay and savour fresh seafood at Doyle’s on the Beach, a historic institution. After lunch, hike the South Head Heritage Trail for spectacular views of the harbour and the Pacific Ocean.

Tip: Skip the ferry crowds at Circular Quay and board from Barangaroo Wharf for a more relaxed experience.

Evening: Dinner at a Local Bistro and Nightlife in Newtown

Return to the city for dinner at Restaurant Hubert, a cosy, French-inspired bistro that’s beloved by locals. Finish your day with a visit to Newtown for vibrant nightlife, live music, and an eclectic bar scene. The Courthouse Hotel is a favourite for its laid-back atmosphere and extensive beer garden.

Tip: Avoid the heavily touristed nightclubs in The Rocks and experience Newtown’s more genuine, artistic vibe.

Common Tourist Traps to Avoid

  • Sydney Tower Eye: While the view is impressive, the hefty admission fee and crowds might not be worth it. Opt for a drink at the O Bar for similar vistas with added ambiance.

  • Expensive Harbour Cruises: Instead, take a public ferry to places like Manly or Taronga Zoo, which offer equally stunning views for a fraction of the cost.

  • Circular Quay Eateries: Avoid overpriced and often underwhelming tourist traps here. Venture to nearby neighbourhoods like The Rocks or Barangaroo for better dining options.

Recommended Tours

This insider’s guide will help you experience Sydney like a true local, uncovering its best-kept secrets and avoiding common pitfalls. Enjoy your trip to the Harbour City!

Can't miss Ozzie food

When visiting Sydney, diving into the local food scene is a must. Australian cuisine is a rich tapestry of flavours and influences, reflecting the country’s diverse culture and abundant natural resources. Here are some quintessential Ozzie dishes you simply can’t miss:

1. Meat Pies

A true Australian staple, the humble meat pie is a must-try. These handheld delights typically feature a flaky pastry crust filled with minced meat, gravy, and sometimes additional ingredients like onions, mushrooms, or cheese. For an authentic experience, grab a pie from Harry’s Café de Wheels—a Sydney icon since 1945.

2. Lamingtons

These sweet treats are quintessentially Australian. A lamington is a sponge cake coated in chocolate sauce and rolled in desiccated coconut. Some variations include a layer of cream or jam in the middle. The Rocks Markets or any good bakery around town will offer this delightful dessert.

3. Barramundi

Australia’s native fish, barramundi, is a must-try for seafood lovers. Whether grilled, fried, or steamed, it’s a delicious, versatile fish. Enjoy it at a waterside restaurant like The Boathouse Balmoral Beach for a meal with a view.

4. Pavlova

This iconic dessert, a meringue-based creation with a crisp crust and soft, light inside, topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream, is a favourite at Australian celebrations. Sample a slice at Black Star Pastry, known for its innovative takes on classic desserts.

5. Vegemite on Toast

An Australian breakfast classic, Vegemite is a salty yeast spread that’s a bit of an acquired taste. Spread thinly over buttered toast, it’s a simple yet quintessential Aussie experience. Try it at any local café, but be sure to spread it sparingly if you’re new to the taste!

6. Tim Tams

These beloved chocolate biscuits are a must-try snack. Tim Tams are chocolate-coated and filled with a creamy chocolate centre. For an ultimate indulgence, try the “Tim Tam Slam”—biting off the ends and using the biscuit as a straw for your hot drink. Find them in any supermarket or at specialty shops like Haigh’s Chocolates.

7. Kangaroo Meat

For the more adventurous, kangaroo meat is a unique Australian experience. Lean and rich in protein, it’s often served as a steak or in burgers. Head to The Australian Heritage Hotel in The Rocks to try kangaroo pizza for an unforgettable dining experience.

Exploring Sydney’s food scene is not just about the dishes but also about the places where locals dine. Whether you’re indulging in street food, visiting markets, or dining at upscale restaurants, each bite offers a taste of Australia’s culinary heritage. Enjoy your gastronomic journey through this vibrant city!

Ps. Don’t miss out on the lemon lime bitters, definitely something you should drink

Where to Stay

Adina Apartment Hotel Coogee Sydney

Close to the beach and coastal walk. This will not cost a fortune and you can walk to the tram to conveniently get into the CBD. 

Capella Sydney

Right in the heart of the CBD, this hotel is a treat. You can’t get anymore of a VIP access to the city, so perfect if you want to spoil yourself. 

The Cabana - Gorgeous 1 b/r Apt in the heart of Bondi Beach

Nothing is more Sydney then Bondi Beach, this is a private apartment overlooking that beach. Perfect summer vibe and close to some quality brunch places. 

Fraser Suites Sydney

Also located in Sydney CBD, just a short distance from some of the best restaurants in Sydney (like Mr Wongs). Easy to get anywhere in Sydney from here.

© 2023 Atlas Geographica. All rights reserved

'Curious Worldview Newsletter'

Before you continue… did you know Tim Ferriss values his email newsletter higher than his podcast?

I want to create the same relationship with you.

Join 10,000+ fellow comrades and friends…

Sign Up & Leave Your Email Here…