Local's guide: Sydney

Sydney Opera House Sydney my nrma local guides
Sydney Opera House Sydney my nrma local guides

Even if you’ve lived in Sydney all your life, there are delights still in store for those prepared to look past the obvious attractions.

  • Sydney Opera House
  • Harbour Bridge
  • The Rocks
  • Bondi Beach

Sydney Opera House? Tick. Harbour Bridge? Tick. Likewise, Bondi and Manly beaches, Centrepoint and The Rocks. But as every Sydneysider can tell you, there’s always something tucked away nearby ­– or hiding in plain sight ­– that’s not on the tourist checklist, but could be just the surprise you’re hoping to stumble upon. It could be a locals only swimming spot, a little known historical site or a must try cafe. So take off the tourist goggles and follow our guide to looking at Sydney with fresh eyes. 

Where to eat

Stride out on the Manly to Spit Bridge walk and you'll find Forty Beans Espresso Bar, overlooking North Harbour Reserve in Balgowlah. It’s a friendly, not too fussily decorated space with big open windows to the street and all the major comfort foods you can cram into one menu: homemade cakes and salads, big New York style sandwiches, gelato, smoothies and, of course, powerful coffee.

For something French and sophisticated, head underground to Bligh Street’s Restaurant Hubert in the heart of Sydney. As the owners say, a fine restaurant is as much about the ambience, conversation and laughter as the quality of the wine and food. And when you’ve got both, well, no wonder critics write things like “People who love restaurants ­– their history, their romance, their theatre ­– will love Hubert”.

Another hotspot for those who love history is Hotel Palisade at Millers Point. After being shuttered for seven years, the historic 1915 watering hole has been transformed by a $5m makeover, the crowning glory of which is the two level Henry Deane cocktail lounge with its wraparound glass windows giving perhaps Sydney’s most panoramic view ­– from the Harbour Bridge to Darling Harbour. Settle in, order a Cannon Fodder rum cocktail and share a plate of kingfish and coconut ceviche.

What to see

You don't need to be a scholar to visit Sydney University's Nicholson Museum, a little known treasure that contains the Southern Hemisphere's largest collection of antiquities. Located just off the main quadrangle, the museum first opened in 1860 after the university's second chancellor, Sir Charles Nicholson, gifted his entire private collection, the basis for today's 30,000 artefacts of artistic and archaeological significance from Egypt, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and the Near East. For kids, though, the large Lego model of Pompeii may well be the main attraction.

In the hip suburb of Chippendale, Judith Neilson's White Rabbit Gallery is home to a fascinating collection of contemporary Chinese art, including video installations and interactive exhibits. Make sure you stop by neighbouring Spice Alley in nearby Kensington Street to check out the hawker style eateries.

For a unique view of Sydney ranging from the Pacific Ocean and Blue Mountains use your NRMA Blue discount and climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge where Members can save up to $15 and receive free photo.

Barangaroo is one of Sydney's newest dining and shopping precincts, but has long been an area of important cultural significance. Take a tour to learn about the Indigenous history of the area and admire the 75,000 native Australian trees and shrubs in this harbourside reserve — a must for green thumbs.

Where to stay

It is hard to know which way to turn when staying at the NRMA Sydney Lakeside Holiday Park, bracketed by open sea on one side and the watery playground that is Narrabeen Lagoon on the other, in Sydney's Northern Beaches. It offers a mix of tent and caravan sites, cabins, villas and a "bunkhouse" just 29km from the Sydney CBD. When you're not exploring the city, you can make the most of Narrabeen's renowned surf beach or join the locals kayaking and windsurfing on the lagoon, or walking its recently opened circuit trail.

For a more central location, Travelodge Hotel Sydney in Wentworth Avenue puts you right near the city's Hyde Park, Museum Station and countless cafes, restaurants, clubs and shops. Ask the concierge for their insider's tip on where to go, or simply point yourself in any direction and keep your eyes and ears open — you can't go wrong.

Exclusive discounts on fuel, parking and accomodation

And so much more with NRMA Blue for just $5 a month