Dreaming ourselves to somewhere sunnier and most importantly warmer with this local's guide that was featured in the print mag a little while ago. One of the most vibrant cities of Australia: Sydney!
Words by Ben Mondy, photography by Nathan Smith
Its geographical jewels, the Australian ethos of work hard play hard and the influx of post war immigrants from Europe, have led to a place where hot surfer guys and gals drink quality coffee in Hungarian cafes, where transvestites swim lengths in ocean pools and where European backpackers maraud around, sunburned, sandy and free, generally having the best year of their lives.
The shimmering, gleaming city of Sydney is not called the Emerald City for nothing. It’s a geographical delight – the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Bondi Beach are global icons now posted on the world's official must visit list. And with bloody good reason – Sydney has to rank with Rio de Janeiro as one of the world’s best surf cities, a mix of stunning beaches, hedonistic lifestyle and urban culture. Not bad for a place that less than 200 years ago was a primitive colonial outpost, managed by a corrupt rum sodden army and powered by convicted felons.
Drinking in Australia is a national pastime and Sydney has enough cool pubs, bars and clubs to kill three livers. The Sunday session, a local summer afternoon tradition, at the beachside pubs is a given (as is the Monday work sickie). On the southern beaches, Cronulla’s Northies is a great arvo, in a short skirt, buff dude Home and Away kind of way. Similarly The Bronte Hotel in the Eastern suburbs and Newport Arms on the Northern Beaches are great Aussie beach pubs. Bondi’s Icebergs though offers the coldest beers and one of the best ocean views in the whole goddamn universe.
Drinking in Australia is a national pastime and Sydney has enough cool pubs, bars and clubs to kill three livers.
For more chic bars where the cool fashion set hang, hit the redeveloped Cockle Bay where Bungalow 8 serves cocktails while DJs spin their web. For later, Ruby Rabbits on Paddington’s Oxford Street hosts the young surf/skate/art crowd with heaving beats and loved up party people. Meanwhile Favela has risen luxuriously from the rubble of a disused building in Potts Point to provide a eat-drink-dance bar that could be in Cuba or San Paulo.
Heading west, away from the magnetic ocean and harbour, the inner west enclaves of Newtown, Enmore and Balmain offer your choice of gay, goth, gastro and grind grotty pubs, while live music institution such as the Annandale pounds out Aussie independent music at its best.
It’s hard to go past Paddington, located three miles east of downtown Sydney. “Paddo" has a New York’s Greenwich village-style feel and all you could desire for the ultimate shopping experience. The Paddington Markets, open every Saturday from 10am in the local school grounds, offer 250 stalls ranging from retro clothes, slick sunnies, fair dinkum Ugg boots, funky furniture and single fin surfboards. The Paddy Markets are a Sydney institution and those with a good eye will leave with at least one affordable piece destined to show off back home.
“Paddo" has a New York’s Greenwich village-style feel and all you could desire for the ultimate shopping experience.
On the main strip Oxford Street boasts designer boutiques like Sass and Bide, Ksubi, Kate Madden, Collette Dinnigan plus beauty products like Aesop and Jo Malone. For those whose budget can’t stretch into the glitz, gloss and price tags of Oxford Street, a quick duck down one of the many backstreets will reveal a myriad of second hand clothes stores, book shops, art galleries, shoe stores and records stores. For something different try the Aboriginal Art Center, an excellent place to discover the finest indigenous bark paintings and the chance to take a pure piece of Australia back on the plane with you.
Australia has to be one of the best places in the world for backpacking with a huge range of hostels and backpackers offering cheap rates, huge travel options and raucous good times.
Australia has to be one of the best places in the world for backpacking with a huge range of hostels and backpackers offering cheap rates, huge travel options and raucous good times. Traditionally the beachside suburb of Coogee (pronounced Kud-gee) has been backpacker central with a range of similarly priced hostels and even longer stay apartments. Check out Wizard of Oz for a good range of cheap accommodation.
The same range applies in the centre of Sydney, with five or six huge backpackers all lying within a 500 metre walk of the main railway station, Central. The YHA has two large hostels and loads of cool travel packages operating from the premises. My favourite is the two, four and seven day learn to surf travel packages through Surf Camp Australia.
Basically every suburb will have a clean, fun backpacker accommodation, you just have to pick your beach. For a bit more money (and a bit more class) the best boutique hotels with a twist include the heritage listed Dive Hotel in Coogee, while the Kirketon and Medusa in Darlinghurt offer whack decor and urban chic. If you’ve won the lottery, or bagged a rich Aussie pro surfer, head to the Establishment for the five star treatment.
Basically every suburb will have a clean, fun backpacker accommodation, you just have to pick your beach...
The food in Sydney is cheap, fresh and bloody delicious, a function of the great climate and wide ethnic influence. And, as an Aussi I may be biased, but you’ll go a long, long way to find a bad coffee. For the best steak, ribs or burger head to Hurricanes in Bondi Beach. You can’t book and you may have to wait and have a drink in the bar for a half hour or so with an impossibly good-looking crowd, but it’s always worth it.
The range of Thai restaurants in Sydney is ridiculous, but Longrain in Surrey Hills is the best of the best. For breakfast, Bill Grainger’s Bills in Darlinghurst has been the benchmark for two decades, and after you’ve had the ricotta hotcakes, served with fresh banana and honeycomb butter, you’ll know why. For tapas and good wine Firefly in Cockle Bay is swish, cool and intimate. Arthurs in Paddington has been doing proper traditional Italian pizza to packed houses for 30 years while Doyles, right on the harbour at Watsons Bay is known as the premier seafood restaurant in Australia. Go posh and sit upstairs, or quaff cold schooners in the beer garden with the locals and get fish and chips from the cheap bistro.
Take the one hour L90 public bus ride from Sydney centre to Palm Beach, Sydney’s most northern beach, for some surf lessons and a wicked day out. The bus goes over the Harbour Bridge then meanders through all the northern beaches. Palmy offers nice easy waves, a beautiful bush backdrop and a very chilled beach scene. If you want some extra inspiration, hop off and check out the Duke Kahanamoku statue at Freshwater Beach, the place where the famous Hawaiian introduced surfing to Australia back in 1914. The Duke took out Isobel Latham for a tandem session, making her the first ever Aussie surfer. Go Isobel.
If you want some extra inspiration, hop off and check out the Duke Kahanamoku statue at Freshwater Beach, the place where the famous Hawaiian introduced surfing to Australia back in 1914.
For more urban grit, try Waterloo Oval Skate Park, a new inner city street style plaza that has recreated the Cathedral Square near Cook and Phillip Park. Cathedral Square, a new development near Hyde Park, was perfect for skaters, except for one minor point, it was illegal. And so over one of Sydney’s most infamous ghetto parks a new skate mecca was born. In October and November also check out the Sculpture by the Sea, an exhibition that lies along the two kilometre cliff walk between Bondi and Bronte beaches. And if you can’t make it then, do the walk anyway, it’s breathtaking enough without the art.
Room: four share room hostel (per bed) 26 euros
Beer: 3.50 euros for pint
Hour on the internet: 1.40 euros
Bus ride: (Sydney to Bondi): 2.40 euros
Meal: Hurricane burger 10.40 euros
Surf board hire + two hour lesson: 23 euros
Meat pie: 1.10 euros