Hidden Sydney: Five Travel Tips for Adventurous Visits

Australia — By on June 29, 2011 at 12:00 pm

By Edd Morris

How much do you really know about Sydney? Even if you’ve never set foot in golden Australia, it’s easy to visualize the sweeping sails of the Sydney Opera House beside the mighty arches of the Harbor Bridge, while the blue bay sparkles gently beneath. You probably imagine elegant Sydney hotels bunched along the harbor-side; surfers in board-shorts; and vegemite on white toast for breakfast.

But there’s a lot you might not know. For starters, too many tourists have been tripped into thinking that Sydney is Australia’s capital (nope: Canberra). But there’s more subtle things: you might not have realized that Sydney is older than San Francisco, LA or Toronto; or that about a quarter of the people who live here speak a language other than English at home. Sydney is bigger, older and more cosmopolitan than you might initially imagine: and here are five hidden highlights to help you understand this exciting city.

Sleep Over in a Zoo
A standard stop on the Sydney tourist circuit is a quick Koala cuddle in the Taronga zoo. But how’s about being a little more adventurous and spending the night in a tent near the animal enclosures? The zoo’s brilliantly named ‘Snore and Roar’ program allows you to do just that – so you can wake up to the trumpeting of elephants and explore the site before any other tourists are allowed in.

Savor A Taste of Little Portugal
Of all of Sydney’s sprawling suburbs, the Portuguese enclave in Petersham is probably the tastiest. Portuguese restaurants and cafes fill a couple of streets around the station, inviting a leisurely stroll round the block. You’d be foolish not to stop for a lunch of spicy grilled chicken and cold beer at Petersham’s legendary Charcoal Chicken restaurant and, for afters, a Belem custard tart from a nearby bakery is a prerequisite.

Climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge
Part of discovering Sydney is seeing familiar things from new angles: and climbing the Harbour Bridge is certainly one way to get a magical new perspective of the bay. Cladded in huge grey jumpsuits, climbing tours can take you to the apex of the bridge in safety: it’s strenuous fun, but don’t look down.

Experience Sydney’s Oddest Museum

If you’ve got a strong constitution, pop into Sydney’s oddest attraction: the Museum of Human Disease. Inside, you’ll find a plethora of diseased bodyparts, all floating in carefully-catalogued glass jars. Although it’s a little gross-out, it’s not a freakshow: the museum’s part of New South Wales Uni’s medical school. It opens 3-5pm most weekday afternoons, and there is an admission charge.

Sunbathe on a Secret Sydney Beach
Life in Sydney pretty much revolves around time spent on the beach – and there’s quite a few to choose from. Each beach has its own particular amenities and attracts a certain crowd – My Destination Sydney is a great resource for pinpointing your future favorite. Generally speaking, however, the golden sands and easy waves of Manly Beach and Collaroy Beach are deservedly popular with both tourists and locals. However, if you want to head off the beaten track, navigate the two precipitous catwalks to deserted Bungan Beach in Northern Sydney.

Edd Morris has been a Londoner since 2005. That hasn’t cured his itchy feet – he still loves traveling the world in search of spicy food and someone to practice Spanish with.

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