Forever, Sydney has been at the top of the list for backpackers the world over. Its allure is so complete that many who arrive intending to just spend a few days on the beach end up never wanting to leave. That’s the thing, there’s so much more to Sydney than just the idealistic novelty of sun, sea and sand within a city – though they obviously do play a huge part. Here are just some of the reasons why we all love Sydney so…
1. The weather (of course)
I hate to be clichéd, but come on, how am I supposed to write about Sydney and not mention the weather? We all see Sydney as a paradise of beaming sun and bright blue sky – and unlike with most idealised views, this one isn’t far off the truth.
The locals might complain that it can be a little ‘muggy’ or about the odd storm during the summer months, however they are the sort of people shiver at the ‘cold’ when it hits 14C. For most of us, the almost constant sun, the 30C heat, tamed by a cool sea breeze, and the seeming imperviousness to rain makes Sydney a utopia already, without all the other good stuff that’s going to come in this list
But that’s probably the thing, it’s all that good weather and healthy daily dosages of vitamin D that breeds so much awesomeness into the city, the people that live there and, inevitably, the people that visit. I mean, how can you not be awesome when you’re constantly bronzed and every day is a beach weather day?
2. The beaches (obviously)
Another obvious one, I know, but, when a place is so famous for its seafront and beach culture, you know you have to write about it. Three beaches you must check out are…
Bondi & Tamarama
OK, so some people think of it as a bit of a tourist trap and it can get mightily crowded, but then again, it’s for good reason that Bondi is one of Sydney’s most popular beaches.
Spotlessly clean with its fine white sand and clear blue sea, waves a’crashin’, it’s perfect for any favoured seaside pastime; whether that be slowly roasting under the scorching sun, swimming, surfing or just people watching (it’s where you’ll find all the beautiful people after all).
Close to countless backpacker bunks and with so many bars in the area, Bondi is great for a bit of a beachside party too. Favourites include the Hotel Bondi, which is packed all though the summer with travellers and locals alike, the beach-view Bucket List and the nearby Side Bar, which sits in the basement of a huge Wake Up! Hostel. Then of course there’s the famous Coogee strip, where there’s no shortage of fun, any time, day or night.
If you fancy escaping the throng of folks and finding somewhere a little quieter, take a stroll along the famous costal cliff walk and you’ll find the beautiful and secluded Tamarama. Here you’re always likely to find a spot to sit and can take a quiet swim, without constantly bashing into people’s legs.
Backed by a line of trees, there’s an air of calm to this Sydney beach. It’s pretty good for everything you can do on Bondi, really, with its lush powdery sand, beautiful blue waves and popular surf school. The added bonus is there’s a little more space for your towel.
Of course, you have to put in a little more effort to get there. You’ll need to take the F1 ferry from Wharf Six at Circular Quay, but it’s not too bad, really, bobbing along that perfect ocean to your destination. It easily beats the bus.
The real amazing thing is this is classed as a suburb of Australia. A picturesque far cry from what most of us expect from our own city suburbs and commuter belt towns.
But don’t write this place off as sleepy, there’s plenty going on in the evenings. The New Brighton Hotel Shark Bar serves cheap $5 cocktails all day, while Hotel Steyne offers something for the hipster crowd and the Old Manly Boatshead has all you need for those penny saving cheap ’n’ cheerful drinks.
Just a short walk from the bus stop at La Perouse, Congwong beach offers a quieter, more old-world seaside feel. It’s ideal if you want to escape the crowds and enjoy the sun and sea with a little more peace and quiet. Oh, and the next beach is considered ‘clothing optional’, if you like that kind of thing.
Explore the city by kayak
And because it’s by the water, you can actually explore the city and the surrounding area by kayak, which is by far the most badass way to explore any city ever. Paddle around the bay, the marina and out to the national park’s waterways to experience the area’s totally idiosyncratic wildlife.
As we all know, Sydneyites can drink with the best of them. While I’m sure the Brit will want to quibble over which national character has the fortitude to put away more, and the Germans have a pretty decent claim to beer fame too, we all know Aussie’s have pubbing down to a perfection. A pub culture to rival their pommie cousins, with that magical climate that means it’s always beer garden weather.
As a 168 year old Sydney landmark, Hero of Waterloo really can’t be missed. Its ace selection of craft beers is far from the only attraction here, what with its rich colonial history. After sipping a couple of schooners, take on the ghost tour and learn about the pub’s secret tunnel.
If you’re a little peckish after sinking all those ice cold beers, hit up the Australian Heritage Hotel. It’s another classic Aussie pub with plenty to drink, but the real eye catcher here has to be the saltwater crocodile pizza – where else are you going to find that?
For something even livelier, give Oxford Art Factory a go. It’s a pretty cool spot, inspired by Andy Warhol’s 1960’s New York ‘Factory’, which hosts bands and live music acts from all over the world.
Then there’s Scruffy Murphy’s, a huge bar that attracts all kinds of clientele, from city workers to students to backpackers. With four bars and a nightclub downstairs, there’s plenty of atmosphere and enough to keep you interested for the duration.
Finally, there’s Jacksons on George. A popular spot for locals, it’s close to the city centre and has a whopping five bars across four levels. It also has a 24 hour liquor license, so is open obscenely late at the weekends. Whether you’re looking for live music, DJ’s spinning floor-fillers or simply to catch up with a little sport, this is the spot for you.
4. The underground parties
The boom of the Sydney underground party scene is something that travellers are really going to love. Not only do these good, old-fashioned warehouse parties snag the best DJs, but are usual bring-your-own-bottle affairs too, making it a little easier on the old purse strings.
According to Sydney Timeout, the top underground circuit promoters include People Must Jam, delivering their audiences all they could ever want in modern disco, Picnic who know a thing or two about dance to say the least and Under the Radar, who specialise in deep house. Of course, there’s far more out there, so it’s worth doing your research.
Not surprisingly, beach parties are popular around here too. The best are usually spread by word of mouth, so keep your ear to the ground or hope you meet and backpacker or local who’s in the know. What these usually involve is hauling a sound system down to a secluded bit of beach and grooving by the sea with a few bottles. In other words, bliss.
Boat parties are pretty big too, what with the city having one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. A boat party ticket will set you back a bit, but is surely worth it for a one-off treat. Where else are you going to find one this grand?
5. The food
Being the international city Sydney is, it’s full of all the same global cuisine you can find in any other great metropolis around the world. That’s on top of the unique Australian offerings you’ll only get over here, like kangaroo and crocodile. Still, its real speciality has to be its seafood. Any surprise, considering its location?
Get yourself down to the Sydney Fish Market, where you’ll find a rainbow selection of all the best fruits of the sea you’re likely to find anywhere. One particular standout is the Sydney rock oyster, known for its intense metallic-like taste.
But it’s not really necessarily about the food itself, but rather how you enjoy it. It’s true what they say about Aussies and barbeques, and you should get yourself down to Coogee to experience the barbie-beer-beach combo for yourself.
Or if you’re feeling a little flush, check out some of the incredible waterside dining around the city and its surrounding suburbs. Few other cities can claim to have the food and the perfect environment.
6. You’ll inevitably love the Sydney folk and they’ll love you
You can’t help but feel kind of loved by anyone that calls you ‘mate’ or ‘darling’ in a Sydneyite Aussie accent. It’s not the same as the Essex or East London version, which comes across more menacing the more friendly it tries to sound. It’s that take-it-easy speak that puts us all at ease.
So I suppose that’s why it goes down so well with all the travellers. While the Brit accent might win them over in the States, invariably the Aussie’s accent wins over everyone that travels down under. So while you’re there, make sure you hit up some parties with those locals.
7. Egalitarianism and Opportunity
According to many Sydneyites, one of their favourite characteristics about the city is its egalitarianism. According to many, the city never developed the same kind of class system that exists elsewhere – even in other ‘New World’ places like the USA, where old money and new money always came into conflict.
It’s most likely down to its ‘convict past’, when it was used as a penal colony to send undesirables from the British mainland; usually for petty crimes and misdemeanours. Most who wound up on the shores of Sydney had nothing. When some found their fortune in the country after release, the majority of those lucky souls didn’t forget where they came from.
While there is, of course, divisions in wealth in a city as business-driven as Sydney, as Eugene Tan reported in CNN Travel.
“This in a city in which an unemployed man can sit on the beach next to a lawyer, and they’ll view each other as just another person.”
That’s not to mention that the city pays well – really well. Which is why so many backpackers are lining up for working holidays in the city.
8. Its laidback attitude
Anyone that’s lived in a major metropolitan area will quickly notice that Sydney is incredibly laidback when compared to other major cities. It’s not really hard to see why either, considering this list. When things are so beautiful, when there’s sun to be had and beaches to lounge on, why would you want to waste life worrying only about work or life’s other petty problems?
When we’re scurrying from home to the office, in the dark, under our umbrellas, life can become a little blinkered. Not in Sydney. While there’s opportunity here, it’s not a black hole that sucks you into the abyss.
People still see the overall importance in enjoying life over here. You can see that frame of mind on every beach, in every pub and at every party you visit.
No doubt something we could all learn from…
9. The Blue Mountains, Byron Bay and the rest of New South Wales
The beauty doesn’t stop with the beaches and sea. Just bordering the Sydney metropolitan area, a little more inland, is the mind blowing Blue Mountains; part of the extensive mountainous region that make up the Great Dividing Range. The view from the peaks over the great valleys of trees and vegetation is incredible, and although the trails can be tiring, they’re well worth the hike.
It’s also a great area for checking out some Aboriginal history. You can find cave drawings and hand stencils dotted around all over the place. It’s best to get yourself onto a guided tour to learn a little more about their incredible history (and their plight since Europeans arrived in the 1600’s). On top of that, you can see a great deal of Australia’s unique and incredible wildlife around these parts, free and in nature. My particular favourite; the duckbilled platypus.
But hey, why not one last beach? A little further up north on the border of Queensland is the traveller favourite, Byron Bay – world famous for its surfing and hippy-like, chilled out atmosphere. Besides the beach, a highlight of this cool little backpacker town is The Railway Friendly Bar with its sweet little outdoor stage that plays host to live music every night.
Of course, that’s just the beginning. With countless seaside towns (Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Coff’s Harbour) and national parks to check out all over New South Wales, as well as unique gems like the hippy paradise, Nimbin (best experienced during Mardi Gras in May), there’s a lot you going to have to see out there.
So, most of this list applies pretty much all over this incredible country. On the East Coast alone there’s countless incredible sights and experiences waiting for you; from the sublime Fraser Island to the unreal Great Barrier Reef up at Cairns – and all the beach parties in between.
It’s always best to travel Australia south to north anyway, so you’re going to have to check out New South Wales first. And when you do, make sure you do it properly, else you’ll regret it. It is truly one of the coolest, most exciting places in the world. Why do you think all travellers love it so?
Now all that’s left is to experience it all yourself in the flesh. Book your stay in Sydney now.