Sydney Like a Local

Sydney Harbour bridge, CBD and opera house after sunset, Sydney, Australia

Sydney Like a Local

This guest post was written by Alex Johnson, a blogger and lover of the little things in life, from delicious brunch spots to interior design. Recently moving to Sydney, he began his blog Inspire A Better Life to positively influence others to get out there and see all life has to offer. Join Alex as he discovers this life one day at a time, documenting his thoughts and others along the way!


If you’ve faced the dilemma I had found myself in multiple times, where you come to visit a new city but your research is only showing you the tourist hot spots, you know the struggle. Too many times do city guides show you the more famous and well-known attractions, that can also be quite pricey for what you get. So sit back, and let me take you through how to experience Sydney like a true local!

Sydney Harbour bridge, CBD and opera house after sunset, Sydney, Australia

Sydney Harbour bridge, CBD and opera house
Picture by Romain Pontida

Where to stay


Pretty obvious by the name, Central Station is more or less in the centre of Sydney. Central is perfect for those looking for the convenience of being close to public transport. Both buses, trains, and light rail (tram) pass through Central so getting around is easy. Central is a popular place to stay due to its transport access, but is still very close to the city centre (CBD).


If you don’t mind the hustle and bustle, and don’t mind a bit of nightlife, Newtown is the place for you. This inner-city “alternative” suburb is great for boutique shopping, a vast and extensive range of eateries, craft breweries, and bars. You won’t find many tourists here, just the locals. During the day, King Street is alive with people taking a stroll down the street visiting the colourful stores, and grabbing a bite.

Surry Hills

Surry Hills’ streets are lined with fantastic restaurants, cafes, and bars, treating you well from breakfast to dinner. Known as the café capital of Sydney, Surry Hills is the perfect place to stay for foodies and fashionistas. Surry Hills is also known for its garment district, wholesale fashion, and general trendy and fashionable vibes. It’s also a short walk to the equally fashionable suburb of Paddington.

The Rocks

There’s no denying that the Rocks is a stunning location to stay at in Sydney. With most hotels offering views of the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, and harbour waters, the prices can be a bit out of range for most. Yes, the Rocks is relatively touristy but it’s very easy to get around and is within close proximity to a wide range of activities. It’s the perfect place to check out NYE in Sydney with front row seats to the fireworks!

What to do

“Climb” the Harbour Bridge

No doubt that seeing the tiny specks of people climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge from Circular Quay, you’re bound to feel a bit jealous that you’re not climbing the bridge yourself. However, the limited availability and cost (at around $250/pp) rules out the experience for a lot of people. But fear not there are cheaper and more available alternatives! Climb up to Pylon Lookout, or walk across the pedestrian walkway on the bridge.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge
Picture by Sinead Friel

Take the ferry to Manly

The ferry ride to Manly is alone enough of a reason to Manly. Not as popular as the infamous Bondi Beach, Manly is known for its lively promenade, live music, and beachside bars perfect for Sunday sessions. The ferry ride from Circular is only 30 minutes, and boasts beautiful views of Sydney Harbour, the Opera House, and the city skyline!

Hire a Car

This is my biggest local tip to exploring Sydney if you’re planning to go beyond the city. There is so much more to Sydney than just what is in the city! If you have the time, hire a car and travel beyond the city limits. Some of my favourite go places that are between an hour and three hours from Sydney are: the Blue Mountains (2hrs), Jervis Bay (3hrs), and Wollongong (1.5hrs). However, if you plan on just staying in the city I would definitely not recommend driving as the parking in the city is scarce and pricey!

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains
Picture by Andrew Fysh

What to eat


Aussies love their coffee and we damn well know how to make a great coffee. Start your morning off by getting yourself down to the local coffee shop/stand and order yourself the Aussie specialty a ‘flat white’ and read the paper. For breakfast you can’t go wrong with smashed avo toast with a poached egg, vegemite toast, and toasties.

Picture by Katherine Lim


To get an authentic Aussie lunch is not sitting down in a restaurant somewhere, but buying sausages, bread, steaks, and salads, taking them down to the park and having a good old fashioned barbeque. Most parks in Sydney will have an allocated BBQ area where you can set up your ‘barbie’ for free.

If you don’t have the time for a BBQ, I would recommend heading down to the pub (or hotel) and grabbing a lunch. You’ll often find Aussie staples like pies, chicken parmigiana, schnitzel, and burgers are the daily special from about $10 to $15!


Australian beef and seafood are amongst the best and freshest around the world, so you definitely can’t go wrong with ordering both of those items! If you’re dining beachside like at Bondi Icebergs or in Circular, the seafood platters are worth looking at. It may sound weird seeing as the kangaroo is a national emblem and is featured on the Australian flag, but you can also order a kangaroo steak. The meat is tender and lean, and it definitely earns bragging rights when you go back home!

Icebergs restaurant in Sydney

Icebergs restaurant
Picture by Alan Lam


So there you have it, a Sydney local’s guide to really experiencing all that Sydney has to offer! There is so much to see and do; you’re going to be spoilt for choice!



French travel lover and expat in Texas | Translator and main writer for A Journey Away travel blog