Sydney: Guide from a Local

I don’t know about you but one of the first things I do when I get to a new place is ask a local for a quick list of everything that they recommend. Whether it’s the cab driver from the airport, the hotel receptionist at check-in or the waiter for our first meal; I always take a moment to pick the brains of a passionate local so I can saunter off the tourist-beaten path.

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I WISH that I knew Ashleigh when my campervan braved the streets of Sydney! Unfortunately, I met her a year after our trip ended when I was working in Toronto…

Originally from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, she is everything that you imagine a true Aussie to be. An infectious and insatiable bubble of energy and a constant source of sunshine.

Despite my missing out on her best advice and recommendations for my trip to magnificent Sydney, YOU don’t have to!


I sent her some of my burning questions so you can hear all about the best things to do in Sydney during your time there – Straight from a born and raised local.  What better source is there?


The nature – bush, beach, and water! –  iconic landmarks, seeing a different way of life, some unique wildlife, and honestly, just to say you’ve been there!  


Work hard, play hard. Stylish, sophisticated and chilled out.


  • The waterfront of course! There are lots of boats, ferries and water taxis that you can use to get around and soak up the amazing views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. You can also stroll along the boardwalks and stop at the cafes and restaurants that line the harbour. There is nothing better than sitting outside by the water and watching the day go by in the sun – “Patio season” is year-round in Sydney! 
  • Taronga Zoo – The giraffes have the craziest view of the city… 
  • Luna Park– I love going on the Ferris wheel and riding it over the Harbour. That’s another breath-taking view of the bridge.  
  • If you’re up for boosting your adrenaline levels, give the Harbour Bridge Climb or the Sydney Tower Eye Skywalk a try! Alternatively, for sky-high views without the panic attack, you can also walk across the Bridge alongside the traffic on the separated pedestrian laneway. 
  • Explore The Rocks on the city-side of the Harbour Bridge which has cool markets on the weekends, Circular Quay and Darling Harbour.  
  • Walk around the Royal Botanical Gardens and enjoy the view from the historical Mrs Macquarie’s Chair which offers one of the best vantage points of the city. 
  • Don’t forget the AquariumArt galleries, museums, and more… 

Luna Park


Two of our famous beaches are Bondi and Manly.

(Manly is better… but I say that because we have a rivalry between the two sides of the Bridge and that’s where I’m from!)

Both beaches have bars, restaurants and coffee places around them to enjoy. If you’re on a budget, stop at a local grocery or convenience store and have a picnic on the beach instead! If you time it right, you’ll stumble on one of the many local food or music festivals.

If that doesn’t itch your beach fix, I would also recommend a day-trip to Palm Beach. Walk up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse (CLICK HERE for an amazing 60-second video tour & view!), go to The Boathouse for brekkie, and do a Pittwater Kayak tour.  Being on the water, exercising and enjoying the bush, local and Aboriginal history, great views and a private/secluded beach… Need I say more?

Finally, what would a trip to Australia be without setting your eyes on some of these beautiful little guys (above)?! Schedule in a visit to the Koala Park Sanctuary or check out some of the other exotic wildlife down-under at WildLife Sydney and Featherdale Park



Here are some of my favourites from the Northern Beaches/Sydney’s north (the best side, trust me):

    Wharf Bar, Manly Wine, Skiff Club, In Situ… Honestly, just walk The Corso (the part between Manly Wharf where you get off the ferry and the beach) and you can’t go wrong with anything there. Even the late night pizza and kebabs are great!

    Crows Nest Small Bar 
    and The Stoned Crow are the places to go to hang with the locals. There are some great restaurants along that strip too, including Vietnamese, Mexican, sushi and burgers…

    The Crows Nest Hotel
    , affectionally known as “The Crowie” is definitely a local’s spot too and due to its late hours, live music, and non-city drinks prices, it’s always been a go-to.

    The Greens is a bowling club with bowling greens but people go there for lunch and evening drinks. I love going for jugs of beer and barefoot cocktail bowls too – A definite favourite pastime of Sydney-siders.

    Opera Bar  (Check out their website & tell me you don’t want to be there?!) You’ll get one of the best views of the city as well as live music and delicious pizza and cocktails. Spending time there on a warm summer night when the sun is setting and making the city glow is magic.

    Visit The Argyle day or night – I’ve had great days in the courtyard sun there as well as unforgettable nights of dancing too. 
    Or if you feel like dressing up, do Blu-Bar on 36 on the top of the Shangri-la Hotel

    The Island is another one of my faves: It’s a floating bar in the middle of the Harbour!

    Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel
    Bondi Icebergs
    The Bucket List   
    Or any of the Merivale Venues!


If you’re staying centrally in the city, there are buses and trains that you can use to see the sights. I also think they’re building a light rail in one of the main roads of the city too which will be so useful!

If you’re heading to the beaches, take advantage of the ferries such as Manly Fast Ferries. You’ll see so much of the city and get out on the Harbour (without the expensive boat rental price tag!) I would highly recommend checking timetables before you travel, especially on weekends, because they’re not as frequent as elsewhere in the world.  


Depending on your budget, you can find a wide range of places to rest your travel head! Hostels can be super fun and tend to be located by all the main places you’ll want to visit (use HostelWorld to find the best one for you!) Alternatively, have a look through rooms available on AirBnB to truly live like a local.

Do you Agree: I love making my own breakfast wherever I’m staying so a) I can save money b) I can eat healthily and c) it’s fun doing groceries in a different part of the world! Is that weird? I always love browsing the aisles.

☎  WORK? 

Working in Australia is definitely different to other countries like Canada where I am working now…  I find Australia more flexible, with better leave and more pay. Having said that, the country has experienced record economic growth, even surviving the Global Financial Crisis, so that definitely has had an impact.

It has a different communication style as well. I find people much more to-the-point and direct in Australia; my ‘bluntness’ didn’t go down too well in Canada when I first got here(!) I also feel like Australia has a bit more of a work-hard-play-hard attitude. People really do their work and get the job done, and people expect a high standard, but we also love living our lives after work as well, so you have a really good opportunity for an awesome work-life balance.  

Resources for growing industries and jobs:
Australia’s Growing Industries 

Skills Shortages
Job Outlook: Industry
Most in Demand Jobs in Australia



Sydney’s weather is pretty beautiful, year-round. Sydney-siders do have a tendency to forget about winter and when it eventually comes around, everybody complains when the temperature drops below 20 C (!!) I think that the 10 – 15 C winter day temperatures feel worse because the city is on the water and it can get pretty windy. But hey, if you’re from anywhere else in the world, it is pretty heavenly!

with your Sydney travel partner and plan your trip like a local!

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  • Reply
    July 4, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    I love this post, it’s so helpful, especially for someone like me who’s never visited before. I’ve been dying to get to Sydney for ages and I definitely want to do that kayak tour! Ps – I also love grocery shopping in other countries, it’s so much fun haha.

  • Reply
    Evelyn, PathofPresence
    July 5, 2018 at 2:29 am

    Love this sage advice from a local! Saving this for our travels to Australia for sure. I’ll be on the look out for Sydney look alikes – 😉 looks like a wonderful adventure to discover a place from a non tourist vantage point.

  • Reply
    July 5, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Oh my goodness, I would love to go to Sydney! Love that it is a local perspective, rather than reading about all your typical touristy stuff.

  • Reply
    July 5, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Okay this is wonderful! What a thorough guide to Sydney!! I dream of going to Australia one day and when I do I will definitely be referencing this! I am also pinning it ❤️

  • Reply
    July 5, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    You make me want to go there even more!! And LOL on the Manly/Bondi beach rivalry!!

  • Reply
    July 5, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    I can’t wait to go to Sydney. It seems like such a fun place to visit.

    Xx, Nailil

  • Reply
    July 6, 2018 at 12:30 am

    Thanks for the insider tips! I have a weekend in Sydney in a few months and I think I will have to try the Crowie!

  • Reply
    July 6, 2018 at 2:37 am

    Oh man, I want to go to Australia so bad! This post is chalked full of good ideas for a trip there, thank you! I didn’t realize you could make more money while working less there…I sure do like the sound of that! 🤗

  • Reply
    Vu Ha
    July 6, 2018 at 6:42 am

    Great place to visit! With this hot weather, I just want to go there now!

  • Reply
    July 6, 2018 at 6:51 am

    I’ve always wanted to go to Australia and this just makes me even more keen! I’m thinking that Sydney is my next holiday destination! xx

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