Sydney Suburbs – 3 to explore

So you have ogled at the Sydney Opera House, climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge, rolled around the verdant lawns at the Royal Botanic Gardens, ambled down the sensational Bondi beach and strolled down the aisles at David Jones and Meyer? What’s left to do you in this sexy, sunny city of fit and gleaming health nuts? Well, this only means that it is time to explore the suburbs!

My maiden trip to Sydney in 2013 involved ticking off the major Lonely Planet-certified tourist sites, so on my second trip in 2016, I decided that the spotlight should be on the suburbs. They may not be that polished and gritty, but it is about as close as it gets to living in Australia.

Here’re three Sydney suburbs that I enjoyed forking out an extra $3.50 for a train ride from Central Station (yes, traveling around Sydney is expensive)  or for a ferry ride from Circular Quay Station down the Parramatta River.

 

  1. Newtown
A row of historic shophouses that now houses hip shops in Newtown, Sydney
A row of historic shophouses that now houses hip shops in Newtown, Sydney

Welcome to Newtown, or known as bohemian paradise! There are no lack of hippies with technicoloured hair drinking coffee whilst smoking. Mohawk-crowned men holding hands and the arty-farty grandmas in colourful pigtails strutting around. These are just some of the quirky characters ambling down the main artery of King’s Street in Sydney’s alternative enclave.

I spent four glorious hours along King’s Street hopping from store to store. And boy, it was hit after hit. Outlandish vintage clothes from the swinging sixties, CDs (a rarity in digital-dominated Singapore),  “alternative” books on gays and lesbians, mysterious books wrapped in brown paper, too-cute but useless accessories – hello flamingo floats and watermelon-designed straws, Newtown has everything for you.

Each shop has a distinct identity and so much to offer, even if you’re merely window-shopping. Turn right at the entrance of Newtown station and you find yourself on Australia Street. Stop by Bar Muda, which serves the best brunch dish that I have had in Sydney. Go for the Potato Stack – it is every hashbrown lover’s wet dream come through. Blocks of toast bread-sized potato cubes are stacked on top of each and decorated with cherry tomatoes and grilled eggplants.

Next door is Black Star Pastry, where tourists only have eyes for the renowned watermelon cake, while the locals would go for their hefty sandwiches and hearty leek pies.

The bookstore scene in Newtown is solid with Elizabeth Bookstore & Better Read Than Dead, and there is a factory outlet shop at the tail-end of the street that is having a permanent 50% discount on its mono chromatically chic clothes. Apparently, its other outlet at the more mainstream Oxford Street sells the clothes at least $50. What a steal!

 

  1. Cockatoo Island
Cockatoo Island Sydney Australia
Abandoned ship display in Cockatoo Island, Sydney, Australia

Camping on Cockatoo Island is the first thing you’d associate on one of Australia’s earliest and versatile shipyards – the former prison island was a key naval base for the allied forces during the Second World War, before being converted to a shipyard and now a glamping hotpsot. And in case you’re wondering, there’re no parrots croaking on this parcel of land that soaks up Sydney’s fabulous skyline.

Cockatoo Island, Sydney, Australia
The view of the Sydney skyline from Cockatoo Island, Sydney, Australia

The shell of its former past can be found in the shipyard warehouses and factories on the island. film-set worthy as I stumbled upon filming in

They are literally film-set worthy as I stumbled upon filming session while exploring eerily vacant factories filled with rusty machinery. To navigate around the island on foot, renting an audio map is sufficient unless maritime history is your cup of tea. The stand-out point was what used to known as the governor’s house that’s perched on top of a hill, surrounded by

Don’t miss the Governor’s House that’s perched on top of a hill and surrounded by a row of cosy cottages that have been converted to holiday chalets. There’s also a tennis court nearby in a ghastly condition.

  1. Balmain
Houses in the old town of Balmain in Sydney, Australia
Houses in the old town of Balmain in Sydney, Australia

Balmain is not on the “top places to visit” list in Sydney. It is, after all, one of the oldest residential enclaves in Sydney. Well, the only reason that drew me to visit the pub-dense former working class borough is the Balmain Market that is held every Saturday at St Andrew’s Church till 4pm.

I arrived slightly later at 4.15pm from a long-winded bus ride from Glebe (which has one of the best Saturday markets in Sydney)  and everything was packed up. The next best option was to go “heritage house-hunting”.

The endless rows of time-tested cottages and houses are so beautifully quaint. Download a Balmain walking tour and it points out now-defunct landmarks such as the former post office and even a holding place for prisoners in the neighbourhood. The long stretch of tree-lined boulevards lined with homes that get larglamorousre glamourous as you head towards to the gleaming riverside. What a good respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.

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