Secret Sydney

Sydney is a hugely popular, well photographed and much talked about the city, so it is surprising that there are still so many secrets to be discovered.

Secret Beaches and Swimming Spots:

Sydney is famous for its beaches and coastal escapes, but the complexity of its coastline means there are hidden gems to be found. They can often be accessed at the end of walking trails, although some scenic ferry trips will take you close.

Hidden beaches for a private escape include Lady Martins Beach (Point Piper), Milk Beach (Vaucluse), Collins Flat Beach (Manly), Sirius Cove and Chinamans Beach (Mosman) and Wattamolla Beach (Royal National Park). Escape the crowds on Manly Beach by heading for the 50-metre tunnel, ‘the wormhole’ at the north end of the beach which will lead you to an exquisite strip of beach at Freshwater.

The Bronte Baths at the northern end of Bronte Beach, open since 1887, are a free year-round swimming venue, mostly visited by locals as it is less popular than its famous neighbour Bondi. Another hidden gem is Maccallum Pool, nestled on the Lower North Shore of the harbour replete with turquoise pool, white picket fence, sunbathing deck and rolling green lawns. Adding to the swoon-worthy holiday photo is the amazing view of the Harbour Bridge.

Secluded nature hideaways  

Wendy Whiteley, former wife of renowned artist Brett Whiteley, has channelled her artistic energy into Wendy’s Secret Garden. Next door to Luna Park in fashionable Kirribilli, the spectacularly curated maze of paths and vibrant colourful plants offer an oasis in the city.

Paddington Reservoir Gardens is a sunken garden, curated in an old reservoir that used to pump Sydney’s water supply. The original architecture is retained, so amongst the hanging gardens and lush plant life, you will find towering arches, reverberating chambers, and historic iron and brick features.

The secret stakes are upped by the unmarked door you need to find to get to Foundation Park in The Rocks. The doorway will lead you through to the park which is woven through the relic foundations of terrace houses on Playfair Street.

Secret Streets and hidden laneways

Sydney has a long and colourful history of side alleys, lanes and nooks that few people notice. But some have been given new ‘other’ lives by artists whose work would otherwise not be displayed.

Kimber Lane is an ordinary access path by day but at night its hanging silver figures and painted clouds come to life with a blue glow. The installation illuminates artwork that reflects the artist’s dual cultures of Indigenous Australia and China.

Installation art is also a theme in the peaceful Angel Place (off George Street) where a collection of 50 mismatched birdcages hang in tribute to the species driven out by white settlement. The soft sounds of birdsong quietly drift through the air.

Secret attractions

The following facilities and locations were a part of the different development stages of Sydney and have not all been lost as the city moves with the times.

In the heart of the CBD is an old Gothic building (circa 1868) beside Central Station. It was called Mortuary Station all those years ago and, while not functional now, was the start of the final journey by rail of the dead to Rookwood Necropolis.

A rare view of the earliest days of European settlement of Sydney is possible by joining the annual tunnel tour of The Tank Stream, the city’s first major water supply which can be traced back to 1789. It’s a visit not for the faint of heart who dislike closed spaces and soggy boots but can be achieved by default and staying dry by following the above-ground markers on city streets. Keep an eye out for the ticket ballot.

Elizabeth Bay House is emblematic of the historic houses established in the early days of settlement and that have survived with their grandeur intact thanks to the work of Sydney Living Museums. Once the finest house in the colony, the spirit of its regal rooms and decor is kept alive by a regular calendar of events that reminisce about the days of yore and celebrate the history of elegant nightlife.

Visit Clovelly Bowling Club for the address alone at 1 Ocean Street to get awe-inspiring views of the Pacific Ocean. On a clifftop between Bondi and Coogee, lies the perfect pit-stop of Clovelly Bowling Club where you can mingle with the friendly locals, take advantage of the cheap drinks, and join in some barefoot bowls.

This Sydney Harbour Bridge secret gets you away from the crowds and gives you some of the best views of the city. The Pylon Lookout is at the top of the south-east pylon of the Harbour Bridge – the one nearest to the Opera House. From The Rocks, take the footpath over the bridge, ascend the 200 steps and be rewarded with a glorious panorama of Sydney. And at only $15 entry, you can put your budgeted bridge climb money toward other Sydney adventures.