Escape the city without leaving Sydney

Escape the city without leaving Sydney

Think Sydney is all about the city life? Think again. This exhilarating urban destination is a timeless pit stop, home to unspoiled beaches, fresh seafood and iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You may think you know all there is that Sydney has to offer, but take a deeper look and you’ll find more than you bargained for. 

Freedivers exploring the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, Manly

Encounter Australia’s iconic nature and wildlife 

You can get up close and personal with Australia’s native wildlife even from within the city. Sydney’s crystal clear waters and leafy animal parks transport you beyond the concrete jungle. 

Dive at Cabbage Tree Bay and submerge yourself in a marine park miracle at this once desolate spot. Located close to the world-famous Manly Beach, the bay was devoid of life just 15 years ago but is now teeming with sea critters like blue groupers, giant cuttlefish, wobbygongs (and a resident green turtle!) thanks to conservation efforts. You can also catch a glimpse of majestic humpback or southern right whales along walking trails from Bondi Beach to Coogee and North Head lookout in the months between May and November. 

Taronga Zoo, Sydney

Have kids in tow? Drop by Featherdale Wildlife Park for child-friendly animal encounters with koalas, kangaroos and reptiles. Or visit the harbourside Taronga Zoo Sydney, where you will have the opportunity to observe and interact with native wildlife and rare exotic animals. You can even book a stay at their eco-retreat and wake up to koalas hanging right outside your balcony! Talk about an immersive experience. 

Woman enjoying the serenity in Wendy Whiteley's Secret Garden in Lavender Bay, North Sydney

Get lost in whimsical gardens 

These hidden gems in Sydney are straight out of a fairy tale. Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and tumble down the rabbit hole to some of the dreamiest grounds Sydney can offer. 

Near Lavender Bay, Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden is a panoply of shrubs, herbs, winding pathways and enchanting artefacts. The trail is seemingly straightforward and short, but you may find yourself wanting to meander off the path for curious glimpses of the garden’s nooks and crannies. 

The origins of The Lex and Ruby Graham Gardens started with the planting of one elephant’s ear bulb that led to a flourishing courtship and lasting love between Lex and Ruby Graham in 1959. Love birds will want to stop by these magical gardens to appreciate this labour of love. 

Moss-covered stones and babbling creeks make up the foundation of Swain Gardens. This gorgeous gem is the perfect place to spend lazy afternoons reading a good book while sipping on a thermos of tea. Admire the garden’s stonework and manicured lawns as you retreat here for some well-needed respite from the city. 

A pretty park on the waters edge at Circular Quay, Sydney

From mid-October to mid-November each year, the streets of Sydney transform into a purple oasis as the jacaranda trees come into bloom. While not exactly a hidden gem, this ethereal display is one you’ll want to see with your own eyes. Some of the best vantage points to admire the jacaranda trees include Lavender Bay, Macquarie Street and Hunters Hill.

Aerial view of the Manly to Spit walk in Sydney Harbour National Park

Embark on mesmerising coastal walks and frolic on pristine beaches  

Quaint cobbled stone pathways, towering sandstone cliffs and pristine beaches aren’t as far away as one would think. Sydney is home to some of the most scenic coastal tracks, including the Bondi to Coogee walk that is an easy 6km, and features mesmerising rock pools, cliffs and bays.  

For a more heightened sense of accomplishment, travellers will also want to take on the new Bondi to Manly track  that spans 80km and eight segments – Bondi Beach to Watsons Bay; Watsons Bay to Rose Bay; Rose Bay to Darling Point; Darling Point to Kirribilli; Kirribilli to Taronga Zoo; Taronga Zoo to Spit Bridge; Spit Bridge to Manly Wharf; and Manly Wharf to Manly Bridge.  

Couple enjoying a morning of stand up paddleboarding at Watsons Bay in Sydney's eastern suburbs

Conquer beautiful sections of this walk one segment at a time. We recommend starting with the Bondi Beach to Watsons Bay section. The popular Bondi Beach is home to quintessential sun, sand and surf, and is a great place to start your exploration of Sydney. As you continue on, you’ll find Macquarie Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Australia, where you can even head on a guided tour. Revel in sparkling harbour views as you arrive in Watsons Bay. This protected cove is perfect for paddle boarding as well! 

For the history buffs, the Spit Bridge to Manly Wharf walk takes you through aboriginal sites. Aside from spectacular harbour, bush and coastal views, you will also be treated to the sight of 1,000 year old aboriginal rock engravings. If you’ve still got time on your hands when you’ve reached Manly Wharf, don’t forget to drop by the famous Manly Beach – a favourite among locals for some sun-kissed fun.