Discover the secrets of Sydney's with our pick of the coolest hidden gems
With stretches of beautiful coastline, enchanting gardens and some of the most iconic architecture in the world, Sydney isn't short of a visual masterpiece. But beneath the surface of our cherished Harbour City sits a stack of lesser-known hideaways just waiting to be explored.
Go off the beaten track and discover some of the city's best-kept secrets. From backstreet cocktail haunts to forgotten parklands, these secrets of Sydney are hidden away for a reason. Lucky for you we're willing to share them with you, so feel free to take your pick from our favourite undercover hideouts. Just remember, not to tell anyone. It's a secret.
SECRETS OF SYDNEY - HIDDEN BARS
Crowned as one of Sydney's coolest bars, this New York-style speakeasy brings late-night Manhattan vibes to the heart of the city. Disguised by a backstreet neon psychic sign, step through swathes of velvets into a world of vintage glamour. Famed for its world-class cocktails, burlesque shows and decadent late-night eats – think Beluga caviar, oysters with Martini and midnight New York steaks, which are legendary. This is no ordinary cocktail bar.
DJs spin on the decks here till late, and if you're still at the bar when it's closing time, you'll receive a complimentary bowl of chicken soup. And of course you can book in for a personalised tarot card reading with their in-house psychic. Expect the unexpected.
9A Barrack Street, Sydney
You’d be forgiven if you walked straight past this place – it’s a 1920's-style bar that’s disguised as a butcher. Pretty cool, right? Inside, Earl's Juke Joint pays homage to New Orleans with low lighting, eclectic music and strong cocktails. If you're in Newtown, you need to seek this neat little gem out.
407 King St, Newtown
Make your way through a functioning barber shop to this hidden watering hole, where impressive cocktails, wines and craft beers await. South Australian and French drops dominate the wine menu while Young Henry’s and Little Creatures keep craft beer lovers content.
89 York St, Wynyard
Old Mate’s Place in the CBD has the best of both worlds; a well-hidden, stately drinking den, and outside – a bright, sun-drenched open-air bar. Hidden inside a rundown office building, this two-floor juxtaposed venue serves up a broad range of signature and classics cocktails alongside American-styled bites.
Level 4/199 Clarence Street, CBD
SECRETS OF SYDNEY - HIDDEN RESTAURANTS
Located next to a kebab shop in Redfern, nestled behind an unassuming glass door is Ron's Upstairs. You might get the feeling you've stumbled into somewhere you're not supposed to, but rest assured if the bright red and green neon sign says OPEN, then you're good to go. The Mediterranean eatery is decked out in nostalgic kitsch reminiscent of a '70s diner (think fairy-lit plastic grape vines strung from wall to wall, lacquered tables and red carpet). Order the rotisseries chook with toum-style garlic sauce and go all out with the chilli dip, if you dare.
133A Redfern St, Redfern
This distinct, underground Italian steakhouse, bar and wine shop is well worth the mysterious adventure. Once you do find the deliberately unmarked doorway in a CBD backstreet, you'll be lead downstairs to a dimly lit room. We won't lie, finding your way isn't easy, but trust us, a steak tastes way better once you've earned it! When it comes to the restaurant menu, less is more. Bistecca is solely dedicated to the art of the classic Tuscan steak dish, bistecca alla Fiorentina. Diners are invited to inspect their cut of meat, which is weighed tableside, while they peruse the long list of sides that can be paired with their steak.
3 Dalley Street, Circular Quay
So cool it hurts, this motorbike shop-cum-dining destination is a buzzing hive of activity most days of the week, albeit off the beaten track. Famed for its warming bowls of ramen (not just for dinner, breakfast and lunch, too), but their coffee and modern Australian-Japanese café fare is equally as good.
1C Whateley Street, Newtown
Vegetarians and vegans will be all too familiar with Yulli's delicious plant-based delights, but what you might not know about is the secret bar/art space that's hidden away on the second floor. Stop off at Yulli's for a wholesome vegan-friendly feast, then head to the bar to check out what artistic surprises they have in store. Check the schedule to see what's on, but it could be anything from slam poetry and bluegrass music to themed film nights. There's a good selection of wines and a snack menu available, so you'll basically get dinner and a show for the price of one. Winning.
417 Crown Street, Surry Hills
SECRETS OF SYDNEY - HIDDEN BEACHES
Collins Flat Beach, Manly
Tucked away on the harbour-side of Manly, Collins Flat Beach is an idyllic spot that offers sprawling skyline views and a ton of privacy. It’s accessible only via water or walking trails, and is the kind of place that prompts Instagram posts captioned with, “How’s the serenity?” And serene it is.
Lady Bay Beach, Watsons Bay
Perched between South Head and Camp Cove, this tiny beach is one of the best secret beaches on Sydney’s coastline – and that’s a pretty big call! It boasts stunning views of the harbour and skyline, and the water is gentle and inviting. Oh, and your swimmers are completely optional, if you know what we mean!
Parsley Bay, Vaucluse
Next time you’re heading Vaucluse way, skip the popular Nielsen Park and stop at Parsley Bay instead. This local gem is as pretty as a postcard, with crystal clear water, a waterfall and a wooden bridge harking back to the 1920s.
Mackenzie’s Bay, Tamarama
Now, Mackenzie’s Bay isn’t ‘hidden’ as such – it just doesn’t exist most of the time. Let us explain. Usually, this small cove between Bondi and Tamarama Beach is just a rocky bay that attracts surfers, fishermen and a few brave sunbathers. But every few years at the beginning of winter, the bay becomes a beach overnight. Yes, really! It’s a mystery in that no one knows exactly when it will happen, but experts believe it’s due to a special combination of shifting sand and low tide. How cool is that?
Looking for more secluded spots? Here's our pick of the best hidden beaches in Sydney.
SECRETS OF SYDNEY - HIDDEN PLACES
Paddington Reservoir Gardens
Hidden, but also right under our noses, this sunken garden will appeal to anyone with an appetite for architecture, or those who just like a little peace and quiet away from bustling Oxford Street. This idyllic park was inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, with its enormous chambers, hanging gardens and striking water features. A true Sydney secret.
251-255 Oxford Street, Paddington
Wendy's Secret Garden
Ok, so this might not be a secret anymore (thanks to Instagram), but this magical oasis instantly transports its visitors to another world, despite it's North Sydney address. The enchanting gardens are brimming with native plants and flowers that spill over every inch of the garden, making this the perfect spot for an afternoon stroll. With plenty of picturesque corners to explore, why not settle in for a picnic as well?
Lavender Street, Lavender Bay
Charming Maccallum Pool on Sydney Harbour comes complete with a wooden boardwalk and picket fence – we guarantee you'll be in your vintage bathers in no time. Situated on the western side of Cremorne Point, this Lower North Shore secret has uninterrupted views of the city. At only 33 meters it has a tendency to fill up on hot days.
Milson Road, Cremorne Point
Tucked away on a hidden alleyway just moments from Martin Place, you'll find a canopy of suspended birdcages that pay homage to the birds that once chirped and fluttered the streets of Sydney. The birds were gradually forced out by European settlement, so this moving art installation on Angel Place commemorates the city's forgotten feathers with enchanting bird songs that change from day to night, as well as listing the hundreds of native species listed either as extinct or threatened.
If you liked our round-up of the best secrets of Sydney to uncover, we've got plenty more things to do in Sydney that'll keep you entertained. You'll love our romantic restaurants and cute date night ideas – think fun activities like cooking and pottery classes. Or upgrade your day to an entire weekend with our pick of romantic boutique hotels. Or if you're thinking of travelling further afield, our bucket list Australian road trips have you covered.