Secret Sydney: 10 Lesser Known Locations

Hidden gems in the Harbour City


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From the Opera House to Bondi Beach, Sydney is home to some world famous attractions. Drawing thousands of visitors each year, these sights are iconic, unmissable, and incredibly crowded. For those wanting to escape the crowds, the Harbour City is full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Below weโ€™ve compiled ten of the best secluded spots to explore in Sydney.ย ย ย 

1. Paddington Reservoir Gardens

Between 1866 and 1899 the Paddington Reservoir supplied water to parts of Sydney, before being decommissioned and left to fall into disrepair. In 2006 the site gained a new lease of life by being transformed into a public park. Some of the old structures remain, offering shady seating spots and a sense of how the Reservoir once functioned. This once abandoned site is now a tiny oasis with lush plants and modern water features. The sunken garden is also fully accessible via a lift as well as stairs, and thereโ€™s ramped access to the rooftop reserve.
Image Credit: @sydney

Paddington Reservoir

2. Pylon Lookoutย 

If you donโ€™t fancy the dizzying heights (and prices) of the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb, but still want a view, then head over to Pylon Lookout. Located at the South East tower of the bridge, it offers similar views to the bridge climb for a fraction of the price. The 200 stairs will take you 87 metres above sea level, a vantage point that offers panoramic views of the harbour. Inside youโ€™re able to take a leisurely pace, with three levels of exhibition spaces providing a history of the bridge and harbour. Pylon Lookout is right next to the Opera House, offering a unique view of the iconic building.
Image Credit: @pylonlookout

View of bridge from pylon lookout

ย 3. Grotto Point

Head to Sydneyโ€™s Northern Beaches to find Grotto Point and its collection of Aboriginal carvings.ย  Images of humans, animals, sea creatures, and symbols are all carved into the local sandstone.ย  The Aboriginal people are the longest continuously surviving culture on Earth, having occupied the Australian continent for over 60,000 years. Informative signs offer insight into the carvings, while along the harbour foreshores axe-grinding grooves can be found. The carvings are within Sydney Harbour National Park, where there’s also the chance to whale watch from the nearby Dobroyd Head.
Image Credit: @nswnationalparks

view of lighthouse in national park

4. Maccallum Pool

With stunning views towards the Harbour Bridge, Maccallum Pool combines sightseeing with sport (or sunbathing). First opened in the 1920s, this saltwater pool started life as a rock pool created by locals as a safe swimming spot. Lush vegetation, turquoise water, and a real suntrap, this is certainly the most relaxing hidden gem in Sydney. Ideal for a dip on a hot afternoon, the pool has the added bonus of being completely free.
Image Credit: @sydney

view of Mccallum Pool

5. Manly Wormhole (Queenscliff Tunnel)ย 

Sydneyโ€™s beaches are world famous, and for good reason. Golden sands and equally golden sunshine draw the crowds, especially to the ever-popular Bondi Beach. Manly Beach is almost equally as popular, especially with surfers, but it also hides a secret: the Wormhole. This 40m tunnel was cut through the rock of Queenscliff Head by fishermen over a century ago, to connect Manly to Freshwater beach. Scramble over the rocks at the northern end of Manly Beach to find the Wormhole, which offers stunning views through its length, especially at sunset.
Image Credit: @manlybeachaustralia

sunset view through Manly wormhole

6. Susannah Place Museumย 

The Sydney area of The Rocks was one of the first places to be colonised by the British in 1788. This museum, housed in four terraced houses built by Irish immigrants in the 1840s, tells the story of this early settlement. Surviving unchanged through slum clearances, Susannah Place offers an insight into the lives of the early Australian working class. Step inside this living museum to see the objects and artefacts that made up a 19th century Sydney home.
Image Credit: @sydlivmus

aerial view of Susannah Place Museum

7. Fort Denison

Fort Denison is located on one of the 14 small islands within Sydney Harbour, and comes with a grisly history. The island, known as โ€˜Pinchgut,โ€™ housed criminals from as early as 1788. As a warning, those executed on the island would be displayed for all to see- sometimes for many years. The fort was completed in 1857, and is Australiaโ€™s only Martello tower (a naval defensive structure frequently employed by the British). Today itโ€™s a museum and offers 360ยฐ views over Sydney. Make sure to visit some of Sydney Harbourโ€™s other islands, such as Goat Island and Shark Island.
Image Credit: @sydney

aerial view of Shark Island

8. Wendyโ€™s Secret Garden

Wendy Whitley, wife of the Australian artist Brett Whitely, worked in the years following her husbandโ€™s death to create this secret oasis. Once a derelict train yard, the garden is now planted with both native and exotic species and filled with winding paths and shady benches. Sculptures dotted around the garden have been a focus for artists since the gardenโ€™s opening in the 1990s, many of which were donated by local creators. Tucked away in the sleek suburb of Kirribilli, Wendyโ€™s Secret Garden is a tranquil space for reflection and renewal.
Image Credit: @sydney

a path in the secret garden

9. Museum of Sydney

The Museum of Sydney is built around the remains of Australiaโ€™s first Government House. Itโ€™s the ideal destination for those looking to learn about the people and events that shaped Sydneyโ€™s history. A permanent collection and rotating programme of exhibitions trace the story of the city from 1788 to the present day. It houses a vast collection of archaeological objects recovered from over 25 digs across the city, as well as artefacts, images, and digital media. Bits of the old Government House are still visible through the museumโ€™s glass floor panels.
Image Credit: @sydlivmus

art installation outside the museum of Sydney

10. Cadmans Cottage

One of the smaller buildings in Sydney, Cadmans cottage is easy to miss. Itโ€™s squeezed in beneath the large Museum of Contemporary Art, and dwarfed by the cruise ships in the terminal opposite. Nevertheless, this unassuming building tells the story of Sydneyโ€™s history. Built in 1816, itโ€™s the second-oldest surviving residential building in the city, used to house British government coxswains and crews. While rarely open to the public, it’s an architectural oddity and fascinating reminder of Sydneyโ€™s history.
Image Credit: @gogaffl

exterior of Cadmans cottage


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