An insider's guide into visiting and backpacking Sydney like a local.

See Sydney Like A Local: Our Team’s Insider City Guide

Sydney is home to countless monumental attractions and tourist must-dos. And while we absolutely recommend you tick off those bucket list sites, we also know that you might want to experience Sydney a little more like a local – discovering hidden gems and locally-loved spots. A sort of ‘insider’ look into Sydney, if you will.

So, we put it to our local team of Holly, Conor, Kerys and Olivia, and asked them to reveal their favourite things to do, places to eat, and destinations worth travelling to. And the result is what you see below – a trusty guide to seeing Sydney like a local. These aren’t your standard guide book recommendations. These are suggestions from our team who have lived in Sydney, and will hopefully give you inspiration when it comes to heading off the beaten path during your travels.

The best picnic views

Centennial Park is a 360-acre park just outside of the city. It’s a wonderful place to go for a walk and take a picnic with a group of mates. I also like to have coffee and brekkie at Centennial Homestead, or grab a bite from the Spruce Goose Diner food truck (located by the duck pond). – Holly

Cremorne Point Reserve is my absolute favourite area for a picnic during the day or at sunset. Soak up ‘pinch-me-is-this-real’ kinda views of the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the whole city skyline. – Olivia

The best bakery

The Grumpy Baker in Vaucluse is delicious. Grab a coffee and pastry from here, and then do the walk to Diamond Bay Reserve for panoramic views. While in the area, I love going to Watsons Bay Hotel for sunset drinks, or grabbing takeaway from Doyle’s Fish & Chips to eat on the beach. – Holly

For a true Aussie experience

You need to go to the SCG – Sydney’s home of Aussie Rules Football (AFL) and cricket. I love watching a footy match here, as the atmosphere is always awesome. For a true local experience, grab some tickets, catch the tram to the ground, and enjoy! – Olivia

For $1 pizzas

A rock ‘n’ roll experience in itself, Frankie’s Pizza is where you can get classic pizza served by the slice, with pinball machines and live music in the background. They serve $1 slices from 4-6pm everyday and honestly… who can say no to that. – Conor

Footy at the SCG; Picnics at Cremorne Point Reserve; Bouddi National Park.

For swimming in rock pools

When I don’t feel like swimming at the beach, I go to the Bogey Hole in Bronte. This is a small rockpool on the southside of the beach, perfect for calm swims. – Holly

The best Korean food

You can’t beat Basax Korean Restaurant. Nestled in the city, this place is super convenient to get to from Wake Up! Sydney. Go here with a group of friends, so you can order a whole range of different fried chicken dishes (they have so many to choose from!!). – Kerys

For a day trip

It’s so hard to pick a favourite day trip from Sydney, but if I had to, it’d be the Coastal Walk at Bouddi National Park. It reminds me of hiking through the Amalfi Coast, with jaw-dropping scenery. Pack your backpack with food and water supplies, and set off for this incredibly stunning hike. – Olivia

Backpacking or travelling Australia? Book your Sydney accommodation at Wake Up! Hostel in the centre of the city.

The best coastal walks

Castle Rock Beach and the Spit To Manly Walk: This walk is the BEST, especially on a sunny day. It does take a few hours, but trust me it’s worth it! I take my bathers to go for a swim at Castle Rock Beach along the way. Once you get to Manly, have a cool drink at Manly Wharf Bar, and then catch the ferry back to the city. – Olivia

The Resolute Beach track in Ku-ring-gai National Park is one of my favourites. The circuit walk is about 3 hours in total, but you can go for a dip half way through at the secluded Resolute Beach. – Holly

For the best burgers

It’s hard to decide between Mary’s Burgers and Out Of The Blue, so do yourself a favour and try both. At Mary’s the vibe is grungy, the burgers are greasy, and you can add extra ‘Trashcan Bacon’ which tastes as good as it sounds. A total contrast is Out Of The Blue, who serve up fresh burgers and tasty hot chips, right by the beach in Clovelly. – Conor 

The best sandwiches

I know it’s weird to get excited about sandwiches. But South Dowling Street is a must-try. The sandwiches are massive and super delicious. Fun fact: their ‘Hugo’ and ‘Jimmy’ sandwiches are named after the guys from Flight Facilities. Grab a sandwich to takeaway, and then wander around Paddington, Surry Hills or Centennial Park. – Olivia

For beach days

On warm, sunny days, I love to spend a day at the beach at Neilsen Park (it’s a shark netted beach, so you can swim stress-free ;)) or Harbour Beach which is good for swimming and the sunset. Or if I don’t feel like swimming, I’ll do the Hermitage Foreshore Walk instead, which has beautiful views of the city. – Holly

Wake Up!'s locals guide to Sydney includes our favourite burger joints (Mary's Burger), the best coastal walks and beaches (Neilsen Park) and delicious budget friendly dinners (Spice Alley)
Mary’s Burgers; Neilsen Park Beach; Spice Alley.

The best inner-city shopping centres

Market City and Broadway Centre are where I regularly go when I need a shopping centre that has it all. Market City is super convenient as it’s located walking distance from Wake Up! Sydney, directly above Chinatown and Paddy’s Market. Broadway is larger and has everything you need – from supermarkets, to Kmart, clothing stores, the Apple store, Australia post, a really big food court, and a movie cinema too! – Kerys

On a rainy day

On a rainy day in Sydney, I like to go to the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park. Here you’ll find the Sydney Comedy Store, markets, and a beaut’ cinema with reclining seats. – Holly

The best markets

The Bronte Bazaar Saturday Markets! These are a small collection of local market stalls (plants, vintage, arts, crafts) in the Bronte surf life-saving club. As a bonus, there’s also  amazing views of the beach. – Holly

For BYO Dinners

Grab a bunch of mates and do the $35 set menu at Bar Reggio for a guaranteed good time. It’s an all you can eat menu of garlic bread, bruschettas, salads, pizzas and pastas (they also can do gluten free options). Plus, you can BYO! – Olivia

PS. Love wine and cheese? Then you’ll love Wake Up! Sydney’s ‘Wine & Cheese’ nights – a free activity as part of our complimentary social calendar of daily activities.

The best affordable hostels in Byron Bay, Sydney and Bondi Beach, Australia.

For sunset beers

The grassy knoll at North Bondi is a prime spot to soak in the sunset. I love setting up here with my friends, a few beers, and watching the sky turn pink. – Holly

The best spots in Bondi

If you’re looking to learn to surf, I recommend North Bondi as your starting point. When it comes to eating, Speedos Cafe or Bondi Icebergs are my suggestions for breakfast; and  Fishbowl or a simple fish & chips on the beach for lunch. For shopping, I love walking in and out of Bondi’s laneways where I always find a mix of boutiques, homewares, swimwear stores, jewellery brands, etc. Some stores can be expensive, but I have a tonne of fun window shopping regardless. – Holly

PS. Experience the Bondi coastline with a guided beach walk – part of Wake Up! Bondi’s complimentary activities for all guests!

For cheap eats near the city

Spice Alley is a firm favourite. As well as the cheap Asian eateries (including Japanese, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Thai, Malaysian and Cantonese), there is also a hidden cheap wine tasting just past the alleyway. – Conor

Wake Up's insider guide to Sydney, includes Speedos Cafe in Bondi Beach; the secret Resolute Beach at Ku-Ring-Gai National Park, and the Carriageworks Farmers Market.
Speedos Cafe; Resolute Beach; Carriageworks Farmers Market

For brunch by the beach

Coop in Bronte is my go-to. They serve a great Australian brunch and coffee and are located right by the beach, so nabbing a seat outside is idyllic. They also practice the ‘boomerang cup’ initiative – order a coffee in a mug, take it to the beach to sip, and then bring it back. – Holly

For a splurge experience

I once splurged on a sunrise kayaking tour of Sydney Harbour, and it was magical. It was a true Sydney highlight for me, and so if you’re looking to do something that’s a bit more special, I completely recommend this! – Olivia

For thrift store shopping

I go to the Mitchell Road Antique Store for my vintage finds. It is a massive warehouse with all sorts of vintage and antique wares – clothes, jewellery, homewares, artwork, music… everything! It’s nearby the Grounds of Alexandria, so you can also head here for a coffee or food stop while you’re in the area. – Holly

For a pub crawl

Paddington is my favourite area to go for a pub crawl, with so many bars and hotels in the area. Make sure you go to the Royal Hotel’s rooftop bar which overlooks the city. Along the way, I love popping into the boutique shops, and ending the night with takeaway from Indian Home Diner. – Holly

PS. Keen for more pub crawls? You’ll be glad to know that Wake Up! Sydney run a weekly pub crawl as part of our daily activities!

The best fresh produce market

The Carriageworks Market is open every Saturday, and is a great place to pick up fresh, local produce, ready to cook packs (the Thai and Vietnamese take home packs are my favourite), and pastries. You will find the BEST kangaroo & wattleseed pies here! You can’t beat grabbing a coffee while you’re there, sitting on the milk crates outside the warehouse, and soaking in the atmosphere. – Holly

Where to stay when backpacking in Sydney

Wake Up! provides award-winning hostel accommodation in both Sydney Central and Bondi Beach. Combining superior quality, daily social activities, and unbeatable locations, it’s no wonder Wake Up! is a loved choice for travellers from around the world. Check out our website for the best rates and availability.

local guide

Check In
Check Out