Sydney’s inner city sits on the southern side of the iconic harbour… but visitors who venture north of the Sydney Harbour Bridge will be rewarded with a long list of sparkling attractions that aren’t so crowded with tourists. Read on for the top 10 things to see and do in northern Sydney.
Visit Taronga Zoo
No animals on earth enjoy better water views than the residents of Sydney’s famous zoo, just a short ferry across the harbour from Circular Quay. Taronga is home to around 4,000 native and exotic animals from more than 350 species — giraffes, elephants, monkeys, rhinos, kangaroos, koalas, the list goes on — including the newly opened ‘Tiger Trek’, a jungle-themed enclosure that protects the threatened Sumatran Tiger.
Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman NSW, +61 2 9969 2777
Catch the ferry to Manly
Another ferry trip you’ve got to take is the spectacular route to Manly, half an hour’s journey past the heads of Sydney Harbour to an area that’s booming with bars, cafes and eateries around a string of glittering beaches — Queenscliff, Freshwater, Shelly, Collins Flat and of course Manly itself. If you’d prefer to stay on dry land, stroll along the leafy 10km trail from Spit Bridge to Manly, which links secret swimming spots like Fisher Bay and Sandy Beach.
Get lost in Wendy’s Secret Garden
This is a secret that’s hiding in plain site, overlooking Sydney Harbour right next to the Bridge. Wendy’s Secret Garden — named after Wendy Whitely, who developed the site as a tribute to her legendary artist husband Brett in the 1990s — is a maze of twisting pathways, picturesque picnic spots and lush plant life that provides a whimsical green oasis on the city’s doorstep.
Wendy’s Secret Garden, Lavender Bay NSW, +61 2 9936 8100
Sip on craft beers
The Northern Beaches is home to some of Sydney’s premier craft breweries — Modus Operandi’s spacious warehouse in Mona Vale, Nomad’s boutique tasting room in Brookvale, Manly institution 4 Pines’ trendy Brewpub as well as their second instalment, Brookvale Brewery Truckbar. And don’t miss Sydney’s most beautiful watering hole, the Newport Arms, which dishes up delicious pub grub to accompany your ice cold schooner in a glamorous beer garden overlooking a serene bay.
The Newport Arms Hotel, 2 Kalinya St, Newport NSW, +61 2 9997 4900
Sunbathe at Cremorne Point
Jutting out into the harbour east of the Bridge, Cremorne Point’s historic mansions, rolling green lawns, winding walking trails and gorgeous seawater pool make it one of the most Instagrammable places in Sydney. Bring a blanket and find a shady spot on the grass to sit back and relax watching boats zip around the water, locals walking their dogs and swimmers doing laps of the turquoise Maccallum pool.
Watch a movie at the Hayden Orpheum
Get a taste of old school Hollywood cool at this heritage art deco picture palace in Cremorne on the Lower North Shore, which dates back to 1935. The Orpheum has six state-of-the-art theatres that retain that ‘golden age’ vibe — the main auditorium even contains a multi-million dollar Wurlitzer Hope-Jones orchestral pipe organ — and shows the latest releases as well as cinema classics and themed nights.
380 Military Rd, Cremorne NSW, +61 2 9908 4344
Check out Luna Park
You can’t miss Luna Park, with its iconic face smiling over the harbour to greet visitors with a grin. The amusement park is free to enter (although the attractions do cost money) and its boardwalk clings to the harbour front, offering million-dollar views back over the city. And pop next door to the North Sydney Olympic Pool if you feel like knocking out a few laps in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
1 Olympic Dr, Milsons Point NSW, +61 2 9922 6644
Stroll around the Harbour
Don’t let Luna Park be the end of your exploration of the Lower North Shore. Lace up your walking shoes and tackle the kilometres of walking trails that line the waterfront on the north side of the harbour, including Blues Point, Sawmillers Reserve, Balls Head and Berry Island west of the Bridge, and Kurraba Point, Cremorne Point, Bradleys Head and Middle Head on the eastern side.
Go whale watching
Palm Beach — about an hour’s drive north of Sydney’s city centre — is best known as the set of soap opera Home and Away, but humpbacks steal the spotlight during whale watching season (May to November). Make the uphill climb to the historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse for panoramic views of the ‘Humpback Highway’ during the annual whale migration, as well as stunning vistas over the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Palm Beach NSW, +61 2 9472 9300
Have a swim at Balmoral
Introducing Sydney’s most underrated beach, a serene strip of sand in the salubrious suburb of Mosman fringed by leafy parks and a breezy esplanade. If you want an even quieter dip, head to the nearby (and dubiously named) Chinamans Beach, or if you feel like getting a little cheeky, get your kit off at nudist beaches Cobblers and Obelisk either side of Middle Head.