The Secrets of Sydney: Hidden Gems Worth Knowing About
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 Sydney's best-kept secrets. From backstreet cocktail haunts to forgotten parklands, these secrets of Sydney are hidden away for a reason. But we're willing to share 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
A bar within a bar? We love to see it. Popular Sydney Mexican cocktail bar El Primo Sanchez has welcomed a secret speakeasy concealed by a hidden door. La Prima will transport you straight to Oaxaca with an intimate and exclusive 10-seater bar. You can expect a candlelit space, old-school Mexican tunes and a rotating menu of cocktails by the Maybe Sammy team. Picture yourself sipping on the Perfume de Gardenias (Patrón Reposado, peach & citrus cordial and jasmine soda) whilst ordering a selection of share plates. Perfection.
Oxford House, 27-33 Oxford St, Paddington
Apollonia is your understated yet exquisite rendezvous. This secret place in Sydney, tucked beneath an old wool store, exudes a charming sense of nostalgia and amore. Inspired by mobster film “The Godfather,” the dimly lit cocktail haven unveils Sicilian romance with each sip. The cocktail menu, thoughtfully curated, showcases a range of delicious libations. Not into mixed drinks? No worries as they've got an excellent selection of wines to satisfy your palate.
Pair these eloquent drinks with a selection of sumptuous snacks—truffle goats crostino and yellowfin tuna tartare are a delightful start. As the clock approaches midnight, the "thunderbolt ritual" ensues, where love and life are toasted with Negronis. It’s reminiscent of the scene in the novel where Michael Corleone was hit by this thunderbolt and fell in love when he first saw Apollonia, his ill-fated wife.
Basement, Hinchcliff House, 5-7 Young Street, Sydney
In the basement underneath one of Sydney’s best new restaurants, you’ll find Tiva a late-night lounge with live music, DJs and a moody New York feel. Giving that Gatsby feel, the drinks menu focuses on coupes of champagne and distinctive cocktails. We’re lusting after the French press espresso martini, and the tequila martini with rose vermouth poured and shaken tableside. The lounge snacks are elevated takes on comfort food. Think hash browns with roast chicken cream, rock oysters, Bluefin tuna, and a crumbed Morten Bay bug sando.
Basement, 68 King Street, Sydney
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
Earl’s Juke Joint
You could easily walk right past this place – it’s a 1920s-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
Old Mate's Place
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 classic cocktails alongside American-styled bites.
Level 4/199 Clarence Street, CBD
If you're after something a little different, The Cumberland is your spot. Tucked behind a fridge door in an unassuming laneway, this venue brings an underground speakeasy to the heart of Manly - with a Spanish twist!
The stylish basement eatery has a selection of over 250 whiskies, natural wine, craft beer and an extensive cocktail menu, including prohibition classics, tipples inspired by original counties from Sydney as well as a section dedicated to ingredients that have been locally foraged and found. As for bites, you can graze from their tapas menu or their deli and cheese plates.
17/19 Central Ave, Manly
Secrets of Sydney: Hidden Restaurants
Renowned chef, Tristan Rosier, of hatted-restaurant Arthur, has another venue just three blocks north. The restaurant is an ode to Rosier’s colourful grandmother, Jane, known for her hospitality and heavy pours. The venue evokes the spirit of a 1970s brasserie in everything from the interiors to the playful menu. With a policy of strictly Australian-only produce and a zero-waste ethos, they're also serving plenty of good karma. Signature items include their cocktail honey bugs, served in shell with a tarragon butter sauce, kangaroo tartare and the iconic pink cake with vanilla sponge, meringue, bay leaf cream and candied rosella flowers.
478 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
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
Rising Sun Workshop
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
Secrets of Sydney: Hidden Beaches
A true secret place in Sydney, Store Beach quietly beckons those in the know. Located in the Sydney Harbour National Park, this 200-metre strip of pristine sand and azure waters is accessible only by kayak, a 20 to 30 minute paddle from Manly Wharf. Its sheltered cove and the lush bushland surrounding it provide an intimate escape, perfect for couples seeking a quick romantic getaway or families looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of crowded beaches.
Don't forget to pack your essentials: sunscreen, hat, towel, and snorkel gear. Store Beach offers a tranquil setting with postcard-worthy views, making you feel like you've stumbled upon a remote tropical paradise. The beach has another special resident—fairy penguins and for their safety, beach access is off-limits after dusk.
Collins Beach Road, Manly
Turimetta Beach is a little-known gem among the coolest secret places in Sydney. This unpatrolled beach dances with waves which often playfully crash near the shore. It's not one to pamper you with facilities, and that's what makes it exciting. But remember, it's not for the faint-hearted. Turimetta's strong shore break offers good body surfing for pros, especially when the north-easterly winds whistle through. If you're looking to catch a wave, you might want to reserve that for Narrabeen Beach. Instead, embrace the tranquillity of a secluded picnic and birdwatching session at Turimetta Beach.
57 Narrabeen Park Parade, Warriewood
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.
Collins Beach Road, Manly
Delwood Beach, Manly
Looking at the white sand and lake-like still waters, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in the Whitsundays. Nestled between the harbour side of Manly Cove and Fairlight Beach, you could easily miss Delwood but this secluded slice of paradise, which is framed by two tall Norfolk Island Pine trees, is well worth a visit. Perch on the grass for an afternoon picnic in the shade or wander down to the pristine waters for a dip.
The Crescent, Manly
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!
Wolseley Road, Point Piper
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.
Parsley Road, Vaucluse
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?
Bondi to Bronte Coastal Walk, Tamarama
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 its 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
One of Sydney's most stunning and unknown secret gardens, Swain Gardens is like something out of a fairytale. The sprawling, manicured lawns are ideal for a picnic or even a wedding ceremony. In fact, it's so peaceful here more often than not, you'll have the whole place to yourself.
77 Stanhope Road, Killara
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
Forgotten Songs: Angel Place Birdcages
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.
Challis House, 4/10 Martin Place, Sydney