Looking for a local holiday this year? Don’t let the international lockdown stop you from getting your fix of wanderlust. There are so many things to do in Sydney, one of the most culturally diverse cities on the planet, that you can ‘travel the world’ right here on Australia’s doorstep.
Tourism Australia has been encouraging Aussies to ‘holiday here this year’ and many of us have been looking for domestic holiday ideas. Home to over 250 different nationalities, the multicultural city of Sydney is the perfect place to take a domestic trip while experiencing a taste of what life is like all across the globe.
From ‘Little Italy’ in Leichhardt and Petersham’s ‘Little Portugal’, to indigenous tours tracing over 30,000 years of Aboriginal culture, we’ve put together our favourite local experiences and Sydney travel tips so you can connect with the city in a new way.
Take an Aboriginal Heritage Tour in the Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Garden’s is one of the most beautiful places in Sydney and you can learn a lot about the area’s Indigenous traditional owners of the land there, too.
A Sydney walking tour here will give you an opportunity to try traditional bush tucker, including tree bark, nuts and vegetables and you’ll learn how the wattle plant helped the local Cadigal people determine when to start whale hunting season.
Bring a pen and paper in case you want to try sketching any of the native plants and flowers along the way. The guides are friendly and you’ll get lots of opportunity to ask questions on this 1.5 hour Sydney nature tour.
Tours begin at the Information Centre at the Garden Shop every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 10am and can be booked online.
You can also experience Cadigal history at your own pace with a stroll across the Cadi Jam Ora walk, a 50-metre garden display that tells the story of the First Farm set up by Indigenous owners. This important part of Aboriginal history is not to be missed!
Try traditional Beijing dumplings in Chatswood
It doesn’t get much better than a plate of house-made dumplings at the Chinese eateries in Chatswood (known as the ‘real’ Sydney Chinatown to some locals). But will you try them fried, boiled or steamed?
We recommend the juicy coriander pork dumplings at Grape Garden Beijing Cuisine. Pan-fried with a crispy ‘hat’ and generously doused in vinegar or homemade chilli oil, you’ll have to resist the urge to scarf them down the minute they’re set on the table!
Grape Garden is a family restaurant that’s been around for decades in the Lemon Grove Arcade on Victoria Avenue and are also known for their warm shallot pancakes and handmade-noodle soup.
Don’t be fooled by the modest décor or surroundings – this place is as authentic as it gets. Two hungry people could be easily satisfied for little over $30, while their takeaway service runs throughout the day so avid foodies can sample a little taste of Beijing for a fraction of the price of a plane ticket.
To experience more Chinese culture in Sydney, take a short train to Central Sydney’s Chinatown. With street lanterns, spectacular Chinese architecture and shopping galore, it’s one of the most eye-catching Sydney attractions.
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See Sydney street art in Leichhardt
The leafy suburb of Leichhardt (and much of Inner West Sydney) is known as Sydney’s ‘Little Italy’, bustling with fashion boutiques, Venetian mask shops, hearty Italian pizzerias and friendly locals.
There are also Greek, Japanese and Indian family restaurants dotted around, adding to the fabric of the community. This sense of togetherness is instilled in the vibrant street art you’ll find across the walls in the area.
As well as large murals by celebrated street artists like Fintan Magee, you’ll also find other beautiful pieces created by Leichhardt residents. The Inner West Council openly encourages community-led pieces, have fought to overturn government decisions to demolish murals and hosted art festivals to nurture homegrown talent.
Grab a bag of Grinders Coffee at their shop on Norton Street and you’ll be in the perfect spot to see much of the street art in Leichhardt.
Go food shopping in Sydney’s ‘Little Portugal’
Take a morning stroll down New Canterbury Rd and Audley Street in the Sydney suburb of Petersham and the smell of coffee and freshly baked pastel de nata will soon transport you to Portugal’s sunlit streets.
This section of the inner suburb was officially renamed ‘Little Portugal’ in 2019, with many of the family restaurants, cafes, traditional butcher shops and bakeries trading on these streets since the 1980’s. It’s one of the best things to do in Sydney if you’re look for a taste of international flavour.
If you’ve been to Portugal before, allow nostalgia to swarm your senses as you step into Charlie’s Deli to browse through shelves and shelves of canned sardines in tomato sauce – a humble yet delicious national food across Portugal. Of course, it’s not just sardines that Portugal is famous for. Pick up garlic olives, sheep’s milk cheeses, prosciutto and extra virgin olive oil to stock up your pantry with for weeks on end.
If you’re staying in Petersham for lunch, why not stop at Gloria’s Café? Gloria opened this family restaurant in 1988 as a ‘single mother with four children’ and today her self-start business has become known as the best Portuguese restaurant in the city to many Sydneysiders. Try freshly caught octopus straight off the grill, or a juicy rump steak with plenty of salad, washed down a carafe of Sangria.
Get the best view of Sydney Harbour at Wendy’s Secret Garden
When celebrated Australian artist Brett Whiteley died in 1992, his wife Wendy channelled her grief into taming the tangled weeds of Clark Park in Mission Point into a public garden space.
Mission Point is well known for having some of the best views of the harbour that you can find in Sydney, and is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Circular Quay. Catch the ferry to Milson’s Point and stroll past Luna Park to find this charming hideaway that is perfect for picnics.
Wendy has admitted she had little horticultural experience but used her artist’s eye to cultivate a vibrant collection of flowers, herbs, trees and shrubs from all around the world in the previously rundown patch of wasteland.
Wendy doesn’t own the land, but the authorities never put a stop to her activities, quietly looking on as her green thumb transformed the space; a reflection of Sydney’s liberal attitudes to public space and cultural unity.
Nowadays, this ‘secret’ garden lives on in her late husband’s memory and visitors from all over the world visit every year to press pause on busy Sydney life and enjoy serene Sydney Harbour views in the distance.
Inspired for your Australian staycation yet? For more insights on the diversity of Aussie life and local tours to breath-taking destinations in the land down under, check out Trafalgar’s ‘limited edition’ domestic tour packages today.