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North Sydney1/7
Photograph: Sherry Zheng
North Sydney2/7
Photograph: Sherry Zheng
North Sydney ramen3/7
Photograph: Sherry Zheng
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Photograph: Sherry Zheng
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Photograph: Sherry Zheng
North Sydney6/7
Photograph: Sherry Zheng
North Sydney7/7
Photograph: Sherry Zheng

A local's guide to North Sydney

Hop across the bridge for a taste of what the northern end of the city has to offer

By Sherry Zheng
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North Sydney is considered by most as Sydney’s CBD north of the bridge. Though it may conjure up images of suits and office blocks, it's so much more. If you stand at the intersection of Mount and Miller, the two main streets, you’ll find a blend of architecture from all decades — from the historic North Sydney Post Office, and the modernist 1950’s MLC building, to the 21-level Coca-Cola Place of 2010s. A step away from the central hub and you’ll find a totally different pace and feel—head north towards Crows Nest and you’ll find streets of diverse dining options; head south towards the bridge and you’ll stumble upon secluded harbour-views at every turn. 

Starting from the mammoth 16-story MLC headquarters building in 1956, the first high-rise office block in the area and one of largest in the country at the time, companies were attracted to North Sydney’s low land prices during the 1960s-1980s. Though no land is cheap in Sydney nowadays, building development continues to stretch the borders of this business district.

What's it known for?
Once considered the 'Twin City' to Sydney’s CBD, this Lower North Shore area is a bustling hub of tech, media and commercial business in recent years. Schools dot the area, families are attracted to the affluent surrounding neighborhoods of Neutral Bay, Waverton and Greenwich. From Luna Park to the Harbour Bridge, some of Sydney’s most iconic sights are clustered here. Whatever your reason for ending up in North Sydney, be sure to drop by the historic Greenwood Hotel, a sandstone former school dating back to 1844 that in recent years has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the North Shore's most popular meeting spots.

Why do the locals love it?
The North Sydney region is unbeatable in its walkability (in other words, a great place to get in your steps for the day). No matter where you go you’ll likely catch the harbour peeking through between the office buildings. Head down towards Milsons Point for a romantic harbour view, or take the weekend to explore the various dog-friendly parks and lookouts that dot the surrounding peninsulas.

How do I get to North Sydney?
Whether you’re driving, riding, or walking, North Sydney is accessible by just about any mode of transportation. However, if you’re trying to get to the heart of the business district, public transport will be your friend as one-way streets and street parking may give you a tough time.

Hop on a train via the T1 North Shore Line and T9 Northern Line and you can find your way here easily from most parts of Sydney; if you’re coming from Neutral Bay direction, you’ll find plenty of bus routes. If you’re coming from the other side of the bridge, take advantage of the good views and cycle across or hop on a ferry (it’ll take you just five minutes to cross from Circular Quay!).

What's nearby?
For our swimmers, you’ll find you’re surrounded by glorious bodies of water — whether it be Balmoral Beach (a mere 15 minutes by car), Sydney Olympic Swimming Pool (temporarily closed for renovation as of March 1st 2021), or the lesser-known Maccallum Seawater Pool.

Come Saturday, you’ll find plenty of families on their way to feed giraffes at Taronga Zoo (just over a 10-minute ride away), or on The Rotor at the Luna Park (once it opens back up mid-2021).

However you don’t need to go far for some peace and tranquility: up the boardwalk behind Luna Park you’ll find the quiet little cove called Lavender Bay, which has got the best view of Sydney Harbour in the whole city.

Map

If you do one thing…
Wake up before the morning rush takes hold, grab your morning coffee and head down to Milsons Point — it’ll take you less than fifteen from North Sydney Station. From here you can stop for an easy breakfast in Kirribilli, or better yet, walk across the bridge and enjoy watching the city come alive as the sun is still low. (Even better yet, climb across the bridge!)

Fruit and veg
Fruit and veg
Photograph: Sherry Zheng

Eat

During the day, the heart of North Sydney is buzzing with options. Bite into a truffle wagyu katsu sando at Devon Cafe, or perhaps the more modest house-made kaya toast and soft eggs. The Surry Hills original café opened up in the North in 2018, right in Greenwood Plaza, making it super easy to access from the station. Stuck for time? Drop by the service window of yet another favourite Sydney establishment, Bourke Street Bakery. They’ll fix you up with the perfect sourdough sandwich – and don’t forget the ginger brûlée tart. 

However, if time is on your side, head up further north. Only there will you find local old-school establishments: from German (Stuyvesant's House), to Mexican (Montezuma’s) and Japanese barbecue (Kashiwa), all within 100 meters of each other. Looking for more Japanese options? Stay on the northern border of North Sydney, and wander into Crows Nest.

That's where you'll Sydneysiders who've travelled far and wide for Ryo’s Noodles. Hailing from Fukuoka prefecture in Western Japan, Ryo’s ramen features iconic Kyushu characteristics like a creamy tonkotsu (pork bone) soup and thin, slurpable noodles. You’ll spot Ryo’s either by the bright tangerine walls or the queue of customers snaking out from under the noren curtains. The classic is the tonkotsu shio (original salt flavour), served with a sprinkle of roasted sesame seeds, green spring onions, and three slices of their chashū roast pork — so tender they melt the second they hit the tongue. Customise your bowl a soy-sauce marinated egg with a gooey, soft center, bamboo shoots or nori.

Not far down the road is Yurippi, a Japanese yakitori joint. You’ll smell the sweet tare marinade hitting the charcoal fire from down the street. The distinctly sweet smokiness that the charcoal imparts on each bite will send you back to the tiny eateries of Tokyo. The negima (chicken thigh and shallot) is a yakitori staple, but don’t miss out on the tsukune (chicken meatball) with 63° celsius egg either, a perfect creamy and savory melange. They do more than just meat— the salt and butter corn sounds simple, as do the grilled rice balls (based in either soy sauce or miso), but the charcoal fire takes them to the next level. Next door Kashiwa also does great yakiniku, where customers can grill their meat at their own tables. Drinks are BYO only.

Fruit and veg
Fruit and veg
Photograph: Sherry Zheng

Drink

If you’re after good watering holes for after-work drinks, North Sydney doesn't disappoint. Green Moustache is a lush rooftop garden bar and restaurant with a superb view of the city, day or night. Their drinks list is truly extensive (25 pages!) as well as inventive — sip on popular pink drink Up in The Clouds, a sweet and fruity concoction of Russian vodka, Massenez apricot liqueur, passionfruit syrup, cranberry, lime and pink fairy floss. Nearby TreeHouse Hotel has a similar tropical vibe with a beautiful terrace and live music.


A stone’s throw away from the city is the Greens North Sydney (long known as Norths Bowlo, established in 1888) where you can enjoy a cold beer, the city skyline and a casual game of lawn bowls. Situated right on the edge of St Leonards Park, you get a beautiful view of Sydney Harbour as well as the towers of North Sydney (making it a great spot to ring in the New Year).
 

Otherwise, pop over to Le Pont Wine Store for fine wines and craft beers. They are one of the few spots on the North Shore that stock natural wine, and they’ll be able to tell you all about the grapes and winemakers behind the bottles. 

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Finger bun and coffee
Finger bun and coffee
Photograph: Sherry Zheng

Coffee

The perks of being in the middle of a business hub is the unlimited options for reliably strong and quick coffee. Kingswood Coffee can sort you out at their street window on on Mount Street. This handsome coffee spot has two outposts across the bridge — their first shop in World Square and a new pop-up in Australia Square. If you’re wondering why their brews taste so good, you’d be pleased to know that Kingswood’s Yama Jinwoo Kim was the winner of the 2018 World Cup Tasters Champion – the first from Australia. 

At HUMM Coffee Roastersoutfitted with an impressive Modbar espresso machine, it looks like they’re making coffee straight out of the counter. A light and breezy space offering an extensive brunch menu throughout the day and bottomless drip on the weekend — what more can you ask for?

Move further south to enjoy a slower pace at the Kirribilli locals’ hangout, Cool Mac Cafe. Started more than a decade ago by Eugene Leung, Cool Mac brews beans by Sample Coffee and stocks delectable pastries from Surry Hills’ Humble Bakery (the pink finger buns are a crowd favourite, especially amongst nostalgic adults) — both a rare sight north of the bridge. If you’re hungry for more substantial bite, look to their Japanese-inspired menu and you’ll find thick white fluffy shokupan toast, or a classic teishoku grilled fish and rice set. And in case you were wondering, no, you aren’t seeing double: Cool Mac also has a sister cafe across the bridge in Marrackville called Kūrumac.

Wheel and pier
Wheel and pier
Photograph: Sherry Zheng

Do

Situated right by the harbour there’s plenty to see and do around North Sydney. While North Shore landmarks, Luna Park (until mid-2021) and North Sydney Olympic Pool may be temporarily closed for longterm renovation, the harbour views remain open. Head down to Luna Park and stroll down the boardwalk to the quiet cove of Lavender Bay and enjoy the best view of the harbour as the sun goes down, and watch as the skyline lights up.

Better yet walk, run or ride across the harbour bridge — it’s the perfect way to commute into the city or have a family day in the city without worrying about parking. For those who aren’t averse to sea-travel, you can hop onto a ferry to cross the water and you’ll find yourself at Circular Quay in as short as five minutes.

Staying on the north end? Venture west along the peninsulas and you’ll find a multitude of lookouts and walks. One place you should visit is The Coal Loader, right by Balls Head Reserve in Waverton. As the name suggests, the Coal Loader was an industrial site that operated from the early 1920s to 1990s, before reopening as a public open space run by the North Sydney Council from 2011. With its latest renovation, finished in 2018, it now features a sustainably-minded expansive public green roof space, complete with solar panels, community gardens, and chooks.

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Fruit and veg
Fruit and veg
Photograph: Sherry Zheng

Shopping

Starting more than 40 years back, the Kirribilli Markets is one of the oldest markets in Sydney. Unlike other markets in the city, Kirribilli is known for its selection of fashion, design, art, crafts and more. Held twice a month with alternating themes, you can head to the General & Fashion Market to hunt for second-hand gems, or you can browse the Art, Design & Fashion market for artisan furniture and local art. It goes without saying but this open-air market, right by the foot of the bridge catches a good dose of harbour views, as well. 

Fruit and veg
Fruit and veg
Photograph: Sherry Zheng

Save the date

... for flicks. Catch movies as the sun goes down at the North Sydney Outdoor Cinema in the warmer mornths. Flicks on show are old and new: check out Lee Isaac Chung’s family story Minari or classics like Spielberg’s 1993 Jurassic Park lounging on North Sydney Oval with a drink from the Sunset bar.

If you’re an early-riser, catch the Northside Produce Market instead, on every first and third Saturday morning of the month. Here you’ll find an incredible selection of produce from local growers themselves, as well as freshly-made baked goods and hot breakfast sandwiches. If you’re a frequenter of Eveleigh Markets you’ll probably spot some familiar faces. Dog-friendly and with lots of space to soak in the sun situated at Ted Mack Civic Park, you can spend your whole morning at this market.

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