There is an eclectic range of things to see in Sydney. They’re best seen on foot and yes, there’s an app for that. It’s free and it’s very good. So get those walking shoes on and follow me.
On one of our many gorgeous afternoons last week my son and I decided to check out some of the hidden treasures around Sydney. I pulled up the free app and we decided that ‘Eclectic’ sounded good. The walk started from Pyrmont and the app suggested allowing 2-3 hours. That suited us, so off we went.
We Start in Pyrmont
The first sculpture was at the end of Pirrama Park, on the harbour with a great view of the city and Balmain. Two of our lovely bridges are on view from there – the harbour bridge to the north and the elegant Anzac Bridge to the south. Both essential things to see in Sydney.
Pirrama Park itself is a well patronised, family-friendly park. Dogs were cooling off in the harbour water, paddling around sheltered bays and shaking drops all over their owners. The cafes were full of people enjoying themselves with friends and family – there was a very nice vibe around.
From the park we moved into Pyrmont proper. I’ve been told that Pyrmont is the most densely populated part of Sydney, and it’s true that there’s lots of high rise around. But there are lovely little green areas as well, and it doesn’t feel claustrophobic.
Our second stop was for an antique moped in a glass case – Insect with Lead. As we were peering at it one of the locals came and gave her opinion, which led to a bit of street-side chatter. All good.
The exhibit stood at the top of a deep cutting through sandstone.
The city has quite a few of these, often cut by convict labour. I think they’re one of the essential things to see in Sydney, to bring home the sheer size of the task the convicts had to do in the early days of the settlement. The cuts were used for roads, service lines or transport.
This particular cutting fell into disuse as the city modernised and was therefore available for the light rail when that was put in.
Time for a Break
As we carried on up Harris Street, en route to the next attraction we simply couldn’t go past one of Sydney’s traditional old pubs, The Terminus.
Green tiles on the outside (easy to hose down at the end of the day), an old sign for the beer garden – we thought it was worth a look. Plus we were getting thirsty, it was a pretty warm day.
Now, when you go into one of these old pubs any one of a number of scenes can meet your eyes.
It could be in it’s original state – but there’s not so many of those left. It could be overdone, so that all the patina, and the charm, has evaporated. Luckily, this pub fell right into the sweet spot in the middle. Brought up to date without too much tizz.
The beer garden was still out the back. Umbrellas shaded patrons from the hot sun and most people there were eating as well as having a drink (as they were inside as well).
The bar attendant saw our hesitation as to which way to go and suggested another alternative – “there’s air-con upstairs” she said.
That was enough to send us up to Vera’s Lounge. Another welcoming set of rooms. You could choose to sit inside or out, on the balcony. How civilised. Simply furnished and perfect for our little break.
The Walk Continues
So on we went to the next eclectic on the list, the Pyrmont-Ultimo War Memorial. It stands in a gem of a little square.
All around are bald-faced terraces, again predominantly sandstone. Sydney is built on sandstone, although today it has become exorbitantly expensive. Back 100+ years ago, though, it was being pulled up to make workers’ cottages as well as important government buildings.
Most of the terraces and cottages here have become commercial premises, many of them cafes. So no problems in finding a coffee or a bite to eat.
There’s an intimate, small town feel here. People greet one another with the ease of old acquaintances. Sydney calls itself a city of villages and, especially in the older parts of the city, it’s still true.
The Hordern Fountain, our next designated stop, is a little overwhelmed by its surroundings so we stroll on.
Moving into Ultimo
We’re on our way to visit ‘Aspire’ a forest of trees under the freeway. We really like this one. It’s one of the works I would put on my list of top quirky things to see in Sydney.
Glowing trees made of polyethylene rise to support the freeway overhead. Underneath it’s quiet and even peaceful.
The artwork was initiated by the local community and references a community struggle to save local housing, slotted for demolition to allow the Western Distributor to run through the location.
The houses were preserved and today the freeway is supported by the trees.
The app’s next suggested stop is the Halo, a wind activated kinetic sculpture in Central Park.
Halo is a twelve metre yellow ring that pivots on a 13 metre high silver support. The ring and arm are balanced on a marble-sized ball-bearing.
While I do like this sculpture, very much, we have seen it a couple of times recently – once on our way to Spice Alley and once as we visited the White Rabbit.
So we don’t walk there but take a short-cut to the next exhibit on the list.
We’re now in the heart of Ultimo, another old inner-city enclave quietly finding new life.
The mosaic ‘Seeds of the Future’ is on the wall of the International Grammar School. It references the local area using 3D relief.
An increasing sight in this and all other local areas are bright yellow (or pink) dock-less bikes which can be rented for shorter or longer periods.
Being dock-less you’ll find them in the strangest places all over the city. They are rented out complete with helmet, to meet our road rules. It’s something to think about if you want a quick and easy way to get from point to point in Sydney.
Glebe Point Road
We’re now on our way to Glebe Point Road.
This very long street runs from Sydney University at one end to Rozelle Bay at the other. Three or four of the App’s things to see in Sydney are along here and the walk will take us down most of it.
But first, right in front of us is the Glebe Primary School.
As well as being known for its 80 metre long, colourful fence, the school hosts one of the older weekend markets in Sydney, well worth a visit if you’re around the area.
The fence was installed in 2008 and certainly brightens up what would otherwise be a rather boring bit of footpath.
Another War Memorial. We don’t linger too long but go into the park behind it to the Wireless House. It fascinated me when I read that the house automatically detects visitors as they approach and randomly selects audio sequences from a large database, broadcasting them while you listen.
Back in the 1930s, Wireless House was a place where people gathered to hear daily radio programs and this is a tip of the hat to that era. Sadly, when we were there, nothing happened. No audio. I hope your experience is better.
We didn’t go to the last exhibit. Called Earth and Sky it consists of lights which bathe two huge Moreton Bay figs in a spectrum of colour which is the inverse of the sky’s colour during sunset. Given that we were there in full daylight it didn’t seem like the best use of our time to carry on.
So we caught the light rail back to Haymarket where we could hear a plate of steamed dumplings calling us. Between mouthfuls we decided it had been a most successful outing.
Eclectic was the right word. Both to cover the artworks and the different areas we explored on the way. I highly recommend the app (available from both Google and Apple stores) when you’re wondering what things to see in Sydney. This is only one of the listed walks. Everything you need is there – maps, directions, a little information to make it more interesting. Kudos to City of Sydney for creating it.
More Things to See in Sydney
If walking’s your thing, then have a look at