Secret Sydney: our city’s hidden spots

Get off the beaten track and experience some of Sydney’s little-known gems.

Seek a secluded picnic spot

Paddington Reservoir Gardens

This sunken garden in the heart of Paddington features hanging gardens, water features, high walkways and enormous echoing chambers. In the past, Paddington Reservoir Gardens has been a functional reservoir, a parking garage and a petrol station, and still retains much of the original architecture.

A tranquil oasis in the city.

Foundation Park, The Rocks

Foundation Park is one of The Rock’s best kept secrets. Step through an unmarked doorway and find yourself among the partially remaining foundations of several terrace houses on Playfair Street. While you’re in the area, head down Gloucester Walk to delve deeper into one of Sydney’s most historical spots.

Wendy’s Secret Garden

The name says it all, really. Wendy’s Secret Garden in Lavender Bay is a labour of love completed by Wendy Whiteley to commemorate her late husband, Brett Whiteley. The garden was once a rubbish dump, but in 1992 Wendy began to re-build it into the peaceful spot it is today.

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Explore Sydney’s artwork via secret streets and hidden laneways

To be free is to have no fear, Loftus Lane

Behind Customs House you’ll find a burst of colour in the form of To be free is to have no fear by Nadia Hernandez. The mural in Loftus Lane is the first artwork in Art and About’s City Walls series.

Destructive Steps dance crew and the Nadia Hernandez mural, To be free is to have no fear.

In Between Two Worlds, Kimber Lane

By day this ordinary little service lane is adorned with painted clouds and hanging silver figures. When night comes, the figures fill the street with a blue glow, illuminating Jason Wing’s artwork, In Between Two Worlds. The work beautifully echoes Wing’s dual cultures of Indigenous Australia and China.

By night, Jason Wing’s ‘spirit’ figures illuminate the lane with an otherworldly blue glow.

Explore Sydney’s weird and wonderful side

Mortuary Station

Sitting alongside Sydney’s Central Station is a Gothic building established in 1868 to transport the dead to Rookwood Necropolis. Once the home of a pancake diner, Mortuary Station is no longer functional but visitors can come and marvel at what might have been their ancestors’ final train ride.

St James Tunnels

Beneath Hyde Park are a series of abandoned tunnels connected to St James Station. They were built in the 1930s and used as Air Defence Headquarters during World War II. In 2015, Sydney Living Museums led a tour of the abandoned tunnels, showcasing its air raid shelters and the large underground lake that stretches beneath our city for over a kilometre.

Inside the St James Station Tunnels. Image: Stuart Miller for Sydney Living Museums

Sydney Tank Stream

The Tank Stream was Sydney’s first major water supply after European settlement, with tunnels dating back to 1789. Sydney Living Museums and Sydney Water offer an annual tour by ballot system. If you don’t feel like getting wet you can follow the tank stream path above ground through the city streets by following the markers pictured below.

Tank Stream markers in Martin Place. Image: City of Sydney Archives

The longest travellator in the Southern hemisphere

Before venturing into the City, park your car in the Domain Carpark and step onto the longest travellator in the Southern hemisphere to your preferred destination. The travellator traverses 207 metres at a steady 0.67 metres per second. Along the journey, marvel at the mural depicting local scenes.

Elizabeth Bay House

Standing regally in Elizabeth Bay with beautiful harbour views is the historic Elizabeth Bay House. By day, you can visit the house’s regal rooms and shadowy cellar, and often special events showcasing Sydney’s history are held there. At night, you can book a candlelit tour, or if you’re looking for an even more decadent night, Sydney Living Museums has been known to throw masked soirees celebrating the history of Sydney’s nightlife.

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Pylon Lookout

At the top of the south east pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is the Pylon Lookout, offering some of the best views of the city. If you’re a budding photographer, bring your camera and snap a truly breathtaking photo.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. Image:

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