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Best suburbs in Sydney
Music, shopping and coffee by the beach await in Sydney's best 10 suburbs
A diverse, growing population spreads across 2,000 square kilometers of suburbs from a massive harbor to the mountains.
For visitors jumping in a car to navigate roads or braving public transport, Sydney has unique villages from a stylish inner city to beach locales and outer suburban enclaves.
Culture thrives and parochial locals always claim their suburb to be the best.
Here are 10 of those suburbs with a distinct local groove.
Surfing at Manly
Australia is "girt by sea," according to the national anthem, and Manly -- colloquially referred to as "God's Country" -- could hardly be more seaside.
With beautiful beaches and harbor side swimming spots on the other side of the coastal peninsula, beach bums just can't go wrong.
Manly Beach is renowned, but nearby Shelly Beach is quieter. Surfing also abounds just north at Freshwater Beach, which is protected and fairly secluded.
Manly Cove, adjacent the wharf, is the spot if waves aren’t your thing.
Getting to Manly by Manly Ferry from Circular Quay
Suburban beats in Newtown
Music runs through the veins of bohemian Newtown, an area that has more live music spots than you can poke a drum stick at.
The sound of a guitar reigns through the bars and cafés that line grungy King Street, much to the delight of the student population. Take in a gig at the intimate Vanguard or check out a local act at the funky Sandringham Hotel (the Sando), where The Whitlams produced a song claiming God drinks there.
Or take in a performance at the cavernous Enmore Theatre. There’s different kinds of bands and acts to savor, from your young indie wannabes to your world-famous pop superstars.
Enmore Theatre, 118-132 Enmore Road, Newtown, +61 (0)2 9550 3666, www.enmoretheatre.com.au
Pub crawling through Balmain
If drifting between pubs tasting different ales and lagers is your idea of heaven, then the backstreets of Balmain's harbor side terraces and pubs is worth an afternoon.
The old criminal and wharfie capital is now gentrified and has an eclectic mix of old English pubs, modern Aussie pubs and the old dive-like bars.
Drop into the London for a pint on the verandah and stare across the harbor from the inner west, with the Harbour Bridge on the horizon.
Knocking one back at the Exchange Hotel and Sir William Wallace is also advised for seasoned drinkers.
The London, 234 Darling St., Balmain, +61 (0)2 9555 1377, www.londonhotel.com.au
Book yourself into Glebe
Glebe is a suburb in the midst of urban renewal and change. Harness and greyhound racing, public housing and squats are giving way to trendy cafés and spacious parks.
The central, alternative peninsula is a hub for restaurants, traditional pubs and off-the-wall shopping.
A popular spot, particularly on Saturdays when the market sets up on Glebe Point Road, it also has a swathe of bookshops on the high street. It may be an industry under attack, but book retailing abounds in Glebe: Gleebooks, Sappho, Phoenix Rising and Cornstalk will soothe your fictional or factual needs.
The long-bearded Roger Mackell will point you to a page-turner at the flagship's independent, Gleebooks.
Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, +61 (0)2 9660 2333, www.gleebooks.com.au
Fast horses at Randwick
Fast horses, dolled-up ladies and the chance to win or lose a bundle is the hallmark of this historic eastern suburb.
Royal Randwick bills itself as Australia’s premiere race course. While Melbournians would argue that the crown belongs to Flemington, Randwick is Sydney’s finest and home to some of the best days in the Sydney social calendar.
Randwick is where Sydneysiders get all dressed up to cheer on nags and dream of a big win. The highlights of the racing calendar are the Randwick mile races: the Epsom Handicap in Spring and the Doncaster Handicap in Autumn. Or try the Oaks in Autumn for Ladies' Day.
Royal Randwick, Alison Road, Randwick, +61 (0)2 9663 8400, www.randwickraces.com.au
Beachside coffee in Cronulla
Best known for awesome surf breaks and an ugly riot in 2005, Cronulla is also home to a burgeoning café scene. The heartland of "the shire" has a growing number of cafés.
Ham, a deli on Gerrale Street, has a traditional European feel where you can dine on fresh cold meats while sipping cappuccino. Inc Café, Zimzala and Strawberry Fair are also worth a try.
Ham Cafe, 3/17 Gerrale St., Cronulla, +61 (0)2 8521 7219, www.hamharryandmario.com
Small bars in Surry Hills
From its early 20th century roots as a place of brothels, gin joints and nightclubs to its modern status as one of Sydney's premiere nightlife suburbs, Surry Hills has a a real inner city grit.
"Slurry Hills" is the home of Sydney's small bar revolution and of the best of the bunch is Café Lounge. Tucked away just off Crown Street, it has a tidy cocktail menu, a mixture of DJs, live music and comedy, as well as the bohemian locals who make Café Lounge the place to be.
Café Lounge, 277 Goulburn St., Surry Hills, +61 (0)2 9356 8888, www.cafelounge.com.au
Shopping in Paddington
Upmarket and trendy, Paddington is packed to the hilt with pubs, boutiques and fancy fashion stores. It's said nobody is the master of this suburb and any journey into the art galleries and boutique pubs in the back streets can be a bit of a maze.
Sticking to Oxford Street, the Saturday markets draws the crowds to "Paddo" every weekend. This four-decade-old spot is a shopping destination for nice jewelry, local designs and independent fashion labels. You could also score some tasty cuisine.
Paddington Markets, 395 Oxford St., Paddington, +61 (0)2 9331 2923, www.paddingtonmarkets.com.au
Eat in Parramatta
This western oasis was once derided as being backward and uncool, but a renaissance has seen a range of exotic restaurants arrive in Parramatta.
Barnaby’s, a mod Oz restaurant, is housed in a building constructed by convicts in 1826, and today you can dine on local seafood and meat mains in heritage features. Head to Peronis for a bite of Italian, Critini’s for Greek fare or Temasek for Singaporean cuisine.
Get there by Rivercat along the Parramatta River from the city.
Barnaby’s Restaurant, 66 Phillip St., Parramatta, +61 (0)2 9633 3777, www.barnabysrestaurant.com.au
Op-shopping in Summer Hill
Shopping for vintage or used clothing in Sydney has many popular areas: Surry Hills, Newtown, Marrickville and St. Peters, to name just a few.
But the best and biggest amount of fashion bargains can be found in good ‘ol Summer Hill. This inner west suburb, which was a former hill station for colonials, has the best op-shopping in Sydney.
The Anglicare sorting store and market, located just near the train station, will reward your clothes search with hidden gems.
Summer Hill Anglicare, 105 Carlton Crescent, Summer Hill.