Winter is a short affair in Sydney; it barely lasts a month. Yet when ocean temperatures start to rise and the jacaranda trees blossom, it’s a whole new world.Outdoor events appear from nowhere. Early nights become a thing of the past. Every park, beach or corner becomes a place to hang out. Replenished by a brief hibernation, Sydney awakens and there’s no finer place to be.
Two highlights of summer in Sydney are food and music. For some reason, the former tastes twice as good eaten outdoors.Meanwhile musical acts of all kinds seem to converge on the harbour city in the warmer months, perhaps escaping the seasonal chills of the northern hemisphere.Whether you're a foodie or muso, Sydney is awash with the good stuff - you just need to know where to look.
On a balmy evening, nothing beats dining al fresco. But there’s no need for a prime seat on the terrace of a fancy restaurant. Just eat from the side of a truck.
Sydney embraced the food-truck revolution early and converted vehicles hit the streets in 2012. They even beat their foodie rivals in Melbourne to the party.Now an eclectic, rainbow fleet of 15 trucks roams the streets in search of diners. Lovers of global cuisine, organic fare or good old-fashioned burgers are in for a treat.
Cantina Mobil was a pioneer and serves a choice of three Mexican spiced meats and authentic pinto beans on tacos, burritos or nachos.Another early player, Veggie Patch, turns local produce (90 per cent sourced from New South Wales) into delicious vegetarian burgers, chips and dips.The Nighthawk Diner, named after a famous Modern Art painting from the USA, fittingly serves twists on American classics. Tuck into Cuban subs, Yankee nachos or Philly cheesesteaks and wish yourself away to Florida, New York or Philadelphia.
At times the trucks gather on one site - like wagons in a cowboy movie - and it’s fiesta time. Expect live music, art performances and licensed bars. Head online or download the nifty app to look for events and track the trucks 24 hours per day. sydneyfoodtrucks.com.au
Food trucks are for night owls but early risers can have their fun, too. For something more wholesome, there are nowfarmer’s markets across Sydney offering delicious fresh food and more.
Chat with the farmer, pick up picnic supplies and eat as you go. With a bounty of samples on offer you can brunch for little more than the price of your fair-trade-bean soy decaf latte.
On the site of its vibrant Sunday clothing and craft market, Bondi hosts the farmers every Saturday. In a beachside location to die for - a local public school for the luckiest kids on the planet - it serves all manner of foodie delights. Think Biltong and banana bread, corn cakes and croissants.Don’t miss the guys at Raclettes Plus, who melt the cheese to order for Sydney’s best toasted sandwiches. Expect a hip crowd of beachside fashionistasfor whom dressing down is an art form. People-watching is half the fun. bondimarkets.com.au/farmers
Held every Saturday besidea renovated railway workshop, Carriageworks Farmers Markets caters for the urban foodie crowd. In particular, this is the place for artisan cheese, cured meats and exotic dips. As a bonus, most weekends you’ll see celebrity chef Kylie Kwong personally serve her delicious handmade dumplings.Walk it alloff by strolling around one of the regularly held exhibitions in the adjacent art precinct. carriageworks.com.au
Too difficult rising early on Saturday? The Friday Foodie Market in The Rocks is the place for you. It helps that the setting, under the shadows of Sydney Harbour Bridge, is picture-postcard perfect.
There are delicacies to buy but it’s more a place to feast on the spot. Meat lovers will struggle to choose between Danieli’s Skewers and the Munich Butcher. The sweet of tooth are spoilt for choice, including the Brazilian-inspired Emporium of Chocolate and 12 curious flavours of Mini Monet’s cupcakes. therocks.com
Another option is the monthy Growers Market on the waterfront in Pyrmont. Held the first Saturday of the month, the water backdrop can’t be beaten. growersmarketpyrmont.com.au
The bragging rights of a big-name, big-venue concert are undeniable. But you can barely see the artists in the far distance and the hit to your wallet ... ouch. Be part of the action at one of Sydney’s cheap and cheerful live music venues.
Curiously hidden amongdrab corporate offices in the heart of the city, Frankie's is the place for hard rock, indie and punk. Styled as rock'n'roll bar-meets-New York pizza parlour, this dark and edgy venue hosts live music four nights a week. Find a good spot near the vintage pinball machines and rock late into the night, Brooklyn style. frankiespizzabytheslice.com
A few blocks back from the iconic Bondi Beach, the Beach Road Hotel is a landmark in itself. Ongig nights - Wednesday, Friday and Saturday - electro-pop, rock acts and DJs play to asweaty crowd of trendsetters. Recent line-ups include cutting-edge Australia acts Miami Horror, Kid Kenobi and Hermitude. beachroadbondi.com.au
You can get everything from hip indie bands to rising rap stars atGoodgod Small Club. Located on the fringes of Chinatown in the CBD’s north, DJ sets and live bandsturn every night into a party. goodgodgoodgod.com
Plug the week's gaps with free or cheap gigs at Soda Factory (Surry Hills), Camelot Lounge (Marrickville), Newtown Social Club (Newtown) and Different Drummer (Glebe).
Warm weather and festivals are like fish and chips: a perfect match. There areno shortage of events in Sydney for everyone’s taste, and not all stretch the purse strings.
For fans of emerging acts, the Newtown Festival is a must. For one glorious day, Camperdown Memorial Rest Park comes alive with stalls, stages and street art … plus a hilarious take on the traditional dog show.Music buffs are spoilt for choice. The main festival stage attracts the big acts and crowds. Past performers include Sarah Blasko, Josh Pykeand the Preatures. The Essential Stage hosts the more edgy, emerging artists, while local acts play in the Newtopic village. Held this year on Sunday, 8 November. newtownfestival.org
The biggest event of the summer is Sydney Festival, which hosts a number of outdoor, free gigs. The highlight is oftenSounds in the Domain, which attracts tens of thousandsto groove in the park.Originally named Jazz in the Domain, it still leans towards acts with soul but now they’re easier to dance to. Recent headliners include soul superstar Chaka Khan, Brazilian hero Seu Jorge and Latino legends Los Lobos. Take a picnic blanket and arrive early for the best views. Held in early January. sydneyfestival.org.au
Rich food and partying takes its toll. Thankfully Sydney has countless activities to helpyou recuperate and recover, in natural settings to die for.
Escape the masses and chill in the sun, with the local trendies, at Milk Beach, Vaucluse.
Hop on a Rivercat to Parramatta from Circular Quay, for the best-value harbour and river tour.
Grab a snorkel mask and enter an alternative underwater world at Gordon’s Bay.
Feel the grass under your feet and enjoy ocean views as you play barefoot bowls in Clovelly.
Stroll the now fully connected Glebe-to-City foreshore walkway via Pyrmont and Darling Harbour.
Enjoy sunset (or sunrise if you’re keen) overlooking the harbour at Observatory Hills, The Rocks
Join the paddle board craze, with kit for hire and free classes at weekends in Rose Bay
Explore the new Barangaroo park on the headland next to the Harbour Bridge
This article was originally published in the October 2015 edition of Backpacker Essentials. Download the current edition now!