13 Best Hidden Gems in Sydney and New South Wales

Sydney, Australia, is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations. It is an easy choice for many to see the timeless and iconic attractions like the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Bondi Beach. But there’s more to this New South Wales city than magnificent landmarks and popular go-to places. Most definitely visit the must-sees but mix it up with hidden gems in Sydney and around New South Wales for a more memorable experience.


1. Wollombi

Couple walking through Wollombi, one of the hidden gems in New South Wales.
Take a stroll and explore wineries and markets in Wollombi, Hunter Valley. | Credit: visitnsw.com official website.

Escape the urban hustle and bustle and immerse yourself in the charming town of Wollombi, one of New South Wales’ hidden gems located in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. This historic village boasts well-preserved colonial architecture and friendly locals. Savour locally produced wine and dine at the rustic Wollombi Tavern. Browse the Wollombi markets for local produce, crafts, plants, and clothes, while enjoying the picturesque countryside.

2. Wollomombi Falls

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Spectacular views after rainfall of the Wollomombi Gorge. | Credit: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au official website.

Australian names are so much fun, aren’t they? Wollomombi (not to be confused with Wollombi) is a hidden gem in the New England region of New South Wales, home to the stunning Wollomombi Falls, a plunging 230-meter waterfall. Catch great views of the falls at the Wollomombi Falls lookout in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, an easy walk from the Wollomombi picnic area.

If the outdoors is your jam, then you’ll love what this place and all its natural beauty have to offer.

3. Jervis Bay

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Booderee is Aboriginal land boasting its crystal clear waters with high cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. | Credit: Nadia Levenets via Unsplash.

Known for its stunning white sandy beaches, Jervis Bay is another one of the hidden gems in New South Wales. Hidden within the bay, you’ll find the serene and secluded Greenpatch Beach located inside Booderee National Park. Its calm waters and vibrant marine life make it a great spot for snorkelling, swimming, and spotting wildlife. What kind of wildlife do you say? Well if you’re lucky you might get to see wallabies, lorikeets and echidnas.

What makes Jervis Bay special is also the place for whale and dolphin watching. They say between May and November whales visit the marine sanctuary, which is the annual whale migration period.

Surrounding the beaches are beautiful natural attractions such as the Jervis Bay Marine Park, Booderee National Park, and cliff-top walking trails

4. Shark Island

View from the beach of Shark Island, one of many hidden gems in Sydney.
Shark Island’s original name is Boowambillee, is perfect for when you can’t hop on a plane for a quick island day trip. | Credit: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au official website.

Shark Island easily falls under the list of Sydney hidden gems. It’s possible to have even lived in Sydney and have this small island fly right under your radar! Situated within the Sydney Harbour about 1.5km from the Sydney CBD (central business district) or basically near Bondi, you can get to Shark Island by ferry from Circular Quay or other nearby ferry terminals. It’s also part of the Royal National Park, perfect for a quick island getaway.

This isolated gem of an island vaguely resembles that of a shark, where a 360 panoramic view of the Sydney Harbour is at your disposal to soak it all in. The lush grassy areas are popular for a relaxing lounge-y day and definitely for picnics and barbecues.

And like many places in Australia, you can always go for a dip in the water or snorkel at Shark Island too.

5. Foundation Park

Family having a picnic at the hidden Foundation Park in The Rocks, one of the hidden gems in Sydney.
The Foundation in The Rocks was Australia’s first settlement and now the ruins of eight houses have become one of Sydney’s best-kept secrets. | Credit: The Rocks official Instagram page @therocks.

If you’ve heard of or been to The Rocks in Sydney, then it’s time you stumble upon this little quirky part of the Sydney hidden gems called Foundation Park, away from all the tourist hustle and bustle of The Rocks.

The site is a fascinating green space made up of the surviving foundations of eight terrace houses that were built in the mid-1870s then later demolished in 1938. You can walk through the ruins of the original rooms and feel like you’ve been transported back to the 1800s.

It’s said the area was densely populated during the 1900s and every inch of land was needed for housing. This explains the 3-meter by 3-meter rooms and small space that Sydney families of 4 to 10 children would typically live in back then. A neat find as one of New South Wales hidden gems.


6. The Strand Arcade

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While the Strand Arcade is a retail centre, it was established in 1891 and remains an important heritage landmark in Sydney as it’s the only Victorian shopping arcade left in its original form today. | Credit: Athena A via Pexels.

One that is considered as one of the hidden gems in Sydney is right smack in the CBD. The Strand Arcade is a Victorian-style heritage retail centre that’s located between Pitt Street Mall and George Street.

Inside, you’ll find a uniquely curated blend of Australian designer fashion brands and speciality stores. Even if it’s not up your wallet’s alley, the ornate ambience and majestic beauty are still worth a stroll and gander.

7. Milk Beach Vaucluse

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Milk Beach is a small isolated beach at the base of Hermit Bay within the Sydney National Harbour Park. The Hermitage Walking Trail is great for a bush walk experience. | Credit: official website of New South Wales nsw.gov.au

This beach has seen many milk deliveries come through to the Strickland House in its heyday, which is how this beach got its name and is now part of New South Wales hidden gems.

If you’ve had your fix of the hustle and bustle of popular beaches like Bondi and Manly (don’t get us wrong both are a must-visit), then the secluded harbour cove of Milk Beach is where you want to be, one of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs best-kept secrets.

What’s there to do at Milk Beach? Well, get out that fishing rod or snorkel, relax with a picnic, or take a walk along the Hermitage Foreshore. All while taking in the sights of multi-million dollar homes, boats, and amazing views of the city skyline.

Public transport, boat or limited off-street parking is available for you to get to Milk Beach.

8. Brett Whiteley Studio

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Brett Whiteley bought what was once a warehouse in 1985 and turned it into a studio and an exhibition space. His art style was figurative Expressionism. | Credit: official Art Gallery of New South Wales website artgallery.nsw.gov.au

On the more sophisticated and artsy side of hidden gems in Sydney, is the Brett Whiteley Studio in the inner suburbs of Surry Hills, a public museum managed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. One of Australia’s most celebrated artists of the 20th century, this studio is where Brett Whiteley lived and worked from 1987 to 1992.

For an intimate look into this avant-garde artist’s life and work, explore and experience a space filled with his unfinished works, paintings, art equipment, collections of reference books, and a graffiti wall of quotes and images.

Step into the living area where you’ll find memorabilia such as his music collection, photographs, sketchbooks, furniture, and more. Who knew you could find this type of hidden gem in Australia?

9. Wendy’s Whiteley’s Secret Garden

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There are volunteer gardeners organized by Lavender Bay Precinct making it a great opportunity and unique experience for residents and newcomers to enjoy the love of the garden together. | Credit: Wendy’s Whiteley’s Secrety Garden official website https://www.wendyssecretgarden.org.au

As a tribute to her late husband, the renowned artist Brett Whiteley, Wendy Whiteley created a tranquil garden tucked away in Lavender Bay that overlooks the Sydney Harbour.

Yes, you’ll find Wendy’s Whiteley’s Secret Garden not so secret on the list of Sydney hidden gems but it’s still worth the visit and you might even get the place to yourself. That’s pretty ‘secret’ alright. And just about 15 minutes from the CBD!

The green spaces all around are all there for you to zen out and savour the moment. There are all sorts of hidden gems in New South Wales, in this case it’s an oasis of a garden.

10. The Hero of Waterloo Hotel

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The Hero of Waterloo Hotel has been around for over 170 years as a heritage landmark and provides good cheer to locals and visitors. | Credit: Hero of Waterloo official website heroofwaterloo.com.au

This is for history buffs and spooky curious minds alike. Located in Millers Point in the heart of The Rocks, this long-running pub boasts as part of the New South Wales hidden gems. The story of this hotel dates all the way back to 1843 when George Paton built it from sandstone and soon became a popular drinking spot for the Garrison Troops of the Colonial days.

You’ll be welcomed by its warm hospitality and cosiness of open log fires, where you can enjoy its well-stocked bar, modern Australian cuisine, and amazing live music.

But the most intriguing attraction of Hero of Waterloo Hotel one of Sydney’s oldest pubs is their famous Hero Cellar and Tunnel guided tour. Legend has it that a secret tunnel running from the cellar of the hotel to the harbour was used to smuggle rum and involuntary recruitment of sailors after they had had one too many drinks at the bar.

You can get a good sense of the hotel’s notorious past when you see shackles still fixed into the walls and the entrance to the smuggler’s tunnel.

The Hero of Waterloo is considered a Historic Australian landmark and makes quite the story as part of Sydney hidden gems.

11. Fred Hollows Reserve

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The Fred Hollows Reserve offers a trail for a pleasant walk across a footbridge and creek and up the gorge from Alison Road to Bligh Place. | Credit: Randwick City Council’s official Facebook page.

Take a quick break and escape the busy streets in this 2-hectare nature park reserve tucked away in the eastern suburbs of Sydney of Randwick.

Stroll along the walking path throughout the reserve where you’ll come across boardwalks and a footbridge where you’ll see all sorts of plants and vegetation thriving there.

If you feel the need to pause and take in the moment, there are benches where you can sit and relax your feet while enjoying the peace and serenity all around you.

Fred Hollows Reserve is not just a lovely trail within the concrete jungle but definitely one of the hidden gems in Sydney worth swinging by.

12. Bare Island Fort

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Take a guided tour of the Bare Island Fort at La Perouse and cross a 130-year-old wooden bridge to learn about its unpredictable history. | Credit: Mia Mercer via Unsplash.

Bare Island is a small low sandstone island in the suburb of La Perouse, within the city of Randwick in Botany Bay. The island was used to build a fort in the 1880s to protect Sydney’s back door from foreign invasion. Then much later became Australia’s first war veterans’ home in the 1900s.

Although it’s an hour by public transport from Sydney’s CBD, this recommended place of Sydney hidden gems has much to offer with its rich history, and now a museum and an attraction of sorts. Once you get there, you’ll notice Bare Island is connected to the mainland by a century-old wooden bridge with spectacular scenic views of La Perouse. Across the bay, you’ll be able to see the Cook’s Landing memorial for when Lieutenant James Cook first noted the place as a ‘small bare island’ which provided a convenient navigational marker when he came to Botany Bay in 1770.

Guided tours of the fort are available and are the best way to dig deeper into the island’s origin story.

The water around Bare Island Fort is also popular among scuba divers, while Kamay Botany Bay National Park is great for snorkelling.

What’s one of New South Wales hidden gems without a little fun fact? Bare Island was the location for the action blockbuster Mission: Impossible 2. (This message will self-destruct in 3…2…sorry couldn’t help it).

If you want to take another picturesque stroll away from the crowds, there’s the nearby Cape Banks Walking Track.

13. Lightning Ridge

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The Artesian Bore Baths is a popular must-try experience at Lightning Ridge. | Credit: Visit New South Wales official website visitnsw.com

One of the hidden gems in Australia more specifically in New South Wales is more on the eclectic side. Lightning Ridge is not like any other traditional Australian outback town, it’s an outback opal mining town rich in colourful history. Famously known for its rare and stunning black opal since the town boomed in the late 1800s.

Get a closer glimpse of the town’s glory days on a guided tour. You’ll find an array of beautiful gems at markets and opal stores too. The most interesting thing to do at Lightning Ridge is probably relaxing in the naturally heated and bubbling Artesian bore bath.

A charming outback town isn’t complete without its quirky museums. Originally a miner’s camp, the Bottle House Museum which was built entirely of bottles in the 1960s, houses a huge collection of artefacts and other interesting finds. There’s even a dog house made of bottles!

If you’ve never seen so many cacti in your life before, then you’ll see them at Bevan’s Black Opal Cactus Nursery where it’s said to be the largest collection of cacti in the Southern Hemisphere.

Besides the friendly locals there are also good eats all around. All types of eat all kinds of cravings, from delicious homemade pasta, pizza, and burgers, to your daily cup of coffee, your go-to pub favourites, and even Asian cuisine.

Now you’re all set to discover Sydney hidden gems and explore the wider area of New South Wales for even more gems! From the bustling harbour city to the rugged outback, New South Wales has something to offer everyone. With its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture, New South Wales is a hidden gem waiting to be explored.

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