Travelling solo in Sydney? You’re in good company.
Forty percent of domestic overnight visitors and 48 percent of international visitors to Sydney in the summer are likely to be solo travellers. These estimates are courtesy of Destination NSW, a New South Wales tourism organisation.
“Sydney is a safe destination with friendly locals and a range of welcoming experiences, which makes it the perfect destination for lone travellers,” says the CEO of Destination NSW, Sandra Chipchase.
If you’re a woman, Sydney may be just the right place for you to satiate your wanderlust on a solitary journey. Perhaps you’re looking to contemplate the beauty of life, or to push your boundaries with a first-time experience. In Sydney, you’ll get to soak it all in without constantly looking over your shoulder.
“Sydney is pretty safe,” says a female Sydneysider. “All I would suggest is that like anywhere, exercise common sense and stick to well-lit areas late at night. Sydney doesn’t have a great late-night public transport system, so I also usually have a plan for how I’m going to get home before I leave. Unless you’re on a train line, an Uber or taxi is likely to be your best option!”
Read on, because the PARKROYAL Darling Harbour team has more insider tips to help you plan the best Sydney holiday for one.
The Joy of Solitude: Find Solace in a Secret Garden
Wendy’s Secret Garden
Address: Lavender Street, Lavender Bay NSW 2060, Australia
Telephone number: +61 2 9936 8100
Opening hours: 24 hours daily
Feeling lost—literally or figuratively? Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden might be the perfect panacea.
Seek inner calm amidst the lush greenery in this storybook setting, where ferns, flowers, and towering trees grow freely yet harmoniously. This is also one of the beautiful hidden places in Sydney to capture enchanting Sydney photos, with a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
“Everyone needs a secret garden in their life,” says Whiteley, who has tended to the formerly disused landfill site since 1992. The garden has been her unyielding light through the darkness—she lost her husband Brett to a heroin overdose, and almost a decade later, her only daughter, Arkie, to cancer.
Sadly, Whiteley is not the official owner of her precious garden. It sits on land that belongs to Sydney’s RailCorp, and there is the risk that it may one day be required for railway or commercial purposes. Despite her years of toil, Whiteley is unable to set up a trust fund or take other efforts to protect her garden. Her only wish is that people will continue to seek out the garden and find their own magic there.
Know That You’ll Never Walk (or Climb) Alone
Address: BridgeClimb Sydney, 3 Cumberland Street, The Rocks, NSW 2000, Sydney, Australia
Telephone number: +61 2 8274 7777
Credit: Bridgeclimb Sydney
If you must do something touristy, make it the Sydney BridgeClimb. It’s a chance to scale the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which some have hailed as the “Cathedral of Steel.”
BridgeClimbers—over 4 million and counting—agree that it is an unforgettable experience, not to mention one that rewards you with an astounding view. But here’s another perk: unlike other climbing adventures, you can approach this without fear or anxiety. (Fact: of the hundreds, or even thousands of climbers each week, only 10 or so feel compelled to turn back early.)
You will be safely clipped all the way, plus the reviews consistently report that the activity is safe and well organised. It is even suitable for those who aren’t in tip-top physical shape; many who are of average or subpar fitness levels have said that they managed the climb with no trouble.
The only downside to the BridgeClimb? Its price. Be prepared to pay well over AU$200 or AU$300, unless you pick the BridgeClimb sampler on a weekday (AU$168). But if you’re after an experience that you won’t get elsewhere, it may be worth the splurge. For the best view, book a dusk climb.
Escape to the Blue Mountains
Want peace and tranquility, without sacrificing accessibility? The Blue Mountains are your answer. These mountains are so named because they appear to be shrouded in a blue haze; there’s a scientific reason for this, which you can read about here.
As for why you should head to the Blue Mountains, Wildlife Tours Australia has five solid reasons: Instagram-worthy views; Aussie wildlife encounters; majestic waterfalls; rainforest walking trails; and the chance to learn about Aboriginal Australians, the world’s oldest civilisation.
Getting to the Blue Mountains on your own is easy. The most popular way to get there is by car, and driving directions are on the official Blue Mountains website. Trains from the Central Railway Station are another option—possibly the most relaxing way to get there.
If you plan to make a day trip to the Blue Mountains (view a sample itinerary), consider spending time in Katoomba, its most-visited town.
The highlight there is the Three Sisters, an iconic sandstone formation. “They jut dramatically into the sky, looking like three queens admiring their realm,” reads one New York Times review. According to Aboriginal legends, they represent women who were turned into stone for their own protection.
For overnight stays, bookmark this solo weekend guide, complete with food and cafe recommendations, and read about an inspiring friendship that developed between two solo travellers in the Blue Mountains. Who knows, it could happen to you too.
Community is Everywhere: Explore Culture Together
Telephone number: +61 1300 776 043
Aboriginal Cultural Tours
Tour starting point: Hickson Rd, Barangaroo NSW 2000, Australia
Telephone number: +61 2 9255 1700
Tour hours: Tours start at 10:30am
To meet artists, designers, and makers, as well as curious locals, book a tour with Culture Scouts. Experts in all things culture-related, their guides will happily introduce you to interesting neighbourhoods of Sydney such as the arty and eclectic Newtown. Strictly for those who are into non-touristy things to do in Sydney!
If it’s Aboriginal cultural education that you’re after, head to Barangaroo. Better known as an up-and-coming lifestyle hub, the area was in fact named after a significant female indigenous leader in the 1700s. To find out more about the area’s history and the importance of the land to the clans that once lived there, sign up for the Aboriginal Cultural Tours led by environmentalist Clarence Slockee.
“I grew up in a family of fishermen (and women) and farmers and spent heaps of time in the bush and along the creeks and rivers with my cousins and uncles,” he says, “so I’ve always had a deep appreciation of the bush and the relationships between animals, plants, and people; particularly from an Aboriginal cultural perspective.”
Make Connections on the Go: Share Stories Over Food
Telephone number: +61 417 206 323
Fancy a backstage pass to experience Sydney’s multicultural cuisines, complete with a chance to hear stories from different ethnic communities? Join Taste Tours, an organisation that supports new Australians.
This is the Taste Tours promise: “Our tours combine commentary, historical facts, local culture and culinary insight into unique three to six-hour experiences. You’ll be guided through Sydney’s [secret] suburbs, eating local artisans’ most delicious foods while learning about food, culture, and history from local guides.”
For a different sort of food experience, make a date with expert forager Diego Bonetto. He grew up on a dairy farm in northern Italy, when it was still common practice to collect the wild produce of the land. When he moved to Australia, he sensed that people had a “longing to rekindle their untapped connection to nature,” and he decided to make this his life’s work.
With Bonetto as your guide, you can learn how to harvest wild edible mushrooms in pine forests, identify medicinal plants, and indulge in other foraging activities.
Learn Something Together with New Friends
To set your creative spirit free, enrol in a two-hour workshop with Gregory, a Sydney artist and qualified art therapist. Walk along the Cremorne Point Reserve to arrive at Gregory’s studio, where you’ll draw, and of course, make art.
If you are a keen student of philosophy, emotional intelligence, and all things related to our nature of being, head to the School of Life. There you can learn and connect with kindred spirits. The School boasts a rotating roster of courses, teaching you everything from how to love your job to thriving in romantic relationships. You can even join a workshop for the sole purpose of having insightful and colourful conversations on red-hot topics such as sex!