I had been to Sydney before but my recent visit was a whole new experience. It was quite an intense exploration of the city, and I had only been to one of those spots previously. But that’s what this media trip was all about – surveying the hidden gems of Sydney and going to places that possibly only locals would have the insight into.

Quirky sophistication

Just take a walk down one of the streets in Surry Hills, and you would realise you are in a really classy neighbourhood. This affluent, eastern suburb of Sydney was one of my favourites during the recent media trip … simply because it is really classy and sophisticated, in a quirky sort of way.

Once home to Sydney’s rag trade and a former local haunt for infamous underworld figures like Kate Leigh, Surry, as it is known to the locals, is now the city’s liveliest and most happening suburb.

There is something for everyone here: style afficionados can sashay along Crown and Bourke Street for some fine hipster chic fashion, or hit the monthly markets for some seriously cool vintage. There are even elegant designer stores to pick up something for your designer home.

One of the interesting sights while walking around Surry Hills is the Clock Hotel on Crown Street. Photo: James Horan/Destination NSW

One of the interesting sights while walking around Surry Hills is the Clock Hotel on Crown Street. Photo: Destination NSW/James Horan

If there is a place where Sydney’s cosmopolitan culture is strongly felt, this would be it … especially in its fusion cuisine and innovative cafes and restaurants. While most serve Aussie fare, there is the additional touch of quirkiness in some of the dishes’ infused ethnic flavours. I was struck by how each eatery and bar here has a really strong and innovative concept.

Surry is also an upmarket area with elegant, expensive homes.

Eclectic mix

If there is one thing that stood out to me about Newtown, it’s that Coldplay’s A Sky Full Of Stars music video was filmed right on King Street. But even if you are not a Coldplay fan, you would still enjoy exploring Newtown.

For music fans, a live performance at Enmore Theatre or the Vanguard might be right up your alley. Arty, eclectic and alternative is what this suburb is all about. That, and its university students … hordes of them from Sydney University, which leads to the neighbourhood’s alternative hipster, grunge and punk style.

Newtown is a melting pot of cultures. As we walked down the street, I noticed that almost every other eatery is international. If you had a craving for any ethnic delicacy, you would probably find it here.

For those who love to shop and are looking for something different, there are many specialty shops as well as retro-vintage and recycled fashion and furniture.

The shopping area extends down north and south King Street, as well as Erskineville and Enmore Roads, and even to several “pocket precincts” hidden in the backstreets.

We walked from Newtown all the way to Marrickville, a residential suburb, passing pretty little terrace houses, while on our way to lunch. Marrickville is a family area where the more affordable housing is located.

Laid-back beach culture

The minute we stepped into Bondi, it was like walking into a health club neighbourhood. Toned and suntanned, casually dressed men and women strolled along the sidewalks, some in active wear. Closer to the beach, there were people in swimwear even though it was a rainy day. Surf was up, a typical day at Bondi.

Take a relaxing stroll along the Bondi coastal walk to enjoy spectacular vistas of the bay. Photo: The Star/Ming Teoh

Take a relaxing stroll along the Bondi coastal walk to enjoy spectacular vistas of the bay. Photo: The Star/Ming Teoh

But Bondi is not only about an all-year-round carefree beach lifestyle, nor is it all just sand and surf. This magnet for locals, celebrities and visitors offers myriad things to see and do from morning till night.

Starting off with a hearty Aussie breakfast, or “brekkie” as it’s called by the locals, or a healthy brunch for those who wish to build (or maintain) their perfect beach bod, we then went on a coastal walk from the beach with its colourful muralled walls, to the cliff-tops to enjoy a spectacular landscape of sandstone cliffs, rock formations and rock pools, with the dashing deep blue waves in the bay below.

When it started raining, we took shelter at the Icebergs Club. Swimmers frolicked in the double-infinity pools below the clubhouse and dining area despite the drizzle. Ocean-front yoga and kick-boxing took place in an open-air exercise area by the sea.

We continued on our Bondi to Bronte coastal walk to the highest look-out point to take photos of the lovely surroundings.

If time (and weather) permits, you can even walk to Coogee, which extends for 6km along Sydney’s iconic eastern suburbs headland. It takes roughly two hours to complete this walk which is not difficult but has some steep paths and staircases along the track.

To enjoy the laidback Bondi Hipster beach culture even further, stroll along Hall, Gould and Curlewis Streets. Shop to your heart’s content at quirky boutiques featuring local fashion designers in beachwear, swimwear, eyewear and even surf photography art.

Happening nightspots

At the end of the day, what better way to unwind than at the local bar, and Sydney offers a great variety of happening nightspots to choose from.

The cosy interior of Pocket Bar in Surry Hills, Sydney.Photo:  The Star/Ming Teoh

The cosy interior of Pocket Bar in Surry Hills, Sydney.Photo: The Star/Ming Teoh

Since I Left You, located in the Sydney CBD in a heritage-listed storehouse, combines a warm relaxing feel with old-world charm. A sweeping carriageway leads to an airy industrial courtyard, with its reclaimed wooden bar and candlelit ambience. This hotspot also serves up a decadent chocolate fondue to go with your cocktails and alcoholic beverages.

Pocketbar, in Surry Hills, is a cosy and intimate eclectic bar with pop art wall graffiti. It serves tapas, besides a wide range of cocktails and liquor.

Shady Pines in the suburb of Darlinghurst is a low-lit, country and western cowboy-themed saloon offering speciality whiskeys, craft ales, sarsaparilla and peanut snacks.

Also in Darlinghurst, Eau De Vie – which has been voted Australia’s best cocktail bar on several occasions and continuously ranked amongst the top 50 bars in the world – is the place to enjoy a sophisticated and visually spectacular cocktail.

Hinky Dinks is a brightly lit yet cosy bar, also in Darlinghurst. Serving approachable wines and fun drinks, it embodies the enthusiastic spirit of the ’50s cocktail culture, when a cocktail wasn’t so much a drink as it was a fashion accessory.

This media trip is sponsored by Destination New South Wales and Singapore Airlines. For more information, go to singaporeair.com/mysydney. Singapore Airlines flies four times daily to Sydney via Singapore. Singapore Airlines and SilkAir fly more than 100 times weekly to Singapore from Malaysia (departing from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu).