Inspiration straight to your inbox

Social Share

Page » Blogs » A sense for Sydney

  • A sense for Sydney

    Posted by Jelle Marechal April 6, 2014 - 1,073 views - 0 comments - 0 likes - #australia  #sydney  #Tours 

    Spend 5 minutes googling for holidays and day-trips in Australia (or anywhere else for that matter) and notice the touchy-feely lingo tour-operators generously employ in their sales copy. Immerse yourself in nature! Experience daily life as the locals do! Soak Up the country atmosphere! Engage all your Senses! In reality there’s often little of all that when you’re being whisked from one tourist spot to the next on an overpopulated 4 hour city tour through the busy streets of Sydney. Of course there’s the odd exception, like Dingo Tours’ City to Surf Tour. But it raises a challenging question: where in Sydney are your senses best engaged? Here’re some of our own tour guide’s (*) favourite city sounds, smells, tastes, sights and , aheum, feelings to get yourself immersed in. Like the locals do.

    The Laughing Kookaburra in Centennial Park, or in the Bronte Gully early morning, or at dusk. Best enjoyed with a strong cappuccino from Bronte’s Three Blue Ducks or a chilled chardonnay .

    The sounds of the waves crashing on the rocks of south Maroubra. Especially on hot midday summers they’ll make you feel in a paradise (where in fact you’re just a 30 minute bus ride away from the CBD).

    The croaking frogs of Trenerry Reserve, the (less-traveled leg of the) coastal walk between Coogee and Maroubra. Between June and September you may even have pods of dolphins and migrating whales in the audience.

    The brewing coffee maker and kitchen staff in cafe Tropicana, Darlinghurst. This iconic cafe on Darlinghurst Cappuccino Strip is also the birth place of the now acclaimed short film festival Tropfest (which had to relocate to the Domain following its popularity).

    The swearing Russian chess players at Hyde Park’s Chess Pitt (behind the kiosk opposite Market Street). Amazing how serious these guys are taking their blitz. Blyad!

    Hard to add anything to the gazillion magazine columns, reviews and SMH Good Food guides. But just in case our celebrity cooks & eaters’ culinary tips haven’t given you an indigestion yet:

    The sweet nectar of pigface-succulent along the Bondi to Coogee rock path. Perhaps not to everyone's palet, but always good to impress friends with local knowledge of some of the native bush plants which the Aboriginal Cadigal people have been turning into soaps, powerful glues and sweet summer jam long before the white fellow got there.

    Freshly barbecued brim speared by some teenage dear-devil of the Malabar heads . Just check the water for signs of an active wastewater treatment plant

    Overhanging passion fruit in the back streets of the north shore and eastern suburbs. We mean passion fruit that hangs over the wall separating the street from the private garden which contains the passion fruit vines.

    Home grown avocados’ bought from the kids operated street stalls along the leafy, multi-million dollar mansion aligned roads of Edgecliff and Vaucluse. The culinary experience comes with the warm and fuzzy feeling one gets when donating to charity (in this case to help fund Amelia’s $30,000 per year private tuition fees).

    A cheese sandwich shared with Jo or Reggie at St James church (King Street) on a Sunday afternoon. Jo and Reggie or two of the hundreds of homeless people you’ll meet at the one of the food vans and distribution centres around Sydney.

    Apart from the obvious ones (freshly brewed coffee or banana bread at your local coffee haunt, freshly mowed grass, permanent markers, the smell of rain on hot Bondi Beach sand):

    The scent of blooming jasmine flowers in the tropical garden behind Bee Meng Soh’s terrace in Erskineville. In fact, all of Sydney’s suburbia has them. If you smell them, you’ll know it’s summer. Love it!

    The eucalyptus infused fur of a koala, hugged at Featherdale Park or Australian Wildlife Park. How good this little fellow smells – even its shit beats any perfume.

    The sea-breeze blown in from the wild Pacific chop over Long Reef. Feels good too.

    The flagrance at the start of Sydney’s annual City to Surf run – an invigorating mix of sweat, muscle cream and cheap deodorant emerging from 40,000 armpits and buttocks.

    The intoxicating smell of old books at Glebe’s second hand book store Gleebooks (Glebe Point Road, 191) – four times Australian Bookseller of the Year.

    The bat (more correctly: the grey-headed flying fox’) shit in the Botanical Gardens – since their 2011 relocation also to be enjoyed in most city parks like Wolli Creek, Centennial Park, Fred Hollows Park and the old tram lines between Randwick and Coogee.)

    Old tramline

    Caption photo: The Sydney tramway network once served Sydney, the capital city of New South Wales, Australia. In its heyday, it was the largest in Australia, the second largest in the Commonwealth (after London), and one of the largest in the world.


    Really, I think I’ll just skip this one. What about “all of Sydney”. Or perhaps just these two:

    The view from Redfern’s Eveleigh Street on to the Aboriginal Flag painted on the last remaining wall of the infamous Block, contrasting sharp against a backdrop of a CBD skyline of neon lit corporate logo’s. In my view one of the most politically meaningful and symbolic snapshots one can take of (and in) Sydney.

    Seeing a whale from the shores of Botany Nay NP( rather than from an exploitative & crowded tourist boat). The sight of even the tiniest black speck far off shore makes me ecstatic, especially when cast while on the beautiful walk between Cape Solander in Kurnell and Cronulla Beach.

    Big, heavy and tropical raindrops on my skin while cooling off in Coogee’s rock pool (AKA the washing machine).

    The white beach sand tickling my feet at Yarra Bay. Just in front of the sailing club to be exact. On a summer’s Sunday afternoon, when there’s a band playing on the promenade, the beach bar is open, and a balmy night is pregnant with possibilities such as a skinny dip in the cool Pacific.

    What is your favourite smell, taste, sound, sight and feeling in Sydney? Please let us know: [email protected]

    Jelle Marechal.

    (*) Jelle Marechal is an Australian citizen, and was born in Belgium. He studied politics and worked for many years as a journalist, tour guide and conference organiser before migrating to Australia in the mid-nineties. In 2004, he set up Australia’s first social activity network ( Since then, Jelle has developed, lead or participated in more than 800 activities – anything from contemporary art gallery tours and pub crawls in Sydney and Melbourne, to kayaking and bushwalking weekends in many national parks and cycling trips through the country sides around all capital cities of Australia. Over the years he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about Sydney, and the whole of Australia and its natural and cultural gems – a knowledge which enables him to deliver participants of our tours unique and unforgettable experiences of learning, discovery and total indulgence.