Destination Guide: Newtown Sydney, Australia

Newtown: Sydney’s Trendy Heart

Newtown is one of the coolest neighborhoods in Sydney. photos by Kathleen Broadhurst.

By Kathleen Broadhurst

While Melbourne may hold the unofficial title of Australia’s capital of culture, beautiful Sydney with its sunny weather and sweeping harbor can boast of a few trendy and eclectic cultural spots of its own.

Most people who come to Sydney see the sights of the Opera House, Harbor, and Bridge and spend a day wandering around the Rocks and Botanical Gardens. All of these are well worth seeing and spending a day doing them is essential to any trip to Sydney. But once the pictures are taken it can be hard to know where to go to get a glimpse of modern Sydney.

For those who are looking for something a bit different, or are a bit different themselves, Newtown is the “little Melbourne” of Sydney (but don’t say that to the locals!). Full of antique and vintage shops, funky clothing stores, organic groceries and gourmet eateries, Newtown is well worth a visit.

The main drag is easy enough to navigate; it follows the Prince’s Highway onto King St. and continues straight along. It’s easy to catch a bus or train from the CBD. From the city center get off at the Newtown stop and voila you’re there. With King St. as your guide it’s hard to get lost and easy enough to explore smaller side streets without being overwhelmed.

Newtown is known for being the bohemian heart of Sydney and a quick glance will show you why. Alternative lifestyles of all kinds find a home here, from trendy musicians to down to earth yoga instructors and new immigrants from all corners of the globe. This is the place to come and spend a leisurely day wandering and exploring without the pressure of the tourist hub.

Good Eats

Hazelnut throwdown. 'nuff said.
Hazelnut throwdown. ’nuff said.

There are dozens of fantastic places to eat in Newtown. Whether you are looking to grab a quick cuppa’ or sit down for a smorgasbord brunch Newtown’s restaurants and café’s cater to every taste.

Caketown sells quick bits of cakes for desert on the go or a quick mid afternoon treat. There are bigger pastries as well in this hole-in-the-wall but it’s the tiny bite sized “throwdowns” that make Caketown worth a visit. Try at least three of the flavors, I loved the fig.

Café C is a perfect spot for people watching and brunch. Don’t be put off by the exceptionally hip customers and wait staff, they’re perfectly friendly and the service is good. The larger dishes will set you back a bit more than other spots but Café C’s corner location and open atmosphere make it a winning choice. Skip the cheesecake though, if you’re from the States go for something a bit more Australian.

You’ll have to look a bit harder to find the Black Star Pastry. This picture perfect café and bakery bursts at the seams every morning as locals crowd in for the croissants, bread, and hand-sized quiches. Order fast or you might lose out. Don’t try to eat in the café, instead, take your goodies across the street to the strip of grass or the common area on King St to savor your breakfast with all the others who couldn’t fit inside.

It’s nearly impossible to walk past Doytao Thai Resturant without stopping for a taste. Delicious exotic aromas of lemongrass and chili spice flood the street in front of it and there are always people inside this Newtown institution, right up to closing time. The prices are good too and everything is delicious.

Shop ‘Till You Drop

Dresses for sale in the streets of Newtown.
Dresses for sale in the streets of Newtown.

With its delightful selection of small independent stores and quirky products, it’s hard to hold on to your money. It seems every other store is an antique furniture warehouse or a vintage collection spot. This is where the designers of Sydney come to find relatively inexpensive treasures for their projects.

Eastern Arts, on King Street, is a hub of busyness. Like stumbling into your crazy aunt’s closet there’s bound to be something you’ll end up taking home. Spend an hour or two exploring the labyrinth of old treasures, let one store blend into another as you scour the shelves for something that will fit into your carry on.

The funky Tree of Life offers clothes, jewelry and home wares that support women’s collectives abroad in India as well as provide the locals with all the things they make have forgotten to buy on their last trip there. Their prices are good and their staff is friendly.

Graffiti, or street art, is a booming underground phenomenon in Sydney as in the rest of Australia. If you’re looking to get involved in a little impromptu tagging or simply looking for a cool shopping experience 567 on King St is a must see shop. Stocked with colorful markers and high-quality spray paint the guys behind the counter will tell you all you need to know about the art of graffiti. For those less interested in courting arrest, there are fantastic coffee table books from renowned artists and histories of underground art available.

Find spray paint in large quantities in Newtown.
Find spray paint in large quantities in Newtown.

Spending a while in Australia? Have you run out of Dr.Brommer’s? Dr. Earth is the place to go to restock just about every organic or specialty health product you can imagine.

Carrying everything from bamboo kitchenwares to Bush Flower essences it’s easy to lose track of time here. Most notably they carry local Australian brands that are hard to find anywhere else and stock a good supply of food for those on special diets that may be difficult to locate in a regular grocer.

While coffee may be an important staple in Australian culture, tea was the first love and at T2 it still is. With walls reminiscent of an old apothecary, stocked with drawers of tea even reluctant tea drinkers are sure to find something they love. Traditional black sits happily next to Turkish Apple and its fun to smell test the different varies and curing styles. Their teas come in cute little tins that are quite handy even when empty.

Night Life

Newtown street scene

If you’re looking for live music and a night out it might be a bit harder to find here than you would think. Warehouse communes on back streets hold the best parties but you’ll have to ask around and get to know people if you want an invite.

The two staples are The Sandringham, known for its live music and Long-Island Iced Teas and The Bank which is big and loud but always populated and has dancing space.

Both are located on King St. and shouldn’t be hard to find. Things are constantly changing so ask where the coolest place to go is, it’s a better gauge of the current culture and will get you interacting with the beautiful people of Newtown.

Check out flyers on street poles and inside on café community boards for the latest info on what’s happening where. If you’re lucky you may even catch a party in Sydney Park at the end of King St, though its worth a walk there anyways with its sublime views of the CBD.

No trip to Sydney should be complete without at least an afternoon spent in this delightful neighborhood, for fun, funky and cosmopolitan experiences Newtown can’t be beat.

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