Opinion by ASTRID WATT
16 million tourists visit Sydney each year, flying into the world-class city to walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge, watch the sunset over the Sydney Opera House, and swim at the iconic Bondi Beach. This Summer, with the closure of international borders, there will be no dodging selfie sticks or suffering the crowds at Circular Quay, but this means local Sydney city tourism is suffering.
This year Sydneysiders won’t be enjoying a white Christmas in New York or living their best ‘Emily in Paris’ life with escargot along the River Seine. Instead, founder of I’m Free Walking Tours Justine Simpson suggests exploring what we have right here, delving into the history and culture of Sydney to find out why millions travel across the world to visit our iconic city.
This summer regional travel is thriving whilst Sydney tourism is at an all-time low, leaving local operators without bookings over Summer. Holidaymakers are crowding beaches up the Central Coast, and hotel bookings are scarce over Christmas and New Year. A Sydney staycation is the perfect alternative for locals with a travel-bug.
“Sydney is full of hidden stories and history that would surprise even the most avid Sydneysider,” said Ms. Simpson.
“There’s a dog statue with John Law’s voice, redirected parts of the tank stream underneath a historic building, a hidden whisky bar in an old puppet store, and rooftop bars serving eucalyptus cocktails up four flights of stairs in an unmarked building.”
For many locals, the streets of Sydney are simply a thoroughfare for their 5 pm pilgrimage to the train station but step off the beaten path and there is a story waiting to be told. There are statues of Indigenous Australians carved into the sandstone facades on George St, singing birds off Martin Place, shells used for building material in the Rocks, and tales of notorious female gangsters waiting to be discovered.
“Although I have lived in Sydney for 16 years I didn’t know a single thing that Adrian told me about our beloved and beautiful city. I would recommend this tour to everyone, including locals,” said Sydney local Juthapat Rerkdee after taking the Sydney insights tour.
I’m Free has been walking the streets of Sydney for over 11 years, offering guided explorations of the City and The Rocks districts. Their Sydney insights tour delves into the historical and contemporary landmarks of the city with anecdotes about theatrical beheadings, a rum funded hospital, Indigenous history and architectural buildings.
The Rocks tour is a 1.5-hour adventure through the narrow lanes of Sydney’s first convict settlement. Captivating tales of murder, muggings and mysteries are shared by a knowledgeable local guide on this twilight tour, making it the perfect experience for curious Sydneysiders.
In the words of Lara bingle, where the bloody hell are you?