Take the harbour bridge, a splash of organic single origin, eat streets, colonial architecture, a harbourside boardwalk and a genuine secret garden. Welcome to Kirribilli, a pretty harbourside suburb, which is named after the Aboriginal phrase for ‘good fishing spot’ and offers water views at every turn. Located on the North Sydney side of the Harbour Bridge, it has excellent transport links with Milsons Point train station opposite Kirribilli village and several ferry wharfs.
Where to Eat in Kirribilli
Kirribilli’s eat streets have more deliciousness than there are hours in the day. Start with a caffeine fix at Fitzroy Food Co., which does a brew to set you up for the next few hours, otherwise there’s Cool Mac, a Japanese inspired café.
For a chocolatey treat, snare handmade chocolate at Coco Chocolate—their May Gibbs gumnut chocolates are a speciality, named after Australian children’s classic “Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.”
For lunch, Japanese restaurant Ainoya has fabulous Japanese-style seats, there’s bustling Bangkok Sidewalk or The Botanist. Tucked away in an alcove, The Botanist is named after an eccentric English botanist named Gerard Fothergill who ran a bookshop on the site until 1932. The interior is styled with vines and the menu is pure hipster joy—think cauliflower and farro risotto and quirkily named cocktails.
Where to Walk
Kirribilli is made for aimless wandering and luckily you are never far from a café or bar. Start at Milsons Point Station and troop downhill to Milson Park by the Sydney Flying Squadron—drop into The Flying Bear for coffee with a view of the yacht-studded bay. Then follow the road that skirts the harbour, dropping into lookouts on the way while passing majestic old Kirribilli mansions, which have been tastefully restored.
It’s worth stopping for coffee at Celsius Coffee Co., a teeny tiny café at Kirribilli Wharf, before you veer uphill to Kirribilli House and Admiralty House, grand government buildings used for state functions. As you traipse back to Kirribilli village, take one of the sidewalks down to the foreshore then swoop under the Harbour Bridge before joining the palm-lined boardwalk to Luna Park. With its iconic smiling archway, Sydney’s famous amusement park dates to 1935 and has been fabulously restored.
If you fancy a longer walk, keep going to the Harry Seidler-designed Blues Point Tower, otherwise take the large staircase that leads you back to Kirribilli.
Finding Culture in Kirribilli
Culture vultures should book a performance at the Ensemble Theatre, set in an atmospheric, converted boatshed. Established for nearly 60 years, its program runs international and Australian plays. Arrive early for a drink at the bar or a meal at Bayly’s Restaurant, both with knockout water views.
If you are in the mood for a market or just drinking up the buzzy atmosphere, the second Sunday of each month is the Kirribilli Art, Design & Fashion Market. This boutique market focuses on artisanal goods, including original artwork, bespoke fashion, handmade giftware and, being Sydney, there’s also coffee, street food and live music. Arrive early for bargains but the atmosphere lasts all day. There’s also a popular general market on the fourth Saturday of the month.
Close to Luna Park but far from the hustle and bustle is a genuine secret garden. Wendy’s Secret Garden is a beautifully coiffed harbourside hideaway on Lavender Bay with water views, lush foliage and cute cobbled paths, which give it a magical feel. Carvings, sculptures and whimsical picnic tables dot the gardens and a towering Moreton Bay fig presides over everything. The story behind the garden is a poignant one. Following the death of Australian artist Brett Whiteley in 1992, his widow, Wendy Whiteley, channelled her grief into turning the derelict land near her house into a green sanctuary. Today this fairytale-like space is named Wendy’s Secret Garden and is enshrined for public use.
Another Sydney icon to be found at Kirribilli is art deco North Sydney Olympic Pool. If you fancy swimming laps against a canvas of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Luna Park, it’s hands-down Sydney’s most scenic pool. The good news is it’s heated. More good news? Afterwards you can chill out at the Kirribilli Club for a well-earned refreshment.