Why most tourists miss out on the real Sydney

I'm guilty of it myself. Lured into tourist traps, led by clever advertising and "10 things to do in Sydney" lists.

But what if there was more to the city than just the Opera House, Darling Harbour and Bondi Beach. What if the best beach was a short stroll from its more popular Manly version, the best place for a burger sits in the high street of a North Shore suburb or the best place to pick up a bargain sits under the bridge?

When a visit to Sydney is confined to a few days, time becomes a premium so it's understandable when people stick to the places they've seen in magazines and through tv holiday shows. With the luxury of moving here a few months ago we've been able to explore more and discover places that don't appear in guides and areas we wish we'd known about on our previous visits - so I'd like to share them with you.

Shelly Beach - Sydney's finest

If like me, you aren't a strong swimmer, then the thought of taking a dip in the sea, especially with Sydney's notorious rips, will fill you with dread.

Unlike the Manly surf which could drag you off into the deep, dark abyss that is the Pacific Ocean, the water around Shelly Beach is flat, calm and teeming with marine life.

On previous visits I'd browsed around the shops along the Corso, ambled down to Manly beach and precariously dipped my toes into the warm splash at the water's edge.

Little did I know that to right sits a more inviting neighbour. Shelly Beach is a local's favourite and is just a short stroll along the headland. Sea birds sit along the rocks looking out to sea, snorkellers quietly glide below the water whilst paddleboaders skate along the surface and crashing waves give way to crystal clear waters.

Around half way there is opportunity to stop and take in the landscape with lunch at the Bower Restaurant or a cup of coffee from Mambo Coffee next door (one of my favourites).

On reaching Shelly Beach and stripping down to my togs I cautiously enter the water. It's not long before I'm further out than I've been before and my eyes are drawn to the sea bed watching fish dance around my feet.

Mosman for lunch

Many visitors head for Taronga Zoo perched along the shore at Bradley's Head just a short ferry ride from the city.

But it is the suburb beyond the zoo that has one of the best burger restaurants I've ever been to, The Burger Shed.

Equipped with five golden rules to the perfect burger, local & daily, natural grass fed, max flavour, caramalised and char-grilled and happier the cow; happier the customer it was difficult to choose which mouth watering variety to go for.

Perched beneath metal lamps suspended from a ladder which itself dangles from the ceiling, lunch at The Burger Shed made us finally feel the Sydney living vibe.

A relaxed atmosphere on a sunny weekend afternoon sipping Australian brewed beer and watermelon and ginger crush sodas is the way everyone should live.

Our orders arrived. The producer's burger; a smashed sweet potato and chickpea combination alongside beetroot, cucumber and iceberg lettuce topped off with a yoghurt dressing. A Veggie's delight. Or for the meat lovers, the vintage cheeseburger. Grass fed Angus and fullblood wagyu patty smothered in vintage cheddar, mustard aioli, tomato relish and pickles.

Mouth watering just thinking about it.

Bargain hunting at Kirribilli markets

If you want to pick up a bargain then this is definitely the place.

Every second Sunday and fourth Saturday of the month stallholders gather around Bradfield Park and through the Burton Street tunnel all under the shadow of the Harbour Bridge.

Kirribilli Markets has a habit of drawing us back every fortnight just for a browse and a coffee from one of the several food and drink stalls.

The tunnel holds the regulars, selling arts and crafts and a great chance to pick up a little souvenir but the serious shopping goes on in Bradfield Park where there are usually over 100 stalls selling clothes, books and generally anything the stallholder is looking to rid from their lives.

You get the impression some are selling everything they own to fund their overseas trips such is the amount of clothes they look to offload.

But it's at these where the bargains can be found. $25 jackets, $25 Nike trainers hardly worn and $100 jeans going for $10. Catch them as they are packing up for the day and prices reduced dramatically until you hear "4 items for a dollar"

Leaving with a different view

My inlaws visited recently and like others had preconceptions of it being like any other city, the same chained stores and restaurants except for a couple of more famous landmarks.

Yet because they spent the majority of their three weeks outside the city interior the impression Sydney left on them was far more positive.

So if you're planning a trip to Sydney in the near future, get out of the tourist bubble and check out its suburbs - who knows what you'll discover.

We're still exploring Sydney so if you have any tips on places to go around the suburbs we'd love to hear from you