Before we begin our little taster tour, we need to talk about Kevin, no wait, Oxford Street. You see, through no fault of its own, it's gotten a bad rap over the last decade. While not completely unwarranted (the RTS did spend 18 months turning it into a 6 lane highway just as Westfield Bondi Junction opened and just as the digital revolution picked up) the beat-up has been done to death in the media.
Fact is, the world changed and East Sydney survived!
Other than the main drag being a little, erm, urban grit, the trading base is solid and jam-packed with creative kooks who make the place an absolute delight to explore, and that's not even the side streets! The biggest problem is a lack of awareness because Sydney is addicted to promoting 'that which not need be promoted', you know, bridges, beaches 'n stuff like that, while ignoring all the great, micro cultures that live just outside the concrete jungle.
In addition, Darlinghurst shares the 2010 postcode - and symbiotic relationship - with Surry Hills, our sister suburb. Surry Hills is south of Campbell Street and the border is fuzzier than 5am on Mardi Gras morning.
We also share Oxford Street with paddington, with another community hub sitting astride that border in 'Paddinghurst'.
Anyhoo, more on this advocacy stuff here. Now, let the fun times roll …
From Whitlam Square, through Taylor Square to 3 Saints Square you'd think we were a bunch of squares. Far from it. Oxford Street is replete with small bars, big bars, gay bars, quirky fashion & retail and great restaurants, cafe's & eateries. It's home to the iconic very and libertarian Stonewall, Colombian, Midnight Shift, Oxford & Exchange Hotels. It's the main connector between the city and the Eastern Suburbs, but don't let that put you off, it's always abuzz and its side streets lead to another world - read on.
Stretches from the Domain all the way down to the edge of Redfern. It's got three main chunks of cool stuff. The northern most is Stanley Street (see below). The southern most is in Surry Hills and well worth a wander down. It's got a very communal vibe, and is a town centre in and of itself. But it's the Darlinghurst part of Crown Street that we are interested in here and it, really, is all about fashion. Vintage, Retro, Designer, Americana and Sultry Seductress Styles, this rag drag is also peppered with small bars, great cheap eats, books, music and more. Find this between Oxford and Albion Streets.
Runs from the world famous Coke Sign to Oxford Street. Well, this aint entirely true, it's also the main drag in King's Cross, but that's King's Cross and we're talking Darlinghurst. This street is pretty cool. It has the Fire Station at the north end, and the fireys are always happy to pose for a picture if they're out front. Govinda's restaurant and cinema is an absolute institution, as is the Darlo Bar. It gets a bit sparse down the south end, running in between the National Art School and St Vincent's hospital, but there is a lovely park there and if you are down on your luck, there is also a charity food truck that feeds the needy of an evening.
Is definitely a food street, there's gotta be at least 50 places to eat and drink along here and the aspect is amazing, so sitting outside and feeding or quaffing is highly recommended. It's pretty much wall to wall fooderies from the Coke Sign to St Vincents Hospital, at which point it becomes rather serious and saves people's live and cures cancer and the like.
Unofficially known as the Italian Quarter, Stanley Street (and surrounds) is a place to go for food and drink. Institutions include Bill & Tony's & Bar Reggio but there's also Japanese, fine dining and a couple of great pubs and small bars in the immediate vicinity, not to mention one of Sydney's best bottle shops and the famous Gold's Gym. It's just a short walk from Sydney's CBD across Hyde Park, or just off William Street (which is where the backpackers hire their cars).
Liverpool Street runs from Whitlam Square at Hyde Park all the way to Paddington and is the way to 5-ways at Glenmore Road. There are many hotspots with restaurants, vintage & antiques, bars and art galleries all interspersed with vibing inner-city residential houses and flats. It really is an eclectic mix with locals frequenting their neighbouring businesses. There are a few clusters, primarily near the Whitlam Square end and the Darlinghurst Road intersection. Places of note are the Robin Gibson Gallery, the Darlo Bar with their Wednesday night Texas Chainsaw Trivia, Dust Collectibles, Listen Up records (Sat Only), the Argentinian Boca Bar & Grill and down the Paddo end Blue Spinach, plus a whole lot more; well worth the a stroll.
Links Town Hall, via Park Street to the Cross and on to the Eastern Beaches down New South Head road. The Darlinghurst stretch is home to ALL the Car and Camper-van hire places in the Sydney LGA. It's also got a rather cool little smattering of cafes and eateries and other odds and ends as well as being extraordinarily close, if not linking to, the Stanley Street precinct.
This little nook is just off Oxford Street and straddles Crown. It's home to unique specialty retail, services owner operated cafe's and two of Sydney's most well known small bars: Shady Pines and Pocket Bar. Foley lane is also pretty rad to walk up and take pictures of due to street art and retro darlo grit. And here, also, will you find the Bikram Yoga school.
The corner of Burton and Palmer Streets is a thespian nook with the TAP gallery and theatre and the newly refurbed Burton Street Tabernacle, new home of the Darlinghurst Theatre Company.
Campbell Street flows from Taylor Square down into China Town. Visit here for more boutique retail and al-fresco eats. It crosses Crown Street so it's very easy to bounce around the two, catching a feed at Mr Chow, trying on some retro/vintage/crazy duds and accessories at the MASSIVE Zoo Emporium, investing in some beautiful contemporary art at Outre gallery or downing a pizza at Dimitri's. It gets great light and is a brilliant place to wile away the afternoon.
There's also the bottom of Campbell Street which has awesome things like Playbar, Wild Rover, Harry's Singapore Chilli Crab and House Thai.
Taylor Square is the centre of East Sydney. It's primarily full of bars: Kinselas, the Courthouse, The Oxford Hotel, Coco Cubano, Name this Bar, but it's central to everywhere and, once again, it's got crazy bits of random retail sprinkled all around it's side and back streets. It also has an up-skirt, footpath-level fountain, which is always good for a laugh.
South Dowling Street/3 Saints
Now, this little joint is actually on the cusp of Paddington but it's still very much a darlo vibe with the Beauchamp Hotel on the corner and a host of rad little haunts and shoppes leaking back up Sth Dowling towards the Taphouse. There's actually great afternoon light on this street and a couple of very sexy clothing stores, for example Baby Likes to Pony, in addition to some very cruisey watering holes.
Other Sexy Bits
Of course there are heaps of other little bits and this is what makes Darlinghurst so fun. For every street you have heard of, there's another little intersection just around the corner where there is stuff worth seeing and doing that does not fall under the catch-all of a street name - happy exploring.