East Sydney self-guided tour on the 311 Bus
I love using local transport to explore new cities. On this self-guided tour, you join locals on the 311 bus as it makes its way from Barangaroo in the centre of Sydney to the waterside suburbs of Elizabeth Bay and Woolloomooloo.
Barangaroo to Woolloomooloo – Exploring Sydney by Bus
Welcome to another instalment in my Exploring Sydney by Bus series, this 40-minute trip covers quite a bit of ground and is great if you want to get a little off the beaten track and discover the vibrant communities of the inner east of Sydney.
This short route includes
- Oxford Street, the centre of Sydney’s gay scene
- Kings Cross, once seedy but now relatively cleaned up
- Elizabeth Bay – one of the harbours beautiful and quiet bays.
- Elizabeth Bay House
- Potts Point with its great cafes and Sydney’s best collection of Art Deco buildings
- Woolloomooloo and it’s historic Finger Wharf
- The Rocks and Barangaroo.
So let’s begin – We are going to start from Town Hall Station you can join from Barangaroo if that is more convenient.
The bus travels up Oxford Street, the main route of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, and past some popular bars and restaurants. My favourite cheap eat here is Mr Crackles – Do not click that link if you are hungry! Seriously delicious pork rolls with crunchy pork rind crackling. Worth stopping for! Wash them down with a couple of drinks from Bitter Phew right nearby.
Now to the official stops
Stop 1. Kings Cross
Darlinghurst Road is the epicentre of Kings Cross’s seedy past. Over the last few years it has cleaned up remarkably, and during the day, it seems pretty much like any other city street with cafes, backpacker hostels and shops. The recently introduced lockout laws have seen a downturn in activity at night, but there are lots of great bars and restaurants worth a visit if you are in the mood to celebrate.
About halfway along at the top of Springfield Ave is an info booth set up by the council. If you have not already downloaded the council’s history walk, Passion, you can pick up a paper copy here. It is also available in the app store
Stop 2. El Alamein Fountain and Fitzroy Gardens
The El-Alamein fountain in Fitzroy Gardens is one of Kings Cross’s most iconic landmarks. Built in 1961, it is a memorial to the World War 2 battles at El-Alamein, Egypt and was a key work of Australian architect Bob Woodward. It is said to be the most copied fountain design in the world. If you are visiting Macquarie Street during your stay, you can find another of his fountains in the foyer of Parliament House. On weekends, the park is a hive of activity with Saturday’s organic farmers market and Sunday’s flea market.
From the fountain walk down Macleay Street until you reach Greeneknowe Ave. Turn right and stop to look at the building on the corner. That is Kingsclere, Australia’s first apartment building, completed in 1912. It was designed by the same architects that build the gorgeous Dymocks Building on George St in the city. Each apartment features two bedrooms, two bathrooms and two balconies that at the time offered spectacular views of the harbour. Apartments in this building have fetched over 3.4 million at auction.
Kingsclere, completed in 1912 was Australia’s first apartment building
Stop 3. Elizabeth Bay House
Head down the hill until you reach the roundabout at Onslow Ave. Turn left here, and you will come to Elizabeth Bay House.
Built in the 1830s and opened as a museum in 1977, Elizabeth Bay House was the home of Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay. Macleay was second in charge of the colony and engaged architect John Verge to design him a grand home fitting for his family. The house features a large oval entry hall with a lovely dome ceiling and an impressive cantilevered staircase. Make sure you visit the cellar to watch the dated but fascinating dramatisation of the Macleay family’s time at the house.
Once surrounded by extensive gardens that ran down to the harbour, today it is one of the best-preserved colonial homes in Sydney.
Stop 4. Macleay St and Challis Ave
This area was the home of all things hip and happening in the 1960s and to be honest, not a lot has changed, at least, when it comes to food. Today the street is full of cafes and restaurants and is the best area on our walk today to stop for a bite or coffee.
Some stand out spots are
- Apollo – for a Greek feast
- Cho Cho San – for a modern Japanese experience
- Yellow – for an interesting take on breakfast eggs and other hearty meals. Oh and if you are in the mood breakfast martinis – need I say more!
From here turn right into Challis Avenue, I love this street; it is full of well restored terraced homes that date back to the turn of the last century. At the bottom of the street, turn left into Victoria Road, and in about 150 metres, you will come to the McElhone Stairs
Until these stairs were built 1870, the only way direct to get between Potts Point and the slums below in Woolloomooloo was by using wooden ladders that ran down the rock face. Today the 113 stairs are particularly popular with runners who love to add them to their morning workout. Thankfully today we are walking down them.
Stop 5 – Harry’s Cafe de Wheels
Stop 6 – Woolloomooloo Wharf
Detour: From here you can either continue walking into the city by taking the stairs to the Botanic Gardens and rejoining the bus in Park Street.
If you want to continue to Barangaroo, cross the road directly opposite the wharf and wait for the 311 bus which runs every 20-30 mins. If you have just missed the bus, you can kill some time in one of the two pubs near the bus stop, the Tilbury and the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel.
Stop 7 – Barangaroo
The bus ends its journey at Argyle Street in Millers Point right by Sydney’s newest park, Barangaroo. A visit to this park is an excellent way to end your day and see the harbour from a new angle. It’s ideal for an afternoon visit as the sunsets to the west over Darling Harbour and the Anzac Bridge. The bus stops near the Rocks end of the Park. When you have walked through the park, you can either retrace your steps back to The Rocks or follow the signs to Wynyard Station and bus stops.
The 311 bus runs every 30 mins between 6 am and, at least, midnight seven days a week.
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