sydney-opera-house-australiaMention Sydney, Australia and the first attractions that come to mind are the Opera House , the Harbour Bridge , Taronga Zoo , and The Rocks.

But locals and regular visitors will tell you that there is so much more to this vibrant city than these iconic landmarks. However, finding this other side of Sydney isn’t always easy unless you know where to look.

These 5 secret places will get you started…

1. Open up a Pandora’s box of plague and pestilence at the Museum of Human Diseases at the University of New South Wales. With more than 2,000 cadaver parts on display, this museum isn’t for everyone, especially if you have a weak stomach. But I’d guaranteed even the most bored teenager will find this museum fascinating.

Location: Ground Floor of the Samuels Building, Upper Sydney Campus area, University of New South Wales.

Hours: 3.00 -5.00 weekdays

2. Go nuclear with the Lucas Heights Nuclear Reactor tour on the first Saturday of every month. Ideal for fans of The Simpsons, this tour will teach you all about neutron scattering and neutron beams.  Booking in advance (plus providing ID) is a must at this security sensitive site.

Location:  New Illawarra Rd, Lucas Heights
Hours: tours first Sat of month 10 am and 2pm,

3. Be an urban Robinson Crusoe and get lost on Store Beach .  Sydney has more than it’s share of beautiful beaches but to lose the crowds, head for Manly, rent a kayak and paddle your way to Store Beach. With no roads and no paths, the only way to get there is by sea which all but guarantees a pristine stretch of deserted beach.

Location:  Manly, Sydney

4. Count money at the Museum of Australian Currency Notes. Discover fun facts, trace the history of Australian coins and banknotes, and learn about forgeries at this small museum maintained by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Location:  Ground Floor, 65 Martin Place, Sydney
Hours: 10.00 am and 4.00 pm Monday to Friday

5. Reflect and relax at the Paddington Reservoir Gardens . This two chambered reservoir was originally built in1866 and played a key element in Sydney’s water supply. But after being decommissioned in 1899, the area fell into disrepair, becoming home to feral cats and graffiti artists. Restored in 2009, the Paddington Reservoir Gardens give the appearance of a Romanesque sunken garden, complete with lake and hanging garden canopy and frescoes and murals lining the walls.

Location:  Cnr Oxford Street and Oatley Road, Paddington

But the best kept secret has to be the recently opened Sydney Harbor YHA . Located right in the heart of The Rocks, this hostel has million dollar views without the million dollar price tag. Prices range from A$37 to A$154 a night depending on the room.

To discover more secret Sydney places, pick up a copy of Frommer’s Sydney Free & Dirt Cheap by Lee Atkinson when it’s released in May.

Related Perceptive Travel story: Acrophobia Down Under

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Liz Lewis is a New Zealand based writer who favors wine tasting and food markets over bungy jumping and mountain climbing.