A selection of the best bars Sydney has to offer

By CARTER BANKER | October 11, 2012

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column outlining a 5-day visit to Sydney, Australia, but I left out a key part of the experience: the bars! Like it or not, drinking is a pretty big part of Australian culture. So here’s a list of some of my favorite bars in Sydney.

Scubar:

It is definitely the place to go to meet other college kids, especially Americans, and to make out with the occasional professional rugby player. Scubar is a surf themed club located in a basement. It’s basically a slightly less gross version of a frat party. Warning: this is not a place to go if you’re sober. Regular drinks are reasonably priced, but watch out for the $8 tequila shots. One unique aspect about Scubar is their Monday night crab racing. Pay a dollar and you get assigned a numbered hermit crab. The crabs get released from under a bowl on stage and race to the finish line. 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners get prizes.

Opera Bar:

This is probably my favorite bar in Syndey. Why? Because it has a fantastic, close-up view of the Opera House. This is a great place to go for any occasion, but it’s especially convenient if you are going to see a show at the Opera House. They have good food for pretty decent prices (I use the word “decent” lightly since everything in Australia is expensive), and the beer and the wine are also reasonably priced. You may want to limit your intake of $16 cocktails (and those are the cheapest on the menu). But if you’re going to splurge on alcohol anywhere in Australia, this is the place to do it, in my opinion.

Sidebar:

This bar will always hold a place in my heart because it is where I celebrated my 21st birthday. I know what you’re thinking: they probably had to carry me out at the end of the night and I don’t remember anything. Actually I was very well behaved. My friends bought me a few of my favorite Sidebar drink, Peach on the Beach, and I chatted with a man from Scotland and an Australian who thought I would find it appealing to know that he had dropped out of school in year 10 (10th grade) and was making $28 an hour. Sidebar also has a great 4th of July party that attracts all the American college students in the area. They hang up American flags and have a live band playing American classics. It’s a great cure to homesickness to witness lots of drunk Americans chanting “USA, USA” at the top of their lungs.

Lansdowne:

It has an awesome trivia night on Tuesdays, so round up a group of your friends and give it a try! I was initially worried that all of the questions were going to be on Australian news and pop culture, but my fears were unfounded. The questions were mostly about international news and American celebrities. Upstairs you can get an Australian classic drink called a Billy, which is basically just alcohol in a bowl. I warn against going here on Saturday nights though because that is the night when they play heavy metal music and all the goth people show up. I found that out the hard way.

Baxters:

I’m sad that I didn’t discover this place until my last night in Sydney. Baxters is a very classy Whiskey bar down an ally near a bike shop in the Central Business District. Those are literally the directions that my friend gave me to get there. It’s not marked at all, which makes it really tricky to find, and adds to its refined atmosphere. This is the kind of place that will turn you away if you show up with 10 of your drunk friends. Behind the bar, the walls are covered with whiskey bottles all the way up to the ceiling, and the bar tenders have to use ladders to get up to the drinks! They also have some American dollars on the wall and if you give them one and write a message on it, they will take a dollar off of your drink.

Tio’s:

This is a very popular tequila bar in Surry Hills that makes $17 margaritas. Don’t make the mistake of ordering one of them. Make sure you actually look at the drink menu and the prices before ordering. However, it is easy to see why this place is so popular. It’s in a hip neighborhood, and they offer bags of freshly popped popcorn with your drink! One very amusing aspect about Tio’s is that for last call, all of the fat and hairy bartenders take off their shirts.

Four Pines:

After an afternoon spent lounging in the sun on the beach at Manly, make sure to head over to the Four Pines Brewery. Order the taster, which is a wooden rack full of 5 (large) samples of their specialty beers. It is only $15 and I didn’t even have room in my stomach for the last two!

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