I have eaten and seen a play or two in Darlinghurst. I even worked there for six weeks but I still don’t really know the suburb. Where does it end and Surry Hills begin? Today I will find out. Darlinghurst is small in area, but densely populated. I expect to walk up and down streets, going left then right with diversions here and there.
It’s a short walk from Central through Hyde Park to The Australian Museum. The original beautiful sandstone building of Australia’s first museum has been revitalised and I enter the Crystal Hall to photograph large spiders advertising the current exhibition. Next door, all is quiet at the exclusive Sydney Grammar School. Turning left down Stanley Street, I hug the shade. It’s mid-morning and already the sun is beating down. Four window cleaners with their coloured buckets synchronise their cleaning as they abseil down the tall apartment block towering above me.
A couple of elderly residents of an aged care facility watch council gardeners tidying up a small pocket park. Seated on a step in a simple doorway a man is having a smoko. It’s a pity he doesn’t want his photo taken. He’d make a perfect subject. Further along, the back of a bright high viz vest stands out against the bland brown paint of a corner hotel. This time I do take a photo.
While it’s too early to visit the Stanley Street gallery, the cafes are doing a brisk trade with office workers on their coffee break. The street, once known as ‘Little Italy’, today has restaurants and cafes with a range of cuisines. In Riley Street, a Reg Mombassa art work catches my eye. I look up to see that I’m outside The Watters Gallery and it is open. I take a brief look at the current exhibition but unfortunately, don’t have time to really take them in.
I expected to see street art today and I’m not disappointed. The number ‘77’ is painted very conservatively across the back door of 77 William Street. Lister appears to have signed the artwork but it seems too conservative to be his. I wonder if it was a commission or if the well-known street artist did some graffiti bombing? Walking past outdoor tables, I recognise Charles Waterstreet having coffee with a friend. Darlinghurst is the kind of place where you’ll come across well-known people just doing their thing. Back in Stanley Street I notice a row of terraces and turn into Palmer Street to inspect them properly. Near most of the front doors is an identical plaque “The Baker’s Dozen”. I count them. Sure enough there are thirteen. The late Victorian two storey terraces are Heritage listed.
Surprisingly there is plenty of greenery. Trees line most streets and little pocket parks provide areas for silent contemplation. Residents have prettied up laneways with potted plants. I overhear a woman, exclaim to her partner “Look at this, isn’t it lovely”. She was referring to O’Brien Lane.
Wandering further along Palmer Street to Kings Lane, a striking modern building catches my eye. It is a row of modern looking terraces with cute little shop fronts. A couple are having coffee outside one. A sandwich board indicates Catapult Design, owned by neighbours of mine. I go in looking for Aaron and Leigh. Unfortunately, they are not in yet.
There is an interesting mix of new and old in Darlinghurst. Rows of terraces among some very attractive modern buildings. As expected I find plenty of street art. Some pieces impress me with their creativity. Others, I am not so keen on. On the corner of Palmer and Burton is the Eternity Playhouse, home to the Darlinghurst Theatre Company. Once the Burton Street Tabernacle, the heritage building has been beautifully restored. It was the source of inspiration for the ‘Eternity’ chalk art of Arthur Stace.
Zig zagging down Liverpool, Foley and Burton Streets, I notice something interesting. At the end of Foley Street, near Oxford, is a cast iron drinking fountain. I stop for a much-needed drink from the bubbler. In 1870 eight of these canopied fountains were imported from Glasgow. Only a few remain.
A large Rainbow flag waves in the wind in Taylor Square, welcoming the LGBTIQ Community. The Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has headquarters nearby. In Forbes Street now, I pass a former police station and enter The National Art School. A sign to the ‘Cell Block’ reminds me that I’m in the grounds of the old Darlinghurst Gaol. Six rectangular cellblocks radiate out from the central circular chapel. It is hard to imagine that over 70 people were hanged here.
I was surprised to see a car service centre earlier on. And here, on Burton Street, is a garden centre. Locals seem to be well serviced. I find myself face to face with the Sydney Jewish Museum. A visit here requires time. I’ll return when I can give it my full attention.
Not far down Liverpool Street is the first Sydney Bills Restaurant. En route, I pass the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and reflect on a life taken too soon. A police paddy wagon drives past. The female police officer who is driving is also talking on her mobile phone. Mmmmm. At Bills, there is plenty of room at the large communal table. It’s rather noisy with the chatter bouncing off the hard surfaces. I enjoy my meal but think it a little pricey.
Back on Darlinghurst Road, I walk past numerous eateries, spend time in The Artery (sells ethical aboriginal art), and remember an evening at Govindas, the vegetarian restaurant and movie room with comfortable bean bag seating.
The intimate Stables Theatre, home to the Griffin Theatre Company is around the corner. There are more interesting eating places and some well-known ones (Tropicana and Bar Coluzzi) along Victoria Rd. There are sure to be well-known people sitting at the outdoor tables, but I don’t recognise anyone. I think that the Tattoo Removal Specialist, is likely to be in business for a long time to come.
At Gelato Messina, I decide to be daring and order something different. I overdo it with two scoops and sit watching the passing parade while I savour my dessert. A group of schoolgirls are waiting at the lights. When the light changes, they run excitedly to Messina. The service is quick and soon the chatter subsides as they enjoy their scoops of gelato.
Three Saints Square is at the busy intersection of Victoria and Oxford Streets where Darlinghurst and Paddington meet. I am looking for a community urban music project. It is well disguised and I walk past it a few times before realising what I am looking at. A piano and chair are set up on the steps of a currently empty building. If I only I could play.
The clouds have been threatening all day and I feel a few spots of rain. Time to make tracks. It has been fun discovering Darlinghurst. I will be back – for coffee, a meal or perhaps some Aboriginal art.
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Next stop: Cronulla
You can do a history tour of the Old Darlinghurst Gaol on request.
As it is an easy walk to Darlinghurst from Central, I have not included a Plan your trip link.
And a map to assist you:
(If you would like a pdf of the map, email me via the contact page, and I will send one to you).
(NOTE that the time indicated on the map does not allow for any stops. I take an average of 4-5 hours when I explore):