Kirribilli; a village by the harbour

Sunday morning in Kirribilli, and the wind is competing fiercely with the sun. The absence of an official resident of Kirribilli House doesn’t seem to bother the locals, who are out in force to savour the early Spring sunshine – brunching, jogging, cycling, picnicking, or reading the paper over coffee. Serious swimmers make their way to the North Sydney Olympic Pool, seemingly oblivious to the fact that their training ground is set against one of Sydney’s most spectacular backdrops.

Kirribilli is one of Sydney’s most visited tourist attractions, but for locals it is simply a charming neighborhood where the coffee guy knows your order and the owner of the French bakery waves when you walk down the street.

A stroll around the harbour takes us past joggers, families and fishermen relaxing in the sun and patiently watching their rods (despite the no fishing signs dotted along the boardwalk – ironic since the name Kirribilli is derived from the Aboriginal word Kiarabilli, meaning “good fishing spot”). Two bridal parties battle the wind for romantic photos in front of the Opera House; an old man paints the scene in watercolour while a toddler derives endless amusement from running into flocks of seagulls and watching them frantically disperse. A bus pulls up and unloads Japanese tourists armed with digital SLRs and backpacks, eagerly snapping shots of the sparkling harbour.

Michael Jackon’s remixed Billie Jean filters out of Luna Park, mingled with theme park jingles punctuated with the occasional excited group scream. Continuing down the boardwalk, we come across hidden mini statues of Aussie icons, familiar characters such as Snugglepot & Cuddlepie (creations of local author May Gibbs) and Blinky Bill. Just one example of the random artworks that punctuate the area. 

When it comes to cafes, the focus is on quality not quantity. Locals crowd the pavement in front of Bacino Express, the Italian café on Fitzroy Street, waiting for takeaway coffees if they’re too late for the limited privilege of a table in the sun – the most sought after real estate in the area. Always busy, the crowds are prepared to wait for (arguably) the best coffee in the area (complete with real chocolate flakes on cappacinos), challenged for the title only by the French brew at Epi d’Or.

Epi d’Or is a well kept secret, a quaint Parisian-style hole in the wall in a laneway behind the main café strip. Regular customers set crates out on the pavement to enjoy fresh almond croissants, bircher muesli and high-quality coffee. Hailing from Mauritius, Dominique Collard sources the bread from the best bakeries in Sydney, in-store by 7.30am and usually sold out by around 3pm.

If in need of a shopping fix, there is the affordable but stylish collection at Wild Lotus on Burton Street, creators and stockists of the earthy Alice Underground label. The owners have carefully selected the best of inexpensive labels such as Mink Pink and Ladakh to provide a one-stop-shop for fashionistas in search of a bargain.

Coco Chocolate on Bligh St sells organic chocolate with intricate individual designs by chocolatier Rebecca, and has created a cozy atmosphere (reminiscent of the movie Chocolat) in the tiny space. La Vie en Rose fills the street with flowers and shabby-chic knick knacks while the gift shop next door sells candles, art books and other designer treasures. 

A tourist attraction, a local neighbourhood and a true Sydney village only 3km from the CBD – Kirribilli manages to have something for everyone, without compromising on quality or space. Despite its proximity to Sydney’s major icons, Kirribilli tends to be overlooked by Sydneysiders who don’t happen to live there – which is just the way the locals like it...


  1. Please note that Dominique Collard no longer owns Epi D'Or, which now stocks Brasserie Bread.